RPS Asks: Do You Care About Early Reviews?

By Alec Meer on May 19th, 2011 at 5:30 pm.

'Read all abaaaaaaaaht it, yesterday's news!'

Games journalism, back when we were all young bucks with spotty faces and an infinite capacity for fizzy lager drinks, used to work like this: you’d be sent game review code far in advance of its release, and you’d be able to publish your review days or even weeks before street-date. This system was expected and indeed necessary for magazines, with their weeks-long production cycle and de facto chokehold on gaming criticism. When gamers went to game shops, they’d thus have at least a working sense of what might or might not be worth their hard-earned.

Today, especially but not solely for websites, it’s become pretty much standard to be embargoed from publishing a game review until the day the game goes on sale – so not until the opportunity to buy the game has already come about.

Often, someone will have secured some manner of exclusive coverage agreement to get their review out early, but for most of us, most of the time we have to wait along with the gamers. (The great exception is most indie games, which rightly reckon that all coverage is good coverage in the case of something that can’t also muscle its way into public awareness from brute advertising force). In many cases, we don’t even get code until mere days before or even the day itself of release, so we have to burn various forms of midnight oil to get a review up as soon as possible after that – by which point a load of readers have likely just gone ahead and bought the thing anyway.

So why are we made to wear these release-day handcuffs? Well, primarily it’s about control of information. A negative review before a game’s out can result in consumers deciding in advance they’re not going to buy it, while a cacophony of positive scores hitting the web at the same time can conversely make consumers convinced they absolutely must buy it right away this minute. Marketing budgets and efforts are huge, so reviews potentially undermining their psychological effects (i.e. The Hunger) upon likely purchasers is a greatly feared prospect. The rise and rise of Metacritic as a business and consumer benchmark is an additional factor – the more that can be done to shape and manage averaged game scores there the better, as far as a games publisher is concerned.

Games magazines and sites can’t do a lot about this for the time being if they want to be guaranteed an ongoing supply of code, although one of the interesting undertones of the Kotaku/Modern Warfare 3 leak controversy is that as well as quite obviously generating mega-hits for that site, it perhaps also demonstrates just how hard the doggy can bite once it decides its PR master isn’t feeding it properly. I don’t actually suspect it was any kind of intentional protest against Activision arguably courting the media rather less than it once did, but do wonder if it could perhaps result in a rethought PR approach from that firm.

The net result, though, is that it’s probably tougher than it once was to get a good sense of whether a game’s for you in advance of it being released, unless you’re happy to put all your eggs in the basket of a magazine that’s noisily dedicated its cover to an early review of the game in question. We weren’t, you’ll have noticed, able to get hold of the Witcher 2 prior to its public availability, apparently because the devs wanted sites to play a patched build. A fair few magazines were allowed to sidestep this requirement due to their long lead-times (otherwise their reviews couldn’t be out until up to a month after release), but for the most part potential Witcher 2 purchasers would have been unable to read a verdict from whatever their preferred critical outlet was until a few days later. Not ideal, but I can entirely appreciate that the devs wanted what they deemed the released version of their game to be reviewed rather than an earlier one.

I could just have a big moan about the wider practice of withholding games until the last minute, and how it’s all terribly unfair, and how online journos should be trusted with earlier code as much as print journos are, that we’re not going to break embargoes or upload code to the Pirate Bay and that we’ll politely enquire about issues we hit and do the best we can to be fair to both dev and gamer, but that’s another argument and this is probably the wrong forum for it. My question, instead, is for you – how much does a day-one review actually, honestly matter to you?

We’ve begun to wonder whether in the internet age these early reviews are actually less important, and less interesting, than the discussions both writers and readers can have when a game is available for everyone to play. A few days after release, plenty of you lot will be playing or have even finished the game yourselves. You’ve doubtless got stuff to say about it, rather than just about whether our piece of writing was any good or not, how many typos there were or whether there’s further information you yet desire. You can engage in the dialogue, and offer far more commentary and insight because you’ve got the same source material as us. It’s more fun that way for us hacks, too – a chat with folk who’ve run their hands and brains all over the same game can be much more rewarding than just a lecture.

So: is this post-release discussion more valuable to you than getting to read our/whoever’s opinion before purchase, or is having, essentially, a buyer’s guide to a product you’re interested in far more important to you? Let’s hear it, love.

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250 Comments »

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  1. pakoito says:

    I don’t, I’d rather read some early impressions and then get the game properly reviewed a month later after 0day patches and stuff.

    Also, please please please start doing more “lets play” for indie games. I miss Onionbog chronicles and the others, but applied to new games like Terraria.

    • airtekh says:

      I’m the same.

      I rarely buy games on or around release day anyway, due to me having a backlog of games to play.

      A far more useful review to me would be one that is based on a game which has seen a few patches. It would be more representative of the game as well.

    • Aemony says:

      This. I get the feeling that rushed reviews coming before the release of a game is in many cases bought reviews. I’ve already been disappointed a lot of times when buying games for me to learn that it’s better to wait until the better reviews are coming.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Pretty much this. There’s not a great deal of point making reviews that cater to the impatient, since the impatient will have pre-ordered anyway.

      And all bow before the mighty power of the Demo.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I agree with the above, and don’t care a jot for a speedy review, not that I’m being noble about it or anything; I read reviews after I’ve played games, mostly in hopes of having my opinion validated. When it happens, I’m happy; when it doesn’t, well, at least I’ve broadened my perspective a little (provided I can anticipate and deter the cognitive dissonance as it kicks in).

      Buyer’s guide reviews do have to exist because there’s clearly a demand for them. But not every outlet has to do them! I’m sure if you just bought yer games on release like us poor souls down in the muck here, giving them a couple of weeks to digest before the review went up, you’d not get many less readers giving the resultant piece an eyeing – probably more if it had a positive effect on the quality of review.

      If you’re willing to make an experiment here at RPS towers then I say by all means go for it!

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      I concur. If I’m drooling in anticipation of a game’s release, I just buy it and play it myself. Otherwise, I have enough games on Steam and my hard drive to keep me busy until I see a review.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Exactly. NEVER EVER buy or license ANYTHING on release day! Unless you want quaranteed shoddiness, more bugs than features, and love buying small felines in opaque bags.

