The site is somewhat similar to Rotten Tomatoes, but the scoring results sometimes vary drastically, depending on which reviews are tallied. For instance, Rotten Tomatoes gives an overall unfavorable rating to Kenneth Branagh's film version of As You Like It by quoting mostly British critics, who reportedly have strongly disliked Branagh's Shakespeare films. Metacritic on the other hand, tallies its score largely from American reviews of the film, which have been largely very favorable.
Also, unlike Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews using a binary score of "fresh" or "rotten" for each review, Metacritic converts each review into a percentage before taking a weighted average. This can lead to more accurate results when reviews are unusually consistent, or there are only a few of them.
Many review websites give a review grade out of five, out of ten, out of a hundred, or even an alphabetical score. Metacritic converts such a grade into a percentage. For reviews with no explicit scores (for example, Amazon's reviews), Metacritic manually assesses the tone of the review before assigning a relevant grade. Weighting is also applied to reviews - those from major periodicals may have a greater effect on the average than niche ones, although Metacritic refuses to reveal what weights are applied to which publications. One common drawback of Metacritic, however, is its lack of book reviews; following the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, their regular coverage of recently released books ceased, except for major releases.
Nick Wingfield of The Wall Street Journal wrote in September 2007, "Mr. Doyle, 36, is now a senior product manager at CNET but he also acts as games editor of Metacritic." Speaking of video games, Doyle said, "A site like ours helps people cut through...unobjective promotional language." He also said "By giving consumers, and web users specifically, early information on the objective quality of a game, not only are they more educated about their choices, but it forces publishers to demand more from their developers, license owners to demand more from their licensees, and eventually, hopefully, the games get better." Doyle said, "I don't want to overstate our role in this area, but we're highlighting the review process", which he thinks was not taken as seriously when unconnected magazines and websites were providing their reviews in isolation.
Metacritic Games Editor Marc Doyle was interviewed by Keith Stuart of The Guardian to "get a look behind the metascoring process." Stuart wrote "the metascore phenemonon, namely Metacritic and GameRankings, [have] become an enormously important element of online games journalism over the past few years." Doyle said that because video games are a greater investment of time and money than other forms of entertainment, gamers are much more informed about reviews than film fans or music fans. They would like to know "whether that hotly anticipated title is going to deliver."
Doyle said some publishers want him to include certain critics that Metacritic doesn't track and some want certain critics excluded, usually because they give a game a poor review. Another common complaint from publishers is that UK critics shouldn't be reviewing games that are based on American sports like the NFL, NASCAR, or the NBA. Doyle said, "Conversely, many European publishers feel that American critics are not qualified or properly situated to review football, rally, F1, cricket and rugby games." Doyle said, "once I've decided to track a publication, I cannot pick and choose which reviews I list on Metacritic based on such individual judgments."
Publishers often try to persuade Doyle to exclude reviews they feel are unfair, but Doyle said that after a publication has been included in the system, he refuses to omit any reviews that receive complaints.
Wingfield wrote that Wall Street is paying attention to Metacritic and Game Rankings because the sites typically post scores before any sales data are publicly available. Three days after the release of Spider-Man 3 by Activision in May 2007, "several financial analysts had noted Spider-Man 3’s low scores as a possible concern for Activision." and Activision's shares dropped 5% that day and continued to drop the rest of the week. When BioShock was released and got a metascore of 97, shares of Take-Two Interactive increased 20% the week after. Wingfield wrote, "All of this makes Metacritic's Mr. Doyle an unlikely kingmaker in the $7.4 billion U.S. games industry. He controls Metacritic's scoring system, deciding which publications to compile reviews from..." Doyle said he was "floored" when he saw a Metascore appear in the news ticker on TV while an anchor was interviewing Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime after Super Mario Galaxy was released. Doyle said, "More and more businesses and financial analysts are referring to Metacritic numbers as an early indicator of a game's potential sales and, by extension, the publisher's stock price."
Marc Doyle said, "I've never been told by a publisher or developer that they've been able to definitively make a causal connection between poor sales and low scores from my site. However, at least two major publishers have conducted comprehensive statistical surveys through which they've been able to draw a correlation between high metascores and stronger sales (and vice versa), but with a much tighter correlation in specific genres of games than in others."
In 2004, Jason Hall of Warner Bros. began "including "quality metrics" in the contracts the studio signed with partners interested in licensing Warner movies for games." If a product does not receive specific scores or better from aggregator sites like Metacritic, some deals require game publishers to pay higher royalties to Warner Bros.