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Not Screened for Critics

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"We'd love to tell you more about this one, but it doesn't screen for critics until later in the week, which is never a good sign."

So it's Friday, and you're considering seeing this new movie that has just Opened In Theaters Everywhere. Before you do, you grab a copy of today's newspaper, and turn to the movie section, looking for a review. Or, in this day and age, you check a site like Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic to get both their combined metascore and the reviews that come with it.

With a newspaper, you read a notice stating that the film was "not screened for critics." Online, the review compilation sites have very few reviews, too few to compute a review score. This is almost always a big warning sign about the quality of the movie. For the vast majority of movies that do this, it's because the studio doesn't want critics to warn people away from the movie prior to opening day.

Another tactic by studios is to allow critics to see a preview screening... with a bunch of contest winners, so that instead of being able to make notes and review a film in a quiet theater or purpose-built screening room, the critic has to do it in a crowded megaplex with people who probably wouldn't have seen the movie at all if they hadn't won free tickets and will probably like it only because they didn't have to pay to see it. Films aimed at kids and teenagers might get a rowdy and rambunctious audience throughout the entire film (worse if it features the Teen Idol of the moment). One of the actors or producers may even make a "surprise" personal appearance, taking away any sense of a neutral setting. (Are you going to tell them their film is awful in person?) Many critics thus will easily not take the bait and stay away in droves for their sanity.

This tends to happen a lot during the months of January, February, and late August — the traditional Dump Months where all the movies in which the studio has no faith but which it is contractually obligated to release get dumped, leaving the good months for Summer Blockbusters and Oscar Bait.

In the video game world, most prominent review outlets tend to get copies of games early, and it's telling what the publisher thinks of a game if a website like IGN or Gamespot have to purchase the game themselves on release day. Happens less with big budget games, since they are often cushioned by months of positive preview coveragenote  that have convinced many to preorder the game before reviews are even a factor.

Television is also an area where this occurs — preview DVDs (formerly tapes) are sent to reviewers so they can write their reviews. Where this does not occur, it is for three reasons:

  • It's just awful.
  • It's recorded very close to the broadcast date or is a live broadcast.
  • The episode or film is that dramatic with a massive twist, and the producers don't want to give any spoilers away.

The number of preview DVDs being sent out is also slowly decreasing overall, as studios have finally realized where all those pre-theatrical-release DVD rips of blockbusters floating around the internet actually come from. However, this doesn't mean previews stop being sent altogether, just that fewer reviewers are trusted with copies. TV networks also screen their programs over the internet on password-protected sites for critics, although this can also be discouraging (any television critic can tell you that they'd rather do anything else than watch a program on the infamously glitchy ABC MediaNet site).

Of course, on the other hand, small press, indie and underground works usually don't send out review copies, as they tend to be much less concerned with promotion or mainstream opinion, and most big name news sources are uninterested in reviewing obscure works anyway.

