This entry will be significantly shorter than my last ramble but I intend to keep this topic alive because I feel it is important. If we hope to maintain an open and honest media, even if it is a blog that is a barely-trodden corridor of the city-sized labyrinth of Internet rags, we have to get the word out whenever we feel there is some sort of system in place that exists to handicap or even eliminate our ability to share our own thoughts on a product released by a major media corporation.
A long-time studio tactic that has been called into scrutiny more and more of late is the review embargo. A review embargo is a prohibition on the early release of reviews and detailed commentary before a certain specified date after early screenings or pre-release copies of a product are made available to critics. These individuals are usually your standard mainstream newspaper critic but their ranks also encompass a rollcall of columnists from other “trusted” sources. Often coming with a written agreement to the studio’s terms and even the occasional non-disclosure agreement, these embargoes are almost always a red flag for me.
While I often prefer to avoid citing any corporate-fed media source, I think critic Marshall Fine said it best on the Huffington Post; “It’s all about controlling information — and bad word of mouth. This kind of embargo is almost never associated with a movie which is expected to be a critical hit. (source)” I think this pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head. If a movie or game is expected to rock everyone’s world, why keep them out of the loop as long as possible? Sometimes these review embargoes can be in place up to as late as the Wednesday before the release of a film, intentionally buried in the middle of the workweek.
I stated in my previous diatribe (for lack of a better word) that as products become more expensive, it becomes more necessary to hide or silence any negative press for as long as possible to get the cash of early adopters and opening weekend addicts who want to beat the barrage of inconsiderate spoilers that will inevitably flood the Web by Saturday evening. However, I believe this tactic is starting to lose its effectiveness. Consumers are growing more and more savvy to the biases and manipulations of major media sources and are less tolerant than ever of being conned into buying a product that is knowingly-bad, the flaws of which being intentionally hid from them in the hopes that they will spend first and ask questions later.