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The One Year Delay

posted on October 29th, 2006 by christian

The holiday season is upon us, and this time its not just a few big games coming out; we’ve got two new consoles as well. I’d like to try a little experiment. Would you like to help?

I hate making accusations against big name game journalists, because I’m trying to write myself, but there is one trend that I notice among them that I just can’t stand, and I’d like to see if its just me, or if it really is true. I call it the One Year Delay, and it works like so:

– A big, hyped title is released, and gains huge scores and heaps of praise when the reviews pour out. We here about it in blogs, editorials etc. for some time afterwards. The fans like it too, but even the most die hard begin to admit that there are some problems with the title, none of which are ever mentioned in any of the reviews.

A year or so goes by, and the sequel is announced. We start to see previews for it, and those same writers begin to talk about the original in a much different way as when it was new. Now, out of nowhere, they write same comments and criticisms that others were making about it a year ago, comments those editors just so happened to have neglected.

Did they really have a change of heart after a years time? Absolutely not. Were they blinded by the hype? I wouldn’t be surprised. These people tell us time and again that they don’t hold back with reviews, that they belong to no company. Its damn hard to believe them when you see this phenomenon in action, and even harder when they say their initial impressions aren’t just there to get ad revenue and exclusives.

So here’s the deal; watch the reviews this holiday season, especially for Wii and PS3 games. Take a look at what people say about them next winter when the second gen titles are released. It’ll be interesting to see what we get.

P.S. – a few examples of games that I feel were bitten by this syndrome: Halo 2, Kingdom Hearts, Dead or Alive 3, every Madden, Wind Waker.

11 Comments

  1. jay said on October 29, 2006:

    I noticed that this happens too, although I think it is usually not as dramatic. Game X may get a few criticisms, but not all that it deserves. Then game X2 comes out and all of a sudden the critics mention things that were wrong with game X that they didn’t include in their original reviews. So basically exactly what you said but I’m altering it a little to allow game X to not have gotten perfect reviews.

     

    I can’t tell you why it happens but know for a fact that some of the big magazines sell cover stories. It doesn’t take that big a cynic to wonder if cover story games often get good reviews because there is a lot of money being passed around.

     

    Even magazines that don’t sell stories need money from advertisers so I imagine there are compromises. Say a company knows game Y blows but also don’t expect to make that much. They tell a magazine to do what they want with the review, but in exchange go a little easy on title Z because even though it has problems, they need it to carry the season.
     

  2. Christian said on October 29, 2006:

    Absolutely.  I think the Driv3r scandal pretty much proved your points about magazines.

  3. Matt said on October 30, 2006:

    In my opinion, I saw nothing of the sort with Wind Waker. Everyone talked about its failings (ocean, unoriginal). I think what you are starting this idea on is the difference between reviews and someone stating their opinion on a blog or in a preview. Reviews have to be completely subjective, you really can’t have 100% opinion on it. They might state the problem in the review, but there are so many things in the review that you can’t solely devote the entire article on that one thing that he hates. But once previews start coming, the reviewer has enough time and space to talk about the one thing that he didn’t like about the original. You always hear "I hope they fix that one problem with the sequel," even when the review briefly mentions said problem. And one thing that I do want to stress is that a lot of people (and I’m talking a lot here) are overly critical about games. I let someone play Metroid Prime Hunters and he just had to comment on how he would have changed the control scheme because he didn’t believe it worked. Never mind he only played it for 2 minutes. I think people just want to give criticisms nowadays, what with the power of the Internet giving people a voice. Some people just can’t forget the little things and have fun. Reviews do a good job of separating the two, but once they have their voice again, you’ll hear a different story. 

  4. Christian said on October 30, 2006:

    Hmmm, Wind Waker did get panned in reviews more than the others, so I’ll give you that one.  But I’m not so sure that this problem is mostly due to objectivity in a review.  If they say Game X’s camera is "a bit troublesome, but not too bad" now, and then slam it when Game Y is out, you start to wonder how much weight that opinion has, especially if other people complained about the camera back during release.  Plus in a review, I want the writer’s opinion. That’s why I’m reading their review.  With a few exceptions (such as true masters like Ebert), movie critics don’t act objective.  If they don’t like silly action films, they’re not going to give a movie four stars because its a particularly good action film.  If a reviewer is changing their opinion to fit some sort of mass appealing mold, that changed view is going to be somewhat skewed.  In that case what’s the point?  You definitely have an interesting point, and I’ll have to keep it in mind for the future, but I just can’t see it boiling down to their attempt at being Consumer Reports for Gaming.  If that was all they had to do; look at a game objectively and write about it – there are probably a lot better writers who would want and have those jobs.

  5. Matt said on October 30, 2006:

    I definitely see what you’re saying. You’re spot on with Halo 2. From all the reviews that the game got, I thought that it would be Game of the Year, but thankfully people wised up before then. But one thing puzzles me: can a reviewer still be blinded by hype when they finished the game? After I beat a game, I tend to wash away all the hype I had for the game and give it it’s just desserts. 

  6. jay said on October 30, 2006:

    I think they can be but "blinded" isn’t the right word. They know the hype is wrong but sometimes still allow it to influence their review because it’s hard to go against the popular view and/or money is involved somewhere.

  7. pat said on October 30, 2006:

    at risk of being completely on a tangent, its largely the same with forecasting something like the stock market.  you will notice that most forecasters will say the stock market will be up ~10% just about every year.  they have an economic incentive (the companies that are selling stocks are the say companies employing said forecasters) but it also seems to be better to be wrong with everyone else than it is to be wrong on your own.

  8. pat said on October 30, 2006:

    point being, i think very similar forces are at work here.

  9. Matt said on October 30, 2006:

    One good example of this with print material is the review of PN 03 in PLAY. They gave it an A when every other online site destroyed it. I always chalked it up to getting an early build of the game and writing about it prematurely, seeing as how they focused more on the graphical style than the gameplay. But your idea makes sense from this POV. I guess I’m just a cynic, thinking everyone does the right thing.

  10. Azu said on October 31, 2006:

    "Halo 2, Kingdom Hearts, Dead or Alive 3, every Madden, Wind Waker." Uhh… How was Kingdom Hearts bitten by this "syndrome"? It’s still considered as one of the best (action) RPGs of this generation. Sure, it had problems with the camera, but otherwise it was a great game. That’s why some people try to actually say that KH2 is somehow worse than the first one. The first one pretty much came from nowhere. Yeah, the most HC Square fans were keeping an eye on it, but before release it wasn’t eve considered to be worth a try. No one was actually expecting anything from it before the release, after which it turned out to be a hit. A game can’t do that (be a sleeper-hit) and create an instant fanbase of millions of gamers by being a bad one. Even Halos had their online multiplayers that were better than anything before them (for consoles), though otherwise they are overrated FPS games.

  11. Christian said on October 31, 2006:

    I’m pretty sure KH was quite anticipated before its release.  No one knew about it?  I think that’s a bit of a stretch.  People did know about it, though maybe some weren’t sure what to expect.  In any case, those issues with the camera, platforming etc. didn’t really manifest itself among the big dogs until far after the game’s release.  Your statement of "sure, it had problems etc…" is exactly what I mean.  You didn’t hear much of that when if first came out, only later when KH2 was on its way.  

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