News Article

Frontier Boss: Wii Reviewers Are The Problem

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Says writers are appealing to their own audience, not a game's intended crowd.

The issue of review scores for casual games rumbles on. David Braben, head honcho of Frontier Developments, the folks behind the critically acclaimed WiiWare title Lost Winds, doesn't find it wise to discount Metacritic scores for Wii, unlike a certain Mr. Moore recently claimed. The problem is not the games, it's the reviewers of casual-friendly games. Well, the games surely have something to do with it, but that's beside the point he's making:

It throws up a difficult dilemma for those reviewers. Are they reviewing the game for those people likely to play it, or for those people who form the bulk of their readership? Clearly it has to be the latter, as that is why they are writing the review, why they are getting paid, but it devalues the accuracy of reviews as a measure of quality for family games, as most reviews are targeted at these "core gamers," despite the fact the core gamer is unlikely to play it whatever the score.

It works both ways, though: many so-called "core" titles on Wii review well but sell like crap, and games that receive middling Metacritic scores sell like gangbusters. So what's Braben's solution?

If there were an equivalent rating to Metacritic that only indexed family review sites, MetaFamilyCritic say, indexing the 'mommy bloggers' to which [Moore] refers, then he is not circumventing review sites - simply using a more appropriate collection that better match the audience.

The common complaint of the Wii catalogue being overrun with shovelware is valid to some, but it stems mostly from the whole "blue ocean" thing Nintendo has going on; one person's shovelware is another's family game night. It also stems from developers wanting to make tons of money for cheap.


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User Comments (40)



warioswoods said:

I've been making that argument for ages, and I don't see how anyhow could fail to note its validity: the vast majority of gaming blogs, publications, etc, that produce nearly all the game reviews out there, are targeted a very specific and narrow demographic, and the reviews are often, for that very reason, utterly useless outside of that group. These are lifestyle publications more than they are a source for reasoned criticism. They review a game to see how well it would appeal to their readers, but their readers absolutely do not represent the general public or consumer.

Clearly this issue is particularly problematic for Wii games, to the extent that, for anything but a very straightforward entry in a traditional gaming genre, Metacritic tells you little to nothing about a game's quality. There need to be more sites reviewing games from different perspectives before an aggregate score will be a useful thing; right now, aggregate scores just compound the problem, and suggest an objectivity that is false.

I would add that, amongst gaming sites that regularly post reviews, NintendoLife has an admirable scope and variety to its reviews, so it's not nearly as bad as all the others out there (IGN, etc)



aaronsullivan said:

SilentJ, did you read the article?

This is probably true, but it sure does suck for us core gamers that want more love shown to the Wii. It's still an excellent place for great core games (as long as the developer doesn't need to make money. Ahem.)

I'd wager that Motion Plus is Nintendo's last hope to make the Wii a good place for hardcore game sales. I like that a couple of EA sports games are actually launching it and there is an eye-catching core game in Red Steel 2 to help promote it as well.

I hope some progress can be made in that market, because I want Wii 2 to be better home for those types of games.



brandonbwii said:

There are a TON of bad games for Wii. Don't forget though there are some truly quality stuff that rivals the fun to be had on the hd consoles that only score in the 7 range.



the_shpydar said:

I always think this when i see a review from a supposedly "core gamer" site/publication (eg, IGN, etc) trashing some casual or family game. Clearly those titles are not made for "us", and of course there is a lot of crap/shovelware out there. But there are so many review sites/publications that immediately trash anything that's percieved as casual, or "kiddy" or whatever, regardless of the game's quality.

It's essentially the same as if a serious movie reviewer immediately trashed family or kids films for no other reason than they don't have explosions or nudity or violence or whatever. It evidences what is, essentially, a tremendously unprofessional approach to journalism.



brandonbwii said:

Also terms like "wagglefest" are thrown around far too often. Sometimes that's used just because a reviewer doesn't like motion control in the first place.



Corbs said:

I'm getting a little tired of all these excuses being made for half-ass games. Saying you "intended it for a casual gamer" doesn't make it any less crappy. Casual gamers want good games too. I think some of these developers need to spend less time making excuses and putting more time into making their games better.

Having said that, there are times when games are too quickly dismissed because of what they have to offer or how they do it. We all know the Wii has an extremely broad user base and that does have to be taken into account and some reviewers don't always do that. I too, have to make myself look at things for a different perspective at times, and it's not always easy to do.



brandonbwii said:

Your absolute right. It does seem though, that some truly exceptional games on Wii and DS, casual or core, barely make it to the 80s range. Games that even you guys at Nintendo Life had nothing but praise for.



KDR_11k said:

"Frontier Boss"? I think most people would recognize the name David Braben, moreso than Frontier Development.

