The Glorification of Review Copies – The Week in Review

Welcome back to the Week in Review. It’s a bit crazy how quick this year is wrapping up, especially now that we’re heading into review season and seemingly every highly anticipated AAA title of the year is dropping one after another for the next few weeks, starting with A Plague Tale: Requiem and continuing on to God of War Ragnarok and the like.

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My backlog is going to be growing very quickly, yet again.

What I’ve Been Playing

This was a pretty quiet week for me in terms of the games I’ve been playing. I’ve been making my way through A Plague Tale: Requiem at a snail’s pace just due to the amount of work stuff I had going on this week, but I love the game. The original was in my top three games of 2019 thanks to its wonderful visuals, the relationship between main characters Amicia and Hugo, and of course its excellent musical score from Olivier Deriviere. The gameplay wasn’t really much to write home about, but it was just a great emotional adventure from beginning to end. So the sequel has been amongst my most anticipated games of this year.

I’m about halfway through, and the game has really just been matching my expectations. It kept what worked from the original and expanded on it with better level design, some expanded combat options, and some absolutely stunning visuals that really bring the world of A Plague Tale to life. I probably won’t have time to wrap the game up until next weekend due to having some events to go to Friday night and our all-day Persona 5 stream on Saturday, but I’m itching to get back to it to continue the adventure.

If you haven’t played the original A Plague Tale, I’d highly recommend doing so before jumping into Requiem as the dynamic between Amicia and Hugo is fantastic and is the main draw of the story heading into the sequel. The original is a little rough around the edges but still a great experience nonetheless.

Asobo Studio has quickly jumped up my list of studios to keep an eye on for future projects, as has Focus Entertainment as a publisher, since I’m interested in pretty much its entire upcoming lineup of games, which includes Evil West, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2, Atlas Fallen, and Atomic Heart.

Make sure to let us know in the comments what you’ve been playing this week!

The Glorification of Review Copies

This week I went viral on Twitter for detailing why we wouldn’t have any coverage up for God of War Ragnarok at launch. Long story short, last year when we sent out a request for a review code for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, we were denied the code due to the “tone” of Zero Punctuation. The PR rep even went as far as to compare it to CinemaSins. A bit insulting to Yahtzee, if you ask me.

In my 14 years of working in games media, I had never had a PR rep that does not provide code due to the “tone” of coverage. After that email, I had decided to stop working with Sony’s PR because I legitimately felt uncomfortable with asking them for code for any of their games if I was going to have to jump through hoops to work on coverage. I also just felt that after multiple exchanges with Sony’s PR that things felt pretty condescending with them.

It’s important to note we do not require review codes to do our jobs here, nor are we guaranteed them. Sony doesn’t have to provide us with anything; we’re more than happy to just purchase the game for ourselves to provide coverage on. When my thread went viral, a lot of people were bringing up that review codes are “gifts,” which is something that is pushed a lot by people that rally against games media as a whole for being “corrupt” for accepting free copies of games from publishers. Some people were even going as far as to say that because we weren’t getting review copies from Sony, that we would rate their games differently, which I personally find very funny.

A good game is a good game, and a bad game is a bad game, no matter how you acquire it.

Some people think that getting review copies from publishers is just a bribe to get good coverage from people who cover games, but the reality is review copies are just part of the job. When there’s quite literally new games coming out every week in this day and age, we need some lead time to make sure we’re providing the coverage our audience wants in a timely matter. Typically, we ask for one-to-two weeks of lead time so that we have ample time to play, organize our thoughts, and create coverage on the games we’re playing. Nobody likes a rushed review, right?

The game may technically be free for the publication, but in reality, it’s just material provided to get our work done and nothing more than that. If we didn’t have review copies for a lot of the indie games we cover on 3 Minute Reviews, for example, we would never be able to get those reviews out because we’d have to be moving onto the next game to get any coverage out that’s relevant. You really have about 48 hours to get a review out from the time the embargo drops for a game before whatever you’re working on becomes irrelevant and you’re better off focusing on either the next exciting game or a piece of more unique coverage. The only real exception is someone like Yahtzee with Zero Punctuation, where you have uniqueness that people are willing to wait X number of weeks for your take on a game.

The glorification of review copies as “just” a free copy of the game provided to media members to play is discounting all the work that goes into playing and providing coverage for an upcoming game. Audiences want to know what their favorite websites / author’s thoughts about upcoming games are the second they’re able to tell them. We’re not provided games to just play for “free;” the expectation is that we’re playing them to provide the coverage you, the audience, expect. That’s the job. As glamorous as it may sound when people say it’s all about free games, or that we’re just paid to play games, that’s extremely far from the truth if you’re a professional and want to serve your audience.

What’s New on The Escapist

We’re heading into review season, so things have been picking up in pace pretty quickly behind the scenes here. However, our primary focus has been on getting the website back up to speed with an increased output in content again, thanks to our new new parent company, Gamurs. Back when the site was actually supported, we were putting out a couple pieces of original content per day, and we’re currently recruiting talent to get back to doing that.

We also are starting to build out experimental plans to get into more book, tabletop, and comics coverage. Nothing to announce right now on that front, but ideas are being workshopped. If you have ideas of what you’d like to see from us, please let us know in the comments.

This weekend is a big weekend for streaming on The Escapist too, as we’re doing our next all-day Persona 5 stream starting at 11 a.m. ET / 10 a.m. CT tomorrow, and then immediately after at 7 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT we’ll be playing Phasmophobia with Yahtzee for Game Night.

Lots of exciting stuff happening right now around here!

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Nick Calandra
Nick Calandra has been covering video games for over 14 years, holds a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism and now leads the team at The Escapist. Previously Nick created and led teams at TitanReviews, Velocity Gamer, OnlySP and Gameumentary, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist in 2019. He has done everything from covering the smallest of indie games to creating documentaries on some of the most well-known video game franchises in the industry such as Darksiders, Divinity: Original Sin, EVE and more. While his favorite games right now include Rainbow Six Siege and Elden Ring, Nick is constantly experimenting with new genres to expand his gaming tastes and knowledge of the industry.