Compare It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The Addams Family (2019) was hit with a critical embargo that lasted until the day before its release. While critics have generally panned the film (sitting at a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes), general audiences have been much kinder to it (giving it a 70% on the same site).
  • Arctic Dogs not only was placed under a critical embargo, but there were also no Thursday preview showings for the film as a precaution against this. The film was roundly panned and ended up with one of the worst opening weekends in animation history upon release, earning a very paltry $2,901,335.
  • Some Netflix animated movies, like Arlo the Alligator Boy and The Loud House Movie, either don’t get screened for critics or have their reviews posted the day the film comes out. What’s even more hilarious for the latter is that PAW Patrol: The Movie, the other Nickelodeon movie that came out the same day, did get screened for critics!
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm not being screened for critics due to the last-minute decision to release it theatrically rather than Direct to Video was one reason it flopped despite generally positive reception, though it was later Vindicated by VHS.
  • The Emoji Movie was hit with this, with an embargo placed on all reviews until the film's release date. Given how the film had been widely mocked and criticized due to its trendy subject matter, idiotic premise and wildly-disliked marketing and trailers prior to the film's release, it's not too surprising that the studio tried to stave off the bad publicity for the film's opening weekend. If that was what they were trying to do, then needless to say it backfired spectacularly, as the film quickly garnered a 0% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which was later bumped up to a very paltry 8%. Sony even denied critics test screenings of the movie, just to be absolutely sure there were no bad reviews staving off profits on the opening weekend. Unfortunately for them, many theaters saw this as the writing on the wall, and released the film early anyway to try and recoup some of the money before the bad reviews caught up. The end result was that critics got to watch and review the movie early anyway. In addition, the sheer efforts of Sony to stave the criticism were put on full display to the fanbase of Jacks Films, who attended its world premiere to find an "Emoji Carpet" and other things of a similarly cheesy tone. His satirical year of coverage of the movie may have brought it just as much attention as other marketing did.
  • Escape from Planet Earth wasn't screened for critics. It's yet another bomb from The Weinstein Company's family division, Kaleidoscope.
  • Koati was not screened for critics. Unlike most of the other examples, no reviews have showed up anywhere, but it has gained a 67% audience approval score on Rotten Tomatoes. This might be because the movie was a limited release, much like Spark: A Space Tail.
  • Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel to Gnomeo & Juliet released seven years later, didn't get any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes until the night before its release. Thus far, it's proven to be a critical and commercial failure.
  • Spark: A Space Tail was hit with this. Not only did it earn universally negative reviews from critics (although a Tomatometer took several days to register thanks to it playing in just 365 theaters, and it took a while for a negative review mislabeled as "Fresh" to be correctly switched), it also wound up flopping epically, making only $112,633 in its opening weekend.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Seltzer and Friedberg's spoofs Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie all fit this trope.
  • The Avengers (1998). The studio even claimed it was putting the film out without previews not because it was awful, but because the studio wanted the public and press to "discover the film together". This backfired when the movie turned into one of the biggest bombs of 1998 and sunk the careers of director Jeremiah Checkiknote  and Uma Thurman (the latter of whom bounced back later).
  • Snakes on a Plane. They may have skipped screening it based on the logic that next to nobody walking into that theater is going to be swayed by a review. That and the concept itself is anathema for any professional reviewer, ensuring that a majority of critics will give it a negative review. Somehow, Snakes on a Plane still managed to get a "Fresh" rating on, even before the "WTF... this is so dumb" word of mouth came in. A possible case of Hoist by His Own Petard. Some critics actually embraced the film, but since they could not spread the word-of-mouth to the uninitiated because of the lack of pre-screening, people on the fence stayed hesitant and Snakes wound up scoring way less at the box office than what the viral buzz indicated.
  • Many Gorn genre flicks fall into this, including the Saw franchise, which notably stayed off Richard Roeper's "Worst Movies of 2007" list specifically because of this, as well as the fact that he didn't want to watch the films in his free time.
  • None of the Atlas Shrugged movies were screened for critics.
  • The Ćon Flux movie. Peter Chung, creator of the original Ćon Flux TV show, once claimed to have felt "helpless, humiliated, and sad" upon seeing the film adaptation of his work. Apparently, this movie wasn't even screened for him (his sole allowed contribution was a single hour-and-a-half meeting with the people writing/directing it).
  • The Wicker Man (2006), due to the film turning out to be total Narm. They mocked and laughed at it and director Neil Labute when they were able to review it, with Richard Roeper almost recommending it for being a "cinematic car wreck".
  • Most of The Twilight Saga films were screened... but only for members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and for publications certain to run feature articles on the saga. Critics everywhere else waited until opening day to see four out of the five installments, all of which were panned by everyone except the saga's devoted fans.
  • 2002's The Adventures of Pluto Nash may well have been the genesis of the current trend towards shutting out advance review of particularly heinous filmmaking. Pluto ended up becoming the biggest Old Shame for Eddie Murphy, and it was one of the three 2002 films he did that put his career in a bad spot.
  • Piranha 3D was not screened to critics in advance. However, it ended up being the best-reviewed movie the week it was released, with a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • The 2011 "comedy" film Bucky Larson Born To Be A Star was never screened for critics because everybody knew it was going to be a catastrophe. Swardson himself would disown the negative reception.
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife was not screened for critics before being released (the first three movies were ripped apart by critics, with parts 1 and 2 both making Roger Ebert's most hated movie list; he never reviewed any of the films after those).
  • Quarantine (2008) and Devil, which both had the same director, were not screened for critics, but were met with mixed reviews as opposed to universally negative ones.
  • The Gwyneth Paltrow film Country Strong. Bizarrely enough, it also happened to be an Oscar Bait film.
  • The Amityville Horror (2005) wasn't screened for critics. It was featured on Ebert & Roeper in the incredibly short-lived "Wagging Finger of Shame" segment, given to movies that weren't available to review.
  • Abduction. It was screened to Australian critics though, with said critics roundly trashing it.
  • Pinocchio (2002) was this in the States. Miramax's explanation for this (according to the Other Wiki) was that the English-language dubbing for it wasn't completed in time for advance screenings. Critics who saw it gave it vitriolic reviews. The subtitled version (which was given a limited release two months later) was better received though.
