Ubisoft Continues Embargo Shenanigans With The Crew

The Crew

Ubisoft is asking for reviewers to express patience when it comes to their upcoming racing game The Crew. Highlighting the game’s strong emphasis on its online interactions and community building, reviews for The Crew don’t become released from embargo until the game’s release date on December 2. In fact, press copies of the game won’t be available until launch day, limiting the chance for launch reviews to hit.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

This move is coming mere weeks after Ubisoft’s rocky release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game that released to poor performance issues and bugs all while holding reviews under embargo until several hours after it was made available. A Ubisoft representative claimed that the embargo was delayed to give reviews the chance to look at the game under optimal online conditions but many felt that the glaring flaws of the game had little to do with any online functionality.

To make matters worse, the representative claimed that the features were vital, much like that in Bungie’s Destiny, a game that also felt criticism for their Activision’s decision to request that reviews be published after reviewers played all the online offerings, including their endgame content. Unfortunately for Ubisoft, at least Destiny had content at their endgame that differed slightly from their content leading up to it.

Amid the turmoil around Unity, Ubisoft even declined to give publications access to Assassin’s Creed Rogue, the Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 only title. The game received mixed reviews and many reviewers pointed out the fact that the review copy was not provided nor did Ubisoft actively push for Rogue coverage.

The Crew

As far as The Crew is concerned, the move is another chalk mark in the shady category for Ubisoft. On the one hand a game like The Crew, that touts a strong focus towards online interactions, needs to be reviewed under conditions where communities can be formed and network performance can be evaluated. Ubisoft was likely paying attention to the dreadful release of Sony’s Driveclub and wanted to be given a fair shake.

Unfortunately that logic doesn’t work. Microsoft released Forza Horizon 2 to a ton of praise two weeks ahead of the game’s launch. And when the game finally launched, the game didn’t even experience a shade of the trouble that Driveclub did.

I truly do hope that The Crew turns out to be okay. I like silly racers with ludicrous upgrades. With the game’s promise to have a fully functional (miniaturized) version of the continental U.S., I hope The Crew fills a void that would echo back to days of Cruis’n USA or something along those lines.

But c’mon Ubisoft. Build a product that works. And support it fully.

The Crew

Polygon – Ubisoft warns players not to trust early reviews of The Crew

Ubisoft reacts to feedback surrounding the rough launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity

Assassin's Creed Unity

The launch of Ubisoft’s big tentpole title Assassin’s Creed Unity has been a bit of a roller coaster. From astronomical expectations as the first true next generation evolution for the Assassin’s Creed franchise to the harsh reality of game-breaking bugs, poor performance and a publisher that refused to cooperate with retailers and media outlets, the lead-up to Assassin’s Creed Unity has been incredibly disappointing.

Ubisoft responded to some of that feedback in an interview with BBC today where they claim that the ever-changing evolution of video games was the primary driver in why Assassin’s Creed Unity received such a late review embargo. Ubisoft had sent press copies of Assassin’s Creed Unity, but had place a media embargo on those reviews until noon November 11, the game’s release date. The move had been harshly criticized by several gaming media outlets as detrimental to both the media and consumer and served only to protect the initial sales rush for Ubisoft.

While not directly responding to the embargo related criticisms, a Ubisoft representative told the BBC that “having the online elements available and having populated worlds is essential to creating a representative and complete experience for reviewers. Achieving this prior to launch is incredibly complex, which is why some games are being reviewed much closer – or as was the case with Destiny, even after – the game launches.”

Assassin's Creed Unity

But the biggest problem with this statement is that it cites the way that Activision and Bungie handled the reviews for Destiny. Yes, review embargoes for Destiny were held until the day of release and Activision referred to the need for online servers to go live and a complete experience be available to reviewers. This is a true statement that also applies to some of the features of Assassin’s Creed Unity. Unfortunately, not all of Unity’s problems are centered in the way it handles online interactions, many of the issues stem from terrible bugs in character models, breaking the game and falling beyond the boundaries of the environment and overall poor performance in inconsistent frame rate on a game already throttled to a lower resolution.

