Publisher Admits Game Review Scores Are Heavily Influenced By Trips, Parties, Swag

Hey remember that tell-all community interview with Mr. Anonymous Publisher that Kotaku moderated a few days ago? Well, one of the other tidbits that got quite a rise out of readers was a comment made about whether or not publishers pay off reviewers or take steps to influence final review scores. While the publisher admitted that they don't directly put checks in the pockets of journalists, they do wine and dine them in other ways to influence review scores in order to get a better Metacritic posting.

In the Kotaku post the community was eager to find out if any top reviewers had been blatantly paid off for review scores. Surprisingly enough, the anonymous publisher admits that they don't directly pay for scores but they do it in a number of other ways after being asked about directly influencing review scores, saying...

Reviews only have an impact if they're 90+, and then the impact is huge.We don't take steps to get good reviews, we take steps to make good games. Then we invite reviews to fancy promotional events to warm them up on the game before they play it on their own.I think of our launch parties as warm-up comedians for the main act. Warm-up comedians are there to get you laughing and excited, so when the star performer walks onstage, you're primed and ready to enjoy the set. Our promo events are the same way. We bring out media to a fancy location, wine and dine them, show them the best parts of our game, and generally build anticipation for release. The theory is that, once they get the game and play it privately, they already have a positive association with the game, which may influence their final score.

Free $60 game? Check. Fancy party at a ritzy hotel suite? Check. A few hot babes/dudes to set the mood? Check. Free dinner at a lavish restaurant? Check. The excitement of seeing a review with a 90+ after all those perks? Priceless.

This has been reiterated a couple of times throughout pieces from industry vets...about how they're flown out to fancy parties or events to experience the game in a heavily influential setting, just as the anonymous publisher notes, so that media walks away from the event with a very positive outlook on the game well before it releases.

This is further enforced with lavish setups for media exclusive reveals, we see these often with GTTV or IGN.

None of this should come as too much of a big surprise, as publishers bank a lot on influencing the outlook from top gaming media websites to spread the good word and hope that word goes viral. If you can influence enough people to believe a game is worth buying, a high review score, a few ads and some quote-worthy hyperbole is just enough to help push the sales of a game that may have done well otherwise.

The only way to truly tell if a game's influenced review and Metacritic score really do affect sales is to compare marketing budgets/events, Metacritic data and first-month sales.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.