  • Gone (2012) was not screened for critics and was panned by those who did see it.
  • Bio-Dome. Some critics did pay to see it and trash it anyway ... the 4% Rotten Tomatoes rating almost a quarter-century later makes this decision not hard to argue with.
  • One Missed Call missed all press screenings and ended up getting a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which ultimately did not fare well enough to keep Ghost Rider rights from falling back into Marvel's hands. It subsequently killed the Marvel Knights label.
  • Political documentaries aimed towards conservative audiences (The Undefeated, I Want Your Money, 2016: Obama's America) tend not to be screened to critics, and if they are screened in advance, usually to small and controlled settings such as a church auditorium or a bought-out theater. The filmmakers or production companies likely do this for similar reasons that An American Carol wasn't.
  • Movie 43 was not screened for critics, though they bashed it nonetheless, with Richard Roeper, in a guest review for Roger Ebert's website, calling it "the Citizen Kane of awful"; it went on to win the Worst Picture of 2013 Golden Raspberry Award.
  • Vampire Academy, according to That Other Wiki.
  • Highlander: Endgame; the previous two attempts at a Highlander movie turned out two of the most infamous critical and commercial implosions in cinema history and were both Retconned. This one didn't fare any better and a 5th movie went Direct To Cable.
  • Since Mrs. Brown's Boys was slated by every TV critic going, Brendan O'Carroll decided not to allow critics to see the movie before release.
  • Hercules (2014). Ironically, the reviews were actually quite decent, unlike its same-year rival, The Legend of Hercules, which was also not screened for critics and was a critical and commercial failure.
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. However, it did premiere at Cannes three months before release (where it was booed). It finished burning down the Twin Peaks TV franchise after the show's second season saw them get forced to resolve their Laura Palmer plotline because it wasn't handled properly (an experience that earned it a place in David Hofstede's book listing the most infamous television events in history.
  • No Good Deed, which was hidden from critics ostensibly to protect a major twist in the film. It was soundly bashed by critics upon release.
  • The 2015 Johnny Depp comedy Mortdecai, which was part of a string of flops for him.
  • Exorcist: The Beginning had no preview screenings, which the studio tried to justify by claiming that due to the controversy over original director Paul Schrader being fired and the film reshot from scratch by Renny Harlin, they didn't think the end product would get reviewed fairly. As it turned out, being accused of bias did not make the critics any more kindly disposed toward the film. The eventual release of Schrader's version also didn't get any critic screenings, though that had more to do with it being a token cinema release before it was dumped onto DVD.
  • The Fantastic Four (2015) reboot is a Zig-Zagged example. The movie was screened for critics a mere two days before it was released in the United States. However, the movie was intended to be premiered in several regions before then - which did not have screenings for critics either. And then the international premieres were delayed until after the United States premiere, which essentially means that the movie was only screened for critics at the eleventh hour, at which point it might as well not have been screened for them at all. The online embargo lasted until two days before the release date and the print embargo lasted until the release date. The movie was unsurprisingly savaged by anyone who saw it, critic or not.
  • The infamous 1967 version of Casino Royale invoked this trope due to it being a patchwork of scenes with 5 directors, and it unsurprisingly failed with critics and unleashed a lot of problems that didn't fully go away until 2013 (it also wrecked the careers of said directors, star Peter Sellers, and eventually led to the death of producer Charles Feldman when the stress of making the film developed into heart problems).
  • The Star Wars sequel Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Disney claims that the reason is due to preventing spoilers from reaching the internet before the release date rather than quality reasons, which, given the franchise's prominence, is actually justified. And it worked. The premier was just four days before the full release. The film went on to earn a 93% "Certified Fresh" RT rating and become the highest grossing film of all time in North America.
  • Krampus, Fright Night (2011) and Premium Rush were all subject to this, although they are examples of movies that, unlike most other films that aren't screened for critics, received mostly positive reviews.
  • Big Momma's House 2 wasn't screened for critics, but surprisingly did well at the box office despite being critically panned and gaining a Rotten Tomatoes score of 6%.
  • Rings was not screened for critics, in addition to having its release delayed multiple times. Unsurprisingly, when they finally did see it, it was widely panned, receiving only 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and 24 on Metacritic.
  • All Eyez on Me wasn't screened for critics prior to its release, worrying fans of Tupac Shakur that the film wouldn't do the iconic, but controversial rapper justice. Come release, while the cast was praised, and most audiences were receptive to the film, it garnered largely negative reviews, mostly stemming from its many historical inaccuracies about Shakur's life—something his childhood friend Jada Pinkett Smith took personal issue with.
  • The Dark Tower wasn't screened for critics, which given all the other issues that we have heard about it, eventually didn't bode well.
  • The 2017 remake of Flatliners wasn't screened for critics and when critics saw it, it eventually got a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Surprisingly averted with the Paris Hilton vehicle The Hottie and the Nottie, which was screened for the press, though only one critic (James Berardinelli of Reelviews) actually bothered to show up for the screening and write a review.
  • The Bruce Willis sci-fi film Surrogates was not screened for critics but did receive somewhat positive reviews.
  • The Katherine Heigl film One for the Money wasn't screened for critics. It got near-universally negative reviews and poor box office intakes, but received a much more enthusiastic response from audiences. The original writer of the novel the film was adapted from actually liked it.
  • The horror film Winchester was not screened for critics, and was panned by the few critics that did get to see it, with a 14% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Overboard, the remake of the 1987 film, was not screened for critics in advance, and it received only a meager 32% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • For some really bizarre reason, Disney did not lift the review embargo for Christopher Robin until the film had already been released to the general audience. This caused many people to assume that Disney had absolutely no faith in the final project, but film ended up with a solid 70% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a pretty strong 86% Audience score. No reason was ever given for why Disney chose to do that.
  • The next Disney film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, didn't lift its review embargo until the night of October 31st — aka Halloween — one day before it opened to the public. (The official release date was November 2nd, but like many tentpole films in The New '10s, screenings began the previous evening in many cities.) Unlike Christopher Robin, it received negative reviews from both critics and audiences.
