The History of Blizzard Game Review Scores and the Magic 90%
Note: this is a companion article for “Why I’m Afraid to Review Diablo 3.”
With Diablo 3 less than a week away, reviewers are getting geared up to analyze and rate Blizzard’s latest oeuvre. While Blizzard titles have always been well-received by critics, recent releases haven’t been met with as much enthusiasm by fans.
We decided to take a look at historical review scores for Blizzard titles — along with non-professional user ratings — to see if we can observe any trends, and what they may mean for Diablo 3.
First off, let me say that I don’t know of any game reviewers who have been paid off to write glowing reviews, and I’m positive that these underhanded deals happen far less often than some would have us believe — if at all. What is more likely is that reviewers offer high scores in order to remain within a developer’s good graces for fear of upsetting them — and that’s what I bet has many Diablo 3 reviewers sweating.
I posit that, over the last ten years, gaming reviews have become increasingly disingenuous as mega-developers and mega-publishers have grown to dominance in the industry. The threat of souring a relationship with a company like Activision hangs over the heads of successful gaming websites; there exists a fear of being cut off from exclusive interviews and early review copies for some of the most sought-after — and traffic-driving — titles amongst gamers.
But why hypothesize when we can take a gander at some numbers — specifically, aggregated Metacritic review scores and user ratings for Blizzard titles over the past 16 years.
|Title||Metacritic Score||User Rating||>89%|
|WoW: Cataclysm (2010)||90||5.2||81%|
|StarCraft 2 (2010)||93||8.1||91%|
|WoW: Wrath of the Lich King (2008)||91||6.6||85%|
|WoW: The Burning Crusade (2007)||91||7.1||78%|
|World of Warcraft (2004)||93||6.9||91%|
|WarCraft 3: The Frozen Throne (2003)||88||8.8||57%|
|Warcraft 3 (2002)||92||8.7||80%|
|Diablo 2: LoD (2001)||87||9.0||43%|
|Diablo 2 (2000)||88||8.4||47%|
Note — StarCraft: Brood War is absent due to a lack of Metacritic reviews. The average Metacritic user rating for this title is 9.1
This is by no means a scientific process. Metacritc holds records of far fewer reviews for the ’90s titles than more recent titles, and user ratings are flooded with unfair scores of 0 and 10, but the general trends of the numbers do speak to the prevailing culture within both gamer and reviewer circles.
If we plot these data on charts, we can more clearly observe the emergent trends.
What this chart tells us is that, over the course of the past decade, there has been no significant change in the average review score that Blizzard games receive, which hovers around 90%. There is a slight upward trend if you take the original Diablo out of the equation, but the difference is negligible relative to the next two trends we’ll take a look at.