Monday, September 24, 2012

Critics vs. Customers! Madden NFL 13 - PS3 & Xbox 360 Reviews Averages

Review score averages shown were captured around 5:00PM EST, on 9-24-12.
Coffee Beans
Did you know the Madden NFL video game series has been around for almost 25 years now, with a "new" Madden game being released basically every year since the series started?

Madden NFL 13 was released almost one month ago now, on August 28, 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It released with a MSRP of $59.99 and received an ESRB rating of "Everyone" with no content listed for gamers or parents to be aware of. The game was developed by EA Tiburon, and published under Electronic Arts' EA Sports label.

One big new feature in Madden NFL 13 is the new physics engine in the game, the Infinity Engine, which is designed to make tackles and hits more authentic, and it tries to make sure "no two plays ever look or feel the same" in the game.

We are now 3 weeks into the the official NFL season, and we have almost a full month of "professional" critic reviews and customer reviews for Madden NFL 13 to look at. Have PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 players of Madden NFL 13 agreed with critics on the game? Brew yourself some coffee, and let's take a look!

The Brew
The first "professional" critic review scores for Madden NFL 13 started being published around August 24th, a few days before the game released.


First up, the reviews for Madden NFL 13 on the PlayStation 3. The PS3 version has a "professional" critic review score average of 84 out of 100 based on 17 reviews on MetaCritic.com, and it has a critic review score average of 84.14% based on 18 reviews on GameRankings.com.

What about the customers though, what has their reaction been to the game since it released? Well, Madden NFL 13 on the PS3 has a customer review score average of 37.35%, based on 318 customer reviews from Amazon.com.


The Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL 13 has a "professional" critic review score average of 82 out of 100 based on 32 reviews on MetaCritic.com, and it has a critic review score average of 83.37% based on 31 reviews on GameRankings.com.

Madden NFL 13 on the Xbox 360 has a customer review score average of 45.60%, based on 375 customer reviews from Amazon.com.

Broken back? Or, broken reviews?
Caffeinated Thoughts
I think the "professional" critic review score averages versus the customer review score average for Madden NFL 13 clearly show there is a disconnect somewhere. We're not talking about a simple 10% review score average difference, we have about a 36-46% review score average difference between the "professional" critics for Madden NFL 13 and the customers for Madden NFL 13.

One of the first reviews published on August 24th, by the largest video game site on the web (see - IGN), gave the game a 9.0 out of 10. To me, the review seemed to be a well crafted PR statement almost, based on features in the game, but glazing over real issues with the game (or, simply not mentioning them). The reviewer said of one feature, "This kept me coming back to the Connected Careers week after week." I was curious as to how many weeks he had the review copy, so I asked and according to the reviewer he had it maybe 2-3 weeks before his review was published; which was a full 2-3 weeks before the game released and was available to the general gaming public.

Why does this matter? Early in his review he states, "At a glance, Madden NFL 13 might just look like Madden, but in your hands, it feels polished.", which I found odd based on my time with the demo.

I played the PlayStation 3 demo for Madden NFL 13, and completed several games in it. The demo didn't sell me on the game though, because I thought it lacked polish. Sure, I could understand some issues from a new series, but seeing holograms on the sidelines (people that are *there* but you can run through), bad camera angles on replays, cars that look like cardboard boxes driving outside the stadiums, and things like hearing the same comments from announcers within a game, just seemed to me that EA hasn't been pushing the series very much.

Also, when I see a glitch like in the following video that was posted up in Chalgyr's Game Room review of the game, the word "polished" doesn't enter my thoughts:

How is it possible for the critic and customer review score averages to be so far apart, on the same game? Well, from what I read of the critic reviews it seems many didn't experience real-world online play in the game, and perhaps were in an *EA bubble* before the game released protecting them from bad experiences with it?

Also, many of the early critic reviews, like IGN's, failed to mention features taken out of the game, one being the lack of offline cooperative play in Franchise Mode, which apparently from many user reviews is still a big selling point for the game/series. Perhaps, the more time you spend with the game, the better it becomes and a solid 2-3 weeks is what the customers need to be spending with the game before reviewing it (this wouldn't change the lack of features though)?

Questions
If you purchased Madden NFL 13 for the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360, what do you think about the game? If you were to give the game an overall review score average, would it fall closer to the "professional" critic review score averages above, or to the customer review score averages shown? Is Madden NFL 13 a game you would recommend to other gamers, that perhaps have played a few Madden games over the years, but haven't purchased one in a while?

