A furore has erupted in the Twittersphere and amongst the gaming media this morning, because of Bethesda’s refusal to offer review copies of its titles more than one-day before release.
In a post on the Bethesda Blog, Global Content Lead Gary Steinman writes;
At Bethesda, we value 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 reviewer to share their thoughts.
Opinion appears to be divided on the issue with many Tweets suggesting Bethesda is simply giving the middle-finger to media and relying on pre-orders and hype to ensure sales are high.There’s also the accusation that this practice is designed to align Bethesda more closely with “influencers” over the traditional media.
Limit media. Feed influencers who wouldn't dream of biting the hand that feeds. Fool more consumers. Profit. How disgusting. #Bethesda
— Adam Mathew / GrizGaming (@Grizwords) October 25, 2016
"At Bethesda, we value media reviews" pic.twitter.com/0IgUeQrscL
— Luke Plunkett (@LukePlunkett) October 25, 2016
You're all missing the big picture: WILL A TEENAGER WITH A WEBCAM BE ABLE TO OPEN THE COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOX AND SCREAM STUFF ON DAY ONE?
— David Milner (@DaveMilbo) October 25, 2016
Maybe the whole culture of feeling pressured to buy a game the day it comes out is fundamentally broken & only profits publishers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
— Brendan Keogh (@BRKeogh) October 25, 2016
Reviewers have a much easier time preparing if they are given appropriate lead-time, but in a lot of cases that lead-time is incredibly short. Especially considering the race to release content on time means that releasing content later than others will impact your footprint.
The rise of the YouTuber, streamers and influencers has seen the audience for printed word, written reviews and the like shrink. It’s in the best interests of publishers and developers, like Bethesda, to work with everyone, but limiting the lead-time for publications to prepare their content doesn’t seem like the best way to move forward.
What are your thoughts on Bethesda’s review policy?