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EA lays-off internal analysis and reviews team

Tuesday, 18th June 2013 20:43 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

A source close to Game Informer, and a number of various tweets, have confirmed another round of lay-offs at EA. Those cut worked at the company’s internal analysis and reviews team. The team was responsible for studying Metacritic trends and providing “critical response before titles get in the hands of journalists,” according to GI. It’s unknown how many people were let go but according to Polygon the number was less than 20 employees.

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22 Comments

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  1. salarta

    … Providing critical response before titles get in the hands of journalists? What the heck does this mean? I’m seriously, honestly stumped by that phrase. Are they supposed to anticipate complaints and have an answer for those complaints? Are they supposed to go to Amazon and similar sites and leave positive reviews for games before journalists get a chance to pan it?

    #1 1 year ago
  2. DSB

    @1 It’s pretty common to hire actual reviewers to review games before they hit the streets.

    Tom Chick has been hired by EA to do mock reviews, and Lauren Wainwright famously “worked” for Square Enix according to linkedin, presumably doing the same.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. The_Red

    This is sad news because the analysis team was probably screaming about everything EA was doing but couldn’t change a thing because FOCUS GROUPS!

    #3 1 year ago
  4. salarta

    @2: I see, thanks for the information and insight.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Francis O

    Keep that boat sinking EA, and when the Xbox One flops when you sunk all that money into them….you’re really going to be sorry.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @3: Sounds to me like they are the same poison.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. The_Red

    @6
    I don’t know. Most people that do muck reviews are proper journalists from respected sites and they usually say things that they would in a proper review. In case of Fuse, almost any muck reviewer would have talked about generic look, forced mechanics and other idiocies that are DIRECT result of focus testing.

    Plus reviewers and critics are not among the test. Companies get 12 year old boys and teenagers for that.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. DSB

    @7 Of course the danger is that those journalists might “forget” to mention that they worked for that publisher on that game and cover it afterwards, which would be entirely unethical.

    The only journalist I’ve seen who’s been up front about that practice is Tom Chick.

    And of course there’s also the question as to whether a publisher might hire a reviewer purely to make it unethical for them to publish a review, keeping them off Metacritic, which in Tom’s case could be an extremely appealing prospect to some :P

    #8 1 year ago
  9. manamana

    @8 considering this Chick guy habits to smash titles viciously to the bottom in a desperate move for attention, I could see why this comes up. I dislike many reviewers and I don’t base my game choices on review-numbers but honestly this Chick guy may be upfront but in no way does his score makes sense, at least in some cases.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. DSB

    @9 Personally I think the opposite is true for most reviewers.

    From my point of view, Chick is one of a few true critics who realizes that his job isn’t to try and predict how the public may feel, or what an “acceptable” score might be, but approaches games intuitively based on what is genuinely his own tastes and references.

    Personally I think a critic like that is infinitely more interesting than an anonymous reviewer who spends 2 full pages reaching the same conclusion as the last five reviews you might read in major publications.

    I beat this drum a lot, but movie criticism is nothing like that. You have real critics like Tom Chick, whose mission in life isn’t to predict a movies popularity or to find themselves within a range of “acceptable” scores, but who really form a direct, serious connection between themselves and the film to create reviews that are original and interesting.

    I’m sure it’s a question of taste and what people are comfortable with, but I’m sick of reading reviews that reward games according to how uncontroversial and well budgeted they may be.

    It may fuck with the Metacritic score that you have a true critic who’s calling it as he sees it, but that’s purely a problem with Metacritic. Rotten Tomatoes has a better system that doesn’t break when confronted with real criticism.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. manamana

    Well, I have nothing against ‘out of the box’-thinking and I’m not so much into reviews as I only read one here, one there. The closest reviewer that comes to my taste must not be the best for the next game, as it often depends. But personally I kinda prefer the oversensational Sterling than Chick. He may have nice review-articles but when he puts number-scores that don’t even represent his text, I find it hard to believe that he isn’t keen on clicks.

    FromDust = 1
    AC3 = 5
    Halo4 = 1
    Playstation ASBR = 1
    SSX = 5

    Again, I don’t believe in numbers. But when a website decides to put them down, knowing what an impact it has on sites as metacritic (which I really think is broken too, but thats another story) and therefore also directly on developers and their jobs/money, I think he needs to be more cautious in concluding with random numbers, that in many cases don’t even reflect his review text.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. DSB

    I don’t agree that that’s the case though.

    And I don’t see what he would get out of it. I just disabled adblock, and I don’t see a single advert on Quarter to Three. Does it help the community to have a few hundred people come in to write obscenities at him? I don’t see how.

