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Traditionally, when a game is about to be released, game publishers willingly work alongside different media outlets to help them secure advance copies. In exchange, game publishers want a review that will be ready by launch day. However, there’s one big publisher that is breaking this tradition: Bethesda. According to Digital Spy, in a post on their blog, Bethesda announced that it will no longer be providing review copies of it games well in advance of the launch dates.
On their website, Global Content Lead, Gary Steinman, stated that the company “values media reviews” and that they read reviews and “learn” from the critique they offer. But he then stated the following:
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.
Steinman goes on to state that he acknowledges that gamers rely on good reviews to make decision on whether they’d like to purchase a game. He notes that they will be giving out advance copies one day in advance, so if gamers heavily rely on their favorite reviewers for their decision, then they should wait.
It’s important to point out that Bethesda isn’t the only company that has taken a somewhat strict stance on review policies. Blizzard, most notably, for the past few years has not sent out review copies of its games; Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and 2K have also been quite reluctant to release review copies as well. Another area in which publishers don’t give out early access to their games is games with extensive online systems. Often times, these games need day-one patches and can’t be fairly assessed for a valid review. But this isn’t one of Bethesda’s reason for opting out of advance copies for reviews.
Many are taking this as a sign that Bethesda wants to distribute review copies late in the day due to the game being complete garbage. A publisher’s job is to sell as many copies of a game as possible, so it’s understandable that they’d want to shy away from any potential negative criticism of their game. But Bethesda’s move might not be about them being insecure about their games, but rather about them not thinking large media outlets will have any impact on their sales. Individual gamers/streamers on Twitch and YouTube will still get early access. As Kotaku has pointed out, some YouTubers have already received advance copies of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Special Edition – first two hours of play were allowed to be showcased.
While this move has drawn much criticism from the press – one article pointing out that this will in fact make review scores bad, since it’ll make media outlets rush their review – Bethesda’s statement sounds like they’re sticking to their guns and early copies for reviewers will not happen for any future Bethesda games.
With no early copies though, there will be no way of providing early previews and no way for journalist to assess any of Bethesda’s games. Dishonored 2 is set to come out November 11th, but it looks like any reviews for the game might come later than that.