'Reviews are that way, Daryl.'
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct hit shelves today, and yet you would be hard pressed to find very many reviews of the game. The ones you do find are likely from untested blogs struggling to make a name for themselves. What about the 'big names' in games journalism, where are the Kotaku reviews or the Joystiq pieces on Survival Instinct? What about Destructoid or IGN?
Most of these blogs have not put up a whole lot of content on The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct and we're pretty sure we know why.
The answer comes in two parts:
Last year, Telltale Games released a point-and-click game based on The Walking Dead comic books. While the genre may have faded out over the years, it is absolutely perfect for what Telltale was trying to do with their version of The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman, the comic book creator, worked closely with Telltale and oversaw story development on the game. Telltale's game was a massive hit, lauding nothing but amazingly good press and reviews and taking home dozens of gaming awards and honors.
When The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct was announced, it already had a stigma surrounding it. This was that other Walking Dead game. You know, not the one that Telltale did. This one is made by Activision, it's a shooter.
Survival Instinct may be the best game released this year for all we know, but the fact of the matter is that, to many people, this game is already associated as the lesser version of its more well-known and already established cousin. With Season Two of Telltale's series coming out, most of The Walking Dead community is hyped up for that and a lot of them had no idea that a shooter was even being produced.
Activision's Stance on Advance Copies
Here is how game reviews work, in a nutshell. The game publisher's PR department arranges for advance copies to be sent out, usually a week ahead of the release, to various news publications and established gaming sites. These gaming sites then spend a week playing the hell out of the game, putting it through its paces, and then prepare some launch-day coverage when the embargo lifts.
Activision does not send out advance copies of their games.
They haven't really said why they don't partake in this age-old system, but it seems like piracy is certainly a big concern. Spoilers, another. Whatever the reason for this stance on advance copies, gaming journalists get their hands on Activision games the same time that the rest of the world does. That makes it incredibly difficult to arrange proper launch coverage because you are either publishing the content a week after the game has released or you are forced to condense a weeks worth of testing into one day.
Either situation makes covering a game like that very difficult and sometimes, when the game is not expected to be very popular, the outlet might end up having to forego coverage altogether, in favor of more engaging games without such a deadline.
Have you played The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct? We'd love to hear what you think of it, regardless of platform. Feel free to share some thoughts in the replies.
Who knows? Maybe you'll convince someone to pick it up or pass for something better.