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Surprisingly enough, a new study has shown that yes, they do.
Saw this post on Games Radar stating that a new study has shown that professional reviews strongly affect consumer behaviour.
From the article (where the heck is my blockquote????)
"188 students who had never played Plants vs. Zombies were asked to read an information packet before playing the game for 20 minutes. One group received packets containing positive reviews (a score of 90), another received negative reviews (a score of 61), and a control group received no reviews.
After their play session, the participants were asked to rate the game. The group exposed to high review scores rated the game, on average, six points higher than the control group, and 14 points higher than the group exposed to low scores. Members of the positive-review-influenced group were also more than twice as likely than the low score group to choose a copy of the game over $10 cash, and were more likely to recommend the game to a friend (91% would recommend, compared to 61% of the low review score group)."
I found this very interesting, mainly because I just decided not to get Crackdown 2 mainly because of reviews. Not really the review score, but the reviews themselves that talked about how it's almost the same as the first game.
I don't know about you, but I wonder how I would do in a study like that. Apparently, it's an unconscious bias, so even if we claim that we don't let them influence us, is that really true? I honestly don't know.
Some interesting questions about the study (one of which is raised in the Games Radar article):
1) How many of these students are actual gamers? In other words, would the results be any different if it was (for example) 188 GI Online members? Does being a gamer make you a little more immune from professional opinion because you already have an idea of what you like?
2) Would this still hold true if the game wasn't already widely considered to be good? For example, Too Human? (I put that in there for Tactical Rash) I mean, somebody had to like it, right? Or would the people doing the study not be able to find any positive reviews to give one of the groups?
Of course, we can debate for a while what makes a good review. I sense another blog post coming out of that.
I often hear people say "I don't pay any attention to reviews" and stuff like that. After a study like this, I wonder how much that is true.