Friendly PSA: Be Wary of “World Exclusive” Reviews

Exclusive reviews are big attention-getters, but that's precisely why you need to be cautious...

Exclusive reviews are big attention-getters, but that’s precisely why you need to be cautious…

We have made it plain that most conspiracy theories concerning video game critics and reviews are nonsense. Critics really aren’t “paid off,” for instance; in fact, in most cases, reviewers can barely scrape together a living.

However, there is one caveat to our admonitions and it involves the world exclusive review. This sometimes happens: It’s when a publisher gives a certain publication the exclusive rights to publish a review of a high-profile game. It’s usually one week ahead of the embargo date, which all other sources must follow.

A recent example would be the world exclusive review of Watch Dogs, as originally cited by DualShockers.

Now, before we continue, we’d like to make one thing abundantly clear:

Sure, it's probably a great game. ...just be wary of other influences.

Sure, it’s probably a great game. …just be wary of other influences.

We are not accusing Jeux Video of artificially inflating their review, nor are we saying the publication in question responded to any outside influences. We have no idea if they did or didn’t; we are not passing judgment. We’re merely explaining what could happen from a realistic and logical standpoint.

In the first place, as you might expect, landing such a worldwide exclusive review is a big deal for any publication. Therefore, it behooves them to make a big splash with that review and “big splash” translates to attention on the Internet. This can generate some problems.

It may be implied that the critic needs to really grab the reader’s attention, and one of the best ways of doing that is giving the game in question either a very high or very low score. Perhaps you see the handwriting on the wall, here: If you would normally give the game an 8, it may make more sense to give the game a 7 or a 10, because you can either fuel the “LOL flop” wildfire or the “OMG, GotY!” gossip. An 8…eh, doesn’t really incite much.

The reality of the situation is that a world exclusive review is very often a business deal...

The reality of the situation is that a world exclusive review is very often a business deal…

Furthermore, while there is typically no special partnership between a publisher and a source for reviews (besides the publisher offering a review copy), a world exclusive review can – and often does – have other strings attached. In this instance, Jeux Video is a French publication and at its core, Ubisoft is a French company. It’s not surprising that Jeux Video would get the exclusive, right?

Again, we’re not making any accusations or implications. We’re just explaining the behind-the-scenes situation with any “world exclusive.”

Historically, such reviews are often glowing, and perhaps it’s because of the aforementioned tie between the publication and the source. So, it’s not illogical to be cautious when viewing the world exclusive review score; just don’t pass automatic judgment on that one analysis.

Of course, most gamers are going to wait until they see more reviews, or they’ve already decided whether or not they’ll purchase the game. This is simply an editorial from the viewpoint of those who have been there and done that, and this is one instance where yeah, outside influences could have a significant impact on the analysis.

4 thoughts on “Friendly PSA: Be Wary of “World Exclusive” Reviews”

I knew the instant I saw that it was Jeux Video that I should take the review with a grain of salt.

Well, as the article says, there’s no evidence that Jeux Video artificially inflated the score just because Ubisoft is a French company.

I understand people’s skepticism, though.

I always figured “world exclusive reviews” was more of a business arrangement between the publisher and the source.

I think I remember one from a few years ago and the score was WAY too high. I don’t remember which game it was now, but the world exclusive gave it like a 9.5 and the Metacritic average ended up around a 78 or something.

In general, I tend not to trust the very first reviews. I figure if the sources got the review copies before everyone else, that seems like preferential treatment…and those critics might think they have to repay the favor.

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