8.8 is a Fan Speak term that describes the stir created in the video game community when a high profile game receives an unexpected review score by a major reviewer, especially when it significantly differs from the general consensus. This can be especially jarring, because professional video game reviewers tend to give out very similar scores.
The name comes from the unimaginable havoc created by GameSpot's review of the Wii version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess in November 2006, which awarded the game a great-but-not-amazing score of 8.8 out of 10. The Internet erupted in anger and chaos, as Twilight Princess was one of the most highly anticipated games of all time and near-perfect/perfect scores were expected. Strangely, GameSpot gave the GameCube version of the game a score of 8.9, despite claiming the Wii version was superior.note
Whether or not an 8.8 furor is justified is up for debate. On one hand, a reviewer shouldn't just automatically go along with the crowd, even for nigh-universally-loved games, and they don't represent the opinion of the entire company they work for. On the other hand, sometimes you get the feeling that they're doing it intentionally to create controversy and attract attention, forgot to do their research on the subject, or were downgrading the game for the wrong reasons.note
Gamers, reviewers, and publishers all share the blame equally for allowing these controversies to arise. Angry gamers pile the pressure on reviewers to award high profile titles higher scores, often forcing editors of video games magazines to revise their scores and strip themselves of all credibility in the process. NGC Magazine once gave Star Fox Adventures a mediocre score. They received so much backlash that they jokingly included a perfect score sticker for readers to apply over the original score if it upset them that much. Ironically, Star Fox Adventures ended up being one of the most hated Star Fox games as time passed. In some cases, the right reviewer isn't available, such as when GameSpot assigned an editor who normally covers sports games to review Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, an action-platformer with much more variety than most sports games.
Reviewers in the past have casually handed out perfect 10/10 scores like they were nothing, praising a video game endlessly and giving their readers a false sense of expectation. Publishers apply external pressures on journalists to give their games excellent scores. Scores that are "fair", "good", and "great" are no longer acceptable. They, along with any form of critique, are seen as undesirable.
Sometimes you get the feeling that 8.8 situations are simply the fans making a mountain out of a molehill. It's worth noting that reviews tend to be published a day or two before the game is actually released, meaning that many people are decrying the score awarded to a game they haven't yet played themselves. Naturally, this is caused by the fact that many gamers believe Reviews Are the Gospel. Might lead to fans disliking the reviewer. Indeed, it's extremely common for controversial reviews to be Vindicated by History once the hype dies down.note
Often, the score may be controversial because it adversely affects the game's averaged score on review compendium sites such as Metacritic and the late GameRankings (now redirects to the former). If the review itself is largely positive, it can appear that the few minor complaints account for a fairly significant drop in the rating. Alternatively, animosity can be generated from detractors of the game who all act as if the low score is the only "correct" one, using it as "proof" that the game is rubbish no matter how many good reviews it got.
Another issue has arisen in which publishers would not give bonuses to employees if a game did not achieve a certain metascore, and some classifieds for video game industry professionals have included requirements that applicants should have worked on games that achieved at least some specific metascore.
There is some internal logic to this as far as video game developers are concerned. There is evidence of a correlation that good reviews will, in fact, drive sales. In one study, three groups of people were to read a (fake) review of Plants vs. Zombies and then play the game for 20 minutes. At the end of the session, they would be given the choice of taking either 10 bucks or a free copy of the game. The group that was given reviews that were positive (a score of 90) tended to take the free copy. Those that were given reviews that were negative/unflattering (a score of 61) tended to take the 10 bucks instead. So, in essence, an expected Killer App getting The B Grade may indeed make its publisher nervous.
On the other hand, film critic Roger Ebert once pointed out that even such acclaimed movies as Casablanca and Star Wars have ratings lower than 8.8 on IMDb. All things considered, a less-than-perfect score doesn't necessarily mean a bad score.
This video provides a good explanation of the phenomenon and its faults.
While this trend will always be in existence as long as there are scored reviews, a few larger gaming websites have either never had or actively moved away from scores in an attempt to avoid this particular trope; Polygon moved away from scores (after having pioneered the preliminary score system to prevent Metacritic from prematurely adding their score too soon) and now puts a Recommends badge on any game it feels stands out from the crowd as being worth playing, Kotaku always avoided scored reviews in favor of a "likes/dislikes" system for years before moving away from even that system in favor of just an article and an infobox containing their specific likes and dislikes of a game (no simplistic approval/disapproval detail), and Rock, Paper, Shotgun simply has an article by one of their staff, no score attached.
Other numbers are associated with this as well. One notable example is IGN's infamous 7.8 rating of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, which listed "too much water" as one of the game's cons in the summary.note As a result, this generated dozens of satirical IGN ratings revolving around "too much" of something and a 7.8 rating.
I give this article 9.5/10. Eh, it's okay.