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APB caught up in review controversy

By Alec Meer

Thu 17 Jun 2010 3:35pm GMT / 11:35am EDT / 8:35am PDT

Realtime Worlds embargoes media until 10 days after MMO's public release

Scottish studio Realtime Worlds, creator of Crackdown, has caused some controversy in the videogames media by embargoing reviews of its forthcoming online title APB until ten days after its US release, with some journalists querying the motives behind the move.

The MMO, developed by some of the creators of the original GTA, launches on June 26 in America, and June 29 in the UK. However, in an email to journalists concerning beta access, Realtime Worlds required that all reviews be withheld until July 6.

"Before finalising reviews, we want you to experience the full, rich experience of APB as it is meant to be seen," stated the message. "We want you to see wild customer customisations, player progression and clans making an impact on the living breathing city of San Paro.

"This key code also therefore grants you, along with our pre-order customers, VIP early access before the official launch day. June 26th in North America and June 28th in Europe. The review embargo is Tuesday, 6th July at 8am UK time."

While reviews are often under embargo until the day of release, to set one after consumers may purchase the title is relatively rare.

The story was broken by PC gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun, which questioned Realtime Worlds' motive - whether it was to ensure reviewers had allotted sufficient time to the review, or if the company was concerned about critical word of mouth impressions from beta testers.

"If [the latter] is their reason," said co-founder John Walker, "then they are attempting to silence criticism of their commercially released product, preventing consumers from receiving appropriate purchasing advice."

The site also surmised that that embargo would not stop readers and fansites posting their opinions come release day. APB's Key To The City public beta event - for which hundreds of thousands of players worldwide will have access - commences on June 12. contacted Realtime Worlds for comment, but the company had yet to provide one by the time of publishing.

UPDATE: Realtime Worlds has since contacted to explain the reasoning in more detail; the embargo date has also been brought forward, and journalists will be able to enter the Early Access period starting June 26. Full details are contained in a separate article.

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Isaiah Taylor Writer/Photographer

26 2 0.1
Interested to see how this plays out. Very interested in the level of snark that may be sprinkled throughout reviews as result of this move.

Posted:6 years ago


Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
The thing is, you can appreciate RTW's intentions behind such a move, but publications aren't going to like it, and it does make alarm bells ring.

Have they also considered how this will likely put a lot of consumers on edge; I don't know about anyone else, but I would be sceptical about buying a new IP that has absolutely no professional reviews available for it.

Posted:6 years ago


Dave Jones Creative Director, Realtime Worlds

1 0 0.0
Completely agree Terence, hence the full access to the game this week for anyone wanting to try it. Unlike single player games we don't have a gold master copy we can send out for reviews ahead of the street date. Access to the final game is based on the servers going live on the day of launch. I think it's completely fair that reviews are based on that. It was nothing more than that.

Posted:6 years ago


Ashley Tarver Indie

41 1 0.0
The problem you have by doing this, people straight away think "reviews gonna be bad then..." ... Also you now risk worse reviews because of strangling reviewers ...

Other MMOs seem to manage fine with reviews and timings ...

Posted:6 years ago


Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts

146 71 0.5
To be fair to RTW, you can't base a review of an MMO on a couple of hours played on release day. MMOs by their very nature require you to play for some time to get some levels, get more skills or abilities and see what the world has to offer.

It's very important to get a feel for the "new player experience" but people are most likely going to far more interested in mid to endgame content, progession, server stability, performance and so on. Allowing ten days is going to give people a chance to get a good handle on the game, its highs and lows and suchforth, and give people a better idea of what they're letting themselves in for.

In all honesty the only reviews of MMOs I ever take notice of are ones that are either written after the game comes out and the population has had a chance to mature a little, or ones that are updated regularly to follow the reviewers progression through the game.

Better yet, word of mouth is still the best advert or review for a game. Most games I play are on the recommendation of friends or co-workers, despite what the reviewers or marketing tell me.

Posted:6 years ago


Ashley Tarver Indie

41 1 0.0
EA is publishing APB?

Posted:6 years ago


Kieran MacGough Studying Computer Games Design & Programming, Staffordshire University

19 0 0.0
I think this is a good idea. Being an MMO, you can't expect to have a full aspect of the game until a few days of play. Me and others have all experienced this with other MMOs, such as WoW, Guild Wars and Global Agenda. The first few hours/days can be tedious levelling a character, but once you start to unlock new features, the game grows on you.

TL;DR - Good move!

Posted:6 years ago


Joseph Moore Senior Programmer, CCP

2 0 0.0
It makes sense and is a good idea, but "You can't review our game until X date" always sends a tremor of fear into the heart of gamers, because it usually means "This game is bad, we know it, and we want to sell copies before you tell everyone else." This doesn't really apply to MMOs, but rather is more applicable to single player games. Hopefully this won't sully RTW's rep or negatively impact their game in any way. It's just a bunch of silly rumormongering based on not understanding motives behind their decision.

Posted:6 years ago


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