Gamers think more positively towards a title if they know it has reviewed well, according to a new EEDAR survey.
The results of the study, conducted with SMU Guildhall, presented PopCap's Plants vs Zombies to 188 people split into different groups - one shown positive reviews, another critical ones, and the third shown no reviews.
At the end of the play session, all involved were offered a choice of either the game or $10 in cash. 20 per cent more of those players told Plants vs Zombies had reviewed well chose the game than did those told the opposite, and all told were more than twice as likely to pick the game.
The number of those picking the game was 8 per cent higher than the control group. Though applicants were screened to check they were not previously aware of Plants versus Zombies, the use of a known title (and one that was indeed well-reviewed), plus its treatment as a reward, may mean that further studies are yet needed.
However, EEDAR was convinced its results prove that review scores affect word of mouth, and recommend that publishers employ them in their marketing to a greater extent.
"91% of participants shown high review scores for Plants vs. Zombies would recommend the product to a friend," said EEDAR's report, "compared to only 65% of participants shown low review scores and 79% of participants shown no review."
The study concludes that this will lead to increased sales, calling the relationship between reviews and purchases causal rather than simply correlative.
"Video games are increasingly contributing to the overall health of the entertainment sector, so its crucial to understand behavior," said Jesse Divnich, vice president of analyst services for EEDAR.
"The study findings clearly indicate that properly leveraging game reviews to form a positive anchoring effect can dramatically increase consumers perception, adoption and willingness to recommend a game title."
In response to the survey, Garth Chouteau, PopCap's vice president of public relations, said, "We've always known that good reviews are beneficial to a game's sales, but we didn't realize just how significant a role they play in the purchasing decision process.
"This study illustrates not only that game quality trumps hype, it also shows how important it is for game makers to establish and maintain good communications with the media outlets that cover video games."
In related news, review aggregator Metacritic recently revealed that average review scores in the first six months of 2010 are higher than during the same period for 2009, and that there have been far-fewer low-scoring titles.
Despite this increased critical positivity, the year's NPD results to date reveal that game sales for 2010 are down 6 per cent overall from this time last year. Though May saw a total increase of software sales by 4 per cent, this was concentrated mainly into Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2, with a number of other high profile, high scoring titles failing to sell 200,000 copies.