Over the past week, Ubisoft let slip to media outlets that there would be no review copies of The Division sent out before the worldwide release of the game on Tuesday, 8th of March.
These media outlets then relayed to their readership that they therefore shouldn’t expect any reviews of [Tom Clancy's The Division](tag:2684169) to go up before the release of the game, and to expect them sometime after the launch of the game.
You can look at this move from Ubisoft from several different angles, and most are them are unfortunately cynical angles, given the current state of online video game releases at launch.
Firstly, there’s the school of thought that states that this could be a damage control move from Ubisoft. Maybe they know their game isn’t totally working, just like Capcom likely knew when recently launching Street Fighter V.
In holding reviews until after the game has launched, there won’t be any negative press circulating until well after those that were going to buy the game on day one have done so. In holding the reviews, there won’t anything to put people off the game, or alert them to the fact that it could be launching in an unplayable state.
Secondly, there’s also the reviews themselves to consider. Let’s talk about embargoes for a brief moment. Embargoes are there to make sure the games media all publish their reviews at exactly the same time. In doing this, there isn’t any rush to be the first outlet to review a game, as everyone is publishing their reviews at the same time.
Take away this embargo, and you potentially have problems. Given that all media outlets will receive their copy of The Division as soon as the game goes live at midnight EST, you’ll then have everyone scrambling to be the first to put their review out there, given the fact that there’s no embargo stopping them from doing so.
This could ultimately create catastrophic problems within the games media. I have no doubt whatsoever that there’ll be outlets that’ll merely play half an hour of the game when it goes live and immediately write up a review based on that very short time spent with the game.
Or even worse, you could have outlets potentially preparing reviews already based on what they played within the various betas for the game, and just copy and pasting these reviews to analyse the final product.
I already mentioned Street Fighter V launched in a virtually unplayable state for some fans. However all the betas worked completely fine for the game, and this is indicative of how what you play in a beta of a game doesn’t always resemble what you’ll get in the final product.
I’m clinging desperately to some form of hope that there won’t be outlets that’ll do what I’ve mentioned above: rushing so desperately to review The Division that they won’t actually bother checking whether everything works properly or not.
But, as modern society dictates, those that get the scoop on something first are always the most talked-about.
UPDATE: As I'm typing this, at 13:30 on 7th of March, Ubisoft have announced that the servers for the Division have just gone live. To everyone telling me that there couldn't be early reviews for the Division as servers wouldn't have gone live, this shows Ubisoft can put up the servers whenever they please, therefore giving the publisher the ability to put them up for early reviewers.