Monday, August 19, 2013

Pre-Release Reviews

It occurred to me this evening that there is a certain amount of complacency from video game consumers when it comes to reviews. I've made arguments like this in the past, but in this case I mean a specific thing.

We've become accustomed to this system where we usually have to wait for a game to be released before we get to see reviews. A lot of this is due to an unwieldy system of exclusive reviews that get to go up a little sooner, resulting in higher page counts while the rest suffer under embargoes, and we suffer as consumers.

The thing that made me start thinking about this issue is the upcoming releases of Saints Row IV, Splinter Cell Blacklist and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, all of which come out tomorrow. 

It is like Deep Silver sent Saint Row IV to everyone they could to have it reviewed and have those reviews all published before it came out, and Ubisoft has done a pretty good job of getting Splinter Cell Blacklist for the 360 reviewed in a number of places before its release, with a few for the PS3 and none for PC.

And The Bureau... well, no one has reviewed it yet, and it makes me feel like 2K Games doesn't want anyone to read about their game before it is released, and in light of the other two games that are coming out tomorrow, it makes me wonder why. Is there something wrong with it... is there some problem they are hiding?

For all I know, a bunch of reviews could come out tomorrow and it could end up with high scores and a lot of praise, but at the moment, I am suspicious of the game, like there is a flaw in the game that they are trying to hide from the public. Because think about all those people who got burned really bad by games like Aliens: Colonial Marines, which didn't get reviewed until after the damage had already been done.

But think about it this way. If games were films and a studio made it clear that they didn't want critics to review a movie before it came out, the absence of reviews would likely lead you to believe that it was a piece of crap and likely not worth your time. And in most cases, the studio doesn't have expectations that a certain percentage of their potential audience is going to preorder tickets for their movie, whereas game studios really try to sell their customers on this very thing.

It just seems like game publishers have no faith in their games if they want to make sure people don't have an opportunity to read reviews before it is released. I am mainly tarring triple-A titles with this brush, since in a lot of cases, indie titles seem to get different treatment with their games getting reviewed later in many cases.

I think as consumers, we should make it clear to game publishers that we expect more from them in terms of transparency, and tell them that we want them to allow more reviews to come out before their games are released. It seems like a reasonable request.

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