COG Considers: What Good Are Previews?

It’s Not Finished, So Why Care?

Listen. Preview coverage is a staple of Games Journalism. We open up the official COG What to Write Pantry and heck, half the shelves are full of previews. Sure, they’re filling and familiar, but do they actually offer nutritional value? Sometimes, I’d argue, the answer is nah.

Let’s take this whole Xbox Series X heat and noise debacle for instance. Microsoft is doing themselves a massive solid by sending boxes to outlets for preview coverage – us included. We’re grateful! It’s great for hyping up their mini fridge. Absolutely. But also, y’know, it’s not a final product. That means it’s not finished and things could change. Do those changeable things include engineering issues like heat production and fan speed? Yes. Is it possible the complainers out there just have a particularly less than perfect unit? Also yes. Should you base a purchase decision on any of this? Oh, heavens no.


It begs the question: what’s the actual value of this preview coverage?

Well, it’s important context. Previews can’t predict final quality, but they do give an indication of the direction of a product. Looking at this Xbox Series X hubbub, there are a bunch of good takeaways. Quick Resume is fast, backwards compatibility works great, and it’s going to be familiar to anyone who’s used an Xbox One.

To accurately evaluate heat, noise, and overall performance, we’d all be wise to wait for the launch boxes that’ll actually go on sale to get into our hands. And hey, you know we’ll do all that testing for you. Setting up ridiculous mics, using laser thermometers, we’ll do all that. Don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine.

I mean, if you really want an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5, go nuts and preorder one. What you shouldn’t do, is let one rogue element with a pre-production Series X saying “hey this thing gets hot” move your personal needle more than a smidge.

Cyberpunk 2077

Don’t Pre-order Games

This applies to games too. Preview and demo builds are all well and good, but remember this: developers specifically make these things to make you think the game is better than the bee’s knees. They’ll intentionally show off the cool stuff, and ignore the… uhh… less cool stuff. That is what it is. Our impressions of something like Cyberpunk 2077 have, so far, been outrageously positive. It looks incredible and freeform and CHOO CHOO here comes the hype train!

Here’s the thing though. Come in real close because I’m gonna whisper it and hope the internet doesn’t hear me. Cyberpunk 2077 could still do a whoopsie and be bad. I don’t think it’s likely, but hey, you won’t find a preorder for me at my local retailer regardless. Until I see impressions of an actual, finished version of a thing, a preorder is off the table.

And it should be for you too. Find some voices you trust (ours are a good place to start, LOL), and listen to what they have to say. But be wary! Is the thing they’re talking about finished? No? Then for the love of Miyamoto remember the Virtual Boy and all the suckers that got burned by that tire fire.