Broken Age: Double Fine imposes post-launch review embargo on Kickstarter backers [Update]

Tuesday, 14th January 2014 21:01 GMT By Dave Cook

Broken Age developer Double Fine has lifted the review embargo which was imposed earlier today, according to a recent tweet from Kotaku.


Per a tweet from Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo: “There is no longer a Broken Age review embargo, Double Fine now says. Go, reviewers, go!”

An update sent to Kickstarter backers confirmed this: “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.”

Earlier today, it was announced that the game’s first-act was set to arrive into the hands of Kickstarter backers today, but backers with blogs or who are members of the press were unable to write about it until two weeks after launch. You read the original story below.

Original Story

In a Kickstarter update sent to VG247 today, Double Fine wrote, “Right now we’re working on a press release that will go out tomorrow morning. This will announce the public ship date of the game and a new trailer showing off Vella, the female protagonist!”

That date is today, January 14. Broken Age’s first act will release exclusively for backers, but the press and gamers have been placed under embargo until January 27. It’s an odd situation.

The post continues, “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.”

What do you make of the above? It essentially states that backers who have laid down money for the game are unable to write about a product that is already released. Typically, such embargoes come pre-launch, which is understandable, but we’re keen to see how many backers actually stick to these rules, and what he penalty will be for those who break the request.

To ask ordinary gamers “with blogs” to refrain from writing about their game is abnormal, but it’s unclear where the line sits. Should they also refrain from tweeting or posting about the title on Facebook? The rules are hazy at best.

We’ll have more on this as it comes.



  1. Xbone

    You know… when I hear that there can be no review till the game released… or 2 weeks later… in these cases you know that the DEVELOPERS KNOW that their product is crap.

    #1 11 months ago
  2. johnapocalypse

    That’s not a good sign, surely you would want people to talk about how great your game is before it is available for everyone

    #2 11 months ago
  3. freedoms_stain

    @1, the game isn’t on general release, it’s Kickstarters only for now. People who have already paid. It’s not like they’re trying to screw 2 weeks worth of sales out of the uninformed public.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. Dragon

    Classic case of making a line in sand.
    They are legally threaten journos who have signed NDAs, or not send them future review copies.
    But what can they do to stop paid customers from talking about what they paid for?
    Answer – Nothing.

    #4 11 months ago
  5. SurplusGamer

    A few inaccuracies here:

    It’s formal reviews that are embargoed. Not ‘talking about the game’. Backers are even being encouraged to record and post videos of the game (but they’re being asked not to spoil beyond a certain point.)

    So, impressions articles and tweeting and blogging and whatever else about the game are all fair game.

    Also, the embargo is just until the game goes on sale, which is fairly common, isn’t it? They’re asking for reviews not to be released until the game goes on sale to the public.

    What can they do to stop people? Nothing I guess, but I think it’s a perfectly fair ask.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. hives

    “We are requiring all formal reviews”, I guess people will be able to just post impressions on Steam.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. Tormenter

    You know what people?.. EVERYONE who has the backer’s release of this CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT WITH IT.

    Had it been stipulated at the time of backing then MAYBE Tim would have had a leg to stand on.. but trying to lock something like this down when the original deal didn’t mention restrictions.. If he’d wanted provisos then he should have mentioned it when people were shelling out for it, the backer’s are LEGALLY due this release without any restriction,because none were mentions as conditions in the kickstarter……. This is NOT like a normal release.. as of now He can’t do shit about it, IT’S A BLUFF.

    Sorry, Tim.. but in THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION you CAN’T DEMAND shit… he would be laughed out of court.

    Bloggers hurry up and blog, I want to know if it’s any good.

    If devs want conditions like this they MUST be stated at the time of fundraising because if people disagree to the conditions, they have a right to disagree without penalty because they have not been made to accept those conditions BEFORE they paid their money, and offering refunds aren’t relevent to this…. If KS’er devs DO start putting in these restriction at the time of fund raising, I’d LOVE to know how many will actually make their target… I wouldn’t donate under those circumstances… Would you?

