Bethesda is withholding Starfield review copies in the UK

Many websites and YouTube channels will be unable to review Starfield for several weeks, as Bethesda refuses to send out advanced copies.

Publishers withholding review copies before launch is not unusual, just as it’s not unheard of for film companies not to show a movie in advance for critics. But there’s usually only one thing that means and everyone, including reviewers and the general public, know it: the game (or film) is no good.

Despite us having been in contact with Bethesda for several weeks we do not have a review copy yet and have only been promised one ‘at the end of the month.’ We now suspect that will not be until Thursday, August 31, as we understand the general review embargo is on Thursday at 5pm BST.

What makes this situation strange though is that most US sites do seem to have review copies and it is specifically the UK that has been denied them. No explanation has been given as to why.

Eurogamer is in the same position as us and likely every other UK website that does not have a US arm or affiliate. We weren’t certain how widespread the issue was until Eurogamer posted the news on their website, and in doing so it became clear just how oddly Bethesda is behaving. [Update: The Guardian and Edge haven’t been sent copies either.]

Bethesda has always been peculiar with regards to reviews and went through a period, around seven years ago, where they refused to send out review copies to anyone until a day before the game’s release.

There was never any proper explanation for that either, although it was assumed that they simply wanted to avoid the possibility of negative reviews before a game’s launch.

They eventually realised that this was counterproductive and went back to acting normally but since many Bethesda execs have been at the company for decades it’s clear that many resent the idea of allowing advanced reviews and still want to disrupt the practice.

Despite all this, we don’t necessarily think any of this is because Starfield is bad. Although the truth is we’ve seen nothing more of the game than you have, as there’s been almost no hands-on previews anywhere in the world.

However, the majority of the games Bethesda was withholding back in 2016 were very good. Indeed, Bethesda’s track record in terms of quality games is very high, so why they should be so insecure about reviews is a mystery.

They do have a consistent problem with bugs and performance issues, but if that’s true of Starfield it will become obvious the second the game is released – so preventing reviews from talking about it isn’t going to help anyone.

Starfield is due to launch on September 6 for Xbox Series X/S but if you pay for one of the more expensive collector’s editions you can get early access on September 1. That’s why the embargo is on Thursday and why we don’t expect to get a copy before that.

Bethesda is free to do whatever they want in regard to allowing early access to previews and reviews but clearly they want people to know as little as possible about the game before the play it or – more importantly – before they pay for it.

So, we’re afraid to say we won’t have a review on Thursday and probably not until a week or so after. We may try and do some sort of ‘our first hour with Starfield’ feature this week but, thanks to Bethesda’s actions, that’s all we can offer.

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