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Does applying a review embargo automatically kill a game ?

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Aliens: Colonial Marines.

A lot of us have been waiting for a decent Aliens game to capture the frenetic action from that second installment of the franchise and there was a definite weight of expectation heaped on the Gearbox effort. But the early reviews are starting to trickle in, most damning is from GamesTM with a poor 4/10 scoring. And the question I have to ask is this: Does forcing an embargo on reviews of a game until the day of release damn it automatically ?

This has happened pretty much throughout gaming history. According to Stephanie Schopp, PR exec in the industry, “The review embargo makes sure that everyone is given a chance to play the game, and it removes the impulse to rush through a release to get your review up first. A drive-by review doesn’t do readers any good, and if your readers aren’t getting anything from the editorial who is that really serving?”

But really, with games subject to ever-increasing hype cycles does it automatically signify that the developer doesn’t actually believe their efforts have paid off, that their lack of confidence in the delivery of the final code and gameplay means they have to force a blackout to take advantage of the pre-order rush before people cancel based on a barrage of negative reviews ?

“If you know your game is going to get thrashed in reviews, you’re definitely going to set a launch-day embargo, or you may not send out early review code at all; the latter scenario, I think, is more telling as it pertains to the quality of a game,” Tom Ohle, Director of Evolve PR has said on the subject.

It’s a double-edged sword for a developer and for those parting with their hard-earned, the anticipation of the review is sometimes as emotive as waiting for the game to install itself to affirm that the purchase was worth it.

So is setting up a news embargo until release date a good thing ? Does it paint an automatic negative image in your mind about something you’ve waited to play for so long ?

For Gearbox, it could be Colonial Marine’s last stand at Hadley’s Hope ….


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