Massively Multiplayer Online games have been judged for years by critics separately from the state of their servers and customer service experience. Top tier multiplayer shooters also suffer from server issues at launch, like EA's Battlefield franchise and Activision's Call of Duty. Popular games often have issues carrying the load of a massive launch. Of course, in the case of those shooters, there's still the chips and salsa of the offline single-player experience. In fact, for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 we separated our single-player and multiplayer reviews because we were concerned – given Battlefield's service history – about the quality of the consumer experience at launch.
In our conversations about always-on internet connections we keep getting caught up in debates about digital rights management (DRM), the idea that people should "just get over it" and similar capitulations that the system can't be beat so we might as well give in. I want to remove all of that from the equation and let's focus on service.
Why is the customer service experience not part of the review equation? I believe we treat developers (the chefs) and the service experience we receive from publishers as two different concepts. We'd never do that for a restaurant, but we do it for the games industry, an industry that will – make no mistake about this – become more and more about service.
I can already imagine the cries against reviews placing the quality of the game and its service to customers together. If reviews for SimCity
were posted today, based on the ability to play, we'd easily see an aggregate Metacritic review score well below the average. We can talk about sliding review scores all we want, but the first review score a site posts is the one that aggregate sites, like Metacritic, pick up. Review scores determine bonuses
and, no matter what our personal feelings about aggregate sites, they directly impact the wallets of industry players.
had a review average of 30 right now, one hopes EA would take a hard look at its customer service. A publisher going forward wouldn't just be worried about the quality of their game, but the quality of their service in the marketplace. An anticipated server-reliant game would very likely never launch again without proper server support.
I now go back to waiting for the SimCity
servers to work so I can get started on my review for the game. I do wonder how long as a collective we can keep arguing about how unfair it is to judge a game by how it treats paying customers, especially as we keep being told that games are now a service.