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The Disconnect Between Gaming Enthusiasts to the General Gaming Public and Does the Opinion of Fans Really Matter

Background: In 2018, I was interested in Madden 19 which is the first return of the series to PC since 2007. I got an EA Access pass to play it and some other titles. It was okay but nothing special. There were some nice features but there were bugs, lack of customization options, and borderline egregious microtransactions in the multiplayer component. I recall hearing complaints about Madden over the years on the game being largely a copy of the previous year, bugs, excessive microtransactions, etc but I never really paid much attention as I only play on PC.

Recently, I wanted to play Jedi Fallen Order and again got another month of EA Access. After beating it, I tried Madden 20. Now I understood the complaints. There game was largely the same, there was the same lack of customization options, and same microtransactions. Searching online, you won’t find a shortage of complaints on Madden 20 and it has a Metacritic score of 72 (on PC and slightly higher scores for consoles) which is pretty low for a AAA game. Yet, Madden generates about $800 million in revenue a year.

Other notable examples would be the backlash of Star Wars Battlefront 2’s lootboxes. The game was heavily criticized on Reddit and other gaming sites and had a 65 Metacritic score on PC and similarly low numbers for consoles. Yet it sold 9 million copies within 6 weeks of release. Granted, this is lower than EA’s internal target of 10 million, but 9 million copies is nothing to scoff at. Pokemon Sword and Shield also faced backlash yet turned into one of the top selling titles on the Switch and one of the top selling games in Pokemon history.

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So why the disconnect between fans and gaming enthusiasts that follow gaming news and partake in gaming discussions online? I assume that for larger and popular titles, the general gaming consumer doesn’t follow gaming news or even research a game or check reviews and scores. It may be due to it simply not being worth the time as only roughly $60 is at stake compared to a big ticket purchase like a car or whatnot. But I’d appreciate any further thoughts on this.

That brings me to the next question. Does the opinion of a game’s fans really matter? I’d contend it doesn’t for large games but it’s more important for smaller niche titles. It’s difficult to find a direct apple to apples comparison but a quick search shows there’s roughly 164 million adults in the United States that play games. Meanwhile, r/Madden has 88k subscribers. I can’t find an exact number of copies sold for each Madden title, but shortly after Madden 19 was released, EA put out a statement saying 130 copies have been sold during the life of the franchise. That’s a rough back of the napkin estimate of 5-10 million copies sold for the recent iterations. r/Pokemon has 2.1 million subscribers and Sword and Shield sold 16 million copies by the end of 2019. So fans of title/franchise are heavily outnumbered by the general gaming consumer base thus watering down the value of their opinions and reactions since they’re massively outnumbered by buyers who don’t really follow the game or gaming closely and aren’t aware of or impacted by any backlash or low review scores.

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I’m having trouble finding examples for smaller titles but I’d contend fan opinions and support or lack thereof is more important for smaller titles thus they’re more likely to sway a developer’s decisions since they can’t rely as much on the general gaming public to make up the majority of sales. I think Sekiro and not implementing requests for an easy mode is an example as they stuck by their smaller fanbase instead of reaching out to the general gaming public. Also, the Nier and Nioh series have found success sticking to what their fans expect instead of going for mass appeal. But as I said, I don’t have many examples for this would appreciate any further examples.

So if you’re a fan of a major franchise, is there no hope in swaying the decisions of the developer? Right now, I think there isn’t. People vote with their wallets and it appears that fans are regularly outvoted by the general gaming public when it comes to the big AAA titles. At best, they may cause some minor changes like when Call of Duty removed lootboxes at release but then added them back in shortly after release.

Of course, thoughts and opinions would be appreciated.


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