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Study shows video game reviews matter

by: Tina -
More On: Plants vs. Zombies
Every video game journalist will be happy to hear that their efforts have not been wasted in the daily grind of reporting on and reviewing video games. A collaboration between Guildhall at Southern Methodist University and Electronic Entertainment Design and Research has produced a study proving just that.

The study involved the participation of 188 people set to the task of playing with the highly reviewed (and highly fun) Plants vs. Zombies game for a 20 minute session. Three groups were formed: the first armed with high reviews of the game, the second with low reviews, and the last being the control group with no reviews.

The question being targeted in this study is simple: is there a link between critic reviews on video games and the consumer’s actions and perceptions toward the games? The results showed that when given the option to choose between $10 in cash or a copy of the game for free, those who had access to higher rated reviews were more than twice as likely to opt for the copy of the game. This group, which had the higher reviews in hand, also reviewed the game 20% higher than the group that was exposed to lower scored reviews.

Garth Chouteau, VP of PR at PopCap Games deduced what was most essential from this study: “ also shows how important it is for game makers to establish and maintain good communications with the media outlets that cover video games."

Personally I feel that blind consumption of reviews usually leads to being misguided. Previous to my days as a video game journalist, it took the scrutiny of gameplay videos and trusted authors’ opinions and reports to ensure I was sold on a game. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that a large community of gamers’ careers is still (somewhat) safe.
DALLAS  (July 7th, 2010) - The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University  and Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) recently conducted a behavioral study to measure the influence professional critic reviews have on purchase behavior, willingness to recommend, and consumer perception of individual video game titles.  The results reinforce the industry’s assumptions of a strong causal link between professional critic reviews and their ability to affect consumers’ actions and perceptions.
“Video games are increasingly contributing to the overall health of the entertainment sector, so it’s crucial to understand behavior,” said Jesse Divnich, vice president of analyst services for EEDAR. “The study findings clearly indicate that properly leveraging game reviews to form a positive anchoring effect can dramatically increase consumer’s perception, adoption and willingness to recommend a game title.”
During the three day study that took place at the SMU campus in late March, 188 participants were asked to play a 20 minute session of the gamePlants vs. Zombies. Each participant was randomly placed into one of three groups and asked to read an informational packet about Plants vs. Zombies before playing. All the information within the packets was identical except that one packet had high critic reviews of the game, the second had low reviews of the game, and the third (control) group had no reviews of the game at all. 
At the end of the gameplay portion of the study, participants were asked if they would rather have $10 cash for participating in the survey or receive a copy of Plants vs. Zombies.  Participants exposed to the higher reviews rated the game 20% higher than the group exposed to lower reviews and were more than twice as likely to take a copy of Plants vs. Zombies over the $10 cash.
We've always known that good reviews are beneficial to a game's sales, but we didn't realize just how significant a role they play in the purchasing decision process," said Garth Chouteau, Vice President of Public Relations at PopCap Games, makers of Plants vs. Zombies. "This study illustrates not only that game quality trumps hype, it also shows how important it is for game makers to establish and maintain good communications with the media outlets that cover video games."

“This research, which has identified key behavioral aspects, is part of an overall objective of ours to ensure that we are always on the cusp of what is next in an ever-changing environment of the video game industry,” said Dr. Peter Raad, executive director, The Guildhall at SMU. “The driving force behind what we do is based on what is happening beyond our campus - in both distance and time. Preparing students to become industry leaders requires a commitment to ongoing research. We look forward to additional consumers studies with EEDAR in the near future.”

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