      I wait, until my trusty RPS has written-up a well thought-through review, and then maybe I’ll get it from a P2P service, and even more maybe-er-er-er I’ll pay them something for their service, depending on if I have the money at all, they offering me a price that I deem worth it, and me having the time to also play it.
      I make an exception for EA games and similar evil companies though, that won’t ever see a cent from me, as I obviously and like every other sane person want to crush and destroy them.

    • bookwormat says:

      I “This” this thises.
      (except for the lame piracy excuse above)

    • Maykael says:

      Paokito called it.

    • bob_d says:

      Yep, same here. Not that I ever felt the need to buy games as soon as they were released, but these days I have such a huge backlog of games that I’m slowly going through, so I generally wait for a game to drop in price before I even think about buying it.

    • Baines says:

      As Aemony says, early reviews these days carry a feeling of being bought.

      And how can they not, considering that early reviews effectively are being bought. Game publishers shop around for the best deal for early exclusives. They aren’t going to give an early exclusive to a site or magazine that they think is going to be critical. No, the publishers are looking for the review sites that are going to be positive about the game. And the site or magazine has an incentive to not be critical, because they want to get future exclusives.

      And honestly, with the state of game releases today, where zero-day patches have not only become the norm, they don’t even necessarily fix the game, an early review only has three choices in what to say: They can lie (saying the game is great when it may be a bug-riddled mess), they can be “cautiously optimistic” (playing up the positives, mentioning bugs and problems but at the same time saying that the developer has promised that they’ll be ironed out by release), or decry the game as a failed bug-riddled mess (likely costing themselves any future free reviews, possibly making them look silly or at least overly negative when the game *is* patched, and quite possibly making bad blood with other publishers who don’t want to risk their own half-finished or bug-riddled games being torn apart in reviews).

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      Pretty much the same as pakoito said.

    • Ghost of Grey Cap says:

      Another vote for pakoito.

    • Josh W says:

      Pakoito for president!

      Or in other words, a few thoughts about the early dodgy version of a game would be good, so people who’ve pre-ordered have some early chat. Especially if it’s “wow this one is already playable” vs “buggy mess”.

      Then some review, then more fun stuff that suits the game, if it deserves it.

      Then an interview, analysis, retrospective, gaming made me, mod news, whatever. Over the next few hundred years.

    • MonkeyTwat says:

      I put more credence into reviews of the nature I read on RPS than I should do. But I wouldn’t trust an early release review because that reviewer is under a lot of stress to be complimentary or miss the next early review. I prefer to wait until after release and hear what the real review says.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I must “this” pakoito like so many others.

      However, I’m not sure people like me (us?) should be your target audience. I mean, I come to Rock Paper Shotgun because I’m looking for interesting things to read, not for advice in buying things. Not that you don’t give good advice, it’s just not what I’m primarily looking for. However, your advertisers would probably be more interested in the kind of people who come here for advice in buying things.

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      icarussc says:

      This one speaks for me as well.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      The man speaks true.

    • Reivles says:

      As I believe is traditional, “This.”

      One of the frustrating things about many 0-day reviews is that they’ll blow the crap out of a game that’s bug-ridden and clunky – which is fine, if you’re trying to rush off to the store and buy it. But it’s hardly fair a month later once they’ve patched most of it.

      Really, what’s really wanted is a First Impressions, that tends to clue in that the game is out there and worth looking at… and then a after-some-patches review that is actually accurate of the game proper.

      I mean, who the heck buys Day 0 anyway? You’ve pre-ordered it for 10% off, or are waiting to see how it turns out, right? :p

    • starclaws says:

      Ya I think we all can agree that games get rushed a bit too much that they don’t ever get rid of the obvious bugs anymore. They don’t even have to have a tester to notice these things. It is also nice to wait a month when the overpriced,10-hour-max-game-play, game goes down $10-$20.

      But I like reading reviews just to see what other opinions are. Most of the time I disagree with them unless they actually state weaknesses in a game. YOU CAN’T STATE STRENGTHS WITHOUT WEAKNESSES! And just think to myself that “They will only release 4 multiplayer maps” or “less than 10 hours gameplay” or “it will be a cookie cutter blood on your shaking screen with that SCAR gun and red dot sight scope but don’t worry… You slowly heal like its some kind of HALO game.”

      Then its: “I guess I’ll just wait another year for the next great game.” But because I waited soo long to play a decent game for once. I end up buying it on release day. I try to limit my game purchases to 1-2 a year it seems like because the quality of all the others are just terrible.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      What he said, pakoito hits the nail on the head.

    • thebluemonkey81 says:

      Ditto,

      I’d rather a post release neutral review of a game rather than a pre-release review that “has to score over 80%” or is just so one sided it’s painful.

      This is kinda the reason I run about a year behind on most big budget games.

      Yes, I’m excited about Deus Ex 3
      No, I won’t be getting it on day 1

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      Jerricho says:

      What a sha… I mean “This”.

      Its not often that I’d buy a game on release day anyway but as Consumatopia suggested, the regular readership of RPS are not necessarily the target demographic for retailers. I know I at least come here for the growth of insight on a game from inception to patched release rather than a simple yay or nay buying guide on the next title. Thats not to say my purchases are not influenced by what I read here.

      Also, more Onion Bog please :)

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      You make all my decisions for me, including this one.

  2. Novotny says:

    Both, sorry! Now work harder.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Here’s my early opinion: Yes.

      My actual opinion says NO though.

    • slight says:

      I actually agree with both. Although I’m not a big RPG fan I’ve enjoyed the Witcher coverage. I think just giving information as you have it is fine as long as you make it clear how much you’ve played the game. For a game I’m keen to but I’ll appreciate all the info I can get. Brink is a good example of this. So early impression is better than nothing. “I’m loving it so far!” From someone whose opinion I respect is a useful thing. Then a more detailed exhaustive review when you’re ready.

      Also you guys and the other (especially the more ‘indie’ but well repected) sites should seriously get together and tell the publishers where to stick it. It’s not like there’s even much to lose at this point from the impression I get.

    • Mark says:

      Both, as well. I need early reviews – as long as they’re accurate, of course – so that I can make a reasonable gamble on laying down my £20-30. I also enjoy the post-release analysis and discussion from sites like RPS. Unfortunately, I will likely not read such discussion unless I played the game at release, based on the early reviews I saw which said it was good.

