Everyone knows the old phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” While this could be completely accurate, I don’t think it would quite hold up in the world of Tamriel; though the creators of that world, Bethesda, do seem to agree and have decided to shield themselves by only releasing review copies to various media outlets just one day before launch. While many would cry out this is anti-consumer it’s quite a bit more complicated than that.
In a statement published to their website October 25, 2016, they state that their first attempt with this model was with this years smash hit DOOM. The relaunch of an intellectual property (IP) that at one time was installed on more computers than Windows. A game so massively popular for its time it inadvertently created Valve, “DOOM.” Yeah that DOOM. The games relaunch has been heralded as one of the most innovative entries into the FPS genre in years and Bethesda feels this proves they don’t need gaming sites, bloggers, and Youtubers stamp of approval before releasing their newest creations out into the world. It goes on to state they would continue with this practice with titles like Skyrim:Special Edition and the much anticipated sequel to their fresh IP Dishonored which released globally on November 11th for all major platforms. The company encourages customers who want more information on their products to wait for consumers “favorite reviewers to share their thoughts.”
To even the untrained eye this would seem like a contradiction coming from a company that had pre-order advertisements all over the internet with tempting bonuses for their latest hack and stab fest Dishonored 2, which oddly enough one of the perks for pre-ordering was to play the game one day early. Does this mean gamers who yelled at the local game store employee to shut up and take their money got to play it the same day that media outlets did or did that push the review copies back one day, I’m not sure and quite frankly if it gets any more convoluted I’m gonna need a blue police box to make sense of it all. That would be a problem in and of itself as since Matt Smith has since gone on to marry Queen Elizabeth II they seem to show up much less than before.
I believe the message we’re supposed to arrive at is that Bethesda is a company above reproach and everybody should hand over their money prematurely for a proven winner. That scenario works just fine and dandy if you ignore Brink and Elder Scrolls online and you are fine with other people holding on to your money for no good reason. Even their hit series, the mainstream entries into the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises usually release to a consumer base that knows they will be in for all sorts of bugs in the software.
With this in mind its easy to think of Bethesda as stated above as anti-consumer, with the intent to control the message that gets out about their products. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that but they are also unfortunately, doing it to protect themselves from less than trustworthy video game review websites. Sadly, we live in a world where many people would not think twice about looking at a game like Skyrim, then turning to Bethesda and saying that’s a nice game you’ve invested 100 million dollars to develop, it would be a shame if a bad review killed initial interest in the game. For decades now, gaming publications have been the friend to the upcoming releases, from Nintendo Power to Game Informer there is an established history. If you were to look on their respective Facebook profiles right now I’m sure it would say “it’s complicated”. They have increased attention and excitement which have pushed sales. What have the established game publications done to scare away their soul mates? If they would rather not get the press and hype then working with them must be much worse than any of us realize.
Though for a site like this, these turn of events have a bit of a silver lining. We are not part of the established online gaming journalism sites, at least not yet . As a small site we could never hope to compete with sites who get their copies weeks ahead of release, but the big guys having a one day lead, we can make up for that with passion, determination, lack of sleep, excessive caffeine and a lack of a social scene any day of the week.(I kid we are the coolest of the cool obviously).
So as it stands right now the way the industry is moving, reviews of substance will come slower after a games release. Hopefully if people are willing to be a bit more patient with their purchases, hold off on their pre-orders and do a little work to get input from sites big and small. I believe purchases can and will be made with more confidence and will give rise to a new generation of gaming media which could bridge the information gap between consumer and publisher. So let this bring us all closer together like DOOM guy, and mini DOOM guy? DOOM guy collectable? DOOM action figure? DOOM guys shotgun and a cyber demons face! Ah the warm and fuzzies togetherness brings.