On Tuesday, Bethesda Softworks – publisher of popular game series The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, as well as renowned games like Wolfenstein, Doom, and Dishonored – announced it would no longer provide reviewers access to its unreleased games until 24 hours before launch. It’s a policy that upends decades of gamers being able to rely on impartial critics to provide them an idea of a game’s quality when it goes on sale.We think this policy is damaging – for informed gamers, for games criticism in general, and even for Bethesda.
Obviously, Bethesda’s games are its property to do with as it pleases, and there is certainly nothing requiring them to be submitted for review. However, there is a reason providing early access to critics has been the standard practice in the games industry (as well as film, books, etc) since the very beginning: It’s a show of good faith. Allowing independent critics to evaluate a product and recommend it accordingly is a courtesy to consumers, and a demonstration that publishers and developers have confidence in the thing they’re asking you to spend money on and in the review process.