Sites like GameRankings, MetaCritic, and GameStats are what the lazy people of the internet use to gauge a game’s overall quality. The theory behind this is that on average, a large sampling of reviews will give you a proper perspective of the game. I would tend to agree. Being a Statistics geek, the previous statement only holds true if you have a large enough sample size. How big of a sample size is necessary? That is anyone’s guess at this point and not really the focus of this post.

Getting your site listed on these major aggregate sites is by no means easy. There is essentially a single entry path to gaining acceptance on the list, something my site still has yet to do after 5 years and 800 reviews with the exception of GameStats. Our previous attempts to get into the good graces of Game Rankings were met with a stern response about the design of our site, that the editor in question didn’t happen to like. The other reason we weren’t included was that we didn’t officially have a numeric scoring system, something we officially fixed about 6 months ago. Talking about the faults with the numeric scoring system is something I want to revisit at another time though.

One of the more interesting things you will notice when visiting any of these sites today is who they are owned by. GameRankings and MetaCritic are both owned by CNET. Guess who else is owned by CNET? That’s right, GameSpot. What about GameStats? Owned by IGN Networks, as is the popular movie site Rotten Tomatoes. These aggregate sites exist to provide a fair and unbiased look at all of the published reviews on a given game, or at least they used to.

Now before I start accusing anyone of not playing fair I took a quick look at a few sample games on all of the sites. MetaCritic sorts their external review links based on score so there is no blatant attempt to direct traffic to their sister site at GameSpot. GameRankings goes one step further and actually seems to exclude an article listing for GameSpot reviews, a move that actually surprises me quite a bit. I mean, why wouldn’t you at least include a link if you own both sites? The sorting method on GR appears to be random or sorted by a piece of data that the end users don’t have, making it difficult to find a particular outlet’s rating.

GameStats took a little different approach and included coverage from IGN’s site, but actually lists content in the reverse order that it was added to the site, leaving the top links on the page to the sites that get coverage up last. An odd method for sure.

When I set out to write this post, I figured for sure that I would see some malicious behavior using these massive aggregate sites to push traffic to sites also in their respective networks, but it doesn’t appear to be the case. In all liklihood, the staff and original owners of the sites maintained control over the sites even after being purchased by CNET or IGN Networks and have taken a hard line to ensure that they don’t appear to come off as biased.

Now if I could only get myself on the GameRankings list…