Also, if you haven't purchased Madden NFL 13 yet, will the customer review score averages reflected above for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, make you think twice before reading a "professional" critic review score average and basing your decision to purchase a game on it?

If you are interested in Madden NFL 13, or just want to read through the Amazon.com customer review score averages (which I highly suggest), you can see the games on Amazon.com below:

11 comments:

  1. Great comic. The problem with critics here is that they can't shit on a franchise as big as Madden if they want to work with EA afterwards.


    This is how annual stats updates and instalments get automatic B+ as a base, and it can only go higher if there's some tie in advertisement or if the game is gasp, actually, more fun than usual.

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  2. So, what did EA do to piss off gamers enough to go and vote down games they haven't played this time?

    I've got Madden 13, and far be it for me to defend an IGN review, while "polished" isn't a word I would use either, I would however call it "good" - as a fan of sports games I got - and continue to get - a lot of value out of the game.


    I'm a paid journalist though, so I guess that renders my view on the game irrelevant :P.

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  3. "The problem with critics here is that they can't **** on a franchise as big as Madden if they want to work with EA afterwards."


    This is a very real issue in the industry. It's kind of like not asking "real" questions to key figures in public, for fear of getting blacklisted.


    Unfortunately, it's the average consumer/customer that might not research anything outside of seeing a major review, before buying it and end up with a game lacking features they figured were in it from before.


    As for the "tie in advertisement" I think the history with (Kane & Lynch) with reviews and publishers pushing for certain review scores is very evident. Also, bonuses being tied directly into MetaCritic and/or GameRankings review score averages...


    I just think there's something here that's clearly missing between the "professionals" (many of the Madden NFL 13 reviews were published before the game was released), and the customers, who wrote reviews after the game released.


    Thanks for the comment and feedback!

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  4. "So, what did EA do to piss off gamers enough to go and vote down games they haven't played this time?"


    Well, I semi-answered that, or tried to with this in the post: Also, many of the early critic reviews, like IGN's, failed to mention features taken out of the game, one being the lack of offline cooperative play in Franchise Mode, which apparently from many user reviews is still a big selling point for the game/series.

    Actually, if you go read through the 300+ reviews on both consoles (near 700 now), with the majority being the lowest overall average, you will see many appear to be very big fans of the series (or were), and take time writing out their thoughts/complaints. One in a very original/hilarious way I thought:http://www.amazon.com/review/R2PFPIDDEM3POT/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=coffeew-20#R2PFPIDDEM3POT

    I would say based on some things I have seen though, I would question how much was actually played in the review I linked to in the post. o_0
    One particular issue with his review was when he said, "Defensive backs have to see the ball to make a play on it so there are no more psychic swats."This was written and published BEFORE the game shipped, there was no way to verify his word on this, before playing it. Turns out, there apparently are psychic DBs in the game, but it appears they now intercept the ball, instead of just swatting it away. Maybe they used to do both in older versions?
    "I would however call it "good" - as a fan of sports games I got - and continue to get - a lot of value out of the game."
    Which is why I think seeing reviews posted like IGN's, probably start doing more harm, than good for the game over time. When customers buy the game, expecting an "Amazing" experience with it, and run into major glitches, no offline coop like past Madden games (not mentioned in review), and psychic DBs...they not only will have issues with Madden NFL 13, they will start having legitimate issues with the site that reviewed it early.
    "I'm a paid journalist though, so I guess that renders my view on the game irrelevant :P."Exactly! I'm adding a "Donate" button now, so that paid journalist like yourself can/have to donate before commenting from now on...


    Chalgyr's review though, is a great example of an admitted fan of the series being able to critique it and address issues that fans of the series would probably like to know about it, before they purchased it...


    Thanks for the comment and feedback. Also, have you and Chalgyr played any games online in it yet?

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  5. That Amazon review was funny as hell.
    I am not a big sports gamer by any means but I always found the review double-standard with sports games an interesting topic. Where so many other types of games would get lambasted with criticism if they changed year to year as incrementally as a Madden (not to mention they would get lambasted just for yearly releases, period #GUITARHEROAMIRITE!?), this seems to be accepted when reviewing sports games.
    I do get that games based on sports have a modicum of range they can improve in gameplay terms since the way the real game is played stays consistent...but something always felt a bit off come review time.
    #OUTLIKEABOSS

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  6. Yep, the current relationship between the gaming media and games company is like that of a druggie and a dealer. They both sort of need each other, but the drug dealer wields incredible power to make the druggie do whatever he/she wants.

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  7. First, glad you enjoyed the Amazon review. The person spent time on it trying to address issues, but doing so in a sarcastic/humorous way.


