APB Review Embargo: What kind of a message are they sending?

First, I should state that I’ve dabbled in the beta of APB. I got into the closed beta the night before it ended, and I’m in the current short-term beta, though haven’t had a lot of time to play. I’m under NDA (I think? RPS implies it has been lifted. I didn’t really play enough to speak intelligently about the game in any case.) so can’t get into specifics, but suffice to say that based on a total of maybe 1 hour of playing the beta, I was considering pre-ordering the game. I certainly hadn’t made up my mind to do it, but I was rolling the idea around in my head.

Then this news of a review embargo came out. According to Rock, Papers, Shotgun, Realtime Worlds is attempting to impose a review embargo until a week after launch. It’s a ludicrous thing to attempt, telling someone they can’t talk about a game they bought until a week later.

But besides being dumb and unenforceable, it’s horrible marketing. As soon as I read this I made up my mind NOT to pre-order APB. If Realtime Worlds has so little confidence in their product, I certainly am not going to risk my $50.

I have to assume they ran the numbers and decided that they’d lose more business to early bad reviews than to sending loss-of-confidence marketing messages, but I think in the end they’ll lose in both ways. There’s no reason for a publication to adhere to their request: this isn’t EA or Activision where the company can use other IPs as leverage to enforce their will (and even so, that’d be abhorrent behavior). So reviews are still going to come out when pubs have done due diligence in playing. If those reviews are bad, it’ll hurt sales. In addition to that, folks like me are going to shy away due to this marketing message.

I can’t understand what they were thinking.

I enjoyed my short time in APB. My reservations were built around trying to understand why there was a subscription model attached to it, and trying to decide if it was something I’d enjoy over a long period. But now I can only think I missed some major short-comings in my time playing. So I’ll wait and see what the reviews say.

[UPDATE: Realtime Worlds has responded to Rock, Paper, Shotgun with an explanation. Basically it boils down to them not wanting reviewers to review the game based on the current “Keys to the City” beta event. Fair enough, but if that’s what you’re asking, ask it. Don’t try to deliver an ultimatum in the form of an embargo. Thanks to Brent for bringing this to my attention!]

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