Pure Opinion: Bethesda, It’s Time to Trust Us Reviewers Again

It’s been a hard week. Not for me, not for Pure PlayStation, but for the games industry as a whole. Yesterday, EA announced the closure of Visceral Games, the studio that was working on a Star Wars game being led by Amy Hennig – the same lady who effectively gave birth to Nathan Drake’s adventures.

EA announced the closure with a thinly veiled message that basically said “we need to re-do the game so we can make more money off of it, rather than just get the cash for the initial sale.” This is how the industry works now. Loot boxes and microtransactions are making more money than ever before and, in some cases, they’re more profitable than the initial sale of the game. Understandably, then, EA is wanting to make sure it makes the most of any money-making opportunity it’s presented with. I don’t like it but I can understand it.

What’s my point, then? My point is that I love single-player games, and the idea of them being slowly phased out in favour of open world filled with microtransactions scares me. There are very few big-name single-player games these days that you could call ‘quality’ products. Bethesda is one of the leading publishers of said games, yet the company is watching its sales dribble away. You know what happens when a game doesn’t make enough money? Nothing good, let me tell you that much.

This week it was revealed that Bethesda’s The Evil Within 2 sold less than a quarter of what its predecessor sold in its opening week. That’s not a good news story. But it’s not a new news story, either, as The Evil Within 2 is just the latest casualty of Bethesda’s bizarre marketing strategy. A strategy that isn’t working for company, its bottom line, or its intended consumers.

Bethesda made the choice this year to not send out early copies of games to reviewers. However, “influencers” would still get access to games in order to stream them and let would-be players see the game in action while getting some feedback from whichever obnoxious plonker is screaming into a microphone. But hey, that’s the world we live in now. A world in which streamers are more valuable than reviewers. Oh, no, wait, they’re not. It’s obviously not working, is it.

Look back over the past few releases from Bethesda and you’ll see a familiar story crop up time and time again: the lack of sales. Prey is a prime example of this. Plenty of gamers are calling out Prey as being an amazing game that’d be worthy of Game of the Year status. Yet it sold poorly. So poorly that you’ll find it reduced in just about whatever place is selling video games. A month after release it was heavily discounted on the PlayStation Network. The games aren’t selling anywhere near as well as they should and now the publisher is being forced to offer a deep discount in an effort to turn a profit.

It used to be that a game would hold its digital price for at least a few months before any kind of discount was given. Now we’re seeing them much closer to the game’s original release. Something is seriously, seriously wrong.

Bethesda’s decision to basically cut off reviewers is killing it. Like or not, reviews are part of a game’s marketing, for better or worse. I know that I personally won’t drop a massive amount of money on a full-price game unless I’ve been able to play a demo or read a review from a source I trust. Would you? Would you blindly hand over $60/£50/€70 for a game without having the smallest hint to its quality? Some do, obviously, but I like to think that the majority would like to make an informed decision before parting with their cash.

If Bethesda wants to keep making excellent single-player games, it needs the sales to justify them. I’m not saying this because I want Bethesda to hand out copies of every game it makes to us here at Pure PlayStation, I’m saying this because I want Bethesda to keep making these great games.

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