When did 8/10 become a bad score?

Written by Joseph Ewens

February 17, 2012 // 10:27 a.m.

Tags: #famitsu #naughty-dog #playstation-2 #playstation-3 #uncharted-3 #xbox #xbox-360 #zelda

Famitsu

Back in the distant haze of my childhood, perspectives were different. Personally, I can still remember my delirious excitement at learning that legendary Japanese magazine Famitsu had given upcoming Dreamcast title Shenmue 35/40. A whole five points away from perfection, but a high score from such a vaunted institution surely meant great things.

Famitsu’s judging process is famously stringent. Four separate critics review each game, giving their own figure out of ten, which is then collated into an overall score out of forty. The magazine was first published in 1986, but it wasn’t until 1998 that it awarded its first 40/40, to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In the next ten years, there were only five more perfect scores.

Then suddenly, in 2008, the wind seems to change. From 2008 onwards there have been 12 more 40/40s. A fairly small number by some standards, but a huge increase for a magazine as harsh as Famitsu.

Review aggregator Metacritic shows an even sharper change. Year on year, the number of games scoring 90 or higher was roughly the same up until to the end of the last decade. Then things start to change. In 2009, a total of 24 90+ games were released. That’s an increase of six over the previous year.

A drop in the water compared to what comes next. The collected reviewers of print and web declared that a whopping 40 games were good enough to earn a score of 90 or more in 2010. That’s more than double the number for every year prior to 2009. Gawp at this graph, made with my own fists, for incontrovertible evidence.

No. of 90+ scores on Metacritic by year

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 10
  • 19
  • 16
  • 18
  • 16
  • 14
  • 12
  • 18
  • 18
  • 24
  • 40
  • 40
0
10
20
30
40

When you consider this data, along with the sheer volume of Internet bile poured at the feet of 8/10 reviews, a pretty convincing case for changing standards begins to form.

Destructoid’s Jim Sterling certainly thinks so. The arch nerd believes that, 'we've dished out so many tens, that number means nothing any more.' He cites Yahoo Games’ score of 6/5 for Arkham City as a testament to the saturation of big figures.
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