Why is Professional Games Media Upset about Bethesda’s Review Policy?

So this is a kind-of follow up to my Dan Stapleton review and his original horrid review of Prey. Mind you that review has now changed, but regardless of that, one big problem has started to stick out to me. Bethesda and their review policies. IGN has been more than gracious to give me plenty of material to work off of here, but we are going to pull in a lot of games media for this article. So let’s see why it is that Games Media doesn’t like Bethesda’s review policy.

24 hours

First lets start with the policy itself. Bethesda has merely stated that from here on out they will not release review copies early. The earliest a copy will go out to major sites and personalities that cover such things is 24 hours. Now for those of us who instantly jump down their throats let’s think about what the positive parts are. First it means that reviews won’t be up day one, so for some people this may be a huge negative, however think of the positive parts. In this day and age there are millions of people on Twitch, YouTube or even blogs sharing their current impressions of the games.

(And if you aren’t into the game…there are other assets you can check out….)

If you want to know what a game is like on the day of release its as easy as turning on twitch and watching one of thousands play the game. You don’t need to have that score next to the name of the game. I mean if you watch 15 minutes of Doom you know that it is a good game. YouTube and other streaming sites are getting bigger and bigger as the journalistic side of games media dies. Now I know you could say I am part of this, but trust me, I’m not…I have standards and morals. The point is that you come to my site for my personality, not just because I have reviews.

So these 24 hours make sense to someone like Bethesda. If you have the game pre-ordered from somewhere you don’t have to go physically pick it up, you can wait. Although if you have amazon you just don’t have to open it, which may actually be harder. There are tons of resources available to you. Since this is the digital age you can even just download the game if you think it’s up to your standard, or if it goes on sale. It’s not like you have to drive 30+ minutes to the nearest GameStop. So just pop in Game of Thrones and wait while Injustice 2 downloads.

(Big games media acts just like superman…pushing their overbearing opinions on us…)

So there’s plenty of ways to get your information today and big gaming sites like IGN will have the review posted within a few days. Bethesda is just saying that if you apprehensive about buying their product to just wait for the review then. So is there a problem with the review policy? Well how can it hurt you as a consumer?

The Medias Claims

The bad part which is what is mostly been pushed by big gaming media sites like IGN or Polygon is that this hurts the developer and you in many ways. IGN posted a video on 5/17/2017, or you know yesterday at the time of writing, about how these policies hurt everyone. IGN’s Alana Pierce posted her video/opinion about their review policies and how they hurt everyone, now I understand where she is coming from, and I like her personality and what she brings to the table, but I respectfully disagree. You see her two main arguments are interesting, if not a bit flawed.

(Legitimately good games journalist…bad arguments)

She makes the claim that this type of review policy encourages rushed reviews, and many smaller sites or YouTubers will release review before they are truly ready to release them. This means that we as the public would get inaccurate information and that it  could go either way for the developers. Now my personal take on this fact is that people don’t just watch one random person on YouTube and take their opinion as law, because let’s face it, you can’t trust everyone. So this argument holds little weight. I know I can trust Boogie or even Angry Joe for a solid review, I’m not worried about them rushing to meet deadlines.

The other big argument she has is that allowing the press (IGN and other sites) to have early access is not only a show of good faith, but also allows for a type of Pre-QA test. Okay I mean she has a point here at face value, but it has some problems. I can think of a few huge games that have had extremely huge issues after release and the review released day one. What games are those…oh Skyrim and Fallout 4. Yeah, those games didn’t run the best on certain systems or PC. Skyrim was unplayable on PS3 after a certain point for many users and was never fixed. So what did those games get from IGN…oh right…9.5’s.

(FUS RO FAIL! On ps3…)

So I understand where she comes from because there probably are situations where the press finds bugs that can be fixed before the games release. That’s not the point of a review copy though and on top of everything else there are much bigger games that rare bugs are never caught. Did IGN run into a bug with prey? Yes. Was it big? Yes. Would any games media getting this game early have meant they ran into the bug? No. Not at all. In fact in many cases it’s not until reviews are out and the public gets the games that the big bugs are discovered, because again they are rare.

These opinions that Alana talks about are important and I think she has some points, they are flawed, but every site is taking their shot here. Polygon talk about Bethesda and says that “Bethesda wants your money before reviews are up”, Forbes makes claims that it’s bad for gamers, or even Euro-Gamer saying that it is an anti-consumer move. I mean really? In that video I linked back too Alana brings up the poor sales of Dishonored 2 and how much the review policy may have led to it being sold poorly, has it sold poorly though? I think you need to open up the Internet Alana, because numbers say otherwise. Numbers are all on VGchartz btws….

Dishonored 2 did have a rocky start, that is true, but why? Now most of this is just conjecture but things like the release date. Dishonored 2 released the week after Call of Duty and then there was a new Pokémon game after and the new Final Fantasy game, not a great time to release. I mean Dishonored was a critical success and over time it has sold well, but did anyone really think that Dishonored 2 was going to sell gangbusters when it came out? It’s the newest IP that Bethesda really has and it’s definitely not for everyone.

