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Bethesda, the publisher behind Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, Doom, and tons of other franchises released the following statement on their website:
At Bethesda, we value media reviews.
We read them. We watch them. We try to learn from them when they offer critique. And we understand their value to our players.
Earlier this year we released DOOM. We sent review copies to arrive the day before launch, which led to speculation about the quality of the game. Since then DOOM has emerged as a critical and commercial hit, and is now one of the highest-rated shooters of the past few years.
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.
As mentioned in the post, DOOM launched with review copies being administered the day before release. In the past, a stigma behind such decisions says the game isn’t very good. However, at the time, many speculated the publisher’s concern was in regards to the game’s online component. That’s yet to be proven, but it has certainly been the case for other games with multiplayer functionality in the past. Bethesda’s reasoning behind this move seems believable, but questions arise about what this entails for the industry going forward.
How does this precedent impact pre-order culture? Additionally, how does it affect the industry in relation to a game being hyped too much before launch? We’ve learned, the latest example being Mafia 3, that the preview cycle isn’t always a good indication of what to expect. The bugs in Fallout 4, and the game breaking issues that plagued Skyrim’s PS3 release, are also proof that early reviews are beneficial to the consumer.
Bethesda notes their understanding that some players rely heavily on reviews before purchasing a game. As such, they encourage consumers to wait for reviewers to provide their opinion before making a purchase. It’s a fair statement, putting responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the gamer. However, what kind of pressure does this put on reviewers? A title like Skyrim, which can take upwards of 30 hours to fully experience all the game has to offer, may begin requiring rush jobs to have reviews up in a timely manner. To combat this, outlets such as IGN have begun writing “Review in Progress” pieces. They’re specifically for online heavy games or title’s like No Man’s Sky. This puts consumers who only want a score to determine whether or not a new game is worth the release price in a difficult spot.
Tell us your thoughts on the matter in the comments below. We’ll know how this works out when the Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2 launches on October 28 and November 11, respectively.