BTW guys, Red Steel 2 is NOT a core game. It's a game for us, yes, but that doesn't make it core.



mjc0961 said:

The problem is still and always will be review scores. Stop giving reviews a pointless number score and force people to actually read the review. It's the only way to find out how the game really is without playing it.



Corbs said:

If someone has to have their hand held and be forced to read a review, they have no business playing games in the first place. In fact they might need to go change their Huggies. : )

A number is a number. It's usually an overall indicator of the reviewer's feelings. And since we know opinions vary, it would only make sense that someone also read the review to find out why the reviewer chose to award that particular score in the first place.



Token_Girl said:

Good casual games need to market themselve and not just rely on people on game sights giving a game good reviews. Casuals probably don't read them. "Core games" need to take advantage of the wii's unique gameplay style. If it looks like a watered down port "hardcores" will buy it on their ps360s. It seems like he Conduit's doing a lot right in this arena and hopefully it will benefit so other devs can stop whining and bring us more great games.



The_Fox said:

@post 12:
Reviews with a score are actually a good thing, as it allows for a shorter, snappier review than one without. Without a score you tend to see rambling, boring reviews discussing every little issue with the game. Sure, some like to see a page and a half review, but the average person just won't care.



CanisWolfred said:

Hows about advertising the good games? People aren't gonna buy a game they know nothing about! And online adds don't count - nobody pays any attention to those. You need commercials, you need posters, you need something that's gonna get people's attention! That's what the crap games do. That's why they sell.



Slapshot said:

@Corbie....dude you say it perfectly as well as brandonbwii. You guys got it right on the money. Most of the casual gamers if asked prob don't even know that the games are even reviewed with any seriousness. At the same time its great to see the core games finally being reviewed as being just that here at NL.



Sean_Aaron said:

I definitely think the "pro" sites like IGN, EG, et al are part of the problem; they have a blinkered world view. If I ran a for-profit online magazine focused on gaming and saw the broadening of the market happening with the Wii I'd hire staff to review "family-friendly" or "lifestyle" titles and relaunch my site with a broader focus to make it more relevant to this broader audience. I'd also tighten up my forum moderation to make sure new folk to gaming felt like they could join in without getting attacked for being new to the scene.

Shouldn't these guys want broader appeal, more hits and therefore more ad revenue? You can tell right away which reviewers have a fundamental problem with motion control that goes beyond actual play issues. I agree that a bad game is a bad game, but if the goal is to broaden the target market you need to change the review technique as well.

Nintendo Life is a fan-driven site for fans so I don't think the same rules apply, though as others have said I think the reviews cover a broader spectrum than most and certainly for Wii news I think it does a great job and the forums are nice places to be.



nintendoduffin said:

Sean, I think the reason IGN don't try to broaden their appeal is because they don't want to alienate their reader base, many of whom pay for membership.



dizzy_boy said:

tbh, if the people doing the reviews are all coming to the same conclusion on a game, then their views shouldn`t be dismissed.
games developers should really read as many different reviews of their games as possible. it`s only by doing that, that they can find out what they`re doing right amd where they`re going wrong. it`s only when doing so, they can address and fix any problems for future games that are picked up on by the people reviewing them.
the other two options for these dev`s available are to stop developing for the wii and stick to developing for the PS3 and Xbox360, or stop making video games all together and find a different business aproach.



Kid_A said:

You know, I just go with my gut. Sure, I look at reviews, but I can usually tell when the reviewer is being an a-hole just for the hell of it, and didn't give the game a fair chance. If I think a game looks good, I give it a shot. I try not to be swayed too much by review scores.



Corbs said:

@ Kid_A - And that's the way it should be. Reviews should be nothing more than a guide. Ultimately, you'll never know until you try it.



Sean_Aaron said:

@nintendoduffin : Adding content to the site shouldn't alienate existing readers. I'm not talking about replacing one thing with another but adding a new section(s) to the site. Heck they could even have a separate site, I suppose, but completely ignoring a potentially massive group of new readers just doesn't make any business sense to me.



dizzy_boy said:

@sean, don`t take this wrong, but, did you read my post properly?
the point i was trying to make is that developers should be using games reviewers opinions as a way to improve upon the flaws previous games when they go to make new ones.
it`s kind of out of place for them to blame people who review games when they get poor sales.
also genral public who read the reviews are completley within thier right to make informed judgements on buying games based on what they read and do so at free will.



Sean_Aaron said:

@my_point_is: ooops, I was actually directing that comment at the post above yours and cut-and-pasted the wrong thing -- we need a quote function here; better yet the comments should directly feed into a forum thread!



