Today, Ubisoft detailed The Division’s launch schedule, including when the servers will go live, when preloads will start, and the fact that reviewers won’t be playing the game until everyone else is.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling this move an embargo, even though it functions in much the same way. They want reviewers to experience the game in the same conditions as all the other players. If the servers crap out, then that will be reflected in reviews. Or if the Dark Zone is completely crowded, that might make for a poor PvP experience. But if they let reviewers play it early, and online features are disabled, and the Dark Zone is a ghost town, then that wouldn’t be ideal, either. So Ubisoft likely made the right decision not to let anyone play it until it’s out.
So it’s not necessarily a red flag. Online games don’t always go online before they officially come out. Most MMOs don’t. Reviewers couldn’t play Destiny until it was out, too. It might actually be for the best, as reviews won’t be giving people the wrong impression from their time with a game that doesn’t quite represent how it will play once there are hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – of players online. Of course this also runs the risk of making it so that reviewers rush to get their reviews out the door as quickly as possible, and may not play the game enough to form an accurate opinion. Though I do suppose it’ll be pretty obvious which those reviews are by the angry fanboy spam in the comments.
But unfortunately if you’re on the fence about The Division, and are wondering what else might be in the game before you make your buy, you may not have the answers you seek until after the game comes out. By that time, all your less stringent friends have probably been playing since the moment the servers came up, and by the time you decide whether or not The Division is actually worth a purchase, they’ve already played it hours upon hours, and now you’re behind, and sad, and hating yourself. You spend the entire weekend trying to catch up, and when you finally do, they outgear you by such a ridiculous margin that they just laugh in your face when you ask if they want to play together. Then you uninstall The Division and leave a 1 star review on Metacritic.
Then Lifetime picks up the rights to your tragic story and suddenly you’re rich.
Or maybe the game will suck and none of your friends will actually stick with it long enough to get to the max level, and you’ll feel like you cleverly saved $60 because you’re a savvy gamer.
But if you’ve thrown caution into the wind and have already bought the game, then you’ll be able to preload it shortly enough:
Players who have purchased digital copies can begin preloading today for Xbox One; Thursday, March 3 at 6PM CET / 9AM PT for PC (Steam/Uplay); and March 6 at 00:01AM local time on PlayStation 4 – except Japan where it will be available on March 8 at 00:01AM. In the US, digital copies of The Division for Xbox One, PS4, and PC will be active at 12:01AM EST on March 8.