Metacritic. The name alone can start arguments in some game-based circles on the Web. I'm not here to endorse or damn Metacritic or the people that use it to give feedback about whether a title might be worth buying or not. No, I'm here to shout out to the dark in hopes that maybe someone somewhere will listen. What am I pleading for? Simple. Stop giving and withholding bonuses based solely off of Metacritic scores.
What brought this to my attention was a GamePolitics article that explained how Obsidian lost out on its bonuses for developing Fallout: New Vegas because the game scored a Metacritic rating of 84 when the contract stated it needed an 85.
And you thought the wasteland was rough.
Now, I'm not privy to the conditions of the contract. It's entirely possible that there were other conditions that might or might not have been met. However, to deny bonuses to a company that made a game that earned $300 million dollars in sales when it was first released in 2010 based on a one point difference from a desired score seems wrong hearted at best and ludicrously stingy at worst.
Metacritic isn't some sort of be all and end all measure of the worth of a game. Certainly, it takes both professional and public opinion into account, but only on a minor scale — the 84 came from the aggregated scores of 39 professional reviews. Perhaps the most glaringly sad thing is that an 84 isn't even a bad score! There are arguments going around that in terms of rating systems these days, eights might as well be sixes. But putting that aside as neither fault of Obsidian or Metacritic itself, one is still left with a score that seems to indicate that the experience is pretty much in the top percentile.
The ramifications for losing this bonus are also less than pleasant. Obsidian recently had to let people go, and it's entirely possible that some of those positions could have been salvaged with the bonus money that would have come from a single point. It's not like a child not getting an ice cream cone if he or she didn't get a 90 on a test. I know that it's an unfair emotional punch to pull, but considering the circumstances, I'm not sure it's entirely unjustified. And as far as I'm aware, Obsidian aren't even taking this angle.
I'm not saying that publishers and companies should never take what Metacritic or other review sites have to say into account. What I'm asking for is a modicum of rationale. Balance the Metacritic score against things like actual sales, the amounts of downloadable content produced and proliferated, how people say it holds up to sequels or similar games, etc. I could go on. It just comes down to the fact that while Metacritic itself gets a lot of hate, it's just one measure out of many, and using it seemingly as the sole factor as to whether people are rewarded or not for their work just seems wrong.