    Legally, Tim is pissing in the wind. Ethically he’s being a fag.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. TheWulf

    Or, hey, guys… it’s a game of a genre epitomised by storytelling and intrigue, and perhaps they don’t want the Internet polluted with spoilers. That would, after all, ruin the game for anyone who’s yet to play it.

    I’m just saying that it could very well be that.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. TheWulf


    That’s what makes me think what I’m thinking. It’s just so that people have a chance to play the game before spoiler-laden article titles and screenshots start appearing on the Internet. I know, for example, not to visit the Steam forum if I don’t want to be spoiled, but if there are spoilers everywhere?

    #9 11 months ago
  10. SplatteredHouse

    So, your suggestion is that they’re seeking to clamp down on discussion about the game, by not “allowing” the game to be discussed! That’s wonderfully sound – and best of luck enforcing it!
    If this IS a “line in the sand” moment, I WANT press reporting on this game as they find it.

    The writers are here to offer articles covering points of interest. I think you’ll find that there is a level of interest placed upon the game. The qualms of the developer shouldn’t matter. Everybody IS perfectly able to read a headline, read an article preview, and of their own volition then stay away from and not click on those stories for which they don’t want to know the details.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. Bomba Luigi

    @8: “I’m just saying that it could very well be that.”

    In that Case they could just do a Spoiler-Embargo, like others do who don’t want the Story to be spoiled. But they put an Embargo on everytehing, so I doubt its really about the Story.

    I hope backers don’t give a Shit, they have all the Right to tell the World if the Game is good or not.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. SurplusGamer

    Listen: It’s a complete fabrication that backers are being asked not to talk about the game. They’re being ENCOURAGED to talk about the game and even post videos (but they’re being told not to spoil past a certain point).

    The embargo being talked about is just in relation to formal reviews of the game, which they want to have closer to the actual on-sale release of the game later this month. No, they can’t enforce that, but it seems like a fair request, asked in good faith.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. jedieagle

    Seems like a douchebag move by reporters to report on a blog post for backers only. It looks like you really hate these embargo crap, but don’t have the guts to stick it to EAs and Activisions, but because its a smaller company that is only trying to have some control over their marketing, THEY ARE THE EVIL ONES WITH THE SHITTY GAME!!!

    I am backer and I am fine with the review embargo, the game looks fantastic and I hope it plays as well.

    Seriously, this isnt just about the spoilers, the thing is that a person would read a review tomorrow, liked the game and went to Steam to buy it. Oh, I cant buy it yet ?!? I guess I’ll come back in a couple of weeks. Two weeks later ….. forgot about the game. It’s about sales people, marketing and story spoilers. Sheesh …

    #13 11 months ago
  14. Dave Cook

    @13 we’re not saying Double Fine are evil, or the game looks bad.

    @12 It’s not fabricated, I copy-pasted the quotes above directly from the Double Fine update. I’m prepared to reveal a screen grab of the email if you don’t believe me.

    #14 11 months ago
  15. ddtd

    Wow, so many people are bitching about something that doesn’t even exist.

    Double Fine put an embargo on FORMAL REVIEW until the game is FORMALLY RELEASED. Backers with early access can still write impressions online and post videos, but have been asked to refrain for posting spoilers.

    #15 11 months ago
  16. Fin

    Seems fair enough.

    #16 11 months ago
  17. ddtd

    @Dave – Your article only refers to formal reviews as well.

    #17 11 months ago
  18. SplatteredHouse

    Game released = presumed fit for review, and/or critique. The only exception should be for beta, where NDA terms have been agreed, and the breaker of the terms leaves themselves open to penalty. The press rolls over too easily, on occasion. They should not now.

    #18 11 months ago
  19. jedieagle

    @14 true, but you knew what the reaction will be from non-backers, so you posted this ‘news’ for clicks :) You did your marketing right, I just dont agree with it, especially because it’s made from a post made for backers only

    #19 11 months ago
  20. SurplusGamer

    Dave – I got the email, you don’t need to prove to me. Now explain to me how ‘backers with blogs or who are members of the press can’t write about it until two weeks after launch’ isn’t an extremely misleading statement?