  • Holmes & Watson didn't see its review embargo lifted until its opening day, which happened to be Christmas Day, and initially received a 0% critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes, though it finished at a still-pitiful 9%.
  • For Hellboy (2019) critics had to wait until the film's opening day to review it, and they were unfavorable to say the least.
  • 2019's Crawl is another rare example of positive reception for a film that was not screened for critics (88% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing).
  • Jexi wasn't screened for critics until the day of its release; and ended up receiving largely negative reviews and low box office.
  • Shanghai Surprise opened August 29, 1986 (Labor Day weekend) in the U.S. — but only in the Midwest and Northeast. Los Angeles and New York City had to wait three weeks! This is thought to have been so critics in those cities could not review it and dissuade moviegoers, but as it turned out people weren't interested in it even before the near-universally bad reviews arrived.
  • No screening events or digital screeners were provided for the long-delayed The New Mutants, prompting boycotts from several review outlets due to unsafe theatrical conditions given the then-ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Similar to The New Mutants, The Empty Man wasn't screened for critics, due to having been Screwed by the Network.
  • Malignant was not screened for critics, even before its premiere on HBO Max the same day it was released in theaters (as with the rest of Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate). This came as a surprise to some, as most of the horror films by its director actually bucked the trend and were screened in advance. It’s likely that the twist ending was a factor. The film was a box office bomb, but was received fairly well by critics and horror fans.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The producers of Battlestar Galactica (2003) have been known to omit key scenes from reviewer screenings, to avoid twists leaking out. One of the last examples was the premiere of season 4.5, screened with its final scene, where Col. Tigh realizes his deceased wife was a Cylon who he'd known on Earth in a past life, left out.
  • The BBC's notorious 1974-75 miniseries Churchill's People was never screened in advance for critics. They knew exactly why, with one of them noting that such a gesture was "seldom due to forgetfulness or modesty"; indeed, they were merciless towards it, with The Sunday Telegraph describing it as "a co-production disaster" that "not only sounds like a school's radio programme, it looks like it too."
  • The 2007/8 Writers' Strike meant that UK listing magazines couldn't review some CSI-verse episodes as they hadn't even aired in the US.
  • Doctor Who has at times not sent a DVD to reviewers, or omitted closing scenes, all cases being to avoid spoilers from leaking out.
    • Apparently, the original preview of "The Parting of the Ways" hid the fact that the Ninth Doctor would regenerate into the Tenth Doctor by displaying an alternate scene with the Doctor standing before a TARDIS monitor that more ambiguously read "LIFE FORM DYING". The DVD Commentary also mentions this as it was meant to be ambiguous whether it was referring to the Doctor or his companion Rose. Yet the press still leaked the news about Christopher Eccleston's departure. This alleged cut has not been released to the public whatsoever, and took place in a time that predated the big boom of widely-available social media. All we have is Word of God to go by.
    • "Army of Ghosts" removed the ending shot of the Daleks. The On the Next trailer did spoil it via a special effects shot, however.
    • One interesting example was "Partners in Crime", where the appearance of Rose Tyler was removed from all the preview tapes and casting documents were altered to remove Billie Piper.
    • "The Stolen Earth" is a highly notable "Last Scene Withheld Until Transmission" one: The "regeneration" bit was not on them.
    • In "The End of Time", Part One, the press copy was altered so it ended with the six billion Masters laughing, and not with the Time Lords. Part Two wasn't even shown to the press: the script for the final three scenes wasn't shown to most of the cast.
    • To quote the on-screen text on its not-previewed final scene, preview tapes of "The Name of the Doctor" were not "Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor".
    • The preview copies of "Dark Water" hid The Reveal of Missy as the Master. In fact, to avoid a potential internet leak (following a fiasco where the first five episodes of Series 8 had their work prints leak online), Foiler Footage was shot where she was "revealed" as the Rani.
    • Some, but not all, preview copies of "World Enough and Time" didn't include the Cold Opening that revealed that it's the story of what causes the Twelfth Doctor's regeneration. This wasn't so much to prevent the spoiler being leaked but because the scene in question was shot later than the rest of the episode alongside that year's Christmas Episode, which directly continues the story, and the special effects weren't quite ready.
    • The Thirteenth Doctor's first Season Finale, "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos", had no review copies sent out at all, likely to avoid anyone spoiling that the villain was Tzim-Sha, returning from "The Woman Who Fell to Earth".
  • Dan Schneider has used this to his benefit on iCarly. He managed to keep secret the cliffhanger ending to iOMG for what had to have been over a year by filming on a closed set with a minimum of cast and crew.
  • The Mandalorian's first episode was not pre-screened for critics in order to conceal the First-Episode Twist at the very end. Lucasfilm then averted this by holding a screening of the first three episodes for critics two days after the launch of Disney+ and the series premiere. The episode ended up very well-received. For the second season Lucasfilm withheld the entire season and did not provide any screeners, even on a delay.
  • Several car manufacturers have refused to lend the Top Gear (UK) team new cars to test.
    • One of the most notable would be the City Rover, which still appeared on the show as James May went to the dealer for a test drive while wearing a hidden camera and microphone. It was, unsurprisingly, considered one of the worst cars they'd ever featured.
    • A high contender would also be the American muscle car special, where the makers refused to loan the show a Dodge Challenger. They got around this obstacle by buying one, and Richard Hammond went on to give it an enthusiastic endorsement.
    • It's alleged that the Dacia Sandero (a central European light SUV-type) was actually canceled for the UK market because Top Gear (UK) spent an entire series mocking it regularly. Ironically when he got to test-drive one during the Romanian special, James May loved it. Also ironically, it had to be an abbreviated test because Clarkson and Hammond arranged to have the Sandero smashed by a semi-truck hours after May got it.
    • On one of the show's road trip specials, Bentley pulled their Mulsanne out at the last minute when they decided that the special's theme ("Ideal luxury cars for the leading lights of Albanian organized crime") was loaded with Unfortunate Implications. Since buying (and insuring) a Bentley of their own was well outside the budget, instead the part of the Bentley Mulsanne was played by an extremely used Yugo. This led to constant criticism from all three presenters about what a shoddy product Bentley is putting out these days.
    • In a subversion, despite not only refusing to provide cars to the show, but also banning James May from entering the company premises, Bristol Cars are quite highly praised by the presenters even though it is far from what they normally prefer in a car.

