Being a Video Game Reviewer is a hard thing to do. The internet is flooded with millions of sites like The Outerhaven, all of which are great startups full of passionate people that are writing, recording, editing and doing all manner of things to publish articles and reviews for the billions of people on planet Earth to read and enjoy. However, in order to review a game, we need to have that game to review. Gaming is not a cheap hobby, which is why a lot of sites will apply for Media/Press accreditation with the various gaming developers, publishers and PR firms that are involved in the gaming business in order to obtain review copies of games anywhere from months in advance till just after release.
But recently a new trend has emerged. With the advent of things like YouTube and Twitch gaining more eyeballs than even broadcast or cable television can obtain, those three powerhouse groups have started to favor YouTube and Twitch over traditional gaming media sites that have either supported the companies with great reviews of their games or even shell out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars buying the games to play anyway without review copies being offered… And it’s starting to get annoying.
So What’s Happening Exactly?
Recently, 2K Games decided to not give any copies of their upcoming game Mafia III to any press outlets even after sending out surveys and forms for sites to fill out in order to obtain a review copy of the game. The gaming website Polygon recently published an article about why there will be no Mafia III review on their site upon release. Polygon stated the following:
Polygon was informed via a phone call from a 2K representative yesterday evening that 2K Games has decided not make the game available to press from any outlet prior to its release. This is, of course, 2K’s decision to make, though it is a departure from both 2K’s previous track record with non-sports titles and general industry practice, despite some noteworthy exceptions in recent years from various publishers on games like Destiny and, most recently, Id Software’s reboot of Doom.
Continuing on in the article, once 2K Games was reached by Polygon representatives, they were given the following compromise:
2K games offered Polygon reviewable copies of Mafia 3 that would unlock upon the game’s “first global availability” on digital retail storefronts — at approximately 4:00 AM Pacific on Thursday, October 6. We’ve declined this offer, and will be securing our own retail copies ofMafia 3 at the earliest opportunity. With that in mind, it is extremely unlikely that Polygon will have a review up at the time of Mafia 3’s launch next week, though we will do as much as we can to expedite the review process and share our impressions once we have the game in hand.
Now big respect to Polygon for wanting to continue delivering the most professional outcome that they can muster. Turning down a free copy of anything is hard to do, especially when it is from a big publisher like 2K Games. When you turn down something from one of the bigger publishers, then put out an article stating why you are not going to cover their next big title in a timely manner; you do risk not getting anything from that publisher again. So again, much respect to Polygon for beginning this.
*Editor in Chief Note – We’ve also reached out to our 2K Games rep to see what exactly is happening*.
However, it seems that 2K Games has a new favorite set of people to give those review copies to Twitch Streamers and YouTubers.
A search of either platform will result in videos upon videos of people who have been able to get their hands on a copy of Mafia III, which is not due out until October 7, 2016, & WWE 2K17, which is not out until October 11, 2016. While Mafia III isn’t so much of a big deal as the game is only 5 days away, WWE 2K17 is worse with people getting their hands on the game over a month early and practically having free reign to put up videos detailing every new mode, change, characters and even the entire Universe and MyCareer modes! This is where we here at The Outerhaven draw the line.
It can’t be all that bad? You get to play the games anyway. Don’t you enjoy what you do?
While we do get games from time to time from the big publishers (Or at least I do personally since Australian offices of the Publishers and PR Firms are much nicer than their American counterparts), a lot of what you see reviewed on the site comes right from our own hip pocket. Most of the games and tech that we’ve reviewed? 90% of that was bought by the person who is doing the reviewing (Again, except for me, I’m extremely lucky and get sent a lot of stuff to review.). Not to mention the cost of running the site which comes out of the pocket of our Editor-In-Chief Keith Mitchell. We make nothing from YouTube, we make barely anything from donations on Twitch, and we run this site ad-free for the most part; which leaves the cost of everything on us.
