This Week in Gaming

By Aaron Ynclan, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of imdb.com
Photo courtesy of imdb.com

        Last week, Activision announced that “Destiny” sold more than $325 million worldwide in the first five days, since it’s release to become the best-selling launch of a new IP ever. Additionally, it was discovered that Bungie could miss out on a $2.5 million bonus due to an insufficiently high enough Gamerankings score.

        As Anthony Taormina points out for Game Rant, multiple court documents regarding Activision’s business ventures were unearthed during it’s now-infamous legal battle with “Call of Duty” creators Vince Zampella and Jason West.

Among them was Activision’s contract with Bungie for “Destiny”, which included a stipulation that would see Activision pay a $2.5 million bonus to the developer should “Destiny” score a 90 or higher on review aggregator Gamerankings.

While not unheard of to the gaming community, Bungie’s “failure” has brought back to light one of the more seedy practices of the industry, as well as the problem with its perception of the score system.

        Currently resting at a 77 on GameRankings from 46 reviews for PS4 (77 on Metacritic from 75 reviews), fans and critics find themselves in relative agreement that Bungie’s latest hasn’t fully lived up to its rather astronomical expectations. Lackluster storytelling, repetitive missions, and a general lack of content have all been levied against the game even by the most positive of reviews.

Yet most still agree that “Destiny” is built on a strong foundation with several trademarks of the famed developer. It’s also clear that “Destiny” is being treated as a marathon rather than a sprint; Bungie previously promised it would continue supporting “Destiny” with fresh content post-launch (two expansions have been announced, with the first debuting this December), and since release have announced that they’ve “more than doubled” the frequency of public events and are planning to incorporate requested features.

But despite its commitment to player feedback and Destiny’s growing community, Bungie could miss out on a significant bonus because of a number. To quote a certain, sociopathic clown, “It’s not about the money; it’s about sending a message.”

      While the logic behind this continued practice can be seen as a means to judge a game’s quality and summarily “encourage” continued good work from a developer, the argument loses traction as scores aren’t necessarily indicative of a game’s quality, but rather the critic’s opinion.

The most renowned example is 2010 release “Fallout: New Vegas”. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment as a follow-up to 2008’s universally acclaimed “Fallout 3”, New Vegas released to mostly solid-to-excellent reviews and currently sits at an 84 on Metacritic for Xbox 360 (82 on PS3, 84 on PC). Yet Obsidian was denied a bonus from “Fallout” publisher Bethesda because the game failed to reach a score of 85 or higher.

While many praised its locale and improved mechanics, most critics and fans were turned off by the near inexcusable number of bugs and game breaking glitches that plagued New Vegas. While few were able to overlook the problems, some were not so lenient with their critiques, while others considered it a broken mess.

Fans aren’t entirely innocent when it comes to review scores, either. Some view scores as an abstract, and usually refer to it to gauge their thoughts on whether or not to purchase a game. But to most, the score is seen as a condemning finality; oftentimes, readers will simply skip over critic’s reviews straight to the end, and immediately lambast the review should they disagree with the score.

The argument isn’t based on the content of the review, but on a number that can’t articulate how the critic views the game. And while there are several sites and publications that don’t use a score system, they often face ridicule from readers who demand that a score must be included because…just because.

At the end of the day, a score is a good numerical value by which a player can judge a game, but it’s not a complete representation of the critic’s opinion. A score is a tool meant to aid critics and fans, not to serve as the sole point of contention in an argument or the basis for a developer’s financial reward.