There has been a bit of a cantankerous tone from some self-identified games journalists over the announcement from Bethesda, in which the publisher made it known that they will no longer be giving out early review copies to game journalists.
The news took place over on Bethesda’s official website, where a basic blog post from global content lead Gary Steinman reads…
“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.”
The post almost makes it seem like their support for YouTubers might lead them to getting review copies earlier so they can post up live-streams and Let’s Play videos, but Steinman ends by saying that they want everyone “including those in the media” to experience their games “at the same time”.
I know some people will be furious that customers can no longer pick up games day one based on traditional early reviews no longer being available, but at the same time I applaud Bethesda for doing what a lot of core gamers have wanted out of big publishers for a while, especially since 2014: to cut games journalists out of the picture.
When those pretentious pundits wasted not an inch, not a dime, not a second to say that “gamers are dead”, they should have been scrubbed from the press lists right then and there. It took a little while, though, for Bethesda to get the courage to rely mostly on streamers and YouTubers for coverage; they aptly cut out the need to pander to traditional games press.
Bethesda used Doom in their example of a game that managed to sell quite well despite not having early review copies sent out to the press. The game has moved more than 1.2 million copies on PC alone, according to Steam Spy.
It’s not hard to see why some companies would start to distance themselves from the press. In fact, Kotaku, late in 2015, lamented being blacklisted by Bethesda and Ubisoft following a string of leaks and spoiling some of their games. Many of the press – mostly those who were on the GamesJournoPros list – ran to Kotaku’s defense regarding the blacklisting, while core gamers cheered from the sidelines through social media and gaming forums.
Kotaku, of course, doesn’t bring up that they’ve often covered some games in ways that not only alienated their audience but also turned informational pieces about certain games into political statements, such as Jason Schreier turning Dragon’s Crown into a topic about sexism, or former Rock, Paper, Shotgun alum Nathan Grayson grilling Blizzard on World of Warcraft’s female characters having sex appeal.
More specific to review culture, there was the Dead Rising 3 review from Nick Capozzoli for Gamespot that scored the game a ‘3’ out of ’10’ for what he perceived to be “racist” and “sexist” stereotypes. It’s a far cry from Jeff Gerstmann’s ‘6’ out of ’10 for Kane & Lynch‘s mechanical failures and ho-hum gameplay that managed to get him fired.
There was also the recent Forza Horizon 3 review by James O’Connor for Vice that spent more time talking about Australia’s sociopolitical climate than the actual, functioning elements of the game.
There should be no wonder at all why publishers would want to steer clear of early release copies given out to games journalists when all they’re going to do is churn out a hit-piece and turn the game into a vehicle for social justice outrage, all while perpetuating the rage-bait phenomenon that has led to 70% of Americans feeling as if the media is negatively affecting the nation.
When it comes to social justice outrage bait… as a gamer, it doesn’t help me make an informed purchase, and as a developer it doesn’t do anything to help convey the game’s content to potential customers. So why put trust in pundits who don’t know anything about the games they’re playing but instead want to talk politics?
I wouldn’t trust a baker to rewire my electrical outlets in the same way that I wouldn’t trust a carpenter to bake a birthday cake. The same goes for game reviews: I wouldn’t trust a professional trust fund hipster to tell me whether or not a game is worth $60 if they can’t tell the difference between the left analog stick and right analog stick when it comes to moving and looking around in a game like Doom.
Even still, some games journalists haven’t taken the news lightly. Despite being despised by a large portion of the gaming community (who have retreated to YouTubers who actually know how to play and critique games) some opted to voice their opinions to GamesIndustry.biz.
Editorial director at Videogamer.com, Tom Orry, explained to GI.biz…
“[…] there will likely be a lot of members of the press writing articles on the situation, all most likely saying similar things about how the policy is bad for consumers, while highlighting that Bethesda’s line-up is impressive and that Doom turned out great. Nestled in between the negativity, there will likely be a lot of positive coverage gained from the announcement of an anti-press and anti-consumer policy”
He’s not wrong… Eurogamer wrote an article about the situation complaining that it’s an “anti-consumer review policy”, despite Tom Bramwell back in 2014 misleading readers about a mission in Red Dead Redemption as being “sexist” because he didn’t understand the movie reference in the mission. Why even risk this kind of ineptitude again with a pre-release review copy just so the reviewer can misinterpret other parts of the game and project that out to the audience in the form of a grandstanding moral crusade?
Polygon’s Ben Kuchera lamented the decision, saying it will “make reviews worse, overall” but this is the same Kuchera who gave his friends good review scores without disclosure, and even helped push the “sexism in games” narrative with Dragon’s Crown, according to his Deep Freeze entry.
TechnoBuffalo’s Joey Davidson tries to play the middle ground, attempting to say that he’s just like real gamers and that he’s a consumer, too. Davidson tries to play the angle that TechnoBuffalo is about information and honesty, writing…
“I explain this because there’s an impression out there that reviewers like me are upset because we’ll miss traffic. That’s not why I’m upset. I’m upset because what Bethesda’s doing is dishonest.”
Dishonest, you say? Well explain this blurb from TechnoBuffalo’s Ron Duwell from a piece published on June 24th, 2016…
“GamerGate is, of course, the still-running online harassment movement in which a group of sexist gamers call out female journalists and developers, expose their private lives, and harass them through social media. It’s no joke and a serious problem for women in the video game industry and community.”
For your information, no #GamerGate has never been proven with any evidence to be a harassment campaign. According to Crash Override Network #GamerGate never harassed Anita Sarkeesian. According to a peer reviewed WAM report and a Newsweek report, #GamerGate was not about a campaign of harassment at all.
If I can’t trust TechnoBuffalo’s reporters to even convey basic facts, why on Earth should I trust their reviews of games?
And even more than that, why would billion-dollar corporations trust that they won’t just turn around and make up lies on the games the same way they’ve made up lies on their own audience?
Even Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, was fed up with politically motivated games journalists trying to co-op the medium to enrage and obfuscate the landscape with completely irrelevantly ideologies, telling Gamespot…
“I think there’s certain reviews that are written more to get clicked on than they are to actually accurately reflect the quality of the game, and that kind of bums me out.”
All I can say at this point is that game journalists brought this on themselves. Their incompetence, ineptitude and anti-consumer behavior has finally caught up with them.
I hope more companies join Bethesda in blocking out the traditional game journalists in hopes of starving the current crop, at least until we get better game journalists in the industry who actually know what they’re talking about it. If they’re so intent on talking politics, maybe the journalists should leave the reviews alone and start a political blog?
In the meantime, gamers and independent YouTubers will just have to curate the good games from the bad, since we don’t seem to have a competent crop of gaming professionals in the mainstream media space to do it for us.
(Main image courtesy of iddqdidkfa)