Bethesda well and truly upset the apple cart a month or so ago when it said its new policy would be to withhold review codes until the day before a game’s launch. Only a select few hand-picked ‘tastemakers’ would be able to get hands on with the game before then. We first really saw this practice in action with Dishonored 2. Early sales figures suggest Dishonored 2 sales are down 38% on the original Dishonored. Could Bethesda’s new approach have backfired?
It’s certainly not because Dishonored 2 is a bad game. In fact, it’s one of the most highly rated of the year, pulling in an average score of 89%. We also need to factor in that sequels typically sell heaps more copies than the original. Brand awareness is much higher and the game is on everyone’s lips.
Now, the sales figures could be wrong. They only take into account physical copies sold, and console players may increasingly be buying their games digitally. SteamSpy doesn’t look too hot either there. There are an estimated 228,371 owners of Dishonored 2. That’s hardly setting the world on fire considering the original has amassed 2.8 million. It’s had a few years to do that sure, but it’s a base of nearly 3 million players which surely have a vested interest in the sequel.
When it comes to PC the finger of blame can be pointed at the myriad performance issues. On consoles, less so. Could gamers instead have been taking a wait and see approach for the reviews? Will interest pick up now the reviews are out there? Or did Dishonored 2 miss out on the all important launch day hype? I know myself I was hugely interested in the game. Without any prior knowledge of whether it was any good though I didn’t want to lay any cash down. Now that it’s been a few days however my hyped has cooled and I’m more inclined to wait until a sale.
Whatever the case, we could be seeing a cooling off of pre-order culture. After all, if every publisher did what Bethesda is doing we’d have no idea how good any game was until days after it launched. Would you really pre-order stuff in a situation like that? If everyone decided to abandon pre-orders the decision Bethesda made would really come back to bite it. If you’re confident in your product I see no reason why you wouldn’t let me people know about it before they part with cash.
So what do you think then, will holding back reviews potentially kill off pre-order culture? Or will the AAA hype machine trundle on regardless?