One of the very first things that people will point out to you when trying to prove that Nintendo is losing relevance in the market are Metacritic scores. On the surface, it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s an aggregate score formed by the opinions of several different critics in the industry, from all kinds of different backgrounds. Surely, there could be no more reliable method of discerning just how popular a game is?
Well, assuming you have been following current events, you are more than well aware that journalism as a whole is extremely corrupt. This sort of thing brings to mind #gamergate quite a bit, but in these terms I am speaking a bit more broadly. #Gamergate became fixated on political issues that drove discussion from game journos in certain ways. I believe that is only an example of the issue, not the problem in and of itself. You see, if the standard of quality is so low in this field that blatantly terrible games like Gone Home and Undertale can become critical successes due to having the right kind of connections, what’s stopping the real powerhouses in the industry from doing the same thing?
Obviously, not all of the corruption in the industry is indistinguishable from one another. I don’t believe the inflated scores for triple A games is due to the same sort of connections that indie games use, rather it’s more due to a mutual interest from both parties, big triple A publishers, and game journos, to sell big games to the public. Publishers want sales, but Game journos want people to click on their news stories. The bigger the release, the more anticipation from the audience, which leads to a bigger group of people clicking on stories related to that game.
So how does Nintendo fit into this cycle? Well… they don’t, and haven’t really for a long time.
You see, Nintendo does not play by the same rules as everyone else. While other companies took to say, organizing boot camps to ensure positive reviews,
Nintendo has been taking steps to distance themselves from the press entirely. The famous ‘Nintendo Direct’ is probably the biggest example of that. Generally, the only new announcements we get coming from Nintendo come from them directly in some way. Not the gaming press.
In other words, gaming websites have nothing to cover besides information we already know.
So in other words, there is a very real resentment towards Nintendo in the gaming press, and it’s entirely because of Nintendo not allowing these people to make money off of their products. This extends to non traditional outlets as well, such as Youtubers who can’t monetize gameplay videos. This had created a sort of disdain for the company among the media, and it’s a big part of why Nintendo scores have been slowly ticking downward, despite continuing to impress. In fact, personally I would say Nintendo’s more niche properties are better than ever. Codename S.T.E.A.M, for example, was a fantastic new take on the strategy genre with a surprisingly in depth selection of heroes to use to fight aliens. It was panned by critics and described as being a ‘disaster’ because they thought the art was ugly.
That’s the sort of criticism Nintendo titles generally get these days, and its really sad to see. Especially when their competition is awarded praise no matter how terrible their products are.
Truly, these are the sort of people we can trust.
You have Nintendo games getting panned for the most ridiculous reasons. This year alone got us Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s 69 metacritic review. Why? Because it wasn’t a “Real” Metroid game. We also saw games like Paper Jam, Star Fox Zero, Tokyo Mirage Sessions, and Color Splash get panned for similarly petty reasons. Star Fox Zero in particular deserves it’s own article. There was a lot of nonsensical criticism lobbied towards that game, and still is to a certain extent.
So what other games get 69 scores? The widely revile No Man’s Sky, the game that completely undelivered on all of it’s promises? Mafia III, a glitch ridden mess of a game that is apparently not been finished? These are the sort of games that are being compared with Federation Force and Star Fox Zero, two games plenty of people absolutely love? Why are Nintendo games automatically lesser just for being Nintendo games?
Critics know they can now start getting away with giving out ludicrously low scores to Nintendo titles for no real reason. Very few of the Nintendo published games that got less than an eighty this year actually deserved it, and it’s getting sad to see people try and refer to this system as a reliable source of information. Certain games get bloated review scores, while others are slammed for no reason. Metacrtitic, and critics in general, are not a reliable source of information for judging how good a game is. it doesn’t demonstrate how appealing it will be to the mass market, it can’t show how well a game sells, it doesn’t show how fun the game is compared to other games in it’s genre… so why bother with it? No critic in the industry is particularly intelligent or insightful. Everyone in the field was willing to drop their pants and start jacking off in front of a camera to give Undertale GOTY awards, while better games like Splatoon and Codename S.T.E.A.M were ignored… or even criticized due to manufactured ‘issues.’
Remember when Splatoon didn’t have any maps and Codename S.T.E.A.M. was unplayable due to being too slow? Good times.
I strongly suspect that the vast majority of games that will go on to become classics this generation are NOT the ones being praised by the media. Overwatch hype has died down, Undertale has been forgotten, and Destiny has become a punch line to a really, really, really, really bad joke.
The harder the media tries to push people into liking shit like No Man’s Sky while begging them to stay away from Federation Force and Color Splash, people will start taking them less and less seriously.