Microsoft has apparently decided that it hates making easy money from its Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace. They will soon be delisting titles (that means removing them from purchase-ability) that have a "metacritic" score below 65%. Essentially, this is the equivalent of movie theaters deciding that they will not screen films with a Rotten Tomatoes score of less than 65%, but with less talented reviewers.
The metacritic rating is only one of the factors that Microsoft will be considering when it measures whether to keep or drop a title, but I want to fully make my straw man attack against them before I add the other factors.
Frankly, on the face this seems ridiculous. Metacritic may be a good review aggregation site, but let's face it reviewers are often very much out of touch with what people enjoy. They are especially out of touch with what I enjoy. Let's have a look at some successful films and how their metacritic scores line up.
If SEX AND THE CITY were a video game, it would be delisted. That 53 Metacritic score isn't even close.
National Treasure 2? 48% and it only made $239 million.
Does Microsoft realize that 48% means "mixed or average reviews?" They probably do. In fact, they probably notice that the ratings for video games seem ridiculously forgiving. It's as if people are judging games with 100s of hours of content upon a couple of hours of play time, or just on how "cool" they think the idea is. This explains the 65% as a measure of critical quality for games, especially given that it wouldn't work so well with movies. But let's hope it isn't the only criteria since there are over 45 XBox Live Arcade games with Metacritic scores below 65.
Let's see how many of them I own and enjoy...
Time pilot... ummm... classic.
Arkadian Warriors... I bought this game due to an add on the XBLA site. It's fun.
Rocketmen... Disappointing? Sure, but it's a fun Robotron style game.
Battlestar Galatica...Crap. Total Crap.
Battlezone...Not updated enough for some, but still fun to play.
Tempest... ummm... classic.
Tron... ummm... classic. 1337 gamers must not like the old school.
Cyber Ball...Plain old fashioned fun.
Now for the real comment. Thankfully this 65% only applies to games that have less than a 6 percent or lower trial conversion rate. Meaning that if the sales numbers are more than 6% of the number of trial downloads the metacritic rating doesn't apply. That means if we as consumers are easily entertained, lowest common denominator boobs, other people will be able to share our misery.
See how that 6% conversion rate changes things? That's why I left it out of my initial comments. It makes Microsoft reasonable, and we can't have that...can we?