    Things I can do tonight, when I download Broken Age, that DF have no problem with it:

    Tweet about it. Blog my non-spoilery impressions. Video up to a certain point and post it on you tube, with commentary. Pretty much anything that isn’t a formal review and isn’t too spoilery.

    Things Double Fine have asked me not to do:

    Write a formal review until closer to the official on-sale launch of the game later this month (which will be announced today in a press release)

    #20 11 months ago
  21. CaptainKirby

    What, this Dave Cook, and every other postulating dumb-nut seems to not fathom is that this is a pre-release BETA. Also known as not final version of the game. I WONDER WHY they would like formal reviewers to wait to write a review before they get the FINAL NON BETA game. Flabbergasted.

    #21 11 months ago
  22. Dave Cook

    @21 I write about pre-release betas all the time without issue or embargo.

    #22 11 months ago
  23. bradk825

    Reading the quotes, and reading Dave’s interpretation of them… I don’t see the problem here. You may not have the same interpretation, but that’s what lines like “but it’s unclear where the line sits” are for. Did everyone miss that bit?

    Anyway, on topic, it does sound a little out of the ordinary, and it seems like the writer is pretty skilled at making the request sound reasonable by putting backers in the same boat as press for “fairness” but I don’t know, it’s a little funny all around.

    It seems to me though, if you refrain from giving the game a score, or write something in a blog but don’t call it a review, you might be ok.

    …or might not

    Yeah, you needed that “it’s unclear where the line sits” line for sure.

    #23 11 months ago
  24. CaptainKirby

    You write about, you don’t write reviews of beta’s all the time. Or do you?
    You are confusing a closed beta release with a genuine release, in my opinion.

    #24 11 months ago
  25. Djoenz

    Stop being such nerds…

    #25 11 months ago
  26. Dave Cook

    @24 and @23

    Yep, when I say “but it’s unclear where the line sits” I mean just that. I think some people need to understand that I’m not calling Double Fine out as villains or something like that. Just literally that it’s unclear where this particular line sits.

    and yes @24 I have written impressions of betas before, but we don’t do reviews here. This is not a review site.

    #26 11 months ago
  27. Dragon

    Seen DayZ reviews? And that isn’t even beta.

    #27 11 months ago
  28. SurplusGamer

    #26 I think it seems to me to be pretty clear that the line sits somewhere beyond what you reported in your opening statement, which is ‘backers with blogs or who are members of the press can’t write about it until two weeks after launch.’

    That’s quite clearly not true, even with a pretty uncharitable reading of DF’s email. They specifically talk about formal reviews, and they specifically talk about exactly which parts of the game people are allowed/not allowed to stream on youtube before the on-sale release (which I know is not writing, but the intent is clear – people can talk about the game, they want people to, and it’s just not true that backers can’t write about the game.)

    #28 11 months ago
  29. BigMikeyOcho

    I don’t mind the embargo at all, and I’m a blogger. I have nothing against posting my reviews on the 27th, which will most likely still be WAY before the game releases to the non-backer public. The more people talk about and finish it before it’s release, the more they lose the potential revenue from kiddie gamers who must have every new product that everyone is talking about RIGHT NOW.

    The announcement didn’t feel like a legal blockade, more like a “Hey, do us a solid.” So anyone breaking it will be dicks more than anything else. Plus, it’s an adventure game, it’s meant to be filled with one-time puzzles. Too many videos or walkthrough or reviews, and it ruins that for most people who actually want to play the game and enjoy it.

    #29 11 months ago
  30. runbmp

    yeah this is more a, don’t be a douche and spoil it for everyone. Talk about the game just don’t start revealing the story line before it even releases.

    I think that’s a reasonable request. There’s plenty of other games with no story line at all which you can review in the interim. You know, the kind that videogame blog sites tend to review in the first place for the masses…

    #30 11 months ago
  31. Ireland Michael

    I just don’t understand why reviews need to be under a “formal embargo” in the first place.

    #31 11 months ago
  32. Dragon

    ^ Collective hype released at the same time in case of good games
    Stop people from knowing your game sucks in case of a bad game.

    #32 11 months ago
  33. SplatteredHouse

    @31 The usual reason given is that they don’t want people rushing to review it first. (half-formed opinions/competitive advantage) That wouldn’t apply here, since its already available beyond the press.

