Titanfall's Success Is In the Hands of the Critics
Yes, I know what everyone is screaming: "I don't rely on review scores; I know what I like!" However, simply based on statistics alone, it's plain as day that review scores can make or break the biggest of video games. This goes double for anticipated new IPs.
There's a reason why many development studios receive bonuses if their games top a certain Metascore. There's a reason why publishers like Electronic Arts continually reference the need for high-scoring products. It's because, quite frankly, games that score higher sell better. This is sort of an anomaly in entertainment, too; the biggest blockbuster movies are typically poorly reviewed (mostly because they're insulting and stupid), the best-reviewed books hardly top the sales charts (trash like "50 Shades of Grey" rules the roost), etc.
However, this is an industry that very much thrives on review scores. For Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall, the situation is magnified ten-fold.
These new IPs can be tricky
It's tough for a new IP to hit hard. It really is. Respawn's game has the benefit of a massive marketing push and plenty of word-of-mouth, so it's better situated than most when it hits the market in a few weeks. That being said, if the game scores poorly for whatever reason, there's no doubt that Microsoft will feel the sting. New IPs obviously don't have the benefit of an established name brand; there is no existing stable of fans.
No matter how hot a game appears to be, no matter how much hype it's getting, a slew of mediocre review scores from the most visible sources can really hurt. Do we all remember Haze? One of the most anticipated and hyped titles during the early days of the PlayStation 3 era, and it completely flopped. It put the developer into bankruptcy in a matter of months (although they were saved by Crytek).
A new generation and RIDICULOUS expectations
On top of it all, Titanfall must contend with exceedingly lofty expectations. It's not merely a new IP with tons of potential, it's also one of the very first hugely promising next-gen titles. Remember, the new consoles didn't exactly have killer software when they hit store shelves last fall. They had great third-party games (Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, NBA 2K14, etc.) but the exclusive software didn't quite cut it.
Gamers everywhere are waiting for the game that just screams "next-gen" and let's face it, right now, Titanfall is in that particular spotlight. It's a new IP, it's the start of a new generation of gaming, and it's supposed to spur Xbox One sales. There's just so much riding on this title and if it falls even a little short, there will be repercussions. A Metascore below a 9 will be considered disappointing to many.
All this being understood, the game may have enough advertising power behind it to temper minor flak from reviewers. Most new IPs don't have this advantage. Therefore, I'm not saying critics will entirely dictate Titanfall's success, but I will say that considering the situation from all angles, this game still needs widespread approval and acclaim in order to be a true phenomenon.
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