We all have a passion for gaming, this is true, and we also have a passion for writing and/or video development. If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t be here, to begin with. I’m also not going to lie to you and say that we have not gotten anything from anyone ever. We here at The Outerhaven have been lucky enough to have a lot of big Publishers, Developers and PR Firms that love what we put out and send us stuff most of the time. As I mentioned before, I’m lucky that I have the connections with places like 2K Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Square-Enix, HyperX, Kingston, Razor, Turtle Beach, EA Games, Konami, Capcom & others that send me games almost monthly here in Australia (And none of the opinion in this article has anything to do with them by the way). 90% of my personal games to play and review are provided by those companies almost anytime I send them an email. However, on the American side, things are starting to dry up for us as a lot of those same Publishers and their PR Firms are moving to new metrics in order to work out who should get a copy of their games early or not.
This is where the problem arises. A lot of PR Firms and Community Mangers are 20-something late Collage or post-Collage people who have been brought up in the age of social media. They are the ones who spend all their time on their phones posting on Facebook or Twitter and watching videos on YouTube. They are the people who have made those like PewDiePie & Markiplier into multi-million subscriber hits. To them, these metrics are the new wave of how things are going to be promoted and looked at, which is wrong. While YouTube & Twitch can get the information out to people in an entertaining manner, websites with written reviews will always have much more in-depth coverage and reach than those on streaming media ever will.
If you get the games, why not put stuff out too?
Now this was something that has been thrown around The Outerhaven Slack App for the last few months now. When we do get something early from a Publisher or PR Firm, it usually has this word attached: Embargo. What is an “Embargo”? An Embargo is something that we are legally bound to in order to get the privilege of having the game long before release date. Usually, an Embargo will state that a review is not allowed online until a specific date (usually 2-3 days before the game’s release date) and if there are any specific parts of the game we are not allowed to upload to YouTube or stream on Twitch since it would spoil parts of the game.
Unlike a lot of YouTubers/Streamers, who really couldn’t give a shit about following YouTube or Twitch’s rules in the first place, we here at The Outerhaven believe in honoring the Embargo conditions that the Publishers & PR Firms give us. It’s a sign of trust between us and them. We want to continue to help these businesses make money and in turn, they keep our costs down by sending us the odd copy or two of their next big hit.
The problem with this is that by the time we get our review out to you, about a million other YouTube channels have already put out every last little bit of information, thus leaving us getting a few hundred views on our videos while they get tens of thousands, plus all the ad revenue that comes along with people watching those videos.
So what’s going to happen?
Over the last month, our EIC has stated privately that we perhaps we shouldn’t bother trying anymore. The frustration of trying to keep this site afloat during a time where several American Publishers or PR Firms are unwilling to keep their word when they promise to deliver review copies clearly showing in his statement. The other option is to take the risk and publish YouTube videos that break Embargo and possibly never get another game from a Publisher again. We are trying so hard to stick to our morals, something YouTubers do not have as they will sell out in a second to get more views. We are also trying to increase our presence on YouTube and Twitch in order to meet the new metrics that companies are using, but that is one hell of an uphill battle.
However there is one thing that I have suggested that is being discussed and should be thought about by all websites: Slow down on covering 2K Games/T2 even if you do get something from them (If you do get anything from the American arm, if you have a non-American supplier keep treating them right). At the moment, 2K Games no longer considers websites worth paying attention to, so I say we do the same to them. Stop putting reviews of their games out at launch, wait a week or two before releasing it as a sign of protest. After all, they are already giving all the publicity and review copies to YouTube anyway. What do you really have to lose?
*Editor in Chief Note – Getting access to early review copies allow us the ability to get reviews conducted in a timely matter BEFORE they are publically available. These let us provide clear and unbiased reviews for our readers to decide if that latest and greatest game is worth their hard-earned cash. Does this mean that we don’t purchase our own copies of the game? No, not at all. If there’s a game that we feel should be reviewed and we aren’t able to get access to a copy earlier, we’ll definitely purchase it with out own money. This does mean that the review will come later than we’d like, it doesn’t mean that won’t do one and let our readers down.