Today sees the launch of not one, but two brand new titles in the Assassin’s Creed series. Typically major publications have day-one reviews ready to go by midnight, and this has become expected by their dedicated reader base to inform them about their purchases before dipping in to the ol’ wallet.
Ubisoft‘s review embargo of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, however, did not allow any publication to post their review until noon today EST–12 hours after the game’s release. The reviews that came out afterwards haven’t exactly been all that positive, leading many to believe that Ubisoft knew Unity wouldn’t be getting the praise we were all hoping for, and, in turn, potentially crashing day one sales figures in the process.
Polygon posted an article about it, which is an interesting read about how an early review embargo showcases confidence in your product, rather than benefiting sales over quality. Their example, Dragon Age: Inquisition, is a week from launch and the embargo ended today, allowing publications to post their reviews a week in advance–which have all been really positive so far.
Other games with deceptively strict review embargos, like Destiny and Driveclub, show similar results–although the former has always been advertised as a game that will continue to build over time. Driveclub, however, still remains borderline unplayable on the PS4.
What’s worse is that Assassin’s Creed: Rogue releases today as well, but wasn’t offered early to review for anyone. No early reviews for Rogue leads me to believe that Ubisoft doesn’t want the negative reception to damage sales, and by withholding Unity reviews for 12 hours after the game’s release, I get the impression that they knew exactly what kind of product they were pushing out to the public.
However, in Kotaku’s review–even while giving the game a big fat “No”–Stephen Totilo gave a more positive reply to a comment about the embargo, stating:
“Post-release embargoes are not very good, but I couldn’t have written this thorough a review if I hadn’t had the game for several days. If Ubisoft really wanted to be jerks, they wouldn’t have sent a copy early at all. I can’t fault them too severely for not letting reviews run the minute the game was launched. Still, you get a better review now thanks to my early access.”
What do you think? Did Ubisoft know they were pushing out a pretty game with little substance that was bound for mediocrity, and were afraid of what their middle of the road review scores would do for sales in the process?
If developers and publishers alike are afraid of what major publications say about their game before anyone has the chance to play it, it definitely shows me they’re not confident in their own product.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling news, reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s an aspiring video game journalist, Baltimore native, and on again/off again WoW player that blasphemously favors consoles over PC. He’ll always have a soft spot for Nintendo, and his favorite game is the original Metroid on NES. As a Marylander he naturally puts Old Bay on everything, loves the Orioles, reads a lot of Poe, and says “son” too much. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.