      So, one type of review feeds into the other, in my case.

  3. MiniMatt says:

    Personally not fussed – if I’m going to buy a game on release date chances are I know enough about it and am fired up enough about it that I’ll likely buy it regardless (things like Civ 5 were always going to be first day purchases for me).

    But yeah, review in a timely manner shortly after release date is fine for me, after the first patch hits etc.

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      Duck says:

      Exactly the same for me, if I know I want a game then I’ll preorder it so it won’t matter about having a review to read. I’ve recently received Portal 2, Dragon Age 2 and Brink on release and I’ve been pleased with all of them (yes really!)
      It’s games that I’m not sure about that a review would matter. Maybe reading the review is enough to get me to buy it there and then, maybe it’s a handy reference for when there’s a sale somewhere- I wouldn’t have bought things like Amnesia, Spacechem or BFBC2 without something to read up on (or perhaps known about) but I certainly didn’t get them on release.
      Having comments to read after the game’s been about a short while is also a bonus, especially here!

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      skalpadda says:

      What the two fine gentlemen above said. If I’m considering buying something on day 1 it’s unlikely a review will matter in any case, and I’d rather see a reviewer take a little extra time to explore a game than speeding through it just to get the review out there as soon as possible.

      Out of curiosity, how much does the time you publish a review matter to you guys on RPS? Does it receive much less attention if it’s a few days “late”?

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      TeraTelnet says:

      I don’t always trust ‘exclusive!!!!1′ reviews to be brutally honest. I’d rather wait to see what my favourite games journos think of a game, whether the review be early or late (RPS for PC games, obv), plus I like to hear what my online contacts and friends think about it too. That Hydrophobia clunker is a prime example of a game I would have bought without such input.

      With enough games in my to-play list so that immediately buying the latest new thing is not really an issue, plus the massive discounting that inevitably seems to take place after increasingly short periods of time, I can mostly (unless I’m really interested in the game already or have played a demo and so have drawn my own conclusions) afford to wait until ESSENTIAL INFORMATION HAS BEEN DISSEMINATED.

  4. kyrieee says:

    I don’t use reviews as purchasing advice, so no. I mostly read stuff here on RPS, and a few other places, to get some well articulated opinions on a game I’ve played myself.

  5. LMN8R says:

    The main problem is that some people feel obligated to buy day-one because of excessive preview coverage, and then they feel entitled to a day-one review because they ABSOLUTELY MUST KNOW RIGHT NOW if the game is worth buying day-one or not.
    Seems to make more sense to me to simply set expectations ahead of time. Tell your audience “hey dudes I’m going to actually take my time to play through this game, and I will have a review for you a few days or a week after release.” That way you can see how the final release holds up, and get a feel from the community how undiscovered technical problems may affect the game.

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    P7uen says:

    If a person is desperate enough to get a game before they read your words then your timeliness is irrelevant.

    If a person is waiting for your opinion before they buy a game, then clearly the importance is on the quality of your WIT, not the timeliness.

    I don’t want any change for the way they are done on RPS, but the value of discussion among fellow RPSers is great, maybe to be a bit more organised, how about a sub-forum where we can keep the threads down to 1 per new-release and ask each other the burning questions if we feel the need.

    • Jad says:

      If a person is desperate enough to get a game before they read your words then your timeliness is irrelevant.

      If a person is waiting for your opinion before they buy a game, then clearly the importance is on the quality of your WIT, not the timeliness.

      So perfectly said. There are very, very few games that I will pre-order/buy in the first couple of days of release — Portal 2 so far, and I’m thinking Skyrim too. A review, in terms of a buyer’s guide, is of course useless for me for those games (unless you posted a Skyrim review weeks in advance or something). For anything else, I’m fine with waiting for a review, because I want to know how good the game is — and if a later review can inform me of that better, then that is better for me.

    • slM_agnvox says:

      Aye, well said! Many times I read reviews to learn about games I was NOT aware of, often several years after the fact! Quality over timeliness, FTW!

      Furthermore, RPS reviews of AAA titles are not the main course when I visit, I much prefer filling up on news, features, and highlights and reviews of games I would’ve not heard of otherwise.

      Cheers!

  7. MrWolf says:

    Wot’s “The Pirate Bay” and, pray tell, wot riches does it hold?

  8. Ace Jon says:

    I know in terms of reviews, it doesn’t matter to me if they’re there on Day 1. If I’m really considering a Day 1 purchase, it’s not because it got a good review on that day: it’s because of the design previews, the brand, and other preconceptions.

    For instance, if Left 4 Dead 3 was announced at E3 (I know it won’t, this is hyopthetical) – that would very soon be preordered on Steam. If CD Projekt say they’re releasing a game with no DRM, free DLC and no consolitis, I preorder on impulse. I don’t have the time to play The Witcher 1 or 2 at the moment, but they’re on my harddrive because those people deserve my money. If I see my friend making a Youtube video about a little-known indie sandbox game that only osts about £7, I’ll pick it up (and then look down on everyone who got Minecraft after it was “cool”).

    I read full, in-depth reviews if I really need to make a decision about a game – which isn’t going to happen Day 1, or if I just want a nice read. I usually read reviews of games I bought on release/had preordered after I’ve played them, as a sort of social “I wonder what they think” thing. The number 1 catalyst for making me buy a game on release that I wasn’t planning on buying is non-professional hype, like the personal writings of RPS (not WIT), Reddit or one of the smaller communities I’m a part of.

    • Jeremy says:

      I’m the same way. I have my “pizza” games, meaning I like the genre, or developer enough that even a bad “pizza” is still pretty good. If I have any questions or doubts about a game, I wait until a game has been dissected by a good amount of people, and I can read into whether or not I will like the game or not.

      Bioshock 2 was a game I was on the edge with for instance, and after reviews and reading various “WIT” types, I basically decided on waiting for it to be a budget purchase. On the other hand, Mass Effect 2 was a no questions asked pre-order because it fell into a couple of categories of “things I love.” Guns, space, lots of dialogue, etc. While it lacked some of the finer RPG points I prefer, the character development was far better than I had imagined, so it evened out.

      Short answer: Early reviews are dead to me.

