The relationship between the video game industry and the gaming media has always been quite tenuous. Even before things started to really get rocky, as a long-time gamer, I could never help shake the feeling that the two parties only remained acquainted because of a few mutual benefits.
Basically, the gaming industry provided the news media with advanced copies and press opportunities, and in return, they got publicity. And for a while, all was well. Until of course, video game giant, Bethesda Softworks, decided to no longer provide review copies of their games before release, meaning the industry’s media could no longer warn of or promote potentially bad or good products prior to their sale. When stated like that, Bethesda certainly seems like the villain in this story. Indeed, their new practice is quite devious and anti-consumer. However, that hasn’t stopped the traditional games media from dissolving themselves of any sympathy they could’ve had.
Just so you know, I definitely do not agree with Bethesda’s stance on video game reviews. Effectively, they are trying to control their marketing message as much as possible while hiding under the pretence that it is to create ‘equality’ in the gaming community, where everyone gets to experience their games at the same time. What a load of
horseshit nonsense. But what is more alarming to me than that, is the way some of the games media’s biggest websites and companies have gone about combatting that obstacle.
The most prominent of these in a recent situation was IGN’s review of Bethesda game, Prey, where editor Dan Stapleton significantly demerited the title based on a game-breaking bug he encountered on the PC version, only to later update the review two days later, once the bug was patched.
Now, in most other cases, this would be perfectly fine. Too many publishers and developers nowadays, especially Bethesda, get away with not properly QA testing their games, resulting in broken or flawed products. However, with IGN, the matter is altered when you take a look at their previous reviews of similarly ‘broken’ games. For example, Skyrim and Fallout 4 both earned a score of 9.5 from IGN, despite having had widespread technical issues and game-breaking occurrences. Meanwhile, Prey got demoted down to a ‘bad’ for something that only a minority of players experienced.
Perhaps the most important part about reviewing games is consistency. A readership is garnered from reliability, which may be hard to do with a full company of employees and reviewers. But that principle still remains true, especially in this situation, where Dan Stapleton was the reviewer for Fallout 4 and Prey, yet for the latter, decided to be far harsher on issues both games shared. Could all of this possibly have been IGN’s way of punishing Bethesda for their review policy? Maybe.
It’s too hard to tell anything at this point, and the best that can be made are merely assumptions. However, what I can say, without a doubt, is that gamers are beginning to turn on the media more than they are Bethesda. If more publishers take notice and decide to follow similar review policies, it could mean that all of these big gaming websites lose their greatest advantage. It won’t be the end of video game reviews, just the ones that relied on timeliness above everything else. Which means that some of these websites and reviewers might have to get some kind of personality to keep readers coming back.