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Why we’re breaking the Broken Age embargo [updated]

Check out our full review of Broken Age: Act 1.

UPDATE: We just received a new backers-only update from Double Fine that formally rescinds the embargo request. You can read the full text of the studio’s decision below:

Hey all, I just wanted to write and let you know that we have decided to go ahead and lift the embargo on Broken Age reviews. The decision to set this originally was not made with any sort of malicious or controlling intent, but rather to keep spoilers to a minimum and give press time to enjoy the game, reflect on it, and write a review without feeling rushed to get it out first. However, it’s clear the excitement will be difficult to contain.

So feel free to run your reviews and let’s play videos as soon as you’d like! (And remember to be careful about story spoilers, especially the ending) Thanks for being so understanding. Hopefully you guys did the game!

ORIGINAL POST: We’re going to be running a review for Double Fine’s Broken Age later this week. The game will be sent to Kickstarter backers on January 14, as we already reported. I’m a backer, so I’m one of the more than 87,000 people that will be getting the game before it goes on sale to the general public on January 28. At this point, you’re probably asking why this seemingly simple thing is the subject of a news post.

Here’s why: Double Fine Productions’ latest update to backers – sent this week – includes the following note…

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. 

Embargoes come with the territory of being in the press, and not just gaming press. It’s part of an implied understanding between those that make the news and those that report it. Sometimes you receive privileged information early. In exchange for having the ability to pre-write news and break it right when an announcement is made, you agree to abide by the news provider’s timeline. The same is true of video game reviews; we get early access so we can have a timely review to publish. It’s just the way of things.

That’s not the case here though. When a member of the press agrees to an embargo, it’s almost always in advance of receiving any privileged materials. The agreement is a promise, and breaking that promise typically ends with said writer/reporter losing privileged access from that news provider in the future. It’s only fair.

In the case of Broken Age, I’ll be receiving the game on January 14 because I paid for it with my own money during the Kickstarter period. Backers don’t sign anything when they pay up. You’re committing, as a consumer, to buy something. Yes, I’m press too. Don’t forget though: Members of the press buy things all the time for coverage purposes, and it’s usually because a purchase gets the product in-hand sooner than dealing with PR representatives does. 

Digital Trends is not in the habit of breaking embargoes, but we’re going to run a review of Broken Age this week. Why? We do not recognize this as an embargo. There was never any promise made, and the privileged access that we’ll have is the product of an independently made consumer purchase. If Double Fine takes issue with that, so be it. We’ve got the utmost respect for the studio’s work, but this is an inappropriate request to make, of the press and of everyone else in the backer community. 

Act I of Broken Age will be publicly available for purchase via Steam for Windows/Mac/Linux on January 28. Act II is set to arrive “later this year” as a free update for anyone that owns Act I. The full game is also confirmed for release at a later, unconfirmed date on iOS/Android and Ouya.

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