The Shenmue 3 review embargo was very nearly set to two days after the launch of the game, but it's since been moved to the day of release.
Typically, a post-launch review embargo can be seen as a sign of a game that might not be the best quality. Developers and publishers will, as a general rule, try to avoid this situation, setting the review embargo for the day of release or as many as a few days beforehand.
For some strange reason, the Shenmue 3 review embargo was originally announced to be November 21, 2019 — two days after the game's release date of November 19. That has since changed, and the reasons behind the decision are a bit of a mystery.
Review Embargoes 101
If you don't closely following the gaming industry, you might be wondering what a review embargo is. To keep things simple, it's essentially a promise from media outlets not to publish a particular kind of coverage until a certain date.
As an example, the typical review embargo will restrict the publishing of any in-game screenshots, videos, or other information until a specific date, usually the day before release or the day (and time) of release. Some embargos will allow for videos to go up earlier; even more rarely, there will be no embargo at all.
What's the purpose? Well, without a review embargo, gaming websites would rush through a game as fast as possible in order to get their review online first (and all the traffic that goes with it). In their rush, journalists and influencers may not get the most comprehensive opinion of a game and may miss critical portions, running the risk of negatively impacting the quality of the review.
A review embargo more or less puts everyone on a level-playing field and, much more importantly, ensures that everyone covering a game has more than enough time to play it.
Violating an embargo isn't a good idea, either. While there's rarely any legal enforcement method included, there is a social one (usually implied, and rarely stated explicitly): break an embargo, and you won't get any more games from that developer or publisher. They also are unlikely to want to talk with you much or trust you with any other embargoes such as for announcements.
A review embargo set after a game goes on sale is generally regarded by the gaming community as a bad game. If reviews don't come out until after it's up for sale, impatient customers will buy the game blind and are likely not to know about any problems that might be revealed in a review. That's not always the case, but that is the perception.
Many outlets, including TechRaptor, also decline post-launch embargos due to the issues they cause and few developers offer them - instead a developer may not send out codes until near or at release. A prominent case of a post-launch embargo was 2014's Assassin's Creed Unity which had an embargo for Noon on the day it released, 12 hours after it was available for sale. Many outlets had agreed to it and were frustrated due to the inability to comment on a game that was technically broken until after it had been on sale for 12 hours, prompting a general revisiting and revamping of policies around post-launch embargoes for media outlets.
The Mystery of the Shenmue 3 Review Embargo
Now that you know what an embargo is, you can see why the Shenmue 3 review embargo being 2 days after launch flat-out looks bad. It's a mystifying move that was first revealed by VG 24/7's deputy editor.
"Shenmue 3 release date - November 19. Shenmue 3 review embargo - November 21. That’s a new one.henmue 3 release date - November 19. Shenmue 3 review embargo - November 21. That’s a new one," VG 24/7 Deputy Editor Kick McKeand said in a tweet. Mr. McKeand followed up by saying that, to his knowledge, it seems that this delay only applied to the UK and may apply to the whole of Europe.
There were more than a hundred replies to that tweet, and quite a few of them were spelling doom for the release of this hotly-anticipated sequel before it had even come out. Thankfully, the whole situation appears to be a mistake.
The German Twitter account for Koch Media (parent company of Deep Silver, publisher of Shenmue 3) publicly followed up to his tweet with a correction on the Shenmue 3 review embargo.
"Hey Kirk, sorry for the confusion here," the tweet read. "The global embargo date for press reviews is November 19th - launch day. Hope the good news gets you in the ShenMOOD!"
We can't say for sure why the review embargo was (apparently mistakenly) announced as being two days later than launch; we've reached out to the publisher to find out why. In the meantime, you can look forward to Shenmue 3 launching for PC via the Epic Games Store, the PS4, and Xbox One on November 19, 2019.
Why do you think the Shenmue 3 review embargo was reported as being two days after launch? Are you going to pick up this game on release or will you wait a while? Let us know in the comments below!