Take-Two were once a publisher who fought to keep its head above water in between Grand Theft Auto releases. Now they’ve achieved an ironic independence to one of their own titles, able to turn a profit year upon year with games and franchises like BioShock and Red Dead Redemption. In 2010, Take-Two had the best overall ranking of any publisher on Metacritic.com, an infamous aggregation site of reviews for all forms of media. CEO of Take-Two, Strauss Zelnick, is positively chuffed to bits and that excitement has seemingly lead him to summerise the video games industry in an incredibly sad but all too familiar way: “Making good games just isn’t good enough. I believe good is the new bad. … Games need to be great.”
The statement was given to Wedbush Morgan Securities Technology, Media & Telecommunications Management Access Conference recently (via Gamasutra) and is that kind of thinking which is leading many gamers astray, filling forums with disgruntled posts about the state of the industry. On its own, a comment like that is quite inspirational. No one wants to make a crappy game or even ‘just’ a good one but there are a hell of a lot of games that never go beyond the label of good yet are still fun to play. If not then we might as well do away with any form of rating system that doesn’t consist of three levels: Bad, Great, Awesome and we all have those cherished games that wouldn’t fit within those categories.
Zelnick backed up his comment with a reference to Metacritic which is why a once aspirational quote quickly turned into something altogether more ugly. He said how a site like that can be very influential on a game’s sales figures and Take-Two’s “ability to have high scores over and over and over again is a huge competitive advantage, and that advantage drives sales, it reduces risk and creates profits.” Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting your game to score highly with critics as it does show your title has a level of quality important to gamers but when a company focuses on only making ‘great’ games that sit within the 90-100% Metacritic bracket, the longevity of said quality begins to come into question as does the legitimacy of the score. The problem with aggregate sites like Metacritic is the lack of consistency. Not every game has the same amount of reviews so it’s unfair to suggest that all games are treated as equals.
Games don’t have to be considered great nor should they be part of the elite hobnobbing in the 90%+ section for them to be worthy of attention. Striving to produce quality titles is a healthy attitude for developers and publishers but one man’s great is another man’s okay so the combined opinions of an ever changing aggregation system shouldn’t be part of that attitude. To give credit to Zelnick, he also said how Take-Two franchises aren’t tied to annual releases and therefore do not have the suffocating development schedules or potential series fatigue for gamers. Lets have more of that kind of thinking please!