Nintendo: letting our fans review video games might not be a good idea [Updated]
Update, February 28: Five days after quietly debuting a user-review system at Nintendo.com, the company has changed course and summarily pulled down the option for all video game listings at the site.
Game listings at Nintendo.com now contain the following text where the review-solicitation box originally appeared:
Customer reviews have been taken offline as we evaluate this feature and its functionality. We currently have no estimated date on when an update will be provided. We appreciate the positive response and thank the reviewers who provided such thoughtful commentary on the games.
When contacted by Ars Technica, Nintendo of America offered a statement about what it called a "trial customer review feature." "The response has been positive, and Nintendo appreciates the time and effort that reviewers put into their thoughtful commentary on the games," the company wrote. "Nintendo has removed this feature as we evaluate the future of the ratings functionality on Nintendo.com. We have no estimate on when an update will be provided on the status of this initiative, but we appreciate the enthusiasm shown for the trial."
Nintendo of America did not immediately answer questions about whether the feature was removed due to technical issues, inappropriate user-generated reviews, or any other particular problem.
While Nintendo has often led the gaming world in innovations and experiments, it has just as often been in a last-place position. This has been a particular issue with its online services, from network connectivity to online shops. As a result, the company's stealth update on Friday came as a bit of a surprise: Nintendo finally rolled out a full-fledged user-review system on Nintendo.com.
As spotted by Polygon, starting today, anyone who has played a Nintendo Switch or Nintendo 3DS game (verified by play history tracked on a linked MyNintendo account) can post a full game review at the company's official site. This requires browsing Nintendo's "game guide" to find a game you've played, using a desktop or mobile Web browser, and then scrolling down to a "review this game" prompt on its listing page.
Upon doing so, Nintendo will confirm whether you've played the game for at least two hours. Should you pass that test, you'll be taken to a review template. Give the game a 1-5 star rating; write a "headline" of up to 60 characters; fill out a review box with at least 50 characters; pick from a pre-made series of tags ("kid-appropriate," "challenging," "online play," etc.); mark whether or not your review contains spoilers; and identify what type of gamer you are. (This last one includes four options: Nintendo fan, core gamer, casual gamer, and parent. You can't pick more than one of those. Sorry, core-gaming parents.)
The review page notes that "reviews will be moderated, but will not be modified, removed, or rejected based on the fact that they offer a negative evaluation of a Nintendo product." Upon submitting a user review, the site informs users that the review will go live "within 3-7 business days (assuming it's suitable for all ages and complies with our the Nintendo Account User Agreement, including the Code of Conduct)." Therefore, some reviews may not be aggregated for failing to abide by those rules.
To those who may wonder why this is news in an era where user reviews are commonplace, this is a significant detour from Nintendo's long-held attitude about user-created content. The company has traditionally restricted its fans' ability to post and share content in or about its games to other users—at least, without exchanging friend codes. The company's last major exception was Miiverse, a platform that debuted with the Wii U and allowed players to share stylus-authored drawings to the entire world should they receive moderators' approval. Some dubious users still came up with creative ways to get suggestive and inappropriate drawings past Nintendo moderators' eyes (and Miiverse has since been discontinued).
Nintendo's offering is more fully featured than the basic star-rating system that has long existed at PlayStation Network, and it's on par with the star-and-text system that has been part of the Xbox Marketplace since the Xbox One came out in 2013. Nintendo's version has one cool feature not found on most other major online-review repositories, including even Steam: a spoiler-warning checkmark. As the review system is brand new, no games appear to have moderated reviews live just yet.
Listing image by Nintendo