"AAA game" is kind of thrown around in today's gaming scene, describing everything from ruthlessly traditional RPGs to military shooters to weird time-travel adventures. This also tends to be reflected in a game's scores, from review scores and aggregates like Metacritic to consumer product ratings. All of these are taken into account with sales, and in the most blitheringly obvious statement I'm ever, ever going to put in print (aside from "there's going to be a new Call of Duty in 2012"), it turns out that top-rated games tend to sell well, too.
But what makes up a top-rated game? Research firm EEDAR analyzes every possible bit of data from games, their reviews, and their sales, and provides the data to developers and publishers to assist in the creation of future products. Erik Brudvig, EEDAR's director of editorial insights, shared five major traits that all top-rated games share. Looking at the top-scoring games on Metacritic, they hit high on all his points.
1. Visuals are important. While this doesn't necessarily mean that a game needs to have bleeding-edge graphics in full 1080p HD, a game must have good presentation and strong visual design.
2. Good presentation is key. Top games also need good presentation through its HUD and menus, and shouldn't be cluttered or visually confusing, explaining what you need to do or where you need to go.
3. Fluid controls are the most important part of the experience. Nobody likes to fight with the game they're playing, despite what fans of survival horror (myself included) say. Being able to control a game comfortably means you're spending less time worrying about the hunk of plastic in your hand and more time enjoying the game.
4. Evoke a strong emotional response. Whether it's giving a nostalgic feeling from games of your youth, or motivating you to play through compelling story or exciting action, gamers should take away more than the mechanical skills they're learning.
5. Gamers respond to innovation. It's kind of a broad statement, but trying something new, or making key improvements to a flawed-but-good idea (or further innovating on an already-good idea), really resonates with gamers.
Brudvig used Super Mario Galaxy 2 as an excellent example of all five traits, and it works since it's an amazing game that looks great, plays well, and gives a nostalgic feel while providing smart, innovative experiences. Quite a few of my favorite games miss at least one of these points, but they'll almost always have most of them. What about you? Do your favorite games meet these criteria? Or is there something that EEDAR missed in their report?