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Where Are All The Starcraft II Reviews?

Blizzard took the uncommon step of not providing pre-release copies of Starcraft II to the press. Obviously Starcraft II needs no help in the buzz department, but what are the pros and cons of this policy for video games in general?

**This post previously appeared on my column for the Milwaukee Video Game Examiner**

A quick visit to Metacritic reveals that there are NO critic reviews posted yet. For those who don't know, that's because Blizzard took the uncommon step of not providing any pre-release copies to the press. That's great for the fans who've been waiting so long for this sequel--everyone is experiencing the story and the release-day multiplayer at the same time.

Everyone gets a first taste. Source: Blizzard.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing this policy?

Advantages:

  • Fans don't feel left out in the cold. Especially when they've already waited so long.
  • Reduces the risk of any story spoilers.
  • Ensures that reviewers see the actual multi-player in action. Frankly, I'm actually surprised at how many sites review multi-player pre-launch--when they're really just playing against other critics (in most cases). Sometimes the best (and especially worst) aspects of MP only come out when the public gets on the servers. The worst case in my own experience was the launch of Gears of War II: the netcode was so bad that I gave up on the MP side after a month. Some reviews mentioned 'issues' but the game should not achieve as high a score as it did with such glaring problems. [The same could be said for any game with rampant exploit issues, for instance Modern Warfare 2's highly publicized problems.]
  • Reviewers play the game at their own pace, not in cramped press rooms with the need to rush through the game. I saw a post on Gamasustra (I think) about this not too long ago but can't remember who wrote it. Please post in comments if you read the same piece so I can give credit!
  • If your game will get good but mediocre (thin 7/10 range) scores, your sales won't plummet like a rock. One recent game that really got hit with this was Dark Sector. There was a ton of developer diary content and other buzz around the game--and then the reviews hit. I don't think I've seen many AAA-releases plummet in price so fast.

Disadvantages:

  • It's harder to generate buzz for your game. Obviously Starcraft II doesn't have this problem, but  most games use reviews (especially if they're good) as a way to generate interest.
  • Cash-strapped consumers like myself rely on reviews to determine the games I want to buy right away versus the ones I'll be willing to wait for. In fact, my wishlist has a lot of games with the comment: "Don't buy until under $20 or $30." Again, this really doesn't apply to Starcraft II, especially since most fans got the opportunity to get a long taste of the MP side during the different beta phases.

Any advantages and disadvantages I'm missing? Please include in the comments!

Also, full disclosure, despite my guide to launch day in the Milwaukee area, I haven't yet purchased Starcraft II. Something, trust me, I plan to rectify as soon as I have some more 'minerals', if you know what I mean.

If you need help deciding which version to buy, Ars Technica has one of the best previews of the "Collector's Edition" I've seen. Check it out here. After many years of editions that really weren't worth it, many games are finally offering bonus content that's actually piqued my interest--including this one.

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