Money Matters

‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’ Reveals One Ugly Truth About Game Reviews

(Source: www.forbes.com)

Credit: EA/DICE

Buried near the bottom of Paul Tassi’s excellent piece on how long it takes to grind for Heroes in Star Wars: Battlefront II is an interesting pair of updates.

Tassi points to a video that shows Luke Skywalker costing only 10,000 credits to purchase in the game, as opposed to the 60,000 credits he now costs. Was this how much Luke used to cost before EA raised the prices? wonders Tassi. Or have they already lowered the prices this drastically?

It turns out that neither is the case. This was the price that Luke cost during EA’s ‘review event’ for the game. At these events, game publishers bring a bunch of journalists and streamers together to play the game, eat catered food, have access to the developers and so forth.

Some outlets and individuals even accept travel and lodging from the game publisher on top of the free food. Then, in hotel conference rooms and sometimes even in the hotel rooms themselves, these journalists and YouTubers play the game (on their own for the campaign, and in a group for the multiplayer.)

This is a very convenient way to review a game ahead of launch. You get access early and don’t have to worry about not getting a review code in time. You have the developers right there if you need to ask questions. You never want for food and drink. In many ways, it’s a great setup for all involved. Certainly game publishers like having reviewers right there, well fed and accessible. If someone doesn’t understand something or if there’s a bug or a problem, it can be fixed before a review is penned.

There are problems, though. For instance, many reviews of Call of Duty: World War II came out before launch thanks to the review event Activision held before that game’s launch. In that cloistered setting, where everything was hooked up via LAN rather than out on the public servers, there were no connectivity issues. For gamers on launch weekend, however, the game was something of a disaster. Even this past weekend (a 2XP weekend no less) World War II’s dedicated servers had to be taken down, leaving gamers with a less reliable peer-to-peer setup. I was kicked multiple times and unable to log back on for long stretches this weekend, something I know many others experienced as well.

None of this will be obvious at a review event and so none of these issues will be conveyed to potential consumers in a review.

Or take the cost of Luke Skywalker in Battlefront II. If I’m a reviewer at a review event and the Heroes cost one sixth of what they do at launch, I probably won’t even know this. I’ll probably assume that this is just how the game works and how much in-game stuff costs. My review will reflect this instead of the truth about the game. And that’s the problem with review events. Rather than reflect the truth of these games, they present only a cloistered impression of them; slivers of truth, obscured by the setting, the small changes that make this experience more of a test tube than real life.

Add to this all the other obscuring factors, from sometimes paid travel and lodging to fancy food and a nice hotel, the comaraderie formed between journalists/YouTubers and the developers, PR, and publishers, and you can start to see how, however convenient to all involved, review events are far from perfect when it comes to painting an accurate portrait of these games for gamers.

That doesn’t mean they’re useless or that the reviews that emerge from review events should be written off entirely. It simply means that savvy consumers should take them with a grain of salt.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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