Metacritic accused of using OpenCritic’s data without permission

OpenCritic is the newest video game review aggregator on the block, and since their inception they’ve implemented a ton of features that make it one of the more appealing and east to use aggregators. We use them as an example, for review round ups, and at the bottom of our reviews for the meta average.

It seems that perhaps they’ve become too easy to use – because the big daddy of them all, Metacritic, seems to be using OpenCritic’s data. Unfortunately, without permission. So suggests OpenCritic’s Matthew Enterhoven, who sent us an e-mail yesterday outlining the accusations.

“We didn’t know if we should be proud or outraged when we took a look at Metacritic this morning and saw that they had OpenCritic’s review data and information on their site.

“On the positive side, we were excited to see another industry giant stand alongside companies such as Insomniac Games, Nvidia and Telltale in presenting OpenCritic as an authority. However, we’re frustrated that we did not receive recognition and have requested that they either credit OpenCritic or begin licensing our API and databases.”

OpenCritic has an API that pulls reviews from sites (including ours!) for publication on their aggregator – while Metacritic still does it by hand, so it generally takes quite a while longer to populate. The people doing that handiwork may be using OpenCritic to make their lives easier. Only, you’d not notice.

“If you can’t see how they copied us, we wouldn’t blame you – we make subtle, near-invisible changes to various review data to tag it using a system we call ‘horsemen’, Enthoven says in the press release.

“For example, with PCGamer’s Blood and Wine review, we added a redundant slash after pcgamer.com. With Twinfinite’s review, we capitalized the “W” and “B” in the review URL.

“We can’t detail every example as it would give away our tells, but these two are notable: Metacritic’s Blood and Wine page currently has these exact horsemen listed, leading us to believe that they’ve begun sourcing reviews from OpenCritic. These changes don’t interfere with the user experience and are unique to OpenCritic.

We checked to make sure that these links did not appear on popular websites such as Neogaf and reddit. We also feel confident in claiming that we listed these URLs first. As with most games, OpenCritic was faster: in this case, three hours faster.”

These little tells are small details that cartographers and the like used to use – little faux details – that would tell if a map or other sort of work had been copied. And they’ve been used by OpenCritic here to find Metacritic guilty of cribbing.

Curiously, since news of this broke via Twitter and other sites, Metacritic has removed the evidence. Hmm.