    • somini says:

      Me too. If I want to buy a game no matter what, it’s not a bad review that will stop me. I avoid any spoilers and most promotional material so that I can enjoy the game for what it is and not what it thought it could be.
      Right now I haven’t played Portal2 YET, but I’m in a media blackout about it, so that I can enjoy it later.

    • minipixel says:

      same here. i also avoid reviews of games i’m interested in. too many spoilers, like those trailers showing half of the movie..

  9. Moni says:

    I pretty much avoid reading reviews until I’ve played the game for myself, so I have an unspoilt experience. Although, I do skim a review or two, just to look for the keywords “truly awful” or “eye-gouging horror”.

    Otherwise, I prefer the retrospective kind of review. They tend to be more subjective, therefore a more interesting read.

  10. westyfield says:

    I really don’t mind. I only preorder a game if I know I’m going to buy it anyway (Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3 are current examples of this). Otherwise I’ll wait a bit until it’s been patched and other people have had a chance to play through and form opinions.
    Multiplayer games are the exception, where it can be much more fun to be there at the beginning, so you can figure out how everything works with friends, instead of coming in a few months later and finding that the game is dead or that everyone is an elite killing machine.

  11. BobJustBob says:

    Generally it is cheaper and easier to preorder a game the day before release than the day of release. With Amazon’s release date shipping (free with Prime, a buck for anyone else) and their ten or even twenty dollar credits on most big releases, I can effectively order a game for $40 the day before it comes out and get it the next day. If I wait until release day, I pay full price and it takes two days to reach me. Typically if I pass on a discounted preorder price, I’ll wait until the post-release price has fallen past that point before buying. With preorder incentives becoming more common and more significant, they actually work as disincentives for a post-release purchase.

    All that is to say that if a review isn’t coming out before release, it doesn’t really matter if it is posted the day of release or a few weeks later. Better to take time and make something of quality rather than rushing it to hit an insignificant deadline.

    • wcaypahwat says:

      “Better to take time and make something of quality rather than rushing it to hit an insignificant deadline.”

      This goes for the dev’s, too. (which, as an added bonus, would stop a few of the bad reviews they’re so paranoid will cost them their precious day 1 sales)

  12. Gnoupi says:

    It’s not as much about absolutely getting early reviews, but nowadays, many sites have quite enticing preorder promotions.

    Typically, like D2D these last months, which allowed me to get for example Bulletstorm or Brink for half the price I would have paid on Steam (admitted that the euro/gbp price difference was helping to get to such 50%).

    This kind of price will most likely happen only like 6 months later, or more, depending on the game. So for such situations, it’s important to have early reviews, because it helps deciding on the preorder bonuses and price.

    However, aside from such cases, I don’t care much for early reviews. Like for the Witcher 2, I prefer to have a full, well written review, rather than a hurried point of view.

    Early reviews are also silly for some games, like observed for Brink, exactly. Plenty of reviews released at same time as the game, and most of them were hurried, with wrong facts, and evidences that the reviewer didn’t even play more than 4 hours (we had that on a French site).

    So I think the good recipe is to have a preview in the month before the release, and a full, well-written review, the week of the release, not especially on the release day.

  13. Flint says:

    I do value “buyer’s guide” reviews. I enjoy reading well-written, detailed opinions on games that interest me. I don’t have all the money in the world and getting some sort of precise information on what I might be spending money on is really helpful – especially when it comes from a trusted source. RPS is one of those trusted sources – even if we do not see eye to eye sometimes in terms of preferring certain game aspects, the Wot I Thinks and group opinion posts etc still give a clear indication of what the game is actually like, without any massive bias to any direction.

    But at the same time, I don’t really see any point in rushing the reviews to come out in day 1 or even before the release date: I found it a bit silly to get several different posts on The Witcher this week, with an almost apologetic tone on how there wasn’t a WIT up and ready the second the game was out in public. I don’t really buy games the moment they are out (outside a rare few cases), instead getting them when the time is right for me – day 1 reviews mean nothing to me. As an added benefit, when other people have gotten some time to play the game, the comments threads here become increasingly useful as they offer several more views on the game. In some cases here they’ve given me an additional incentive to get something I was unsure of.

    I don’t think you guys should fuss over getting reviews up on release dates. Write and release one when the time is right, when you think you’ve played enough of the version you believe is the correct one to review. I don’t know about the details of the machination behind the blog, but you’re a blog on the net and not a magazine with strict deadlines.

    So, uh, to answer the actual question – no I don’t really care about early reviews.

  14. McDan says:

    Finally, working. Kept getting the ol’ 503 error there. Did you ever finish sorting out that competition to find a new page for it?

    Anyways, seeing as the only reviews of games I read are on RPS anyway I like them as they are. So I don’t know how that answers your question. But personally I’d be more than willing to wait longer for a more in depth review, giving whoevers doing it time enough for it. I think you lads do a bang-up job as it is. Keep it funny!

  15. misterk says:

    They sort of matter. I do not often buy a game early in its life time, but when I do its usually because if things you guys have to say. I am never that desperate for a game that I need a day one review, if I was that excited I probably would have pre ordered, as I did with portal 2. I enjoy your reviews, as your conclusions are often interesting, but see no harm in them coming or a week or so after release. Of corset commenters such as myself are probably least likely to think off rps as a buyers guide. I suspect that day 1 searchers for a review who then get drawn in might disagree…

    might be worth asking how people found rps. My own story is unlikely to be typical ( googled my own name, discovered there was a games journalist in bath who shared the first part, followed his blog then rps when it came to be)

  16. Tuor says:

    Generally speaking, I’d rather have an accurate and detailed review than a hasty one. If this means I have to wait a few days (or longer) in order to get one, that’s fine.

    OTOH, on a site like this one, a quick, “Hey, we just started reviewing Game X and it looks pretty good so far. We should have a full review up in a few hours/days/weeks” is helpful, too. This sort of thing tells me to keep the game on my radar.

    So, while it’d be ideal to have both, if I had to choose I will take a detailed review from someone who has played the game extensively.

    • Torgen says:

      This second paragraph is important enough to emphasize (as I was too daft to mention it in my post below.)