As Ben Kuchera pointed out on Polygon, the decision to have such a late review embargo screams of a company trying to protect their product. A product that they have little confidence in.

This statement absolutely infuriates me as there should be no reason that a game isn’t stable as it approaches its actual launch. If a game is certified gold, it should be complete, stable and ready to play. While this may be unreasonable to expect, that is how things played out in a game prior to online patching and last second reversals.

Assassin's Creed Unity

Yes, online features absolutely need to be measured in real world conditions. Sim City and Battlefield 4 are recent examples of high reviews coming online before rough online launches. But as I recall, Destiny, while they also held reviews, requested that reviewers do their due diligence and at least play through most of the online content that Destiny offered before providing their opinion. A request that many outlets adhered to.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is a disappointing, broken mess. The fact that Ubisoft is failing to recognize that is a blatant misstep. I’m all for standing behind your product, but the best thing they can do is focus on their mistakes and rectifying them.

BBC – Assassin’s Creed: Unity criticised for widespread glitches
Polygon – How Assassin’s Creed Unity weaponized review embargoes

Destiny Destined for September 9 Release

Destiny

Destiny, Bungie’s first game under new publisher Activision, will be launching September 9, 2014.

Originally slated for a spring release, pushing Destiny back into the fall gives Bungie a little more breathing room, especially with Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall set to make some noise in March. With the later release date, Bungie is now targeting a summer multiplayer beta test that will be available first on the Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

Destiny

In an industry filled with ‘what have you done for me lately’ tenants, Destiny’s success is crucial to Activision and Bungie’s relationship together. Bungie has been largely quiet since Halo Reach, instead assisting 343 Industries in taking over developmental duties for the Halo franchise. While taking their time during development is something that Bungie has a reputation of, the delay to fall leaves many with new consoles salivating for something big to play.

To me, Destiny definitely has the polish and vintage sci-fi spark that Bungie cut its teeth on during its Halo days and the studio’s bold vision of an always-online MMO type shooter has certainly piqued my interest. Initial thoughts have been that Destiny certainly has Halo’s fingerprints all over its DNA, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Bungie – Destiny Launch Date

Top Ten Tuesday E3 2013 Wrap-up – Ten Games to Look Forward to

Tom Clancy's The Division

Believe it or not, this year’s E3 was more than Microsoft and Sony exchanging blows (or depending on how you saw it, Microsoft rocking in the fetal position). With new consoles means new gorgeous games to salivate over and Nintendo is always a safe bet to surprise, especially in a period where the Wii U needs to gain a firm hold before the new systems launch. But as much hype as pipeline titles like Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge 2, Kingdom Hearts III and Halo have gotten, this list is reserved for titles that have shown off at least a little bit of gameplay.

10. Destiny – Bungie – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, X360

Sci-Fi action studios need to take notice whenever Bungie tries something new, Destiny looks stunning. Set on Earth in the distant future, it looks like scavenging is a way of life for a planet taken over by aliens. But as much as Bungie is fantastic creators of worlds, Destiny looks incredibly similar to Halo from the weaponry to the 343 Guilty Spark knock-off.

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Top Ten Tuesday E3 2013 Edition – Biggest News to Come Out of the Pre-Show Presentations

E3 officially begins today, as the show will open to denizens of reporters (not named Theory Flaw) ready for terrible food, hourly deadlines and product demos galore. But while many games will get their moment of glory in the coming days, the major players have already opened their hands for heads-up poker. Franchise reboots, new exclusives, new consoles and product strategy highlight this list of the biggest news to come out of the pre-show presentations.

10. Crimson Dragon

I had to try my hardest not to write Dragoon because this is clearly designed in the vein of the stellar dragon riding series Panzer Dragoon. Even bringing back Panzer Dragoon series director Yukio Futatsugi this Kinect based Xbox One game features massive bosses and gorgeous dragon-borne aerial combat. While I fear it may play a little too closely to Child of Eden, this is clearly a bold move by Microsoft.

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