Recently Dan Stapleton gave Prey one of the lowest scores a triple A game has received in recent memory, and for good reason Dan ran into a game breaking bug.
Some accused IGN of playing payback because of Bethesda policy of not releasing early review copies, but in fact no game critique could possibly risk alienate their readers by recommending a broken game. Dan was right to give Prey a low score.
Bethesda on the other hand was working diligently to fix the bug and within a day had a patch. Dan did the right thing and adjusted the review score reflecting the working version of the game.
The conversation immediately turned to Bethesda’s policy of not releasing early review copies of their games. Gamers have come out in violent opposition to this policy citing a profit first, quality second policy by Bethesda. If Dan had the game a few days earlier could he have reported the bug to Bethesda and saved the company an embarrassing launch? Who knows?
What you may not know is that in most cases only the larger well-known sites receive early review copies. Although it’s not difficult to get review copies, smaller sites normally receive their review copies on release day. Bethesda’s policy actually levels the playing field by placing both large well-known sites and smaller less known sites at the same starting line.
GAME REVIEWS THE HYPE MACHINES CLIMAX.
A game is announced at some high-profile event, possibly E3. Gaming sites run with the news and the hype machine begins. On release day every site is plastered with ads and affiliate links trying to get you, the gamer to make a purchase.
Embargoes normally end on release day, so sites are allowed to publish previously restricted information causing most game reviews to be published on release day. In fact if you received the game early and your review isn’t published as soon as the embargo lifts, your late.
Gamers see full site advertising buy outs and assume there is collusion between developers and media, I’m not saying there is, only that it’s a reasonable assumption when looking in from the outside.
Reviews were more of a necessity when cartridges ruled the day. There wasn’t a constant connection to the internet, no YouTube, no Twitch, no demos. Gamers turned to magazines to read reviews. At that time game reviews had more value because they were the only connection to someone who had played through the newest game and was willing to share their experience.
Today game reviews are relics of the past that have entrenched themselves into our culture.
Developers are allowing more access to their games than ever before. Popular streamers receive early access to games so viewers can experience gameplay through their stream with commentary and viewer feedback. You can find countless play through videos on YouTube. You can download demos or join open beta sessions and experience most games before they ever launch.
We are connected in so many ways for you to say your waiting on a review to make your buying decision is just unrealistic.
We are a hyper social and hyper connected culture and our gaming reflects that. For example Twitch launched in 2011 that was only six years ago. YouTube launched in 2005 only twelve years ago. Both of these services and services like them have given the average gamer a louder voice in the gaming industry. The persuasion game reviews once had has grown weaker as we’ve become more connected. Like looking through a cloudy crystal ball I can only imagine what gaming will look like in ten to twelve years. I suspect game reviews will continue to take a back seat to other forms of media and pre-launch game distribution.
Reviews will always have a part in gaming media but the influence they wield will evolve as gamer’s and developers become more connected. The media is just the middle man bringing you information you can’t get on your own. Technology has a history of cutting out the middle man, and gaming media will have to step up its game to retain its value.
Reviews are no longer the bread and butter exceptional content and social community are what will keep gaming media alive in the future.
This link directs to a retail affiliate. Relevant Gaming may receive a commission from your purchase.
Bonus point to anyone who can name the game the cover art in the header image of this article came from. Post your guesses in the comments section below.