This is a graph of average Metacritic scores, from both users and review publications, going back 15 years. It's kicked up a lot of discussion on Reddit over the past day. I have one so-far unanswered question: What the hell happened in 2007?
What a review score really does mean, or should mean, has been a long running debate in video gaming, but it's intriguing to see both reviewers and users just bottoming out their appraisal of games in what appears to be the second quarter of 2007.
The trend line for users would appear to speak to increased consumer skepticism, and some have theorized that users have gone back to slag games that really disappointed them. It could be something else altogether, like Metacritic changing its interface to become more accessible, or more users choosing to visit for some other reason.
But that wouldn't explain the corresponding drop in the scores offered by publications. Those reviews are published when the game launches, and Metacritic is quite clear it won't revise them after the fact if a publication revisits the game to lower or raise its score.
Movie adaptations never score well, and there were plenty back then
The second quarter, spanning April through June, is usually the weakest on the release calendar. I couldn't find one game that was such a clear disappointment that it put everything into a tail spin. I searched between April 1 and June 30, 2007, on PC, PlayStation 2 and PS3, Wii, Xbox and Xbox 360, the platforms where a game would be most likely to attract pre-release hype.
It was the third quarter with all three consoles of the previous generation together and, let's be candid, there were plenty of budget titles for DS and PlayStation 2 at the time (and gathering steam on the Wii.) That could have driven down average scores
Movie adaptations, which have been commercial winners but critical losers, also had a bigger presence seven years ago. That quarter saw stinkers for Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man 3. There were also a lot of releases of classic arcade games on Xbox Live Arcade that pulled lower than a 60.
Something seemed to happen with users' mindsets around that time. They started giving out lower scores — which some have dismissed as brigade-voting against games people dislike — but still rated games higher than publications until 2009. Around 2010 the two sides have drifted further apart, such that reviewers' average scores are roughly 10 points ahead of users'.
I don't have the answer for this, though in six years of writing about games, yes, I'm aware of the increasing distrust readers have expressed both of video game publishers and for my line of work, and this chart would appear to be one reflection of that. I've also seen the tendency for user reviews to go negative, with some of the most widely acclaimed games still garnering 0s and 1s from someone they disappointed.
But I've also seen sports series that used to consistently book 90s coming nowhere close as the hardware has gotten more powerful and the ability for graphics and broadcast presentation to wow fans has flattened out. It's possible that, like special effects in summer blockbusters, we've become numbed or jaded to things that thrilled us so easily a decade ago.
It still doesn't fully explain to me what happened in 2007. What do you think it was?