Almost eight years after it launched, Metacritic is imposing changes to its user voting system in response to the stunning discovery that gamers can be jerks.
The site will be implementing two major changes to its structure in the near future, according to Metacritic Games Editor Mark Doyle: An "enhanced registration" process that will require users to provide more than just an email address in order to be granted voting privileges on the site, and eliminating the ability to vote on a game before it launches. The changes are a response to recent "ballot box stuffing" by users intent on making games look bad.
A 1Up article cites three recent games that have earned high Metascores and unusually low user voting: LittleBigPlanet has a Metascore of 95 and a user score of 6.1/10, Resistance 2 has a Metascore of 89 and a user score of 5.3 and most egregious of all, Gears of War 2, which hasn't even been released yet, has a Metascore of 94 while users have scored it only 3.5. The situation is so bad that Doyle posted a message on the Gears of War 2 page saying, "My advice for our faithful users is to focus your attention on the Metascore for this game and not the thousands of user votes, most of which have been submitted before said users have played the game. This is a gaming community, and if people want to stuff the ballot box, there's not much I can do at this point. When we upgrade the registration requirements for participation on the site in the near future, this type of thing won't happen."
"The founders were really interested in not having people sign up for a really huge registration process just so they can participate on the site," Doyle told 1Up. "Obviously that's been exploited."
The elimination of pre-release voting will come before the enhanced registration process is implemented, Doyle said. Metacritic may also look at ways of highlighting user reviews in the future, as it develops better ways of determining which of those reviews are legitimate. Until that happens, he suggested readers focus on the aggregate review scores when checking out games. "Our primary product is the critic score. That's what we control; that's what we can certify," he said.