It's pretty shitty, but I feel you are dancing around the real issue here - reviewers shouldn't rely on free or pre-release copies of games. Reviewers should be buying retail copies at release like everybody else.
You're just playing their game by going down this "first to review" path of bullshit.
Yeah, I'm going to have to disagree strongly with you here. Pre-release copies are a good
thing, if they're given out to reviewers without restriction and without trying to control their message.
Having a review out already when a game releases isn't just about generating clicks and money for the reviewers -- it's about being able to inform the public as to whether they'll enjoy the game or not, and thus, whether it's worth buying.
If reviewers had to buy the game at retail like everyone else, do you think we would seriously see a week of almost no sales while only reviewers buy it, and then a bunch of sales when they finally give it the thumbs up? No, we'd just see tons of people buying it on launch day and gambling with their money, because gamers have proven again and again that instant gratification is king.
In fact, I would say that people who buy games blindly without looking at reviews are way
more harmful to the industry than these sorts of promo deals could ever be. (That goes doubly for people who pre-order games, particularly in any modern scenario where they're not likely to run out of copies, e.g. digital downloads.) These people are the reason that bad games can still turn a profit if they abuse a beloved franchise name and put enough money into marketing.
Put into more concrete terms, these people are the reason that "Aliens: Colonial Marines" debuted at number one in the UK charts and sold 1.3 million copies in the US. (The embargo only lifted on launch morning, but that's plenty of time to check for some scores and not buy it -- unless you pre-ordered it
What I do agree with is that reviewers shouldn't rush to be first
; a quality review is better than an early review, but an early review makes more money than a quality review. As such, this is also why review embargoes can be a good thing
-- provided they lift before