In 2016, with the release of DOOM, Bethesda announced a new policy to only send out review code to media on the day of release.
The policy was met with a lot of pushback from both players and critics who saw it as a way of stifling pre-release criticism, even though, at the time, Bethesda was releasing some of the strongest games it had ever put out.
In the past year or so, code has been quietly coming in earlier for some of Bethesda’s titles, so we asked the company’s SVP of global marketing, Pete Hines, if the company’s policy has officially changed.
“We put out Evil Within 2 and sent it out to press well in advance, and we did the same thing for Wolfenstein 2. Then there were other games that we sent out at launch.” Hines says. “I think we’re going to continue to evaluate what makes the most sense.
“In the case of Elder Scrolls Online, we don’t have a choice. Fallout 76 is the same way, it’s a server – the game is either up or it’s not. We will continue to figure out what makes the most sense.”
While there hasn’t been a big announcement, Bethesda has changed its review policy internally.
“We’re constantly iterating and reevaluating. It just didn’t make sense,” Hines explains.
As I said before, Bethesda was releasing games that reviewed extremely well, but they were all reviewed under the shadow of this new policy – a policy many dubbed as ‘anti-consumer’.
Not only that, but most of the titles were single-player experiences, released at a time when single-player game sales were struggling. Those early reviews could have helped get word out that they were worth buying.
“We did it the first time because there was the whole thing about transparency and companies needing to be transparent,” Hines explains of the initial decision. “We were like, ‘Well, you want us to be transparent, this is what we’re doing’.
“Then it ended up being the focal point and, honestly, we were tired of reading reviews where the first paragraph spent more time talking about our review policy than the game. So we decided we’re not going to keep drawing attention to it – we’ll send out copies and maybe people will start talking about the game instead of talking about policies. So we did.”