Let’s Talk – Bethesda’s new review policy
On October 25th, Bethesda released an article titled “Bethesda & Game reviews”. The article talked about how Bethesda has now changed how they distribute review copies to media outlets. This change means that review outlets like myself won’t receive review copies until one day before release.
For those who don’t know how most reviews work, a reviewer like myself is sent the game between one and two weeks before the game is officially released, accompanying the review copy is an embargo date, which means reviews cannot be released until the date stated, this date is usually the day of release or a few days before. While embargos might sound bad, the embargo date means that reviewers have a set date to work toward meaning they don’t need to rush to be the first one to release their review. Bethesda’s new policy could potentially see reviewers rushing their reviews in an attempt to have the first review online, after all, the first review out the door means a lot of traffic and ad revenue.
Another point to make about Bethesda’s policy is that it makes people doubt the quality of their games. To me not allowing media to review the game prior to launch makes me think the game is flawed or in the case of No Man’s Sky completely different from what people expected, and honestly, I highly doubt Bethesda want the public thinking that there is something fundamentally wrong with their game. In fact, in Bethesda’s article, they attempted to counteract this potential argument by saying that despite review copies for DOOM weren’t made available until a day before launch, the game turned out great. Honestly, saying because DOOM was great because they refused to give copies out review copies early is a weak argument.
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.
I think what makes this new review policy, which comes into effect with Skyrim Special Edition (October 28th) and Dishonored 2 (November 11th), annoying is that none reviewers i.e. YouTubers and streamers are apparently still getting Bethesda game early, I mean just search Skyrim Special Edition, and you will see YouTubers doing let’s plays of the game.
In many ways, this new policy by Bethesda seems to be all about controlling the flow of information. They want their games seen in the best possible light before release, so they control the flow only giving advanced copies to let’s players or streamers and making sure they only talk about the positive aspects of their games.
Of course, while I can be considered bias since I am a game reviewer, but I just can’t see any justification for Bethesda’s new review policy.