Higher Metacritic scores impact game sales positively

This is how things should work: higher-rated games will get better sales than lower-rated ones. And while there are plenty of outliers, new data reveals that tends to be the case.


This is how things should work: higher-rated games will get better sales than lower-rated ones. And while there are plenty of outliers, Ars Technica's Kyle Orland discovered that yes, for the most part, higher-rated games tend to get better sales.

By compiling data released on Steam, Orland discovered that getting a 90+ Metacritic score almost guarantees some success, with games selling at least 50,000 copies when reaching that score.

By aggregating games together into 10-point Metacritic score ranges, Orland discovered that games that score 90+ will sell nearly 800,000 copies on average. Games that score between 80-90 will sell about 250,000 copies. That's a tremendous difference, which only further emphasizes why it's so important for publishers and developers to earn high scores.

Games that score between 40 and 70 can expect sales around 50,000, proving that at a certain point, the scale doesn't really impact purchases. The rare game that gets below a 30 will end up with fewer than 10,000 sales on average, showing that low scores may dissuade purchases as well. (Shacknews' average Metacritic score is 65.)

For the full report, visit Ars Technica.

Andrew Yoon was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 23, 2014 12:15 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Higher Metacritic scores impact game sales positively.

    This is how things should work: higher-rated games will get better sales than lower-rated ones. And while there are plenty of outliers, new data reveals that tends to be the case.

    • reply
      April 23, 2014 12:18 PM

      But-but-but review scores are bad! We want a market where crap is on an equal footing! Says every hipster gamer.

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        April 23, 2014 1:19 PM

        i have no idea what you are trying to say but i'll try to guess and reply:

        collected review scores are not bad as just useless to make an informed decision. its the review and the reviewer that help form your opinion. the metacrit scores just fucking suck if a developer gets fucked over by their publisher because they have locked their bonus to a specific score.

        a ign review rating of 10 still means shit to me (as do their reviews actually). i do respect certain eurogamer reviews though and i have pretty much learned that whatever jeff gerstman at giant bomb likes as a fps i will most definitely despise.

        even people who write reviews for a living will tell you that a cumulative metacritic score is retarded and hat the best reviews are highly subjective and require a minimum of intelligence for the reader to comprehend.

        you can link to metacritic and say its got a 91% score which is good to measure how well it was received by press but you you still don't know if its a game for you and your interest and often you will find severe backlash for the most overvalued games like gta4 or bioshock infinite.

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          April 23, 2014 1:38 PM

          Broken Age and Braid score highly as well in this era so I don't see the problem. Yes, you might want to also look at youtube video of someone playing it to see what's happening, but I don't think it's such a bad scene as when only IGN and Gamespot scores were getting attention back in the day.

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      April 23, 2014 12:46 PM

      Correlation does not imply causation

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        April 23, 2014 1:13 PM

        Exactly what I was thinking. This is trying to strongly imply that the high score drives sales up, while probably true to a small degree it seems more likely that a game that is just plain good will result in both more sales and higher review scores. Would be much more scientific if they actually tried to separate the relationship from the causality.

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        April 23, 2014 1:31 PM

        Not to alarm you, but I don't think this study was peer-reviewed either.

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        April 23, 2014 1:35 PM


        I have no problem with the idea of Metacritic as a concept. It is indeed a viable tool to use to whether or not buy a game. But what I have a problem with is 2 things. People that use Metacritic as the ONLY parameter for whether a game is good or not/in lieu of forming their own opinion or research. (ie "This game got a 70 on MetaCritic. So it must suck") and companies that give bonuses/will only share profits solely based on the MetaCritic score the game gets. Especially if hey factor in User Review scores in said criteria.

        These problems are not the fault of MetaCritic though. They are the fault of people that use it. Tahat said, the fact that so many people and companies put so much emphasis on it is worrisome though. Articles and Analyst "research" like this do not help the either. Especially since they place the idea of "great metacritic scores = great sales" into peoples heads. When it really is more like "great and/or well recieved games = great sales". Especially when Great & Well Recieved games generally get great reviews and great sales/

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      April 23, 2014 12:57 PM


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      April 23, 2014 1:02 PM

      Yeah, I would give Shacknews a review score of 65 as well.... Wait, that's not what you meant?

    • reply
      April 23, 2014 1:03 PM

      That chart makes it seem like Metacritic knows how to identify the top 10% in advance, but can't meaningfully categorize much else.

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      April 23, 2014 1:17 PM

      So... good games sell well, and get good ratings....

      Ars technica ran out of things to do that day, didn't they?

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        April 23, 2014 1:30 PM

        actual quantitative data trumps "common sense" every day of the week

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          April 23, 2014 1:33 PM

          Except that the data is flawed since it doesn't consider when the games were purchased or control for a host of variables like whether the titles went on sale in their lifetime, what the prices were, or how long they've been on the market.

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          April 23, 2014 4:01 PM

          It's quantitative data but it is meaningless without context. We don't know if the buyers even looked at the metascore before purchasing or if it positively or negatively affected their decision. Did you know there was a study that showed a correlation between men not shaving daily and higher cancer occurrence than those who shaved daily?

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        April 23, 2014 2:03 PM

        Haha I thought this too. What a crock of shit this study is.

    • reply
      April 23, 2014 6:24 PM


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      April 23, 2014 9:44 PM

      Well no f@#$ing kiddin. Metacritic has been the bane of my career because I've had CEOs dictate to me since as long as I can remember getting into the industry we need to get a 90+ rating or we're sunk.

      They've boiled it down to a science of what x, y, and z will make to get that score, and for the ones that are successful, they'll reap the profits. But has that mentality made better, fun games? Heck No.

      It isn't metacritic's fault, but it's a plague in "AAA" development and the industry as a whole.

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      April 24, 2014 6:23 AM

      Let's face it, every game can't be Vampire Rain.

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      April 24, 2014 7:08 AM

      Its understandable that people want to at glance to able to see if a game is good or bad. I don't think Metacritic is the way to do that considering the mystery review weighting system for professional reviews and heavily emotionally driven user reviews. There is simply too much bias in the system for it to be taken seriously. That is on top of the fact that each review has their own review scale which may or may not neatly line up with the other aggregate scores.

      As long as the TLDR trend exists so to will Metacrtic sad to say.

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