  17. Jad says:

    Has the current mania for pre-orders and “Day One Purchase!” and all that always been around? Because I feel like a decade ago it really was just not big issue if you got a game a couple of weeks or even months after it came out. Now I see people saying its fine to spoil Portal 2 a week after its release, “because everyone should have finished it already”.

    No, I do not care about early reviews. I care about good reviews. I care about reviews where the reviewer has taken the time to play the game fully and in the manner that most people play the game — not giant 15 hour marathon sessions. I care about reviews of the game I will actually play — with any early patches and, if multiplayer, against regular people, not the developers or other reviewers.

    Games are not food, that you need to eat before it spoils. You can wait a week or two before playing a game.

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      Biscuitry says:

      I agree fully with what Jad says here. I make a point of not buying a game until it’s been out for a while, for a variety of reasons (price, patches, demo availability, etc.), and it’s very clear from the discussion here that I’m not alone.

    • Josh W says:

      I never by games straight after release, because I’m usually behind the tech curve, and I like to be chilled in how I buy stuff.

      It’s actually a nice feeling to save up for a game, too, all the joy of leveling, with the crunchy filling of financial responsibility.

      But I do wonder whether my “buying vote” is not getting counted, and whether publishers think that because I’m not buying it this week, that studio I like is rubbish.

  18. Flameberge says:

    I find early, or on-release reviews are still important for me – but only when I am excited about a game. If I think I want that game, I want to know from a source I trust (usually your fine selves and certain writers at PC GAMER) whether it is in fact any good. This was the case for Brink, which i was excited for, and came out on the deadline day of my Masters’ degree so I was in the mood to buy a new game for the following weekend. Turned out, that – as I suspected actually, Graham Smith’s cautious previews in PCG whilst everybody else creamed themselves over the game turned out to be pretty accurate – it wasn’t worth the asking price and is a purchase for me down the line eventually, perhaps. That’s what I need these early reviews for.

    Also, in the above situation, I want to buy my games from an online retailer, because that way I can save myself a boatload of money. So if its a game I really want, I want to know whether it is generally considered good or bad a few days before street date so I can order online and still get it when I want it.

    But aside that specific situation of a game being something I am really excited about, having early or day-1 reviews doesn’t matter that much – I usually buy games a couple of months down the line when they’ve already dropped at least a tenner off the asking price and I have a much broader wealth of information on which to base my purchasing decision.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    “Games magazines and sites can’t do a lot about this for the time being […] ”

    There, you have it. If it’s simply not possible, it’s not a question whether I’d love an early review or not. All I want is a *profound* review and nothing that has hastily been written just to get it out as quickly as possible. I only read a “Wot I Think” piece because I want to know if this game is for me, which means I haven’t pre-ordered or day-one-bought it. Therefore I want you guys to tell me everything, to weigh pros and cons etc. If it means I’ll have to wait a week after release, fine, I’m okay with that. I’m no longer 15 years old where I needed to have everything right now.

    My gaming time is precious and I want it to be wortwhile spent with a good game not something I just bought “because it’s new and stuff”.

    Regarding your second point: I like a good game discussion in a WIT comments section. It means I can learn about other perspectives and what readers that I came to know (e.g. Vinraith) think about it. It actually really helps me in a decision about a purchase so I don’t want to miss it. The Witcher 2 WIT thread was the place to go for that, plus it provided all necessary information about possible bugs and hardware conflicts due to a lot of players having already installed and played it.

    TL;DR: Take your time. I can get my dose of meaningless day-0 reviews on IGN and stuff, but expect something more meaningful from RPS.

    • Premium User Badge

      Schaulustiger says:

      By the way, I want to get out something that is possibly related. I didn’t particularly like the Witcher 2 review from Jim. It somehow felt like a collection of fresh impressions and didn’t do a good job in really emphasizing why and how this game might be as important as the article’s teaser stated. In that case, a few more days to let the game sink before finishing the review would have been helpful.

      This is only my opinion, though, so feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’ve got a second article planned, actually, that will be spoiler heavy. I hope that will redress any dissatisfaction. I feel like what I failed to emphasize was just how much impact your decisions have on the story, and how superb the various quest resolutions (as well as the overall plot bifurcation) are in their execution.

    • Splynter says:

      When I was younger the most important thing for me when buying a game was making sure the assigned scores for early reviews were above a buying threshold (usually 80%). Now, I’d rather see discussion with reasoned opinions allowing me to determine whether the game seems worthwhile or not. Something that you might want to consider in cases where you can’t get an early WIT up would be a Wot You Think, essentially just an article for all to sound off in the first couple days after release. Granted, opinions tend to be fairly homogenous on sites aimed at a certain demographic, but as I count myself in that of RPS my sentiments tend to echo those of this community.

      If I wanted a buyer’s guide rather than a review, I’d go to IGN (and end up buying almost every game that comes out these days… when did 9.0 become so easy to obtain?)

    • FakeAssName says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much about a re-review, your pre-release “Witcher 2 impressions” articles sold me on the game long before it shipped.

      Personally, I couldn’t give a shit less about scored “reviews” that are trying to be all professional and what not, because I’m not going to be “all professional and what not” with my personal criticism while playing the damn thing.

      Much like those old “Tom vs. Bruce” articles sold me on guild wars due to the fact that they narrated how the game played (instead of a surgical autopsy of the games attributes), hearing your comments on how the Witcher 2 played (even though you didn’t have full code at the time) is what told me the game was fun.

      … honestly your review was kinda “meh” and didn’t do half the job that those pre-release articles did.

      (P.S. first time posting, I usually troll Big Download for my PC news but since those shit bags at AOL closed it down, I’ve started rolling over here. I tried dealing with Joystiq but relying on them for PC news is like trying to rely on a Mac site for info about Linux: yeah, you can find some stuff but it almost be better of if they didn’t even try.)

      *edit* HOLY FUCK ME IN THE GOAT ASS! you guys have got an edit button! fuck yea! piss on those other sites.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It wasn’t that I was thinking about a re-review, but more that I avoided talking about anything related to the story or specific quests or anything like that. The WIT had to be spoiler free, and part of what is interesting about The Witcher is the details of the story, characters, events etc. I want to do an article on that stuff which will, of course, be riddled with spoilers. Those sort of “Tom vs Bruce” articles are precisely what I am thinking of – something that describes more of what actually happens, rather than simply describes/criticises mechanics etc, which is what I did in the WIT.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Jim, now that you’ve mentioned “Tom vs. Bruce”: Please do more sorts of cross-over with the guys from Three Moves Ahead. I know that Quintin recently helped out with an episode of the podcast with Julian Murdoch (which was awesome) and that you yourself have some experience with those fine gentlemen.

