Are Review Copy Gaming Experiences Less Trustworthy Than Owner’s Experiences?

By Todd Russell Aug20,2023

Recently, the topic of review copy hardware and games struck a nerve and seriously had to ask myself: is the experience of somebody that buys the game or hardware themselves different than those who get to trial it before everybody else and/or for a limited time and must return it? The TL;DR edition of my answer is simple:

Yes.

In fact, this would be how I’d rate the value of a review from most useful to least:

  1. (MOST TRUSTWORTHY) – bought with own money, still owns it
  2. Bought with own money, owned or played it for a decent amount of time, then sold or gave away
  3. Bought with own money, owned or played it for short time, then sold, gave away or returned to store/refunded
  4. Gifted by friend/family, still owns it, still actively playing with it
  5. Gifted by friend/family, played it for decent amount of time, no longer plays
  6. Gifted by friend/family, played it short time, either sold or gave away
  7. Review copy for publication, not required to return, still actively played
  8. Review copy for publication, not required to return, no longer playing
  9. Review copy for publication, required to return, short review time cycle
  10. (LEAST TRUSTWORTHY) – review/opinion based on never playing

Note: #9 is the way most YouTube videos and a whole bunch of tech/gaming magazines roll and really 7,8 and 9 all require very clear FTC disclosure inside and around the review. There’s a reason the FTC wants this disclosed, even they know it’s possible that some less than honest behavior might be occurring even if it is disclosed. To me, it’s like one step below a complete non-review, review, and yet for some bizarre reason these publications are rewarded with (sometimes) massive views, likes, subscriptions, as if the value in the information is trustworthy and useful.

Is it, really?

Not trying to be elitist here, but objective with my own thought process in valuing reviews on gaming-related hardware and software. Examples would include: a friend or even someone that I don’t know that has bought a new Stern Pinball machine, say a Pro ($7,000), Premium ($9,500) or LE ($12,000 USD). If the person bought the machine with their own money and has owned and played it actively for months, that owner’s opinion would be #1.

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