    #33 11 months ago
  34. Tormenter


    A REQUEST, is reasonable, yes…

    But he’s is not ‘requesting’ anything.. he is issuing an ‘embargo’.. (ie, HE has banned it)…… unfortunately for him his ‘ban’ isn’t worth the breath it took to say it.

    People can tell him to fuck off and just go do what they want.

    People knowing the story wouldn’t cause a drop in sales, people will buy this for the gameplay.. however people WOULD refuse to buy if the gameplay was crap, and this ‘embargo’ would mask in initial informed opinion..

    EDIT… Per a tweet from Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo: “There is no longer a Broken Age review embargo, Double Fine now says. Go, reviewers, go!”

    Simply because they’ve come to realise they don’t have a farts chance in a supernova of enforcing it.

    #34 11 months ago
  35. NeoSquall

    Just received a Kickstarter update:

    “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.”

    See? You won, there’s no more an embargo on formal reviews, you can now enjoy all the half-assed, rushed reviews you want in the next few hours!

    #35 11 months ago
  36. jedieagle

    I’m sure the reporters are taking this as a ‘win’.

    Enjoying the game so far, the only problem I have is that I have to get up early to go to work :P

    #36 11 months ago
  37. NeoSquall

    @36 I for one call bollocks about this supposed “win”.

    It isn’t a win for journos, it isn’t a win for the readers, it isn’t a win for nobody.

    What scrupulous reviewer would benefit from an already lifted embargo, or a “Day -14 embargo”, as I see it, because the game isn’t released yet, so reviews(*) aren’t supposed to be out yet.

    Normally reviewers are given the codes 1-2 weeks before the games’ actual release date, and in that time frame we’re required to play the game, maybe finish it, make an opinion about it and then write it down in a decent way. That’s the standard and even in this way there are people that do rushed reviews because reasons.

    Lifting the embargo because some fool can’t read properly serves no purpose other than favor a stream of rushed, click-catching, reviews of the game that heralded the “Age of Kickstarter”.

    #37 11 months ago
  38. MrWaffles

    They’re afraid reviewers will go straight for the neck and bring up how a game backed with as much cash had to be cut in half and released with such a simplistic story.

    I’m still amazed at how everyone is blindly throwing money at kickstarter and expecting devs to put any huge effort on a paid-for game development.

    #38 11 months ago
  39. Tormenter


    It’s a win for everyone who knows that the making of on spec demands about what one can and cannot do with their purchses when said terms haven’t been explicitly agreed to, WELL before obligation or money has changed hands, is immoral, unethical and illegal.

    Companies can make all the demands they want if I have the reasonable option to disagree and go my own way.. they won’t make demands when they already have my cash.

    A lot of laws become laws, not because they are passed, but come about through usage… Had Tim gotten away with making demands outwith the proper legal requirements, i.e at the time of the customer making an informed decision.. it would have set precedent and the next thing you’d see is all the companies clambering to rope you in and pull the rug out from under you when you’d already handed over your money.

    The fact that this embargo didn’t go ahead is the best result.

    That he tried, and thought he could get away with this kind of action in the first place, I will put down to Tim being criminally misinformed as to exactly what, and under what circumstances, he is allowed to dictate release conditions,.. as opposed to being some scumbag jerk with something to hide… It’s not an allowance I would readily make for most other profit making entities.

    #39 11 months ago
  40. NeoSquall

    @39 That’s where your point doesn’t make sense: you, me, us who put money on the Kickstarter aren’t to be considered customer, but rather investors.

    We financed Broken Age’s development with our money, but we aren’t customers and I think we aren’t legally to be considered as such.

    This is one of the flaws of the “Age of Kickstarter”: people put money on a project and think they’ve already purchased it, while indeed they’re taking a risk on something that could potentially end in failure.

    #40 11 months ago
  41. Tormenter


    In a situation like this, customer/investor is semantics. It doesn’t change the situational requirement of the matter, because at the end of the day goods are being recieved in return for that investment.. It effectively turns ‘investor’ into ‘customer’.

    #41 11 months ago

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