On Wednesday, EA CEO John Riccitiello provided evidence - in chart form - that his company published the most well-reviewed games of 2009. Wanting to test his assertions, I dug into the data and found some surprises.
The EA chart was shown at an investor's conference, designed to appeal to people who EA hopes will think positively of the company's stock, which is labelled as ERTS. So they show off unusual stats, as you can see above, such as the number of games delayed or not delayed. That sends the message that: You can trust our company to deliver on its promises when we say we will.
That's sort of interesting, but how about this idea that EA puts out the most good games? The chart you see above was created by EA and pulls from Metacritic, the aggregator site that pulls review scores mostly from gaming outlets that publish review scores (i.e. not Kotaku). EA had gone into the site and counted up the games released between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009 that scored an 80 average or more. The evidence points to EA not only improving quality year over year - I haven't met a gamer who would deny that - and now leading in quality, which is more controversial.
Shall we check that?
EA counts itself as having 19 80+ games. If you do the most generous counting, you actually get 25. Let me show you (Metacritic average in parentheses):
FIFA 10 (91) Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box (89) Left 4 Dead 2 (89) The Beatles: Rock Band (89) Skate 2 (89) NHL 10 (88) Fight Night Round 4 (87) Boom Blox Bash Party (86) Dragon Age: Origins (86) The Sims 3 (86) Madden NFL 10 (85) Tetris (85) Battlefield 1943 (83) Need for Speed Shift (83) NCAA Football 10 (83) Brutal Legend (82) Dead Space Extraction (82) Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure (82) Mirror's Edge PC (81) The Sims 3 World Adventures (81) EA Sports Active (81) EA Sports More Active Workouts (81) Left 4 Dead Crash Course (80) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (80) NBA Live 10 (80)
I can see why EA didn't count some of the above 25 in its chart. In fact, I can get to their 19 easily. Let's knock out six listings: 1) Mirror's Edge PC, because it's a port of a 2008 game 2) Burnout Paradise Ultimate Box (compilation of an '08 game), 3) The Sims 3 World Adventures and 4) EA Sports More Active Workouts (which both expand and somewhat require ownership of their earlier edition or edition's peripherals), 5) Left 4 Dead Crash Course DLC and... Well, 6) could go one of two ways. We could not count Rock Band, which EA distributes but doesn't publish, or we could not count the PSP Minis release of Tetris.
This is a hefty amount of 80+ games. If we average the full 25, we get this: EA's average 80+ metascore is 84.36. Let's not count six games. We'll include Rock Band but not Tetris. Then we get 84.84. It goes down only to 84.63 if I use Tetris and not Rock Band.
Let's see if EA counted its competitors correctly.
Activision is listed as having only four 2009 games with 80s or higher. That matches what I found:
Modern Warfare 2 (94) Guitar Hero 5 (85) Guitar Hero: Metallica (84) DJ Hero (84)
A little maths shows that: Activision's average 80+ metascore is 86.75. Better than EA's, but it's only four games, and really, if you want to do a fair comparison of publisher quality, you'd have to do an average of all their games. Note, though that Activision and EA each only managed a single 90+ game.
Moving right along, here's Ubisoft, listed as having only two over-80s by EA. But if you go past EA's cut-off date of November 30, Ubi manages a third.
Assassin's Creed II (91) Might and Magic Clash of Heroes (86 *Game was released in December) Dawn of Discovery (81)
More maths: Ubisoft's average 80+ metascore is an even 86 with or without Might and Magic. It is another publisher with just one 90+ game.
THQ time. EA counts four 80+ games. I think they forgot Rocket Riot, an Xbox Live Arcade game. Let's make it five.
Dawn of War II (85) Red Faction Guerilla (85) UFC Undisputed (83) WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010 (81) Rocket Riot (80)
Result: THQ's average 80+ metascore is 82.8. They had no 90+ games.
Then we come to former EA target of acquisition Take Two Interactive, listed as having six games that were at or over 80. I count seven, because I'm including The Bigs 2, which may have gotten a 76 on the Xbox 360, a 68 on the Wii, but got an 80 on the PS3.
