A topic that has been playing on my mind recently, with the impending release of Guild Wars 2, is how it will actually review when it is officially launched. It is fair to say that both Sardu and I are heavily invested in the game and if we didn’t consider it an exceptional product, it’s highly unlikely we would be playing it or even running Guild Wars 2 Hub. With that in mind, Metacritic now plays a huge part in publisher perception of what is or isn’t a great product.
Funcom recently bemoaned the lack of sales of The Secret World as an attributing factor to its share price plummeting, blaming Metacritic and its aggregated scores of their product as the cause. What really interests me is where Guild Wars 2 will find itself on Metacritic after all the reviews are in and counted.
There has been an explosion of MMOG’s in the aftermath of World of Warcraft and although most have launched with a fanfare, it would be safe to say that all have failed to live up to expectations both critically and financially, in the form of physical subscribers. Though developers and publishers are often reluctant to reveal subscription numbers (which in itself doesn’t bode well) there have been dozens of reports relating to the rapid decline in active users for all the big hitters. Even Eve Online, for all it does right hasn’t been immune to an exodus or two as a result of several PR blunders.
What I find interesting is when you compare the big seven on Metacritic and even after all this time, not a single MMOG has equalled or matched World of Warcraft and for those that are critically close (Warhammer Online being the closest) even they have terrible subscription numbers.
World of Warcraft very much remains unique in its ability to retain subscribers as it launched at a time when paying to play was the staple of the genres model. In spite of the rapidly changing landscape where free-to-play and micro transactions are becoming the norm, World of Warcraft players are so heavily invested in their characters it’s a little hard for those users to walk away and pull the plug. Star Wars: The Old Republic is an example of a game that were it to have launched six months to a year after WoW, it would have undoubtedly scored higher and have retained huge swathes of subscribers even to this day (including myself). Yet here it finds itself, less than 12 months old, already forced to switch to a free-to-play model after hemorrhaging half a million users.
It would be wrong and short sighted to suggest that Metacritic is the cause of any games woes and while its aggregation of scores is far from perfect (the flaws are well documented) in many respects it does reflect a consensus of a product. In simple terms and in the case of The Secret World, the product simply wasn’t good enough to warrant high scores (despite its originality) and certainly didn’t warrant a subscription model and in game store.
If we list the last big seven MMOGs that have launched since World of Warcraft it is quite an interesting list:
- WoW 90%
- Warhammer Online 86%
- SWTOR 85%
- Rift 84%
- Tera 77%
- Aion 76%
- The Secret World 72%
Only RIFT stands out to me as one that has generally lived up to player expectations, no matter how low they originally were, while still maintaining a profitable and healthy player base. It also has a score that I feel reflects the product reasonably accurately. In contrast Warhammer Online leads the pack and yet many would agree with me that is as guilty as SWTOR for copying the WoW formulae while still inheriting all its flaws and adding plenty more in the process (too many to list here) and yet it scored 86%, 1% more than SWTOR; a game which had almost treble its budget.
The question that remains for me is whether Guild Wars 2 deserves 90% (or more) and would anything less actually suffice? If it scored 89% that would place it only 3% above Warhammer Online a product so vastly inferior I’m not even sure the two are comparable and while in the grand schemes of things a 3% difference means very little, it is the principal of a score which matters.
From an entirely personal perspective and one which doesn’t necessarily reflect the consensus of the Ten Ton Hammer network, I would place Guild Wars 2 above World of Warcraft, as much as I love that game. The first reason is that anything less than 90% I feel would be an injustice to what ArenaNet have attempted to undertake, especially when comparisons are drawn against the 6 others listed above. Secondly, everything that they’ve accomplished, from the polish, content, scale and art direction to the attempts they’ve made in being original and trying to create something truly special, deserves its own merit. Lastly, it’s the first MMOG since WoW that has actually shipped in a state that lives up to an AAA billing, rather than AA titles from the likes of EA or Funcom.
In World of Warcrafts defense, it isn’t an entirely fair comparison with years having passed between the products and I’m sure many people take Metacritic with a pinch of salt (70%+ is a respectable score in reality) however, I’m beginning to feel a little apprehensive as to how Guild Wars 2 will be received by critics. If I'm apprehensive, how must ArenaNet and more importantly NCSoft be feeling?
With that in mind, what would you rate Guild Wars 2 out of 100 and what do you think it will aggregate on Metacritic? Would less than 90% really be a disaster?