Bethesda’s New Review Policy
Anti-Consumer or Good Business Sense?
This week, Bethesda announced a new policy regarding review copies given to the media. Traditionally, a publisher will send out review copies to various outlets – magazines, websites and more recently online ‘influencers’ for them to review or give their opinion before the game is released to the public. With Bethesda’s last big release DOOM, copies were sent out the day before launch leading many to speculate about the game’s quality. As it turned out the reviews were largely positive and the game was considered a triumph by some outlets.
As a result Bethesda posted the following on their website:
“With the upcoming launches of Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2, we will continue our policy of sending media review copies one day before release.
“While we will continue to work with media, streamers, and YouTubers to support their coverage – both before and after release – we want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time.
“We also understand that some of you want to read reviews before you make your decision, and if that’s the case we encourage you to wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts.”
Going forward, Bethesda will continue to send review copies to the media one day before release meaning it is unlikely you will see a review for the game, from traditional media at release, until after the game has hit the shelves.
Media Coverage and Consumer Trust
Bethesda states that they want everyone to enjoy their games at the same time however this simply isn’t the case. Although traditional games media outlets won’t receive their review copies until a day before release, some Youtuber’s and influencers already have early access retail copies. This goes against the very concept that Bethesda is suggesting. Some influencers will just give their impressions of the game while others may prepare a full review but overall these impressions are likely to be more favourable than a critics, meaning coverage of the games will likely trend more to the positive side.
This also seems like a bad move for consumers and players of Bethesda games. No early review copies means that purchasers will not be able to make as much of an informed opinion of the product they are buying than they were before. Bethesda is well-known for ambitious open-world titles such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. These are massive games that take a considerable amount of time to review and more often than not, particularly in recent years, they contain bugs, glitches and inconsistencies that affects gameplay for the end user. Consumers should be aware of how significant those bugs are before they commit to a purchase or at least have the chance to.
After all, other products in other industries are subject to early reviews so why are Bethesda changing their course?
Good Business for Bethesda?
Bethesda likely knows it is opening itself up for criticism with its latest announcement. However, the change is likely to have a financial benefit for them in the long run. Without early reviews, its likely more people will pick up the game based on trailers and what footage they have seen of the game rather than basing their decision on a professional opinion, boosting Bethesda’s sales.
The decision is likely to effect pre-orders too although how exactly remains to be seen. Will gamers be more or less likely to fork out for collector’s editions when they know there is no review to fall back on? In an age where some pre-orders come with early access to games such as Gears of War 4 at a hefty price, it seems the publisher has a lot of influence over the gamer.
Bethesda may also be reading the tea leaves here and noticing that more and more people are getting their coverage from enthusiast press rather than traditional media outlets.
A New Trend?
Bethesda is unlikely to be the last publisher to make this change. Traditional games media isn’t the only way to cover games anymore with Youtube, Twitch and other platforms covering what was once only reviewed by magazines. When one scathing review could affect a purchase decision, it’s no wonder that publishers are looking elsewhere for their coverage. 2K has already taken a similar stance this year with games like Mafia III and Civilization VI. The move makes sense from a business perspective but is likely to frustrate some media outlets and gamers. It is certainly a new trend that deserves attention when it comes to making a purchasing decision from here on out.
What are your thoughts on Bethesda’s new policy?
Do early reviews still matter?
Let me know by commenting below this article!