Hey Bethesda, Stop Killing Your Own Games
Yesterday afternoon, after much thought, I reluctantly bought a copy of Prey.
The thing is, it shouldn’t have been reluctant at all. The game previewed really well, I love the Dishonored series, which is also developed by Arkane studios, and everything I’d seen about the game looked great. I should have been incredibly hyped for the game and that hype was either going to be reinforced by a slate of good reviews, or completely destroyed if the game got panned.
The thing is, the week of Prey’s release rolled around and there were no reviews. Release day comes along and nothing, barely a mention of the game across any major video game site.
And now as I write this, five days after the game’s release, finally I have my first review from a site I like and guess what, they say it’s good! Now finally, I can pull the trigger and order the game.
The reason it has taken so long for reviews to finally surface is down to Bethesda’s policy of not providing media outlets with advanced copies of their games.
The Hype Train
So why did I hold off? Isn’t hype enough to make me buy something? Is the sweet taste of preorder bonuses all the incentive I need to drop £60 on a game I have no real way of knowing is actually any good?
Well no, not any more. You see, I’ve been playing video games for a long, long time and I’ve seen far too many games have awesome preview cycles only to end up as major disappointments.
Publishers are actively trying to do everything they can to make us part with our hard earned cash, irrespective of how good their game is and it’s up to us to make sure we don’t fall for it.
No embargos to break
Historically, the reason that publishers don’t provide media outlets with early copies of their games is because they know that the game won’t review well and they don’t want bad reviews to get in the way of people buying their games.
But what happens when the game you are holding back is actually good? What if it’s not just good, be actually really excellent?
Take Dishonored 2 for example. The game was adored by critics but didn’t set the world on fire sales wise. Now that might just be because it was the sequel to a very niche game that also didn’t sell millions of copies. But I think that it has something to do with the fact that Bethesda did absolutely zero to appeal to the discerning video game customer. Sure they put a huge amount of money into advertising the game on both TV and in public, trying to capture the casual video game audience. But the huge group of gamers who know to wait for reviews, who are swayed when they see a high scoring video game, Bethesda never gave those people a reason to take the plunge.
The same thing is sure to happen with Prey. If, several days before the game is released or even on release day, gamers around the world go onto their favourite video game website and see a Prey review on the front page, and they bounce to a few other sites to see what they think, and those reviews are positive, that ‘oh that game looks like it might be good’ turns into a ‘shit that game looks great’! And there you go; you have a preorder or a sale.
With Prey, just like Dishonored 2, when there is no sign of the game on IGN, on GameSpot or on Eurogamer, where is the impetus for that purchase going to come from?
Hype just isn’t enough anymore.
At this moment in time, Prey isn’t even on IGN’s featured story bar anymore. I’m sure eventually their review in progress will turn into a review and it will be back, but gamers move on and the window to grab a customer’s attention closes fast.
It’s really hard to see how Bethesda’s review policy actually helps Bethesda. Unless they are trying to get rid of Arcane Studios who consistently produce good games but are let down by their publisher.
Prey was being previewed like it had game of the year potential and while the few reviews that are around are pretty good, Bethesda’s policy is getting in the way of the game making a huge splash.
Bethesda, it’s not the press’ job to sell your games, but if your game is good, they are better placed than anyone to do so.