Summer of Arcade 2012: The Summer of Blah

In 2008, Microsoft ran a startlingly good promotion. The first Summer of Arcade put major Microsoft advertising dollars behind a series of Xbox Live Arcade releases. This occurred during the time of year when retail releases are sparse, shedding more light on these Arcade titles, and driving sales. The first batch of titles were nearly all of very high quality. They averaged an average Metacritic rating of 84.8, a sterling number, Braid, Castle Crashes, and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 are still highly regarded as among the best of XBLA titles. Unfortunately, since that auspicious beginning, the quality of titles in the summer arcades has slowly declined. This year was worse: the numbers cratered.

Yeah… you used to get XBLA titles like this one. If only we could rewind time…

An chart of the average Metacritic score of the Summer of Arcade titles looks as follows:

Year

Average Metacritic Score

2008

84.8

2009

80

2010

79.2

2011

78.8

2012

71.8

You’ll notice that the average score has declined every single year without fail. Still, that first year may have been difficult for any slate of titles to match. Maybe an average of 80 was more obtainable. Some excellent titles still hit the market, with Shadow Complex in 2009, Limbo in 2010, and Bastion in 2011, but the wider quality of the titles became more suspect. Microsoft also started to make questionable decisions about which titles to include and which to drop out. 2011’s lineup included Fruit Ninja Kinect, an average title at best, and one completely unplayable for non-Kinect owners. This was included instead of Robot Entertainment’s excellent Orcs Must Die, which was pushed into October (a decision which would lead to Robot not launching the sequel at all on XBLA).  In 2010, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was included despite the fact that online cooperative play was not yet finished for the title.

This year, the slow erosion of that average score became a free fall.

Title

Metacritic Rating

Deadlight

69

Dust: An Elysian Tale

83

Hybrid

73

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

66

Wreckateer

68

 

One title in the bunch had a Metacritic rating over 80. If it hadn’t been for Dust: An Elysian Tale, the average score for the bunch would have been 69- not exactly the numbers you’d hope for from Microsoft’s star promotion. And despite the high billing these games received, one of them (Hybrid), didn’t even function at launch, and had to be pulled from the Xbox Marketplace until it could be fixed. Clearly this was the worst year of the promotion, by far.  Where were those singularly important titles, the ones that were must-own like Bastion or Shadow Complex? Dust is the type of game that is highly entertaining- if you already like that sort of thing. It’s not a transcendently good title, and yet, it is the best of the bunch, propping up an otherwise weak lineup.

Welcome to the new Summer of Arcade, where you throw stuff at other stuff. Quality.

The decline of Summer of Arcade has me wondering: is it even worth holding the promotion anymore? The best titles of 2012 weren’t even part of the promotion, as Minecraft, Trials Evolution, and Fez all launched earlier in the year. This “Blockbuster Lineup that will keep you playing all summer long” clearly won’t. Is this the future of Summer Arcade? 2012 showed it for what it is becoming: an advertising device for mediocre titles. Microsoft has better titles available: why not allow your Blockbuster promotion to include actual blockbusters?

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Author: Tony Odett View all posts by
A member of the Perfectly Sane Show crew and Vagary.tv's Features Editor, Tony brings the smart and funny (and the rapine and pillage...). Also known as The Strategy Gamer, Tony declares it his duty to get as much coverage as possible for what should be everyone's most loved genre.
  • MurderSheWrote

    Metacritic scores are not reliable barometers of a game’s “goodness,” they are arbitrary aggregates.

  • http://vagary.tv/perfectlysane Tony Odett

    They are aggregates, and while I do agree with you on some level, they are decently reliable and not arbitrary.

  • Napoleon1066

    I don’t think it’s optimal, but it’s certainly usable, and definitely not arbitrary.