Metacritic's games editor has said he thinks it's "too simplistic" to claim that high ratings on the review aggregation site are linked directly to increased sales.
"I'm not sure that it is possible, in any scientific way, to isolate the influence of Metascores (or game reviews in general) from the many other influences impacting a potential customer's behavior (marketing/PR, the customer's experience with a particular franchise or license, his/her age/gender, the game's genre) and generalize about their impact on purchasing decisions," Marc Doyle said in an interesting chat with Industry Gamers.
He admits that publishers' studies have shown a strong correlation between high Metascores increased sales "within certain specific genres", and cites examples of high-scoring, big-selling games: Red Dead Redemption, Halo 3 and Half-Life 2.
"But again, attempting to prove, in the most general way, that a high metascore leads to higher sales is too simplistic. It requires more variables to be introduced into the equation."
That said, Doyle thinks publishers' focus on their games' Metacritic ratings can only be a good thing for the games industry.
"If Metacritic has contributed in some small way to encouraging game publishers to strive for better game quality, I feel that's a positive thing. Sales will always be the ultimate barometer of success in the industry to publishers, but putting out a quality product that might not sell extremely well can often lay the groundwork for a well-received and high-selling sequel.
"But it's important for me to point out that our target audience is the consumer."