Metacritic’s ‘best publisher’ rankings for 2015 make no sense

Metacritic, aggregator of review scores, has aggregated its aggregated scores to determine the top-rated “major video games publisher” of 2015. And you are going to crap on yourself when you read who it is.

Sega.

Yep.

Sega rode the digital-only re-release of seven old titles on the 3DS to the best score among all publishers for the past year, even without any title —€” new or otherwise — topping the sacred 90 on Metacritic’s scale. (And despite the PC port of 2013’s Sonic: Lost World.) That, plus Yakuza 5‘s western launch, and reliable support on PC from their Baseball Manager, Total War and Company of Heroes franchises, was enough to carry the day for Sega, publisher of two (2) new games on consoles last year, one of them Tembo the Badass Elephant.

Go right here if you don’t believe me. No. 2 is even better: Telltale Games, whose widely acclaimed Tales of the Borderlands series was undone by poor scores for individual episodes of Game of Thrones and Minecraft: Story Mode.

Among the more traditional meat-and-potatoes publishers, Sony came out in third place, with great thanks to Bloodborne, but also goosed by the PlayStation 4 launch of Journey, a 2012 game. Activision, despite the contemptible Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, came in fifth (thanks, Destiny: The Taken King!) And Electronic Arts, despite a 59 for NBA Live 16, saw its EA Sports division average a better score collectively than its non-sports releases, thanks to weak receptions for Star Wars Battlefront, Need for Speed and Battlefield Hardline.

Wait! What about Bethesda? you say. And Microsoft? Well, these are not “major” publishers, according to Metacritic (but Microsoft was last year!) They are “mid-size” publishers, along with their peer — Zen Studios! Who is mainly known for a well done line of licensed pinball titles. Square Enix, Capcom and Warner Bros. Interactive also are on this list.

Apparently the cut-off is 14 games published. That’s how Telltale, whose individual episodes all qualify as individual games for these purposes, is classified as a “major publisher.” If Minecraft: Story Mode, Game of Thrones and Tales From the Borderlands were judged as entire seasons, Telltale would have five games published in 2016, one of them a re-release. Blame it on us for reviewing episodes, I guess, but who the hell buys and/or plays episode three without episodes one or two?

Anyway, among the “mid-size publishers,” who launched 13 or fewer games, Bethesda came in first (Fallout 4), Microsoft fourth (OK) and WBIE eighth, likely because of the damage Batman: Arkham Knight‘s PC release did.

When the differentiation between “major” and “mid-size” publisher is so arbitrary that a pinball specialty shop comes in second in the latter category, you don’t even have to get into the methodology that treats 3D Streets of Rage 2 as equivalent in launch to Bloodborne to come to a determination that Metacritic is now beyond any useful measure of a game’s quality. Caveat emptor.

Talkgamer Backstory is an in-depth conversation celebrating the games we love and play. This week’s guest is Andrew Groen, whose new book Empires of Eve: A History of the Great Wars of Eve Online is the first attempt to document the history of a virtual world.

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