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Bethesda Announces New Review Copy Policy

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A couple of days ago, Bethesda announced a change in their review copy policy.  Here is their official statement:

“At Bethesda, 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.

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 reviewers to share their thoughts.”

Our Take

Often times in this industry, publishers and developers receive unfair criticism. They are businesses and with the rising cost and complexities of game development, consumers often don’t understand all of the aspects of the business. That said, this is very clearly a decision that is anti-consumer.  In our opinion, this is a decision primarily to keep pre-orders intact thus leading to greater initial sales whereas a game that may have reviewed poorly would see cancellations.

If there is one thing that has seemingly been universally true across the game industry, especially in recent years, it’s that bad publicity can negatively impact a company quickly.  The backlash to this announcement has already spread like wildfire and we expect this will continue far into the future.  Reviews are used by many consumers to make decisions on buying games at launch and if those reviews aren’t readily available, we suspect that a percentage of consumers will now wait or simply go by word of mouth.  And if that word of mouth is largely negative due to this policy, it will absolutely negatively impact sales far beyond what Bethesda is estimating.

We’ll continue to monitor this decision as discussion around it continues with future Bethesda releases.

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