    As for, "I do get that games based on sports have a modicum of range they can improve in gameplay terms since the way the real game is played stays consistent...but something always felt a bit off come review time."


    I agree, that the gameplay can't really change that much in sports games, and that is why I don't understand why glitches like the one in the video are present, and other glitches that have been reported/shown in the game. I mean, they have been making the game for almost 25 years now, it seems to me that it would be pretty standard for the gameplay and modes to remain in the game, and not for certain modes to be taken out of the game.


    #FeedbackIsAwesome #Thanks!

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  8. Thanks for the link and video above - to me that was the most amusing glitch in the game I had seen yet - and well, it helped me win that particular game, so I didn't complain too much :P

    Obviously, I bought the game, reviewed it to a good score (8 overall) that comes in a shade below most of the professional scores but well above the average user score.

    Like Coffee, part of me initially wonders if this game has created so much 'release fatigue' that people who haven't even played it go ahead and mark it down. Distinctly possible - I've seen some people on other sites actually admit to having done so, but whether there's enough truth/volume to this idea, it is hard to see.

    I think a lot of it will come down to personal preference. Unlike the IGN article that glossed over the missing features, I talked about them in my review - but they were features that did not personally affect me and my experience at all. The new features that they added however, were ones that resonated well with me. This same game in college? The inability to play locally in franchise mode would have sucked. I do see there's been an update and apparently you can do a fantasy draft now in online connected careers, but I haven't tried it yet - I just saw a notice the other day on it.

    One complaint about Madden I will lobby here, because I haven't anywhere else - but either an update of theirs or the last PSN one (they both had one about the same time, and the behavior started after that, so I don't know which to blame) - the system sometimes locks up when you try to quit the game/power down the system. It winds up powering down, doing the double beep, and then when you start the PS3 again after, it sends a notice to Sony about the problem and checks over your hard drive for potential errors. Kinda nerve wracking. Which that would stop, and it happens on both of my PS3's just over the last week or so

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  9. "Obviously, I bought the game, reviewed it to a good score (8 overall) that comes in a shade below most of the professional scores but well above the average user score."


    That's only because of who was on the cover. We KNOW this.


    "Unlike the IGN article that glossed over the missing features, I talked about them in my review - but they were features that did not personally affect me and my experience at all. The new features that they added however, were ones that resonated well with me."


    You did talk about them, and IGN didn't even gloss over the missing features, they skipped mentioning some of them altogether. They worded the review in such a fashion, that there is no way to know the features aren't there, if you are used to the features being there...which is why it seemed like a crafted PR piece to me:
    "This year, Franchise, Online Franchise, create a player and the rest are all shoved into Connected Career. You choose to play offline or on, and then decide if you want to be coach, a specific player or create a character. From there, it's the same experience regardless of the role (preseason, cuts, draft and so on). Head coaches will play both sides of the ball while a superstar will only play when he should be on the field. If you want to be a coach and I want to just be a halfback, we can both get what we want and play in the same online career. If I get bored of being a halfback, I can retire that player and start a new one or a coaching career in that same universe we've created -- complete with evolving draft classes and storylines to watch. It is 30 seasons of whatever we want."


    Where does that mention the lack of ability to play franchise locally, something that apparently has been in most of the recent past Madden games? Maybe I'm missing it, but that just appears to be a way of not addressing it at all, and fails to even mention it.


    "One complaint about Madden I will lobby here, because I haven't anywhere else..."
    Just as an FYI, I think I saw one Amazon review stating the game bricked their console, but was skimming by it. I'm not sure now if they had mentioned the update or not, maybe I can find it.....


    Thanks for the comment/feedback!

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  10. (To answer your question - I have not played Madden, and would not even if I were given a copy.)


    I do agree that there is an issue with reviews and reviewers. I think that part of it is that most of the developers' effort (with narrative/linear games, at least) goes into the start of the game - the part that most players see - and very little goes into the end. The part that should provide the big emotional payoff is the part that reviewers ignore, either because they run out of time, or because they have to avoid spoilers anyway, or because they just aren't invested.


    I have increasingly had the impression that reviewers on sites like Kotaku aren't interested in the experience that players will have, or how it relates to the experience that players want to have or should have. We can debate whether or not they love games, but it seems that they don't love gamers.

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  11. I have been doing some research on this problem, and there are quite a few threads about the odd shutoff problem occurring for quite a few users. It seems to be PS3 specific, I can't find anything on 360 about it. I actually plan to put in a support ticket/report for it today to see what EA says (if anything) about it, because the issue is really starting to irritate me

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