A trend that has been around a long time in the game industry could be in danger of going away. When new games come out media outlets usually are given review copies of the games so that they can have a review up either the days before or the day of the release. This is usually how many gamers find out if a game that they are interested in or that they pre ordered will be worth the asking price. When a game doesn’t have reviews out before release it has usually been a sign that the game is bad and that the publisher is trying to hide that as long as possible so that people won’t cancel their pre orders. However things seem to be changing.
Earlier this year Bethesda and id Software didn’t send review copies of Doom until the day the game came out. Many people thought this was going to mean that Doom didn’t turn out so well but it was the exact opposite. Doom ended up getting rave reviews and is one of the better games of the year to this point. Sales for the game have been good and because of this Bethesda has decided to go in a different direction for all of their games. Recently Bethesda announced that going forward they will not send early copies of their games out to anyone. This came up when people were wondering when they were going to get their review copies of Skyrim: Special Edition and Dishonored 2. Bethesda clearly saw from Doom that they can hold off sending the game early and still get good sales.
Another recent game of sending review copies late and still getting good sales is Mafia 3. The game launched in the first week of October and was one of the most anticipated games of the year. However people started to worry when 2K didn’t send out early copies. Was this going to be the case of Doom again where the game would turn out great or was it going to be like most examples prior to Doom that turned out bad? The answer was the latter as Mafia 3 got low to average review scores. It has a below 70 average which for a game that had the kind of hype it had was not good. However because 2K didn’t send out review copies early no one knew until it was too late and 2K benefited a lot from it. This past week when they did their earnings call they announced that Mafia 3 is the fastest selling game in 2K history having shipped 4.5 million copies digitally and to retailers in the first week. Now that is a shipped number and not indicative of how many players actually bought the game but 2K made their money by shipping them. This has clearly set a dangerous precedent that other publishers may follow in the future.
Publishers realize that by doing it the old way you could see sales drop off if the reviews aren’t as good as some gamers were hoping. By not having reviews up until late the publisher eliminates that risk of people cancelling their pre orders and in turn could end up seeing bigger first week launches like Mafia 3 as a result. With Mafia 3 having a big first week and Bethesda now not sending early copies anymore this is a trend that I feel like more games may follow. I personally hope that they don’t as I’m in favor of customers knowing before hand if the product is good or not. However there is no denying that from a business perspective it makes more sense to do it this new way.
What do you think of the possibility of more publishers and developers following in Bethesda and 2K’s footsteps? Do you think this is a trend that we will see more of? Let us know in the comments below.