Ben Kuchera, Polygon:
When a game’s embargo isn’t up until the day of launch you need to be careful. If it isn’t up until a few hours after the game is launched you should probably run screaming the other way. That’s not a signal that the game may have middling reviews, that’s a signal that the publisher is trying to sell copies before the word hits the street.
It could also meant the game is still being worked on, but any embargo past midnight the night before is sketchy as hell. It’s a way to weaponize embargoes, and the best thing to do is to hold off until you can read about the game in detail.
You should always be on the lookout for these situations. The earlier a review hits, often the more confidence the publisher has in the game.
Earlier this year, I commented that Nintendo “gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch”. Looking back, this was definitely less of a gamble and more a projection with confidence.
From a publisher’s perspective, I understand careful consideration over embargo dates. However, if a consumer cares deeply about a reviewer’s opinion, there should be no problem in waiting for a trusted opinion. The day-and-date state-of-mind is poison.
This does not, however, address the problem of protection from broken product. This is not film or music— botched playback would never escape manufacturing; a bad bounce would never escape the studio. Pre-orders for products so deeply rooted in real-time mechanics and engineering, notoriously subjected to time crunches and annual release dates, cannot wisely be considered for pre-order without subjection to reviews. While I implore patiently waiting for reviews on this type of product, release date and post-release date embargo lifts, as Kuchera implies, are cowardly and bullshit.
Pre-release embargoes are important, as is our appetite for new product.