When Bethesda first announced that they were not going to release advance copies of their titles for reviews, my first knee jerk reaction was “good for them.” Way to show some intestinal fortitude Bethesda.
Then I started to think more about it. I spoke to some friends. I read some blogs. I listened to some podcasts, and you know what? I was wrong. Do you hear me? I SCREAM IT FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOPS! I WAS WRONG!
Bethesda, who makes decent to great games is just like any large company, whether they’re game makers or not. They make decisions based on their bottom line and not necessarily what’s best for the consumer. That’s fine. I get that. Just don’t give me a pile of chicken shit and tell me it’s chicken salad.
Noticed how I specifically said consumer and not customer? Because gamers are not customers in the eyes of publishers. Publisher’s consumers are the retailers, like GameStop, Target, Best Buy, and Walmart.
Oh, but you download games through Xbox Live, PSN, or Steam? Well, then Microsoft, Sony, and Valve are their customers, you’re just the consumer at the bottom of the food chain. The only time you can be a customer in Bethesda’s eyes, is if you buy directly from them, but in this case, given their strategy on early game reviews, it really doesn’t matter now.
What bothers me most about this, after I had time to digest and discuss Bethesda’s new strategy with my peers is how condescending they are to the gaming community as they attempt to spin this into a positive.
According to a blog post from Bethesda’s Gary Steinman, “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.”
Let me untwist this mess of marketing gobbledygook. We released a Doom multiplayer beta that wasn’t very good. We freaked out. We then held back reviews of the game because we thought it was going to get panned. The game turned out to be alright. A lot of people bought it. We’re just going to keep on doing this now.
First off, I admit Doom is a good game and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but let’s not kid ourselves here. It’s not like there was a lot of competition out at the time when Doom was released. Gamers were looking for a good game to play, Doom came out with already low expectations and it turned out to be actually good. I’m not surprised at all that it sold well. They set the bar low and people were hungry for games.
Secondly, it’s a bit insulting for Bethesda to act like they’re going out on a limb here by not providing advance review copies to the media. Other companies, like Blizzard, Warner Bros., and 2K do so as well from time to time and they don’t make a big deal about this.
Lastly, and this pisses me off the most, is that taking a stand against advance review copies is not stopping Bethesda from giving advance copies of their games to streamers, who may be less critical of the title. Essentially, you’re not against providing advance copies, just as long as the coverage you’re getting is going to be positive.
Now, take all these things into account and then look at how the publishers try to get you to pay up into reserving early, by providing free content or early access. You’re taking away consumer’s ability to make informed decisions, and then you dangle a carrot in front of them to buy in early? Sorry, but that doesn’t sit well with me.
In this day and age, there is no reason to ever reserve a game folks. Don’t get pulled in by promises of DLC or early access as it’s simply not worth it. There is only one way for gamers to show their displeasure at Bethesda and other publishers who hold back advance reviews and that is to wait it out until the reviews come out.
I only wish I heeded this advice when I bought No Man’s Sky.