This, basically. Reviews aren’t read by as many people as they once were, because they’re not as useful as they once were.
See a headline that reads, “Horizon’s Gate review” and folks think: i) I don’t know what Horizon’s Gate is. ii) I’m not trying to make a purchasing decision about Horizon’s Gate right now. So they don’t read it. If they do stumble across a game and decide to learn more, they’ve got Let’s Plays, Twitch streams, a million user reviews… All sorts of ways to make a decision about whether they think they’ll like it which are easier than building a relationship of trust with a particular writer or set of writers and then reading 1000 words plus of prose.
(This is not to mention that a lot of the games we’d review aren’t £35/£50 investments anymore. They’re £7 or £15 and if they’re not, add them to a wishlist and they’ll be on sale soon. Purchasing decisions are not the investments they once were.)
If you see a headline that’s more flavourful, however, maybe you’ll read it even if you don’t know or care about the game already, just because it sounds interesting on its own terms.
This is the example I tend to use, from Polygon: “Thousands of people have come together for the most moving game of the year”. https://www.polygon.com/2019/8/2/20752088/kind-words-ziba-scott-steam-interview-game.
It’s not a review, but it tells you everything a review would have done - without the burdens that come with the word “review”, and in a way that’s more appealing to people.
All that said? We’ve published 102 reviews so far this year, which is 15 reviews per month give or take half a review. I think that’s broadly equivalent to what we published the last couple of years. We’ve cut down in the last 4-8 weeks, but what used to be a review now exists simply as a feature saying much the same thing but in a hopefully punchier way.
As for Death Stranding specifically: Grizzly is right. We spent a lot of money and time reviewing Persona 4 for a readership of basically no one, when our feature coverage of it did a lot better. We don’t have a Death Stranding text review, but we’ve got a video review, and for texty people we’ve got 4 or 5 features that give our opinions on different parts of it.
I appreciate that folks still want reviews. We’ll still have reviews, but we have to change to meet a changed world where people can get info about games in a million new ways.
(My Carrion review should be up tomorrow.)