Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reviewer Reviews Review Embargos

The Review Embargo. For those who don't know what this is, it's an agreement made by a publisher of a video game and potential reviewers that help promote the product. An embargo means that people can not post reviews of a game until a specific date. Typically this is a week or two before release, or the day of. Very rarely do we see it happen after a game's release. And in some situations the publisher may ask that reviewers now talk about certain aspects of the game to keep out spoilers for potential customers.

It's difficult to find reviewers who agree with each other on the thought process behind embargos. Some are for it. Others are against it. And as Sophie Kruse notes in an article for The Post, it can be tricky to figure out one's own feelings.

As we found out with Assassin's Creed:Unity, an embargo can reflect the concerns of the publisher. By having a lock-down on reviews until after the game's release, it showed that Ubisoft did not have as much confidence in their product. Clearly an issue given the amount of glitches in the game, that they had every right to be worried.

Embargo's also allow for fairer journalism. By this I mean there isn't a rush to be the "first" to publish a story on a new game. You can take as long as you'd like before the deadline to dive in and craft a review that is worthy of your, and your readers, time. It's not about "I got this done first" and half-arse a review on the latest game. Instead you give readers a quality overview of the product that enables readers to be more informed about their purchasing decisions. Why? Because of that timeline for posting, you don't have the rush to be first. Everyone else must abide to the same guidelines as you.

On the other side, as a gamer who wants to spend money on the latest Triple A title, we can get screwed over by this system. Where there's an emphasis on pre-orders and an all-quiet on reviews, it makes us wonder if the product is up to snuff. Embargo's mean we don't always get the content we want to read about. We may not know that the publisher turned down the difficulty, because the magazine has signed a contract to not mention it. So the review leaves out tidbits of info that could sway our purchase decision. And then we go out, buy the game, and find out on our own that the content is lacking what was initially promised. As a gamer, you're not getting the full information due to the embargo. Only bits and pieces that the publisher deems worthy of sharing with the public.

It truly is a double-edged sword. For the good things embargo's can give to journalism and gamers, there are equally as many bad things.

How do you feel about review embargos?

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