[Update: It's up, you can read it here!]
Hello there! It's your friendly neighborhood reviews editor here, and if you're joining me, I assume you really want to know what's up with Fallout 4. Well, good news! I can tell you exactly what I think about the game on Monday, Nov. 9, at 8 a.m. ET (which, unfortunately for me, who lives in the Bay Area, is 5 a.m. PT).
I've been playing Fallout 4 for about a week now. Several people on staff received the game last Friday, as you probably guessed from our unboxing gallery for its Pip-Boy Edition. Receiving the game and opening it and actually, physically having a copy in my hand is what prompted my editorial last week on my trepidation toward Fallout 4, based on my history with Bethesda's last take on the series.
when we receive early copies of games for review, we're accepting the stipulations outlined by the publisher
I've been in pretty constant communication with Bethesda PR for the last month and a half to try to nail down when we'd be getting Fallout 4, because of the expected scope of the game and the current crowded release calendar. This isn't unusual — that's a pretty huge part of my job, actually, learning when we'll be getting the games coming out and trying to make sure we can hit the things that are important for us. A few weeks ago, Bethesda and its third-party PR partners were incredibly proactive on letting us know when we'd get the game, and what the embargo would be. This is good practice, by the way. Information like this is helpful for us to plan how we can talk to our audience about the games in question, and usually, this much information from a publisher is a sign of confidence in its game. But there was one minor sticking point.
This fall, I've tried to keep readers abreast of when they can expect to read reviews of the games we're covering, especially after last year's various snafus with a number of titles. Ordinarily, this isn't a thing. Publishers are fine, nine times out of 10, letting us freely disseminate that information. But we were expressly prohibited by Bethesda PR from disclosing when our Fallout 4 review would go live. We reached out repeatedly to inquire as to when we'd be able to tell readers when they could expect the review, and finally, yesterday, Bethesda let us know that we could let you know when our Fallout 4 review can go live. Assuming, you know, that I can finish the game and write the review in time.
Here's the thing: When we receive early copies of games for review, whether physically or digitally, accepting them — i.e., playing them if they're physical, or redeeming them if they're download codes — is accepting the stipulations outlined by the publisher. That's the deal. It's worth noting that we don't always accept copies of games, particularly when we don't agree with the terms required. But with Fallout 4, we didn't see anything egregious or consumer-unfriendly, and "a little bit weird" wasn't a deal-breaker. This did mean we couldn't talk about the embargo without permission from Bethesda. So, we didn't. If an outlet refuses to accept advance copies, or, say, isn't sent advanced copies, there's no embargo for them to adhere to.
I don't know why things worked out this way. It is undeniably unusual, though I'm sure Bethesda had its reasons. I'm too busy playing the game, as so many people on staff are right now, to dig through the chicken entrails of why that is. Other outlets are, of course, free to do what they like with the time they have in that regard. My only plea to other publishers moving forward is to observe how this all unfolded, and to take it into consideration when determining their own embargo policies and details.