GTA Chinatown Wars (93) GTA IV: The Lost and Damned (90) GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (89) Borderlands (84) NBA 2K10 (82) Beaterator (80) The Bigs 2 (80)
I do Take Two no favours for the average here by including The Bigs 2, but I did just make them look better by counting it in the overall tally, right? Anyway, Take Two's average 80+ metascore is 85.43. And look! They have two games with a 90 or above.
Now we got to Nintendo, a publisher I think a lot of gamers would assume would be the answer to the question posed in the headline. EA counts Nintendo as having had 16 games rated 80 or up this year. I'm with them. One could count a 17th title, the DSi application Flipnote Studio, which, at a 93 score, was the highest-rated software from the company this year on Metacritic, but it is so not a game.
Metroid Prime Trilogy (91) Mario and Luigi Bowser's Inside Story (90) The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (87) New Super Mario Bros. Wii (87) Punch-Out (86) New Play Control Pikmin (84) Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (84) Art Style Digidrive (83) Art Style Pictobits (83) Rhythm Heaven (83) Pokemon Platinum (83) Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again (82) Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon (81) Art Style Box Life (80) Wii Sports Resort (80) Wii Fit Plus (80)
You could load up this one with caveats, noting that the Metroid and Pikmin games aren't new, but let's include them. Nintendo's average 80+ metascore is 84 even. Credit them with a pair of games at 90 or above.
How about Sony? They are the makers of what Metacritic declared to be the platform with the best-reviewed games of 2009. Looking at them as a publisher of games on PS3 and PSP, EA counted 15 80+ games. I don't get that. I counted 13. I added a 14th, PixelJunk Shooter, which was released after EA's cut-off date but would seem invalid to exclude for timing reasons. If anyone can find the two other games that EA counted and I missed, let me know. [UPDATE: Readers found one: Zen Pinball. I've added it and updated the averages.]
Uncharted 2 (96) God of War Collection (92) Killzone 2 (91) MLB 09 The Show (90) Wipeout HD Fury (89) LittleBigPlanet PSP(88) PixelJunk Shooter (87 *Game released in December) Flower (87) PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe (86) Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time (86) infamous (85) Patapon 2 (81) Resistance Retribution (81) Buzz! Quiz World (80) Zen Pinball (80)
Let me average that up for you. Sony's average 80+ metascore is 86.6. Not shabby at all. Plus, the company can boast four 90+ games, albeit one of them a compilation of PS2 hits.
The final publisher considered by EA was Microsoft. They count six titles at 80 or above.
Forza Motorsport 3 (92) Shadow Complex (88) Trials HD (86) Splosion Man (84) Halo 3 ODST (83) Halo Wars (82)
Let's crunch that. Microsoft's 80+ metascore average is 85.83.
EA didn't tally the top scorers for Capcom, Sega and Warner Brothers. All had a batch of stellar games, so I figured I'd do the work.
Capcom Capcom - four games at 80 or above
Street Fighter IV (93) Resident Evil 5 (85) Marvel Vs Capcom 2 (82) Monster Hunter Fredom Unite (81)
Capcom's average 80+ metascore is 85.25.
Sega Sega - three games at 80 or above
Empire Total War (90) Football Manager 2010 (88) MadWorld (81)
Sega's average 80+ metascore is 86.3
Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment - two games at 80 or above
Batman Arkham Asylum (92) Scribblenauts (80)
Warner's average 80+ metascore is 86. They've got a 90+ as well.
The Answer(s) It's no surprise that EA's chart accurately showed that the publisher had the most well-reviewed games, though, thanks to Kotaku, you can now see what those games were. This breakdown shows a couple of other things:
1) While EA had the most games that received 80+ scores, its average score for such titles settled between its two most prolific game-publishing competitors. It beat Nintendo but was beaten by Sony.
2) It's clear that no matter how many well-reviewed games a publisher has, getting an 80-89 score is far easier than getting a 90+. That seems to be the big equaliser among these top publishers. No one makes lots of those and few make more than one or two.
So which company made the most good video games in 2009? Probably the one you like the most. But if you want to try using numbers to back it up in 2009, I think you have to go with EA for quantity or Sony for 90+ excellence and a higher average score from its 80+ titles.