LittleIrves said:

@Sean: regarding the choice to add a new section to their site...
IGN has done something like this, with their new page Green Pixels. (
Their slogan? "It's anybody's game." Which sounds pretty close to Nintendo's E3 tagline: Everyone's Game. The site seems pretty female-gamer friendly, as two of the main writers are female, which goes along with the expanding audience of Wii/DS. Check it out if you're looking for non-hardcore biases. As much as I want to like it, though, being a fairly casual gamer myself, I sort of miss that passion that comes through at IGN's main platform sites, obnoxious and narrow-minded as it is sometimes.



bbb7002004 said:

I think one major problem with using Metacritic is how similar many reviewers are to one another, at least for the "professional" sites. A good portion of the people who review games for a living have similar interests and outlooks on games, since it takes a specific kind of passion to get into this industry. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it does narrow the the types of gamer represented by a review. I often find that many, if not all of the reviewers at professional sites like IGN have very, very different tastes in gaming then I do, making their opinions and reviews much less useful than independent sites, and makes Metacritic sway away from a lot of my personal tastes. I would also postulate that many reviewers are influenced by one another, artificially inflating scores of specific games, genres, and platforms, while dismissing other since they aren't "the popular kids in school".



Darknyht said:

I am sure the Wii and to a lesser extent the DS are difficult to review for. Having grown up playing games all my life starting with Intellivision, they both turn gaming on it's head.

I find that I am not a huge fan of touch controls on the DS and use the old fashion controls whenever possible. An example of this is that I am struggling with Magical Starsign on the DS, not because it is difficult, but because everything is touch controls. So instantly I like the game less because of it. It's a fun game, but the lack of old fashion controls makes me play less than I probably otherwise would.

The same goes for the Wii, the controls are unfamiliar to me and are unnatural to my 25+ years of gaming experience. Does that mean the games are less entertaining? No, but it does mean that I approach Wii gaming in a way similar to most reviewers. Games that build their entire control scheme based off of touch controls (especially when they are poorly built around them) are not as entertaining to me. An example is that I love Monkey Ball on Gamecube, but hated the Wii version. I loved the original Resident Evil 4, but the Wii version made me pull out the classic controller. Same for Smash Bros., I was relieved when they included Gamecube Controller support.

My point is, after all this time I am set in my ways. The new ways are not bad, just too different and they changed too fast for me. Maybe after a few more years of playing Wii games that will change, and maybe eventually the reviews will change as a new generation takes over those jobs.



RadioShadow said:

I thought it was because the Nintendo Wii online sucked, which puts people off. Which is why the Xbox 360 is more popular.

But while the Wii has it fair pile of crap (then so does the Xbox and PS3), it does have some decent Wii exclusive games like Pucnh Out that use the Wii remote well.



Mr_M said:

I GOT IT!, maybe reviewers for any review site should be divided into two, the hardcore group and the casual group, What i'm thinking is that all review sites should have both a hardcore group and a casual group, that way, possibly every game get's a proper review.



jbrodack said:

people look at bit too much at score and things like metacritic. though this site (or at least "wiiware world") is included they could choose a better variety of sites to get there score.
I don't think there should be a separate casual section of sites though reviews should take into account the intended audience and how well made it is for that audience.



cecesigue said:

i mean, is like the movies... come on! is easy to understand... critics are right about reviewing those games with the same rules of the hardcore games! it dosent matter that transformers the movie will never win the oscar to best picture, still will be a blockbuster movie.



Mabbit said:

i dont know what to believe, its true a lot of bad reviewed games suck but there are a lot of more casual games that are badly reviewed but are pretty good (paper mario and the thousand year door for instance, got a 6.75 from game informer)



michael646260 said:

What I really disagree with are the reviewers citing a game for difficult controls or too steep a learning curve (i.e. gamespot,IGN). The wii is all about new controls and I believe the learning curve is exactly what they were shooting for in the newer releases. Nintendo has been on the forefront of new technology for 22 years since they came out with the d-pad. And while they have fallen on their face a couple of times that seems better to me than what sony and microsoft have done where they stand back and let Nintendo try new things and pick and choose what they want to copy. Now you have a bunch of fanboy/reviewers putting the wii down for graphics or less 'hardcore games' when they have obviously put aside the graphics in favor of gameplay and they have been trying to appeal to a larger audience with more family friendly games.

I just don't see how the wii gets a bad rap for doing exactly what it set out to do in the first place. My grandparents as well as my three year old son can walk into my living room at any time pick up a wii remote and play a game like wii sports, while my more hardcore gaming friends can get stomped in golf or tennis while still having a great time. Now I don't own a lot of titles as I didn't buy a wii until my PS3 was stolen a few months ago. The few titles I do own however I absolutely love and since the motion+ came out the only thing I miss about my PS is MLB the show.

And a little note to sony and microsoft, if you stand on the shoulders of geniuses at least have some class and don't look down on them afterwards.



KrazyKain said:

personally i think the REAL problem is new age gamers who never touched an atari/nes/snes/master system/mega drive ect.. who worship nothing more then graphics and games about big manly men with gruff voices and shooting things to a bloody pulp

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