Research suggests that those Metacritic scores might be even more important than you think.
Some gamers read reviews to get an idea of what games they might like to buy, while others go with word of mouth. But new research conducted by EEDAR and SMU Guildhall suggest that the two might not be mutually exclusive, and reviews can even influence your opinion even after you've played a game for yourself.
EEDAR and Guildhall took 165 participants, split into three test groups, and had them play Plants vs. Zombies. One group was shown a mock positive review of the game in which it scored 90/100, another group was shown a mock negative review where the game scored 61/100, and the final group was shown no reviews at all.
The participants were then asked to give the game a score. The group shown positive reviews gave it a score of 85/100, a full 14 points higher than the group shown negative reviews, and six points higher than the control group. The positive group was also much more likely to recommend the game to a friend, with 91% saying they would, compared to 65% in the negative group.
The study did acknowledge however that review scores alone did not determine a game's success, and that numerous other factors, like marketing and PR, had an effect, but said that "the relationship between videogame sales and professional review scores are not correlative but causal."
"Professional critic reviews act as a multiplier for the likelihood of a consumer positively recommending the game to a friend," said the study. "As painful as it may be for developers to consider, even with the creation of a high quality game, a game is likely to achieve greater commercial success if reviewed highly, than if reviewed poorly or not at all."
This study seems to contradict research conducted by EEDAR at the end of last year, which said that marketing was the biggest factor in game sales, but it's easy to see the two having a complementary effect. The proper marketing of review scores, such as on promotional materials and game boxes, will certainly have a significant effect on how a game performs.
Source: Industry Gamer