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.
GamesIndustry.biz contacted Realtime Worlds for comment, but the company had yet to provide one by the time of publishing.
UPDATE: Realtime Worlds has since contacted GamesIndustry.biz 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.