I want to start by asking a question to all of you and think about it because it is important. Should a game developer receive a bonus for how well a game performs commercially or how well it performed critically or maybe even both? Both are important, but to different degrees. My personal belief is that performance based incentives need to be based purely on sales and not how a game scores on Metacritic.
The staff of Obsidian Entertainment is being denied a bonus because Fallout: New Vegas missed the Metacritic target set forth by Bethesda by one point. The lead creative designer of Fallout: New Vegas Chris Avellone, tweeted about this on his account.
“Fallout: New Vegas was a straight payment, no royalties, only a bonus if we got an 85+ on Metacritic, which we didn’t.”
Fallout: New Vegas has an 84 on Metacritic and the goal was an 85. One measly point of a score derived from people who had zero involvement in the creative process of this game decided the fate of many peoples’ paychecks. A contract is a contract, but a stipulation like a Metacritic score target is for lack of a better term, unfair.
According to the same report on Gamasutra, Fallout: New Vegas sold 5 Million units and generated $300 million in revenue for Bethesda and even with such huge retail success Bethesda is denying the staff of Obsidian the benefits of a bonus. This has been done before by publishers and is labeled as “quality ratings” during contract negotiations. This is a huge issue for game developers, but the problem also disseminates down to an editorial level.
With information like this readily available to the general public and video game pundits alike we need to think how this can potentially affect things. The opinions of reputable (and smaller) video game sites can either create a great demand for a title or adversely affect the sales based on their reviews. Each site out there has a particular brand of subjectivity and that is what makes each site’s editors unique. People search the internet for that information to make purchase decisions based on those unique perspectives and if we know that our decisions are going affect not only the sales of a game, but the people making it, it makes writing negative reviews more difficult. I am not saying that negative criticism should not exist because it needs to exist, it just shouldn’t alter a person’s paycheck. If a publisher like Bethesda would implement such puerile stipulation into a contract I think developers working under that umbrella should find different shade.
You need not worry because TGA is not recognized on Metacritic yet, but if we were we would not let this troublesome ordeal affect our opinions. We have a duty to you the reader/consumer to deliver honest content devoid of extreme personal bias and how it could affect others. Negative criticism to a game should be used in a constructive manner by publishers to improve on further projects and not deprive or punish those who made said title. Moving forward it will be interesting to see how things of this nature are handled and how we can keep developers accountable and also employed.
This is an important topic in both the industry and the outlets that cover the industry so please sound off in the comments about how you feel about this. Do you think what Bethesda did was fair or justified? Or do you fall into the second camp that believes bonuses of any kind should be based on sales not scores? Let us know and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.