Despite this let’s look at the sales numbers. First off Dishonored 1 has only sold around 3 million copies, on the older consoles and PC. Dishonored 2 to date has sold….oh 2.5 million copies. I think maybe there needs to be some research done at these “Journalistic Games Media” sites, because I debunked their “facts” faster than they can spit them out. So why are these “bad” sales numbers being thrown in Bethesda’s face? Well lets face it, IGN, Kotaku, Polygon and just about every major “gaming press” outlet out there is upset about this policy. These sites have beef with Bethesda and we the “consumers” are caught in the cross-fire.

The Reality

The simple truth is that as gamers we have no reason to give our allegiance to any of these companies. For sites like IGN we should want them to get games early for reviews, but we don’t really need that anymore. What is more helpful to you when deciding to buy a game, watching someone play 30 minutes and commenting on it or reading an article that goes over the mechanics and story features? It’s not like you don’t have choices anymore. There are so many more options open to you for reviews and opinions. Do you like the guys at Kinda Funny? Then you can listen to what they have to say? Do you like my content? Then you can follow me and hear my opinions. There are options.

If you want to see gameplay of the game and aren’t a story junkie then you can just watch the thousands of streamers who are showing off the game. The fact that Bethesda isn’t giving out review copies isn’t hurting gamers. It only means that you have to be smarter with your wallet and be aware that reviews aren’t going to be live day 1. I like reading reviews personally, but it’s just to see if people are enjoying the game like myself. A score is an opinion, not a fact.

Pre-Order Culture

So I looked at Alana’s twitter and YouTube comments sections and I found one argument keeping steam and that was about the Pre-Order culture. Now I used to work at GameStop so I totally understand this culture. I was a part of that culture. Some of the comments on Twitter and YouTube were saying that if you want to wait for reviews to simply not pre-order the game if it bothers you. However Alana and others were remarking that this hurts consumers because you as a consumer would pre-order the game based on marketing that Bethesda has invested in. The lack of early copies and in the same train of thought, early reviews, means that the only thing the gamer has to go off of is the marketing.

Now I can see the arguments here and why they may be valid. I mean yes the only thing you are going to really see up the point of release is the positive coverage. IGN isn’t going to talk bad about a game in a preview, they may bring up a concern, but it’s a preview, no reason to tear a game apart when it’s not a finished product. Marketing for a game is also always going to be positive, I mean Bethesda is the one playing for it. So is Alana right? I mean if she is that means sites like IGN and GameSpot are the unsung heroes. They are fighting for us! THEY ARE FIGHTING TO PROTECT US FROM BAD GAMES!!!!

(And our virginity)

Or not. I find some problems with her ideas. Games media sites are playing the victims here and like I pointed out in my Dan Stapleton article that originally they talked about how this hurts them as a site and some of the other potential dangers. No one is going to feel sorry for a website for a game they are getting for free. So now they want you to think it is bad for you as a consumer. Here’s my question for you. Are you dumb? I mean no offense, but are you an idiot? I personally don’t think you are, but my problem here is that every games media site acts like we are complete idiots?

They make the claim that because we aren’t informed enough about the true nature of the game we just pre-order it. Like we see some flash trailer and first thing we do is pre-order that sucker. If that was true every infomercial in the world would be successful. News flash, they don’t. I know there are some people who do, but you know what taking a 60$ risk on a game isn’t the biggest loss in the world. It’s not like a 1,000$ investment in a bit-coin or like playing the stock market. You also aren’t going to buy a game you aren’t interested in. I don’t care how many more people can fit in the stands in Madden 2020, I don’t like sports games, I ‘m not going to buy it no matter how flashy that trailer looks.

(This mode almost made me want to paly Fifa 17…and I hate soccer. Or football…or sports.)

It all comes down to you as a person and what you personally think about the game. I mean 100% of the marketing and previews of No Man’s Sky were super positive. Then looking at some of the people who covered it. Places like Kinda Funny had some concerns prior to launch, but what about the supposed “Profession Games Media”? The media had nothing but positive things to say, until the time for reviews. Think about the fact that originally Sean Murray had said two people could meet in space, and then within the first week of launch we found out that wasn’t true. Oh yeah, those early release copies would never have found that out in a million years. So why would I trust the traditional games media when they drop the ball time and time again?

The Truth

This is the killer truth though. If game developers and publishers were to suddenly say they didn’t want to give out review copies anymore, sites like IGN or GameSpot would eventually die off. They no longer have that exclusive content. Why would you care about the new guardians of the Galaxy trailer on Polygon if you could just watch it on YouTube? The reviews are why people go there, early reviews get them readers and we are buying ever little aspect of it. This review policy isn’t bad for the consumers, it’s bad for people like Dan and Alana. Their butt’s are on the lines, not ours and not our games.

Bethesda has every right as a publishing and developing company to decide who gets early access. The world is changing and companies are starting to come to this realization. With the further applications of the internet comes faster transfer of information. There was a time that I can specifically remember having to read magazines to know what games were coming out. Now I can just pull up Twitter or YouTube and see all that information right in front of me. No magazine or print needed. So what is the ultimate truth here?

The truth is that these review policies only hurt those who stand to make a profit on it.  Honestly I would be thrilled if this became a regular thing across the board. Oh and the sites that keep complaining about it, your day’s are numbered so deal with it…

(This honestly has nothing to do with this post…but I thought it was really cool)