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TechRaptor, Review Copies, and You

Andrew Otton / October 31, 2016 at 1:00 PM / Blog

With the recent news that Bethesda will be giving out review copies for Dishonored II and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition only a day before the games come out, we here at TechRaptor wanted to give our readers some insight into our review process.

This is a further elaboration on some points we have in our Ethics and Standards and our Review Score Policy. There you can of course find some more information that I won’t be going into much here, as well as a further look into some of the philosophy behind TechRaptor’s review process.

First and foremost, I’d like to get this out of the way. While it is nice to have a review up for an embargo, whether that be the day of release or before, that is not our primary concern with reviews. Of course, if we do not have a review up at the same time many other sites and publications do, it hurts us a bit in the amount of views that review will get. However, that hit is nowhere near as important to us as bringing you all quality reviews that include insightful critique, useful information, and a well-rounded look at the game.

With that said, I would be lying if I said that the traffic a review brings into the site is not a factor. We of course want to cover games of all shapes and sizes, from the smallest games to the massive big budget titles, but sometimes that is not the case for a few reasons.

The first is that our growth as a site is directly linked to a growth in audience, meaning that we have to spend a lot of effort covering things we think a lot of people will be interested in. As much as we love (and we truly do) giving attention to a lot of lesser known games and developers, we can’t make that our primary effort. I’d still say we do a pretty good job at highlighting some games that other sites don’t, but of course we would like to do more.

Second, nobody at TechRaptor makes a living wage from the site itself, so the difference between covering something and not covering it may come down to whether or not we can afford to purchase a game if we haven’t received a review copy. That last statement is going to scare some people, I know. The assumptions are starting to fly about how we are then beholden to developers/publishers, so we better make sure that we do all that we can to make them happy so we can continue to keep getting review copies. Wrong.

Our purpose is to inform, not to regurgitate or offer free advertising for anybody. We’re more than ready to tell someone when a game is great and well worth their time just as much as we are ready to warn them if the opposite is the case. If we become attached to any developer or publisher in a significant way, our purpose—the service we provide—becomes impossible. Covering as many sides as we can as objectively as we can is what we’re here to offer you. If that is threatened, then I’m not sure why we’re even here.

To become bound to any company is not in our best interests. Our reputation for offering fair, unbiased news, reviews, and other content is all that we can live by—what you, our audience, come here for. While we are all extremely passionate about games, it is not our goal to weave our way into the industry and become a part of it. One of the perks is of course seeing things before other people. However, we share our excitement or disappointment with you all because that is genuinely what we feel, not because someone told us to or because we feel obligated.

Getting back to the point, we’ll certainly give it our best effort to cover a game if we think it worth our time, but if we miss out, we miss out. That is an unfortunate situation for both our audience and TechRaptor itself. However, it is getting better. We are continuing to grow at a very rapid pace, especially recently, which is constantly opening up doors for us to do even more. So while this is more a reality for us now, it will not be in the future.

But onto the real point of this: what do review copies mean for TechRaptor? How do they affect our reviews? How do we treat certain instances differently?

Whether or not we receive a review copy has absolutely zero effect on the review itself.

If we receive a review copy in advance for a game to have the review ready for an embargo, great. If we don’t, oh well, we miss out. We’ll put in effort to get it out as quickly as possible, but we will never sacrifice quality for timeliness.

It’s not uncommon for us to receive review copies extremely close to a release date/embargo or even on the release day itself. If that is the case, we often put out a first impressions piece while the review is still ongoing. This allows us to get information out to you so that you can inform yourself as soon as possible, and of course lets us get some content related to the release of a game out as soon as we can as well.

Whether we get a review copy, don’t, get it on release, after release—whatever the case is, we treat the review process the exact same. If a game needs more time to review, it needs more time. Maybe a first impressions piece is appropriate, maybe not depending on the circumstances. If the game has been out for a while, we’d probably just wait for a review and not do a first impressions piece.

