There’s been a lot of noise around the ‘net lately about Mirror’s Edge. An article at the UK Guardian by Keith Stuart takes reviewers to task for not appreciating the game’s “innovation”, instead focusing more on its flaws. Coyote has a post on his blog about this, as well.

Far back in the mists of time, namely last year, we discussed this in Do We Want Something Different?, The Rut And Innovation, and Who Wants Innovation?, and concluded that generally, no, players aren’t that interested.

And you know, none of this matters very much. Because there is just one question to ask: How many people actually buy, or not buy, a game based on a review?

My experience has been, darned few. Of course some of us do wait for those “first returns”, although usually it’s more a matter of checking the boards for player comments rather than someone’s article. Savvy buyers naturally do both.

Fallout 3 sold over 4 million in, I think, the first week. Obviously, not many were waiting for reviews in that instance. On the other hand, hype and previews, especially hands-on previews, can go a long way to generating interest and desire to buy.

Reviews are more of an “after market” thing, and always have been. We know the big push is the first week or so of release; anything after that is gravy. Yes, reviews may show up when the game hits, but how many people are going to stop to read them? And when it comes to a series with an established fan base, you can be sure that the majority are buying anyway.

On the other hand, there is that after market, and there are those who wait for reviews before deciding to buy or not buy. A well-written piece can go a long way in helping the gamer make that decision.

So we come back to Keith, who thinks reviewers should have glossed over the flaws of Mirror’s Edge, and slobbered over its “innovation” instead.

Personally, I think too many reviews slobber over games and gloss over flaws, innovation or not, these days. Regardless, as Leigh Alexander put it: “…the purpose of a review is to try and tell consumers whether or not they would enjoy a game.”

Innovation may be nice, it may be beautiful, it may be breath-taking. But no game should be reviewed simply on one merit alone; that is a gross disservice to potential buyers. And if the aim is high but the execution is low, they have a right to know about it. Always.

We Hate Innovation on Coyote’s blog