The ratings game…

In the April issue of Computer Gaming World, there were no ratings on the reviews. They wrote:

Its April, Fools!
As you flip through this issues reviews, you’ll notice something. Yes, CGW is playing a cruel April Fools Day joke on impatient consumers everywhere: This months reviews come score free. Was Star Wars Empire at War worth the wait? Is Rainbow Six: Lockdown anything more than a lazy console port? And do you really need to play a game about the Winter Olympics?
You’ll just have to read the full reviews to find out scores be damned. [….]
And if you believe this is crazy, just wait until you see next months all new Reviews section. Page 79

Then, in the May issue, Jeff Green Wrote:

I’m old. How old am I? [….] I’m so old, I remember back when this magazine ran game reviews without any star ratings on them. From our humble beginnings in 1981 until June 1994 (thats 13 years, according to my calculator!) this magazine did not attach numeric scores to reviews. And when we finally started to, in July 1994, it incited an immediate firestorm of protest. You’ve sold out! readers cried. You’ve dumbed the magazine down! they sighed. You’ve made the text irrelevant! they whined. Over time, however, the protests died down (mostly), and the gaming public came to accept scores as a crucial aspect of a game review. Now, a games average is often the only thing many gamers (and publishers and developers) even care about.
So its with much irony that the CGW mailbox now overflows with new protests from readers angry that we removed the scores last month. Why we did that may be a little clearer this month, as we reveal more of our ongoing strategy to reposition and redefine our editorial mission here in 2006. Or maybe it will be even less clear. What do I know? In any case, check out our new Viewpoint section […] Page 10

Where the reviews used to be, they wrote:

Pardon Our Dust
WE JUST BROKE OUT OF THIS STUFFY OLD BOX. THIS month, your trusty Reviews section receives a revisit, complete with the shiny new Viewpoint moniker that tops this page. Name change aside, you should notice four very important changes to CGWs newly refocused opinion section:
1 More in-depth reviews. Reading the same old stuff six weeks after it hits the Internet just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, servers as our jumping-off point for longer, deeper reviews of the games you should be playing.
2 No more scores. Those of you who want your Cliffs Notes still get a verdict box with a short summary of the reviewers opinion but now the text speaks for itself. If you’re really desperate, check out our new Reality Check page for a spread of other industry scores and see how they compare with what we say. Page 79

Personally, I didn’t really care. One rating doesn’t convince me to discourage me from buying a game. However, a funny thing happened as I flipped through the September issue of Computer Gaming World. They have started sneaking rankings back in.

In the Rise & Fall: Civilizations At War review Tom Chick starts off by mentioning another review with the phrase, “he says in his 9-out-of-10 review” and then a subsection heading for the review is, “Brother, Can You Spare a 7 Out Of 10?” (92, 93). Similarly, in Greg Kramer’s review of City Life, there is a line which states, “Despite its oddities and rough edges, the game’s critical consensus remains positive, with most ratings hovering around 1UP’s strong 8 out of 10” (98).

Curious, I went to and looked at their review of City Life and who wrote it? Why Greg Kramer! Curious, I looked at 1Up’s review of Rise & Fall: Civilizations At War was written by Tom Chick (who gave it a 5 out of 10, so why the heading 7 out of 10??). The oddest review in the issue is Eric Neigher’s review of Titan Quest which is basically a discussion of his 1Up review of Titan Quest..

What in the world is going on here? Are they simply pimping for Or are they regretting eliminating the ratings and attempting to slip them back in?

My first assumption was the latter. I assumed they got so much hate mail they were attempting to satisfy people without appearing like they caved into pressure. However, I was curious to see if anyone else had noticed the hijinx occurring and found out that something even more starting was going on with CGW: they were being canceled/turned into a new magazine called: Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. So now, just like Playstation and X-Box have their official magazines, it looks like Windows will have their official magazine which employs much of the staff of Computer Gaming World.

It will be interesting to see if they retain the “no ratings” policy or if they use that opportunity to reinstate them. Honestly, however, I can’t see a magazine with a name like Games for Windows: The Official Magazine being really popular or lasting too long. Who knows though. It will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on.

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