That is the question.
The reason for the confusion is that Polygon initially gave SimCity a 9.5/10 and then later updated the review with a lower score of 8/10 due to connectivity issues that some of their staff and users around the world were facing. You see, SimCity is an always-on game, even when playing by yourself, and the servers haven’t been cooperating since the game launched. Users have been disconnected from the servers in the middle of a game, losing their progress along the way, and some haven’t even been able to connect at all. It’s been a major issue for a lot of gamers, and Polygon decided to update their score based on that. To avoid all of this, maybe they should have just done a Review In Progress, like some of the other sites, instead? That’s a topic for another day though.
Apparently Polygon had a few issues during their review playtime, but nothing major enough to make them give it a lower score from the start, which is understandable and I totally agree. Things took a controversial turn once Polygon learned just how major the issues were, adjusted the score and updated the review. Readers on their site, users on twitter and all over the internet got into a huge debate on whether or not adjusting review scores is acceptable. I’m not writing this to trash on Polygon (or SimCity either), they are a successful website and they can do whatever they want. As for their policy regarding review updates, I’m not sure whether I agree with it or not and it got me thinking.
We’ve talked about it before and Scott and I agreed that we review the game based on the state it was in when we played it, score it appropriately, and that’s that. We have added updated information to a review, but we’ve never changed the score once it was posted. Part of me still agrees with this and part of me is starting to think that maybe changing the review score, in certain situations, would benefit the most important person in the equation; You. This is me thinking out loud and letting you in on my thoughts on the topic. Let’s see where they take us.
The game that comes to mind when I think about this is Homefront and how terrible the multiplayer connectivity was when the game launched, and for the month or so after it launched. It took Kaos Studios way too long to fix the issues and I had to review it as it was at the time, a 6/10, even though I did mention that once the issues were resolved it was a game worth checking out. Even with an update on the issues, the score wouldn’t change and there are a lot of people who only concentrate on the score. They would see a 6/10 (even though it is their fault for not reading the text as well) and could very well avoid it just based on that. The problem is how long do you wait for a game to be fixed before it’s too late to update the score? A week? A month? A year?
You can’t go back and update a 6/10 to an 8/10 a year later after its received multiple patches, regardless of what the issues were. That would get confusing and defeat the purpose of even giving the game a score at that point. Then, developers could release more unfinished games with the intent of updating it later to bring up the review scores, which would cause even more problems. The score is important to a lot of people and bumping it up and down would probably just confuse more than it would help. The main purpose of writing a review is to help your readers decide if a game is right for them or not, so we need to make sure we are doing things in a way that doesn’t negatively affect that.
One good thing we’ve learned is that aggregate sites like Metacritic and Gamerankings don’t change their score of the game, even if the original review site changes theirs, so developers can’t bump those scores by fixing their games after the fact. I just don’t see a way that we can update review scores that makes sense to everyone involved. The reviewer has to pick a score based on what he or she plays, the reader needs to know how bad the game is and the developer has to live with their mistakes. I can understand lowering a score after a major issue is found, more than increasing it after issues are fixed, but what’s the point of lowering it in the first place if you’re just going to bump it back up later? It was good, then it got bad, then it was good again! Buy this game!
I think the best way to do it is to include an update at the end of the review that states what the issue was and that it was resolved, but the score should stay the same. That way the reviewer can let the readers know that the game is fixed and the developers have one less reason for people to not buy their game. As for the score, that’s the score it got, the score it deserved at the time and the score it’s going to keep. Maybe it will serve as a reminder to the developers to not make the same mistake twice. I don’t think you’ll ever see us change review scores after the review is posted, but you will see us add more updates to the text to help keep you updated on any major issues. Just remember, if you’re visiting a site that does update review scores, just make sure you read all of the text in the review, which is the most important part of any review, not just the score.
What do you think about updating review scores? Let us know in the comments below.