      I love RPS and I love Three Moves Ahead, so that would be just wonderful.

    • littlewilly91 says:

      Giantbomb’s quick look videos are the most helpful ways of just checking out games I’ve come across. Ruminations and features and profound I See What You Did Theres they are not, but they humbly give us exactly what we were asking for in terms of buyer’s guides. Ryan Davis is just the cherry on the cake.

      If RPS do that sort of thing with the writing then that’s fine and dandy, but I thought Jim Alec John and Quintin set sailed to do the sort of thing big sites couldn’t do: Features and game journals and esoteric analysis and being fanatic and that. Buyer’s guides for thrifty students with too much time on their hands and rich men with barely any, is the menial work, not what this site should be dominated by. Not what we all come here for.

  20. subedii says:

    I prefer thorough reviews of what I’m actually likely to be getting.

    Generally speaking I’ve gotten to the stage where I know for most games well in advance whether or not I want to get it. So I either get it release day, or hold off for reviews / a sale where it seems more reasonable.

    In the latter case, I’d prefer the review to be as accurate and in-depth as possible and have an understanding of the real issues, both good and bad, that centre around the game. What I find with ultra early reviews is that they’re almost exclusively hyperbole, either positive or negative. At which point they’re pretty useless.

    With singleplayer games it doesn’t typically matter so much. But with multiaplayer games that I want to know about, I prefer a discussion. And I don’t believe it’s truly possible to “review” the more in-depth multiplayer games before or immediately after launch.

    I mean I saw a lot of people slating Blizzard for not sending out review copies of Starcraft 2 pre-release, but I actually agree with their decision. SC2 was heavily dependant on its multiplayer and that’s not something that could really be judged before it was out in the wild, there are simply too many factors in play and too many ways that things can go right or wrong that would be totally missed.

    Granted, even then, I STILL feel as if most reviewers didn’t have much actual understanding of the multilayer at all, they just praised it in the vaguest possible terms because they knew that was what was expected, and that in general the hardcore community appeared to be praising it so that was good enough reason to do so yourself.

    But in general, I’d prefer a post-release in-depth discussion on the game, rather than pre-release splurging over it.

    Going into specifics: Doom 3 got universal praise for a pretty mediocre singleplayer campaign, and that was pretty much down to hype.

    Meanwhile, Brink gets pretty heavily destroyed on early reviews, but it was actually watching Total Biscuit’s awesome post release Brink review that made me decide it’s a game I wanted. Most of the reviews were pretty much treating it like CoD, or dealing with 360 issues that I wouldn’t be, or otherwise complaining about minor things that were pretty irrelevant (YES the bots are rubbish. But I’m not playing this as a singleplayer game, and the fact that so many reviews used SP as a major negative for the game just made them pointless for me).

    TB’s review was pretty awesome for me because he was very in-depth. The video’s a solid hour long, and he hits all the relevant points, both good and bad, of what makes Brink. He doesn’t shy away from pointing out the existing flaws, but the review is exceptionally relevant to me because he’s talking about it from the perspective of a guy gaming on the PC, who actually understands the mechanics that the game works by, and can relate it back to the previous Splash Damage games as well.

    I never really saw that kind of in-depth discussion on the title in any of the release day reviews. At the same time, he was thorough enough that anyone that doesn’t like the style of gameplay involved, or doesn’t want to deal with the issues that Brink has, will know about it and can safely avoid it.

  21. bhlaab says:

    I enjoy the large disparity between early reviews and the subsequent real reviews.

  22. vanilla bear says:

    I’m very unlikely to preorder a game now. I don’t like feeling manipulated into a blind purchase by a pitiful preorder discount, and the “incentive DLC” increasingly bundled in has become so confusing that it’s actually a turn-off. Add to that the fact that many games are almost unplayable on launch (Magicka; Cliffs of Dover) and early adopters can sometimes get a very poor experience of the game.

    Moreover it seems like games are often coming crashing down in price within a reasonably short space of time, plus there’s the inevitable eventual Steam sale.

    So I’m happy to read the later more considered and well-written review or the discussion – but for me it’s still a buyer’s guide.

  23. wackozacko says:

    Personally, I never buy games as soon as they come out. It’s not worth the extra cash. Wait a few month (or years even) and the price’ll drop to something a bit more reasonable. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a deal on Steam and get it for 75% off (I love steam!). So whenever reviews come out is good for me. Waiting for a game also lets you see what the general public opinion of the game is and whether it’s worth buying.

  24. jon_hill987 says:

    As you have to pre-order to get the whole game these days I very much care about early reviews, they need to come prior to the release of the game or I can’t get the pre-order in.

    • Splynter says:

      I hate this. When did it become customary to reward people who don’t make well informed decisions?

  25. beanman101283 says:

    Any game that I buy on release, I usually know far in advance that I want to get it and preorder it on Amazon or Steam. Everything else is something I wasn’t going to buy right away anyway, so reviews generally serve to let me know how far or down a game goes on my “To Buy” list. The discussion that comes out in the days and weeks after a game’s release is usually more interesting anyway.

  26. Sadraukar says:

    I find it more valuable when you guys are able to put up something like “don’t play Elemental; its a mess” on release day or as soon as you can because that can save us from getting burned by games that looked great in previews but are poorly executed.

  27. ran93r says:

    As the marketing hype machines fire up years in advance of the release, getting people all whipped up into a frothing frenzy for Hat Simulator 4 HD: Limited Signature Edition, we have a god given right to know if it’s going to stink before we pay for a day one release.

    If that machine has done it’s job, people are going to want to pick it up and play on release day, some will be so brainwashed that negative review won’t really matter and will sit in the “will just see for myself” camp but ultimately nobody wants to piss money down the drain on the next big turkey.

    In an ideal world I would love to absorb as much information as I can about a title, good and bad. That doesn’t happen at the moment though which means I pick up my fair share of crap. I love getting games on day one, it means you get in on the ground floor and don’t have to play catch up, something that is an important purchasing decision for me when it comes to multiplayer titles.

