While Bethesda hasn’t been the coolest of review copies in the past, at some point they stopped the press copy process just before launch, and that seems to have changed in an important way for Starfield.
I reported earlier this week that the Starfield review block is at noon on August 31st, as there are only eight hours left in the US before the game launches in Early Access. Sometimes when games do this, the idea is that they are trying to hide something. But in Bethesda’s case, no matter how you play, they almost always do it a day or two before bans, so that’s pretty standard.
What’s not standard these days is that non-Nintendo companies send out review copies a full two weeks before launch. Three weeks before the launch of Non-Early Access, in this case. Yes, that makes sense for a game as sprawling as Starfield, but you’d be surprised how often companies give barely enough time to review even massive games (like Baldur’s Gate and its four-day review copy to the ban window). I literally cut my hands trying to squeeze sixty hours of Mass Effect Andromeda in about five days for this review block.
But then, what I also notice is that the a lot of people get review codes. For many games, it’s not unusual for smaller outlets to get copies, hence the dozens and dozens of reviews you see when big titles launch. But I also notice a very significant effect. while Main Content creators may catch games early, and there are often “waves” where the press gets the game first, then much closer to launch, and YouTubers and streamers may get codes. Young creators are often excluded.
With Starfield, I see channels big and small getting copies of the game. Let me tell you, even with a ‘well known’ outlet with a decent following, it can be hard for me to get AAA codes some of the time. But Starfield codes are being thrown around quite widely. I’ve seen a creator with like 3K YouTube subscribers and 6K Twitch followers get one, for example. One reason block codes aren’t distributed often is the potential for leaks, including among content creators who may have looser rules than game ports.
As for me, I don’t leak anything or give feedback on my own copy until August 31st. But I thought it was interesting to point out what Bethesda is doing here, which isn’t the most common for a massive AAA game like this. Do with it whatever you want.