You Really Care What We Think! (Maybe!)

by Matt Helgeson on Jul 07, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Caption: This graph shows how participants in the study rated games based on the positive or negative review scores they were shown before playing. The middle group was shown no review scores.


EEDAR and SMU Guildhall have just released the results of a study that aims to discern how much of an influence game reviews have on consumers. The results seems to suggest that – despite all the emails we get to the contrary – game reviewers do have an effect on gamers’ behavior and purchasing habits. The good news (for us) is that some of you apparently seem to care what we think…at least in a laboratory environment. Aw, that’s so sweet.

While the study is far from definitive, EEDAR and SMU have put together a fairly credible metric for measuring the effect that reading positive or negative reviews has on the public.

The study was conducted by measuring the participants’ reaction to the game Plants vs. Zombies. Here’s EEDAR and SMU’s summary of the study’s methodology:

–    Behavioral study conducted on the SMU campus by EEDAR and The SMU Guildhall.

–    To qualify participants could have never played Plants vs. Zombies.

–    All participants were required to read an informational packet before playing. The only information that was different between the groups was the review scores from professional media outlets. Some were shown high review scores, some low, and some none.

–    The same professional media outlets were used in each informational packet, but the remarks and scores were changed between groups.

–     After reading the information packet, all participants played Plants vs. Zombies for 20 minutes (enough for 5 to 8 levels).

Afterward, the researchers asked questions and made proposals to the participants. Here are some of the things they found:

–    When asked to provide their own review score of the game, participants shown high review scores gave Plants vs. Zombies a 20 percent higher score than the group exposed to low review scores.

–    Participants shown high review scores were twice as likely to take a boxed copy of Plants vs. Zombies over $10 cash compared to the low review score group.

–    The high review score group was 40 percent more likely to recommend the game to a friend than the low review score group.

–    Study suggests that professional reviews can influence the willingness to recommend to a friend even after a consumer conducts their self-evaluation.

–     The high review score group scored Plants vs. Zombies lower than the mock review they were exposed to; the low review score group scored the game higher than the mock review they were exposed to, indicating that while review scores influenced their self-evaluation, professional review scores do not hold an absolute power.

–     When only looking at participants who said they played more than 10 hours of games a week (core gamers), the results were the same.

While the results aren't definitive, this is an interesting first step in trying to quantify how review scores affect gamers.

Further graphs:

Caption: This chart shows how many of each group opted for a boxed copy of Plants vs. Zombies over an offer of $10 in cash

Caption: This chart demonstrates intent of participants to make a positive recommendation of Plants vs. Zombies to a relative or friend