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In this current age of gaming the success of a new IP isn't measured by positive word of mouth and building up brand recognition with a stable growth of expanding within a niche and having that niche spread the good word, instead, gaming success is measured by MetaCritic and in turn MetaCritic affects a company's stock. Even if a game sucks hairy donkey testicles, a good MetaCritic score ensures that the game and company will meet with a certain kind of success on a corporate level. That's sort of what Funcom laments. The MMO publisher has spoken out on why The Secret World is hurting the company and why its performance and player retention isn't that great and it's all because of MetaCritic. Yes...MetaCritic.
The dumb part about this whole thing is that if a game is fun it'll retain its playerbase and continue to expand (DayZ is as an absolute perfect example of this). If a game is fun then word of mouth spreads quick in the inner circles of the gaming community and sales begin to expand (Dark Souls is as an absolute perfect example of this). If a game is fun then whether it's a new IP or an established IP, people will want to check it out and give it a go (see Dungeon Defenders, Limbo and Orcs Must Die as pitch-perfect examples of this). Well, Funcom doesn't necessarily think that it's the fault of The Secret World so much as it is a combination of conditions...or mainly just MetaCritic.
According to GameIndustry.biz, Funcom released comments in an investor's note bemoaning the 72 out of 100 MetaCritic score that lead to The Secret World being labeled as something of a failure, saying...
"Following the launch of The Secret World on the 3rd of July 2012, Funcom's share price has decreased significantly," the note reads. "The company attributes this mostly to the aggregate review score, the "Metascore", for the game at Metacritic together with other public sources for tracking the performance of games.
What a “herp, derp” moment that must be for the developers who are smart enough to know that a MetaCritic score isn't really going to affect the longterm success of a game if it's good.
The sad reality is that gaming, for publicly traded companies, isn't even about gaming. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, if the MetaCritic score turns up some positive notches on the stock price, then all is well even if the game sucks.
The note goes on to say...
"A game like The Secret World, which is not based on a well-known brand, is normally dependent on positive press reviews to achieve successful initial sales, in addition - but not limited - to other factors like word of mouth."
There's a funny stigma in the gaming community where if a publicly traded company complains about the failure of a game due to its MetaCritic score, a lot of gamers retort with the phrase “I guess they didn't pay off enough gaming journalists for a better review score.”
If The Secret World suits the niche tastes of a specific group of gamers and it's good at fulfilling its role in that niche, then Funcom won't need to worry. It's only been out since July and it needs time to grow. At that point, the game will do the talking itself, just like DayZ, which managed to accrue one million players with zero advertising.