Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something new happens within the video game industry. Broken Age, an adventure game created by Double Fine and Tim Schafer, has imposed an embargo on its Kickstarter backers for January 27th, VG24/7 has learned. The first half of the game is being released to backers today, almost 2 weeks before the embargo date.
In a post to project backers:
We’re also preparing to send out review codes to press, who will be under review embargo until January 27. This embargo also applies to any of you backers who are in the press or have blogs—we are requiring all formal reviews be held until January 27 at 10am Pacific time (6pm GMT). The same time limit applies to the press as to backers; everyone is in the same boat! We’re trying to be as fair as possible given that backers will have access to the game before everyone else.
I have already written about Kickstarter campaigns for well-established developers in the past, but it bears repeating; Double Fine have been taking advantage of the trust of their backers. First it was going over their $3.3M budget provided for the fans, then asking them for more money, then it was splitting up a complete game into two acts after missing deadlines. Now Double Fine expects those who have waited for a long time to play Broken Age and have paid their own cash to do so to keep their formalized opinions to themselves?
The embargo makes sense for those that receive a review code. The publisher is providing the reviewer with a free copy of the game in advance, so the reviewer can provide a means of giving their thoughts before or at release. Even then, it is under the threat of being blacklisted for future games or interviews. However, this is not necessarily the case when it comes to Kickstarter.
Backers of Broken Age have bought into the idea of the game, some to the point of providing thousands of dollars. It earned ~$2.9M more than what they were looking for. The way they are returning that love is by telling someone who has already received the game they paid for that they can’t formally review it for 2 weeks.
It allows Double Fine to game the system for publicity. Even though it will be hard to enforce (read: near impossible), their goal is to coerce their fans into providing Youtube videos, blog reviews and general hype for the game when it becomes available to the public. It is more a marketing tactic at the expense of those who funded them than a means of making it “fair” for critical review.
Those who were early adopters of Broken Age should not be punished by the restrictions of a publisher when they throw their own money down on the table. Whether it is a fan, an enthusiast or a critic; telling a paying customer to keep quiet about their experiences is a dangerous precedent to start for the video game industry.
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