Metacritic has changed the way its user reviews system works for games, now preventing people from adding their own ratings until more than day after a title launches.
The change appears to have first been noticed by members of the ResetEra forums earlier this month. A post showed that the PlayStation 4 version of indie puzzle game Superliminal was not open to user reviews until 12pm PST on July 9, 2020, despite the game launching on July 7.
Forbes confirmed this with a screenshot of the reviews page for last week’s Ghost of Tsushima, which showed user reviews were blocked until 12pm PST on July 18, approximately 36 hours after its launch on July 17.
Both instances bear the message: “Please spend time playing the game.”
The change is believed to be a reaction to the ongoing use of user reviews as a form of protest from some consumers. Metacritic users have been known to post reviews on the day of release, and sometimes even before, often with negative comments and scores to bring the user rating down.
The most recent example was PS4 exclusive The Last of Us Part 2, which has sparked controversy among certain corners of the series fanbase due to some of the story decisions made and the content of leaks that emerged ahead of the game’s launch.
In Forbes’ example, the user score stood at 3.4 out of 10 based on more than 5,000 reviews, despite the critics’ average score amounting to 95 out of 100. At the time of writing, the user score has risen slightly to 5.5 based on more than 130,000 user reviews.
Review-bombing is a common form of protest on online games sites. Last year, Valve attempted to prevent it on Steam by marking a flood of new negative reviews for the seven-year-old Borderlands 2 as ‘off-topic review activity.’
The reviews followed complaints that Borderlands 3 would be temporarily exclusive to Epic Games Store.
Update: Metacritic has responded to GamesIndustry.biz and confirmed the change, adding that it only applies to the games section and not other forms of entertainment.
The company also said the decision was not made based on reactions to any particular game.
“We recently implemented the 36 hour waiting period for all user reviews in our games section to ensure our gamers have time to play these games before writing their reviews,” a spokesperson said.
“This new waiting period for user reviews has been rolled out across Metacritic’s Games section and was based on data-driven research and with the input of critics and industry experts.”