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Low metascores could result in lower pay for developers
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Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:28 am Reply and quote this post
It's an age-old warning: "beware of the fine print." MTV Multiplayer's Stephen Totilo is reporting thatit's not rare for publishers to withhold certain levels of payment fromdevelopers if their games don't score at a certain level on sites likeCNET-owned Metacritic.

According to Totilo, one developer (who requested anonymity) told himof how his company was refused royalties for the game it developedbecause, thanks to a stipulation in the contract with the publisher,the title's Metacritic score was too low. This rankled the developer,as the game sold over a million copies.  

Totilo then pinged a number of individuals throughout the industry,including Dennis Dyack of Silicon Knights and Ted Price of InsomniacGames, for their opinions on contracts like these. Generally, he foundthat such deals are not very popular amongst developers, but they'realso not terribly uncommon. According to Vivendi producer Pete Wanat:"I think the stuff is far more active in the sense of: 'We're going towork with you' vs. 'We're not going to work with you' — as opposed to'We’re going to work with you and, based on what kind of game it is,you'll get a bonus."
Of course, this isn't the first time such a practice has been reportedon: back in May 2004, Warner Bros' gaming division instituted a policythat would penalize developers who made games that had a metascore ofless than 70/100.  There was a fair amount of criticism that floated around the web at the time, mainly because the site's scoring system isn't an exact science. The business model is still in action, but as of September last year, Warner Bros. said it was too early to tell if the plan was an effective practice.
Do publishers want high scores, or high sales? The two things can have almost nothing to do with each other. Take games like Enter The Matrix:sales were in the millions, scores were in the toilet. This happensagain and again in the industry, and it seems odd. In most cases, itseems like publishers just want to make the most money, but when itcomes to giving someone else cash, they want to make sure the more elusive high scores are also there.
Yeah, I think I can reason out why these policies are in place.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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