  28. Staggy says:

    I think the major reason publishers embargo reviews, especially as an ever growing trend, is preordering and DLC bonuses for those that do. The earlier the reviews come out and, in a similar way, how negative the review is, the longer people have to cancel pre-orders. Case and point: I canceled my Brink preorder 48hours before it was shipped due the less than magnificent reviews, limited gaming budget and the number of great games on the horizon.

    I respect RPS’s collective opinion, and the fact their viewpoints don’t contribute to score averaging sites, which is why I value yours the most. I put honesty and balance over speed any day.

  29. HexagonalBolts says:

    If there are good early reviews of a game then I will preorder it for the discount, if there are no early reviews than I will usually wait until a sale.

  30. Torgen says:

    Oh, I was all for the “info as soon as possible!” scheme of things when I was a youngster, but as I’ve aged and gotten married, my available time < the number of games I want to play (Not to mention "available cash" ~ "available time") so, while I follow the release info with interest, often it will be far into the future before I make the purchase. So, I naturally would rather here WITs from released products instead of preview code.

    However, previews of upcoming games do influence whether I bother clicking through to subsequent articles on that game.

  31. pslong9 says:

    Given how publishers are so hell-bent on dictating all the terms to reviewers, and that reviewers sometimes play code that doesn’t match up to what is actually released and / or don’t actually finish the game that they review, and that day 1 patches are prevalent, the day 1 reviews mean very little to me anymore because I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of the consumer is going to see. I trust very few reviewers any more, especially when it comes to day 1 reviews. I trust message boards and certain websites (like this one) over the majority of “professional” reviews.

  32. Xercies says:

    Something like a multilayer game should be waited for a couple of weeks, something like Brink which sounded Meh in your review but clearly your still playing it and people are still enjoying it, maybe waiting a for more days or weeks before making that review might have made it a little bit more clearer about what you love and what you hate and how things might change because of patches that have been released over the next few days and what not.

  33. VA1N says:

    Not really anymore. I make my decision whether or not I am buying a game by reviewing loads and loads of info beforehand. I’ll watch every developer commentary I can find, every article on the matter, etc. and then come to a decision. The early reviews are usually horrible as people rush to get it out the door to basically scream “FIRST!1!1!1!!!!1″ on any site that will host it. I put more faith in my gut feeling and overall investigative skills than any paid professional who acts like a forum fanboy on release day.

  34. Xocrates says:

    I don’t particularly care about day one reviews. If I’m getting a game I either pre-ordered it because it’s from a dev I trust and/or cheap enough to make the risk negligible, or I’m perfectly willing to wait for all the reviews and people impressions to come out and then choose the best way to get it.

  35. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    There are more than enough amazing games to be playing out there that having *any* new game on release means absolutely /nothing/ to me. So, please, take as much time as you want on every review. The media-hype review thing is ridiculously juvenile and annoying.

  36. Alaric says:

    I do not care about early reviews at all. What I want is quality over speed. So please do take your time playing the game, then contemplating it, then writing about it. I really CAN wait a couple of weeks if I care about your review at all. Alternatively, if I already made up my mind and decided to buy the game at release, even if you post your review within the first fifteen minutes of it, I’m unlikely to be swayed by it.

  37. Daniel Rivas says:

    “that we’re not going to break embargoes or upload code to the Pirate Bay”

    But that is an issue, is it not? Where else is code leaked from? Is it all hackers and disgruntled staff?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Code ends up in all kinds of places: external QA firms, disc duplication facilities, left on laptops on trains, etc etc.

    • bill says:

      While i’m sure RPS would never do that kind of thing (unless they were offered A LOT of biscuits), I have a suspicion that a reasonable amount of leaks might come from the games “press”.
      Of course, these days the games “press” is everythign from professional full-time journalists, to freelancers, to interns, to bloggers, to people writing for free on website – not to mention all the associated people (marketing depts, pr depts, cleaners) both at the journalism end and in-between.

      But there’s not much that can be done about htat – just as many leaks come from inside the games industry.

      And as for embargoes, you totally SHOULD break them. Tell them you don’t do embargoes and publish your review when you want. It’s your review.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      Surely with embargoes you could just pretend to be reviewing another game with a very similar title. Sorta like all the cars in GTA are similarly named to real brands. Or how peaches is used as a substitute for bitches in certain piss-cast radio songs.

      Then have all MS Paint over the screenshots or something.

      I read Sight and Sound for film reviews but I tend to do so only after having watched the film. That way I can compare and contrast, see what I disagree and agree with. I respect RPS and Sight and Sound alike because you both don’t numeriscise your reviews in that pathetic, score keeping way of all other outlets (okay so for films it’s stars but you get the point). Games tend to be a lot more bendy in their expectation to payoff factor, so reading an RPS review at least lets me know if it’s a total flop prior to getting it. But timing is never a factor because we have all the time in the world. And everyone knows that multiplayer games need a few patches before they are ready. That’s industry standard.

      So take your time, keep it fucking high quality and keep your readership edified with tasty thought morsels.

      PS: someones idea of a “Wot You Think” section is super great.

  38. DoveBrown says:

    The thing is that I like most of the early comments don’t trust the early reviews. Even if they haven’t been outright bought, those early reviewers are at the very least dependent on “Access”. I tend to not pay any attention to reviews until I see the first middling review. For some reason this often seems to be Tom Chick or RPS

    Early reviews are often so shallow and quick that they even when they say something is good they never say why something is good. It’s the critical, in the English Lit. sense, not the bad mouthing sense, that I’m looking for when deciding to buy games. Though if a game has issues I do appreciate the heads up to hold off until issues are fixed.

    This is a fairly new development for me and has largely been due to having a backlog of games so I’m rarely out of new games that I need to buy at launch. This is also a lot cheaper.

  39. Raziel_aXd says:

    For the games I really care about, I can do with 2-3-4 weeks after articles, if you guys consider they’re worth it.

    • Raziel_aXd says:

      Since developers try to get away with sometimes awful bugs, I can await about a month before diving in a great game.
      Also, I’m replying to myself.

