Both Dishonored 2 and the Skyrim: Special Edition will only be made available to reviewers one day before their respective launches, Bethesda has announced today. In the announcement, this is now referred to as company “policy”.
In a remarkably two-faced opening, the company claims that “we value media reviews” before outlining actions that clearly indicate that they do not. Citing DOOM as a critical and commercial hit, and tacitly implying that there’s no need to worry about late reviews since one game turned out to be great, Bethesda are at pains to explain how not having any independent critical views on a game prior to launch is actually a great thing for customers.
If the statement were spinning any harder, it may have been a viable source of alternative energy.
It’s about fairness, you see. They just want “everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time”. It helps that if everybody experiences a bad game at the same time then Bethesda and parent company Zenimax get to keep a lot more money. But that’s probably just a coincidence.
Dishonored 2 might turn out to be outstanding. Skyrim: Special Edition may run like a dream. But make no mistake, this is a long-term effort to squeeze out legitimate, customer-focused criticism of Bethesda’s titles. Their aim is for prospective buyers to see nothing except marketing material prior to launch, and rely on customer impatience (“some of you want to read reviews before you make your decision, and if that’s the case we encourage you to wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts”) to get away with it.
Hiding this behind language which implies the decision is beneficial to players, and somehow exhibits a respect for critical reviews, is utterly wretched.
For further thoughts on this, see Early Reviews Are Vital For Healthy Criticism, and Bethesda Know It.