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When Does a Game Need to be Re-Reviewed?

The state of game development has shifted this decade towards post release content, but what does that mean for a game whose reviews are no longer relevant?

Video game development has taken on a new life this decade. Between mobile, indie, and AAA games, we are seeing games being supported longer. It’s no longer about just patching a game to fix bugs, but continuing support for months or even years. The recent release of No Man’s Sky’s next update gives us another chance to talk about a tricky topic for video game journalism and re-reviewing games.

Continued Development:

Depending on the game and studio in question, just because a game is released doesn’t mean that development is finished. In the past, most games would just be supported with technical fixes before the team moves on to another project.

In today’s market, popular games afford the developer a chance to keep growing it with further support. This support has gotten to the point that many consumers now expect it from any video game. Thanks to digital distribution, any developer can now update their game easily.

Continued support can take the form of anything from new maps, to completely new game systems. We are seeing more cases of games becoming something different compared to their 1.0 version.

This situation can happen in one of two ways. A game could have sold so well that the developers continue to support it to grow the brand—With games like Payday 2 and Warframe.

Other times, the game may have not started out so well, and the developers want to make things right or get a better version out—Such as Brigador, The Witcher, No Man’s Sky, and Skyshine’s Bedlam. With each one of the games mentioned, they have had second “re-releases” of their enhanced versions.

While getting a better version of a game is cause for good news, it does leave a big question on the table: What happens to the original review?

Reviewing Reviews:

Game developers knows that your game can live or die based on reviews. A quick way to turn people away on Steam is to see that “Mostly Negative” tag at the top of the page. With so many people reviewing games these days, it’s become hard to separate the signal from the noise, but that’s a topic for another time.

The problem is that any review, whether on a storefront or on Metacritic, becomes attached permanently to a video game. If we were talking about other mediums like TV and film that wouldn’t be a problem, but video games these days continue to be supported.

And that takes us to No Man’s Sky, who had a major update in the form of “No Man’s Sky Next.” The game has been supported for now two years after its release and backlash due to lack of content.

A check on metacritic shows that the game had a 61 average at the moment of writing this. For most gamers, they are probably informed enough to know the news about the work that has gone into the game, but what about the average consumer?

Most people aren’t going to take the time to read through every review and look up all the news about the game—they’ll take one look at the rating and metacritic and then move on. Some fans may go back and edit their previous reviews, but it’s not a regular practice.

The Never-ending Work:

Another point is with video game reviewers themselves. We’ve talked about the amount of games being released daily and how hard it is to cover them all. With journalists and reviewers being flooded by new games, how are they supposed to find the time to re-review old ones?

It can be very hard to work in the Game Industry if you are tethered to new game announcements and reviews. Personally, I do have the freedom to go back and re-look at games in spotlight videos, but I’m more of an exception and not the rule.

Second Chances:

We have talked about how important putting a good foot forward is when it comes to game releases. However, today’s market continues to push post-release support on video games—whether they had a good or poor reception.For those games, one review just doesn’t seem to be enough, but what determines how often and how many times a game should be re-reviewed? Do we say every six months, once a year, or go with the number of patches?

It can be a thankless job when it comes to post release support if your game wasn’t already a hit to begin with. This is why we see developers try to make big updates as major events, or even rename their title to show consumers that it isn’t the same game anymore.

For the reader: What do you think is acceptable when it comes to re-reviews?

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