How do PR people decide which journalists get early copies of games for review? Press Pass investigates.
When I was growing up and dreaming of a position as a game journalist, I envisioned three primary perks to the job: 1) getting to play games all day, 2) getting to see games months early at the Consumer Electronics Show (the precursor to today’s Electronic Entertainment Expo), and 3) getting to play early review copies of games before they reached store shelves.
Of course, now that I’m a full-time game journalist, I know the somewhat disappointing reality behind of all these perks. Yes, I get to play games during the work day, but more of my time seems to be spent writing about them, which is the part I actually get paid for. Yes, I get to go to E3, but after a while the show seems less like a massive, freeform arcade and more like an endless, hellish slog filled with massive lines and boring appointments. And while I do get access to plenty of reviewable games before release, getting such access from public relations departments has sometimes been a struggle, especially when I was just starting out.
In an ideal world, there would be enough early press copies of a game available to satisfy every legitimate journalist with an interest in writing a review. In reality, though, almost every journalist I’ve talked to says they’ve gotten some form of the “we just don’t have enough copies available” excuse when requesting a game for review. And the public relations people I’ve talked to say that’s the line isn’t just a copout.