Do Gamers Buy Based On Instinct Or On Review Scores?

It’s one of those questions that shaves off a certain edge of pedigree from the job this humble writer enjoys, and yet it I’ll ask it anyway because I find it so interesting. What goes through your head when you’re buying games? Just how much of an influence do the critics of the industry have on your expensive hobby?

So the bottom line is this; there are more games released in a month than the majority of us can afford to buy, let alone find time to play. We all carefully and enthusiastically refine and build our little collection of videogame titles over time. Development studios are normally asked whether review scores or sales mean more to them and the answer is completely different from one studio to the next. Similarly when you ask a gamer whether they have a trusted source they consult before any purchase, the answers you get are noticeably varied.

On the whole if I haven’t played or seen a game before-hand myself, I tend to hesitate from blindly picking it up until I’ve done a bit of research. However I know plenty of people who will cheerily wander into their nearest games shop or supermarket, half-heartedly browse the new releases section for five minutes, before grabbing the one with the most eye catching box art. I realize on one hand this is a completely subjective process, but on the other I suspect that there is some consistency within all the variables.

Let me just try to list all the things may or may not affect your decision to buy a game:

-Review score your trusted source gives – website, magazine etc.
-Good marketing by publishers
-Word of mouth
-Gut instinct from own research
-Trust in a development studio/ reputation

So it’s pretty obvious that the critics aren’t the only metaphorical loudspeakers on stage, and it’s unclear just how important the other factors might be. If we have to make any assumptions (and I think we are going to have to for now lol) one of them would be that a significant proportion of the player population has access to the internet. With the evolution of technology and the growing culture of online gaming it’s a reasonably justified leap of faith, agreed?

This means that a hefty chunk of gamers can easily watch the smaller trailers that don’t make it on to TV and are likely exposed to any number of internet ‘crazes’. Any websites that hosts such content could tell you that a lot of people follow a lot of games leading up to their release and beyond. With the easy accessibility that the web provides, millions of gamers have a HUGE range of opinions to listen to and consider, and I know from experience that people tend to narrow these voices down into the ones they will actually regularly use and trust.

Maybe the majority of you will scan the reviews of all your favourite sites (not necessarily the biggest though…gamers tend to prioritize those for preview information) and then hit up YouTube for some gameplay footage before deciding? One thing we can be sure of is that positive reviews alone don’t lead to healthy sales…sometimes the relationship is totally backwards/negatively correlated.

It does make you wonder about just how representative and valid all these game awards are though, and how the industry will continue to grow, be shaped by, and accommodate such diversity. Really it’s you lot who should be talking (this means you should leave a comment…now) about this and telling us where you stand. After all, it’s the masses that will ultimately determine if a game gets a sequel or not.

Maybe I’ve left something off that plays a big role in the decision making? Social perceptions? Online functionality and replay value?