    I think the reviews you picked out just show range, which to me is pretty encouraging. I say that even though he’s slammed games I’m pretty fond of, and even though I couldn’t disagree more on games like AC3 or SSX. I think that’s fine, as long as he has a reason why. The fact that he has his own identity as a critic is what makes it interesting.

    I don’t see why any reviewer should be blamed for Metacritic or how it’s used by publishers and developers. If developers don’t want a bonus that depends on a Metacritic score, they shouldn’t sign a contract that includes one. If you have a problem with publishers trying to goad them into it, then you should blame the publishers.

    I don’t see any evidence that Tom Chick is somehow dishonest. If you read the site, and look at his background, there’s really a pretty good basis for it. He hates stuff like Minecraft because it doesn’t have enough game mechanics in it, so it really makes sense that stuff like Journey or Dear Esther would fall flat.

    .. And he models himself off of movie critics. Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert get props here and there, and he’s pretty open about that.

    http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2012/01/06/the-rest-of-the-internet-wont-have-tom-chick-to-kick-around-anymore/

    http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2013/04/11/kotaku-calls-out-quarter-to-three-for-aberrant-review-scores/

    #12 1 year ago
  13. manamana

    I mostly surf the web on my iPad and on the links you provided were three Ads: one for Ebay-App, one with links to Amazon and one with a link to Google+ Apps. Just wanted to put that out while I’m reading the Kotaku/Metacritic article and your provided links.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. DSB

    @13 My bad. I guess Disconnect has started blocking ads as well. I didn’t notice :P

    #14 1 year ago
  15. manamana

    I really think that Metacritic is taken as awrong tool by the industry and as the very well written Kotaku article summed up:

    “But it’s not a useful tool for much else. There are too many variables, too many people trying to manipulate the system. There’s too much subjectivity in the review process for anyone to treat it like an objective measure of quality. Video games are designed to be personal experiences, and it is disingenuous for publishers to act like review scores are any more than the quantification of those personal experiences. It’s harmful to everyone. Everyone.”

    Now I see where Chick comes from but nonetheless I feel like he is betraying gamers and developers alike with his ‘personal’ reviews and scores. They aren’t measureable on the whole scale and hardly hold up when set in relavance to his other reviews. But it’s pretty much my opinion, when I say that I disagree with his website and scores. Everyone is pretty much a reviewer nowadays and I rate my RL freinds as the best reviewers out there. But as a matter of fact they also have sometimes cruel tastes just as Chick. I don’t consider this a problem, as I know them pretty good and so I know, when they are hyped or bashing something out of a personal mood.

    And maybe I must get my head around the idea of his ‘personal review scores’, but nonetheless, as much as I wish there would be more ‘incompatible’ or ‘uncomfortable’ reviews and scores out there and as much I wish publishers wouldn’t make contracts based of Metacritic scores, it’s wishfull thinking. As long as I don’t start to make my own review-site-blog. And I would (completly punk blog), if I hadn’t had a totally different job to do …

    Edit: and let me add:”As for how I feel about a studio losing its bonus because the publisher has set an arbitrary number, that’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is solely to my readers.”

    Now I welcome his quixotic take on Metacritic, I just can not take his latter statement seriously.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. DSB

    I don’t understand the “scale” you’re referring to. How isn’t a review personal?

    Is there an objective scale for when something is good or bad, fun or boring, resonant or repulsive?

    And if there really was, then wouldn’t making games just be about checking those objective boxes, so you always made something “good” and never something “bad”?

    Personally I think that assumption is exactly why the vast majority of games reviews are so fundamentally dishonest. A lot of reviewers would arguably never play some of the games they score an 80 or a 90, but they do it because it’s somehow an objective truth. And that’s horseshit :P

    Why should I want to play a game that even the reviewer isn’t keen on, and why on earth would he tell me it was good in the first place?!

    I love that you’re using your friends as a reference, because that’s the analogy I always use when it comes to discussing criticism.

    In my world, the best possible role a reviewer could ever play for you, would be that of one of your friends. Of course I base that on my own friends, but the fact is that my friends are always honest, they often disagree with me, and they treat games intuitively, instead of rating them as goods or productions.

    Doing that to me is like rating a car based on whether the polish is nice. It says nothing about what that car actually feels like to drive.

    Is a game good or not? That depends on so many variables, and those varibles will mean so many different things to so many different people.

    You see that right here on VG247, and I think it’s a disgrace that you don’t see it in reviews across the internet.

    It’s one of my pet subjects, and I could go on and on, I’ve done music criticism for many years myself, but personally I’m glad that videogame criticism has guys like Chick who don’t bend or break, but just tell it like it is from their point of view.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. DSB

    @15 Why can’t you take it seriously?

