If you’re intending to check out reviews for Bethesda’s upcoming The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Special Edition or Dishonored 2 before committing your hard earned cash, then you’ll be disappointed to learn that there’ll be very few, if any, reviews of either title before release day. This is due to Bethesda’s review code policy, which means review copies won’t be sent to reviewers until the day before release.
Bethesda invoked this policy earlier this year for Doom, and yesterday on their official blog, Gary Steinman, Bethesda’s global content lead, confirmed they’ll be sticking with it for upcoming releases. In it Gary Steinman says:
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.
This, of course, means reviewers will only get 24 hours before the game hits shelves, less than that when you take into account sleep. For both titles this means some outlets may rush their reviews, providing potentially inaccurate, and limited accounts of the game’s quality. These are more likely to convey a general feeling about the title rather than analysis. Other outlets, who take their time won’t be providing reviews for several days, if not weeks after release, advertising the game beyond normal timeframes and keeping it fresh in consumers minds.
The blog post goes on to say:
we want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time.
From a business perspective this makes sense. Consumers are more likely to purchase titles that have no criticism to put them off and Bethesda can limit the amount of information that’s out of their control. This is hugely anti-consumer. Through this policy Bethesda are preventing you from learning about the quality of their game until release, by which time they will have earned their money through pre-orders and day one purchases.
Like most things, the best way this can be changed is by voting with your wallet and not pre-ordering or purchasing on day one. Waiting for reviews, videos, forums, and word of mouth to convince you of a game’s quality before purchasing is the best way to show Bethesda that their method of minimising risk is anti-consumer, and to ensure your money is well-spent.