  40. Drake Sigar says:

    It doesn’t matter one iota with the big titles. Most people know they’re going to continue participating in sequel madness right from the start, and the mainstream reviews are so polluted with bias from advertising revenue or the promise of exclusive interviews that they’re about as trustworthy as a nymphomaniac with a bowl of fruit.

  41. CMaster says:

    I don’t understand the “must play the day it comes out” attitude for most games – after all, it’s still going to be there weeks or months later. It’s made extra bizzare by people like Notch saying they will play Skyrim while at a huge party, rather than enjoying the party and playing the game 2 days later when he gets home. So no, I don’t care for early reviews, because I don’t care for early purchases. I’d like a review of the game as it is (roughly) going to continue existing. If reviews aren’t available to me on the day the game is launched, nor is a very convincing demo, then I’ll pass.

    It’s also worth observing that demos are much, much better at selling games to me than any review. A good launch-day demo could make me a day one purcahsers. A day -1 review from IGN has no effect whatsoever. I realise that I’m hardly a typical consumer mind.

  42. Will Tomas says:

    Basically, I want a quality review based on the game I will be playing, not an early version. Given how swiftly games drop massively in price, I’m happy with most releases to wait until that happens, and choose what I buy based on the reviews I think agree with my taste the most.

    However, for the rare case of games that I might pre-order, early reviews are very helpful indeed. If it’s a game like, say, Portal 2 (which may shape the gaming zeitgeist for some time to come) I’ll want to play it on release, and the only way to get a discount early is to pre-order. I’d much rather do that with the knowledge of the reviewers I like having played it and written about it first, otherwise I’ll be less keen to put down that amount of money before I have a proper review to help tell me whether the hype was justified or not.

  43. Mr Chug says:

    In this age of a) day zero patches and b) games being released horrifically broken albeit with promises of patches (LOOKING AT YOU, ELEMENTAL AND MAGICKA) then a review being released early increasingly seems to be irrelevant to what the consumer eventually gets to play, whether they pre-order or, even more so, buy it months down the line. I’d like to see a review site that pretends to be stuck in a time loop and reviews games as if they were new, 6 months after their release.

    My worry is that devs might just be driving a thin end of the wedge with their ‘released version of the game’ insistence and the effect it has on sites who after months of glowing preview coverage, can’t tell their readers whether they were right or wrong to get excited on day 1. For what it’s worth, I reckon Jim’s approach of giving initial impressions on day 1 for the Witcher 2 was the best solution, although I also respect the Ars Technica approach with Brink of outright refusing to review it until fundamental issues had been sorted.

  44. DeltaRanger509 says:

    Well, it looks like I’m in the minority here, but for me, day 1 reviews are quite important. I almost never pre-order games anymore because there’s just not much point when I can download it off Steam. When you had to wait a week or more to get a game because Gamestop had to wait for another shipment, preorders were important. Digital distribution has changed that. Now I can afford to wait till the day the game comes out to decide if I’m going to get it.

    That said, I still want the game as close to the release as possible so that I can be part of the release hype. When a game releases, tons of people are talking about it. Forums and message boards everywhere are full to the brim and rarely offer a coherent opinion on whether the game is good or not unless it’s a REALLY bad game. I usually wait until two or three of the review sites I care about release a review for the game. I prefer RPS reviews because they are some of the highest quality out there, but I’m not going to wait a week or two for you guys to push a review out if two or three other sites are saying it’s a good game.

    If you guys start putting out reviews later, you risk people saying internally, “I want the RPS review, but if I wait, I won’t get to play the game while everyone is talking about it. Site X liked it, so I’ll just listen to their opinion.”

    • bill says:

      It’s important to play the game when everyone is talking about it, and be art of the release hype because:
      (a) Wait.. I was going to do a multiple choice quiz type thing, but i can’t think of any possible answers.
      (b) That’s my idea ruined.

  45. gallardo1 says:

    I don’t trust reviews in general, because I prefer to try the game myself and bad experiences have equal value, thanks to my job. Then, most of the time I decide if I like a game largely from videos/trailers, images and if it smell fresh in the shelf at the store.
    What I really appreciate are the insights on games I’ve never heard of, games I’ve overlooked for time constraints and games of the past I didn’t know I wanted to play.
    Recent examples:
    -hands on of InMomentum (I love trickjumping but never heard of that)
    -hands on of Brink
    -hands on magicka

  46. Binman88 says:

    I don’t really see game reviews as buying guides for the most part, so I’m happy enough with them coming out a week or so after release if needs be. Granted, I glance over a range of scores to make sure the game I’m about to buy isn’t a piece of shit in a plastic box, and read a few paragraphs of the awful reviews; but for the most part, the reviews and websites I pay attention to, like RPS, I do so because I’m interested in their particular opinions of a game I’m already way interested in, and perhaps have already played. It’s not hugely important to me to be playing the game on day one, so the answer to the question is a “no”, then, even in a rare case where I need to be persuaded to buy the game.

  47. CMaster says:

    Also, I really dislike any reviews based on non-retail code. They always end up having to review around features not yet activated and either ignore bugs and niggles when “assured they will be fixed” or complain about bugs and niggles that no actual consumer ever experiences.

    There’s awful the inevitable problem that games journalists experience games in a very different manner to consumers, and their value judgements and approaches to elements differ quite a lot in this sense. It’s hard to ever see this rift being fully healed (a good example, and one I’m prepared to elaborate on if people are interested is the way Journalists were blindsided and misunderstanding about the whole L4D2 fiasco)

  48. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    I weigh the reviews. If they weigh less than a duck, I buy.

    OMG EXCLUSIVE!!! reviews are counted to weigh 1 duck, regardless of rating.

  49. Kefren says:

    I would never normally buy a game until I had thought about it for a while, so early reviews mean nothing to me. Most of the time I play games 3-4 years after release because I have so many. By then I get them for peanuts…

    The exception is when I buy a game for ethical reasons because I like the devs or process, e.g. Humble Indie Bundles, Witcher 2 pre-purchase. In those cases reviews are irrelevant to me, I won’t look at any of them.

  50. Persus-9 says:

    I don’t give a damn about day one reviews because I pretty much never buy games on day one except for low priced indie game impulse buys. I’ve pre-ordered a couple of times but I generally wait a few weeks or months before I buy so you can take your time as far as I’m concerned.