Splash Damage boss Paul Wedgwood reckons publishers using Metacritic review score averages to pressure developers and even hold back bonuses for negative outcomes is "ridiculous".
He's not been on the receiving end himself, but, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Wedgwood put across his case for ditching percentile-based scores altogether, as they put too much pressure on journalists to justify exact scores; numbers that developers waste time trying to interpret.
"We know that some websites score quite high and some quite low, but in general, all websites tend to score between 60 and 100. There's never a 37. It's as if that whole section doesn't exist, so zero starts at 60, so three stars, and goes up to five. It's just not really an accurate enough measure," said Wedgwood.
"I think that if anything, the games press should take the pressure off themselves, and just go across to star ratings, which for films is nothing more than a recommendation that you buy it, watch it when you get the chance, or rush out and see it straight away, and it's your personal recommendation. It's not a 'score'. If that was all you did, nobody would hate you guys for it.
"Out of ten is a good start," he added.
"Percentiles put too much pressure on a journalist to justify an exact score. It puts too much pressure on the developer to try and identify these criteria that lead to very specific point increases or decreases, which is not at all what the developer should be focusing on."
Wedgwood said publishers offering additional bonuses for critical acclaim was a tip top idea, but that game sales should still be the bottom line for royalties. After all, he added, some of the biggest money-makers have netted only average scores.
However, those numbers and "the shameless pursuit of critical acclaim" remain a strong focus for Wedgwood and Splash Damage, which signed a long-term development deal with Bethesda (Fallout 3, Oblivion) and owner ZeniMax last year. But exactly what the partnership will produce is so far unknown.
"It's not so much that it's purely the reception that we get from critics alone - we also mean critical acclaim from fans, and feeling like we've made something that they want to play," said Wedgwood, adding that quality was more important that shipping a game on time.
Head over to GamesIndustry.biz for the full interview with Paul Wedgwood.