And that’s really it. We can’t let whether we receive review copies affect the way we review things, and we won’t. The moment we do is the moment every following review becomes suspect in its bias, which, as said before, undermines our whole purpose.

I have no issue, and neither do our other editors, in elaborating further. If you do have questions, please ask them below!

Andrew Otton

Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief at TechRaptor. Lover of some things, a not so much lover of other things.

  • WallyWallyWoxenFree

    Between Bethesda refusing to send review copies before embargo and people reporting that copies of Dark Souls III they received from Bandai Namco PR have been deactivated, I would say that things aren’t looking very well for reviewers.

  • Honestly, I think this is a good thing, if only for the wrong reasons.

    The good of it is preventing negative press from torpedoing a good game. The “good for the wrong reasons” bit comes from the fact that modern games “media” are absolute garbage with only few exceptions.

    The mainstream media as a general whole have become so thoroughly corrupt with identity politics, the best solution is to just nuke the entire industry from orbit because it’s the only way to be sure. Then rebuild from the ashes.

  • BurntToShreds

    I’d argue that it’s not just identity politics that the media’s become so heavily enamored with, but rather any sort of pretentious twattery that they can latch onto to make them seem like much more than they are. Stuff like game journalists writing articles with titles like “The Semiotic Mercantilism of The Witcher III” or “Ruminations on Baroque Militarism in Civilization VI”. I’m not opposed to such articles existing, but when theyre being displayed on a mainline game news site in between articles like “The new Gears of War 4 Weapon Executions are Epic” and “Top 7 Games I Wish I Played when I was 10”, it becomes very clear that they’re being written not out of a genuine intellectual pursuit but rather to make it seem like you’re covering an “All-grown-up” medium.

  • As far as Dark Souls III is concerned, that did happen to us, but it was only because the beta copies press were sent had expired, and our reviewer already has another copy.

  • hurin

    Some reviewers are mentally ill.

    Some have apparently never played a game before.

    And some (a lot actually) use reviews as an excuse to talk about irrelevant stuff.

    I could go on, and on, and on, but I think you get my meaning. I am sorry if this harms TR financially, but a lot of the gaming press is cancer and needs to die, unfortunately chemotherapy also harms the healthy cells.

  • Shaun Joy

    The problem with your analogy is simple. You think that the cancer is really going to be truly harmed over the hurting of those healthy cells. Those audiences are already there. If you actually look at the cases where there are limited review copies sent out later on, a lot of those top sites (Kotaku, Polygon, etc) are actually rather late with their reviews. They do still take the time it seems, even if they are “bad” at their job. And because they have an established audience…they get a reasonable amount of views. It’s about 70-80% of what they’d get if they had the review copy.

    Meanwhile, a site like TR…..well reviews can be an infection vector. Having that review copy and being able to provide a great detailed review that someone who googles it comes across…they can say “hey, this site seems alright. Its seems to know what it’s talking about, and actually sticks with my ideals”. That ‘s huge for a site really trying to fight the “big” guys and give you unbias coverage. But without that review copy, that infection vector is MUCH worse. People have already gotten their thoughts out because they don’t take the time or go into the detail in the race to coverage with Bethesda’s type of review policy. You get dominated in the search rankings because you weren’t first, regardless of the detail of your coverage.

    You use TB as an example here, but TB argued that review copies need to exist in a recent video. And there’s a reason for it, because despite the fact that yes, it gets abused by certain bad actors in the community: it really does level the playing field for coverage for the people who really stick with their values and bring you good coverage that you really want.

  • hurin

    That is why I support TR financially, because not only do I want to see bad games journalism destroyed, I also want to see the good sites survive.

    We are now seeing the long term consequences of how the major games studios outsmarted games journalism in 2014.

    Games media siding with critics like Anita and attacking Gamers, has meant that a lot of Gamers have been siding with studios against the media. In cases like with Daniel Vavra because he needed it, and in cases like Bethesda because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.