How Assassin&39s Creed Unity weaponized review embargoes – Polygon
There is always a meta comment about the timing and execution of game reviews. If a review goes well before release, like the new dragon age game, that’s usually a sign of trust. strong reviews that can help boost pre-order numbers and lead to a bigger launch at retail. a good, solid early review can have a measurable effect on the business of releasing a game.
Reviews for assassin’s creed unity ran through noon ET today. the game will have been available for purchase for a dozen hours before anyone could tell if it was good or bad, or if it had technical problems.
“all of this adds up to a game whose glitches often make it more difficult to play. assassin’s creed unity isn’t as sensitive to frame rate as a shooter like call of duty, but navigating the world when the game was struggling to respond to my inputs felt like a chore,” states polygon’s review.
the game got a rating of 6.5.
There is no valid reason for a review embargo like this; it’s blatantly anti-consumer and is probably designed to entice early hardcore fans into stores to buy their copies of the game before the critics roll in. we found out about the embargo last week.
.@ubisoft’s post-launch embargo benefits no one but ubisoft. it’s embarrassing.
heck, I was going to buy a copy of the game today until I read the user reviews. I’m glad I waited, there are plenty of other things to play with.
reviews for assassin’s creed unity were held until noon
This leads us into a good discussion of what liens are and what they do. An embargo is an agreement between the press and the publisher about when coverage of the game can be released to the public. In exchange for early access to the game, we agree to retain the content for an agreed amount of time.
Breaking embargoes, on the other hand, can potentially lead to a loss of access to future games, and you have to agree to the embargo to play, which means that by the time you realize a game is broken, that’s it. too late. it’s a vicious cycle, and making an agreement in good faith and then breaking it is bad news for a publication that wants its word to mean something.
This is usually not a big deal and allows all reviews to run at the same time and gives reviewers plenty of time to play around. embargoes can remove the temptation to run a game to get the first review, leading to better reviews for the consumer.
that’s the ideal, at least.
when foreclosures go wrong
When a game’s embargo doesn’t end until release day, you have to be careful. if it doesn’t until a few hours after the game launches, you should probably run screaming the other way. that’s not a sign that the game might have middling reviews, it’s a sign that the publisher is trying to sell copies before word gets out.
It could also mean that the game is still being worked on, but any embargo after midnight the night before is incomplete. it’s a way to set up embargoes, and the best thing to do is wait until you can read about the game in detail.
The press can, of course, buy a copy of the game and publish stories based on the performance of that version of the game in the first few hours of its release, but that closes the door on reviews based on completion.
The good news is that these situations are rare, and this fall you can count on destiny, driveclub and assassin’s creed unity like games with reviews on launch day. take what you want from that, although that also happened with diablo 3: reaper of souls, which was great.
You should always be aware of these situations. The sooner a review is posted, often the more confidence the publisher has in the game.
you tell us through your readership, or lack thereof, that early reviews are more valuable to you
We agree to embargoes because we need to in order to get early access to the game. that value is that most of the traffic on a review arrives on the first day of publication, and any outlets that wait lose that traffic.
This system is really in the interest of the readers, even if we have to follow the publisher’s rules. the reality is that most readers come when the embargo is first lifted. if you agree to the embargo and then back out of the agreement to warn readers, you are going back on your word, which damages your credibility in every other aspect of your business.
we’re reacting to market realities: you’re telling us through your readers, or lack thereof, that early reviews are more valuable to you. this is what is needed and sometimes puts us in a bind. this is one of those times.
Foreclosures, in general, are a good thing. They help us get coverage of the games without rushing after release and it’s fun when the embargo drops and you can gorge yourself on reading all the reviews. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone gets their copy of the game and rushes to write the first review; the quality of criticism would drop significantly.
The best you can do is let consumers know what’s going on, and you can always get a few clues about the game from the time it’s embargoed. in this case, the embargo hinted at a game that is by no means ready for release, and the reality of the situation proves that hypothesis. assassin’s creed: rogue was not provided for any pre-release review.
However, the industry has more to gain from foreclosures than to lose, which doesn’t lessen the bullshit factor of these situations. if you buy before reading the reviews, written by the press or just other fans, you are putting yourself at risk.
The longer you have to wait to read the review, the higher the risk. in the future we will work to do a better job of sharing information about foreclosures and when to expect reviews.
This is a gentle reminder that waiting is almost always best.