Pre-ordering in 2014 is a needlessly risky game, unless, of course, you don’t mind throwing away large sums of money. For example, if we take a look at the current situation with Watch Dogs and Ubisoft’s infamous embargo restrictions, try to forget about the expensive marketing campaigns where gamers are bombarded with television adverts telling you this is the must have game of the year.
You would need to be either brave or foolish to pre-order any game without the knowledge as to whether it’s actually going to be any good.
A handful of established sites will be able to reveal their thoughts and offer a full review of the delayed game tomorrow morning, but by that time, most will already have the game as it will have been delivered by the postman.
We are now living in an age of digital distribution, where scarcity is a non-issue for most people, but the high cost of this privilege still puts most people off. Many are likely still tempted by a considerably cheaper physical pre-order option.
Games journalism gets a bad rap and it’s easy to see why. I cannot think of any other form of entertainment where people would part with £50 without having read a single review before committing to the purchase. To rub further salt into the wounds, the only people that are allowed to review the game prior to release are a small number. When you take a step back from this process, it’s clear to see why gamers are a cynical bunch.
Fortunately, as a rule of thumb, gamers are technically savvy and will happily spend an hour or two scouring online for the truth behind the old school restrictions, after-all isn’t that what spending hours playing games has taught us?
Still, It didn’t take long for the public to get their hands on some embargo busting opinions of people lucky enough to get very early hands-on with the much anticipated release. This prompted a quick, damage-controlled response that resembled something from George Orwell’s 1984, or more appropriately something you would expect from the Bioshock series.
Ubisoft used their Twitter account to warn consumers that there are false Watch Dogs reviews floating around the web and that the embargo for reviews of the game is May 27th, which is the day the game releases.
Despite the strict review embargo for Watch Dogs, it has already technically been broken by Conan O’Brien who reviewed the game as part of the “Clueless Gamer” segment of his show, but this celebrity endorsement actually created something of a backlash online. A Ubisoft rep quickly advised “We look at the segment as more of a comedy sketch than a review”
A little research online revealed my concerns were justified, as it has been confirmed earlier this year that Conan O’Brien charges a considerable fee for Clueless Gamer reviews. When you put the whole story together, something just does not feel right.
Personally, I find the use of early celebrity endorsements and strict embargoed reviews from trusted sources a little uncomfortable for my liking, especially when Conan seemed to be praising a game, but clearly not really knowing what he was doing, which ultimately just felt like a product placement piece, thinly disguised as a comedy sketch.
Considering the subject matter of Watch Dogs it’s somewhat ironic that a concept of “Information warfare, data being interconnected, and the world’s increasing use of technology” has captured gamers imaginations with its anti-establishment themes, but the same techniques are being used to control the gamers buying the game.
At this point in time, we really do not know if Watch Dogs will live up to the hype or not, but after being burned in the past by Aliens Colonial Marines, there are good reasons for my cynicism which left me once bitten and twice shy.
With Ubisoft recently announcing that Watch Dogs is the most pre-ordered new IP in Ubisoft’s history and the most pre-ordered new IP in the entire industry this year and second- highest pre-ordered Ubisoft game ever, you would imagine that the publisher would have full confidence to allow reviews to be viewed prior to a games’ release, but if they don’t have this confidence then it will inevitably arouse suspicion and suggest that they may have something to hide.
I sincerely hope that I am wrong and that Watch Dogs is much more than a repetitive game that will be forgotten by September and was deliberately delayed to avoid the the GTA V blast zone, but Ubisoft have done little to relieve my concerns.
Do you have any concerns? Let us know by commenting below.