    To me it would be the crime of the century if publishers could fuck over developers, and actually manage to blame that on games reviewers in the end.

    A critic reviews games. It will not ever be his responsibility to save anybody’s job, any more than it is a news anchors job to stop terrorism from happening.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. manamana

    A review should of course be personal, but at the same time also rely on objective criterias. How else is something measureable? Now if he decides to only write opinion pieces or reviews without a score, I would find him much more believable. But because he competes in a scoreboard where his scores works different than others, he likes to put that uneven distribution to the equation, which to me makes no sense other than being in the limelight of the underdog-role.

    His responsibility ,to me as a gamer visting his site, is blown out of proportion by saying it’s not worth to play Halo4. Or that AC3 is a top rated game with a stellar muliplayer. And I think, because he isn’t my buddy, he needs to put a part of measurable objectivity into his score. The reviews aren’t bad written at all but the numbers don’t hold up, imo.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. DSB

    It’s not Tom Chick distributing scores though, it’s Metacritic. They see videogames as something that can objectively be rated between 1-100. And that is really not ever going to be a serious proposition, is it?

    I think they are (purposefully or accidentally) hiding the fact that most reviewers have a 1-10 scale that they never truly use. And instead, the people who actually have a bit of range in their reviews get branded as “aberrant” or “wrong” or “sensationalist”. It’s just bullshit.

    10 people agreeing on everything is a lot more suspicious than 1 person who occasionally disagrees with the other 9 to me.

    In my opinion trying to pinpoint a game between 1-100 says absolutely nothing about the games themselves, and it doesn’t represent the criticis truthfully. It just manages to cover over the fact that most reviewers agree most of the time, and don’t have any range in the scores they hand out.

    Take a look at Rotten Tomatoes. Instead of pretending like movies can be measured to an exact point on a scale between 1-100, they simply tell you what the range is. If a movie scores 75%, that simply means that 75% of the critics out there scored it below 60%, and 25% of critics scored it higher.

    It’s being way more fair to the critics themselves, because instead of accepting that your 20 point review has a far greater effect on an average, than a 50 point review, you only have one point to add to the total. It’s going to be a positive point or a negative point, but either way that point will have the exact same value as every other critics.

    The sad reality is that if game reviews were scored according to Rotten Tomatoes, most games would be rated 100% fresh. That basically never happens on that site, and as such it allows critics to disagree without anyone being pegged as “aberrant” or “manipulative”.

    *edit*

    Trying to shorten it down a bit :p

    #19 1 year ago
  20. manamana

    Yes but you know what actually works pretty good on Metacritic: the users score. Over there you will find a distributed score based on ‘swarm intelligence’. They aren’t paid, totally subjective and many of them are even admitting that they are downgrading a game to a 1 just to balance out the amount of tenners, while they would score it a seven.

    But when I read some of Chicks reviews and see his score under it, I fail to believe that he is doing it in ‘responsiblity’ to me as a gamer. He does it because it’s his opinion and he knows he gets attention by being queer. And I’m okay with that, aslong as he wouldn’t put a random score under his reviews, which get measured by another overarching scoreboard. And I would fairly enjoy more reviewers to come down to a personal and subjective level and really bash the heck out of a review, just to make it even more believable and also enjoyable to read. Chicks AC3 review was shite, imo. And so was his score. And we don’t need to agree on him, aslong we agree that reviewers need to take the range from 1-5 (or 1-10) more seriously or drop it alltogether (which would be my favorite but it’s hardly marketable then) and also make it even more personal on a transparent emphasis, but with an objective (measurable) background.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. DSB

    No problem agreeing. But it’s dishonest to give a score that doesn’t represent how you feel when you play it.

    That’s my problem with it. There’s no way half of the professional reviewers out there feel the same way about the same games, but their scores suggest they do. It’s dishonest.

    Tom Chick isn’t perfect, and some of his reviews are shoddy. But at least he tries. I think he’s considerably less suspicious than most other reviewers, and I don’t think his scores are arbitrary.

    I think what’s arbitrary is giving a game 7/10 purely because it has lovely production values, a famous developer, or a big marketing campaign. Those things have absolutely no bearing on the essence of the game itself.

    I think this one deserves a mention though:

    http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2012/10/16/the-xcom-enemy-unknown-review-that-took-18-years-to-write/

    Easily more enjoyable than 90% of the other reviews out there, but then that’s just my critique of it ;)

    #21 1 year ago
  22. manamana

    I agree with you to 80% until your link. That takes it easily to 100%, more enjoyable than mainstream(lined) reviews. :-D

    #22 1 year ago