    Video Games 
  • Games magazine Amiga Power had the frankly odd idea of using the whole percentage scale in their reviews and not just giving a game an 80% score for existing at all. This made them a number of enemies among other magazines and game publishers, who stopped sending them review copies.
  • Ubisoft pulled a variation of this with Assassin's Creed: Unity. While they did send out advance review copies, they came with an embargo that prevented outlets from releasing their reviews until 9 AM PST on the day of the game's release, hours after it first became available for purchase. Given the negative reviews it attracted due to being an Obvious Beta, many saw this as a calculated move.
  • Vivendi Universal Games refused to send Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) a copy of their Game Boy Advance game of The Film of the Book of The Cat in the Hatnote  because they "didn't want Seanbaby making fun of it." It didn't work, needless to say. After having to pay for a review copy, Seanbaby went full-on Caustic Critic towards the game.
  • CD Projekt only gave out advance PC copies of Cyberpunk 2077 to reviewers despite many asking for the console versions. When the game's release date came, the reason for this became obvious; the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions suffered terrible performance and even more severe glitches than the PC version, which many reviews noted was already an Obvious Beta.
  • Destiny was withheld from being given to reviewers due to Bungie wanting them to wait until the game was released due to its social aspects. While the game ultimately didn't turn out bad, it wasn't considered to be as great as it was expected to be given the studio's pedigree.
  • In a rare move for a Nintendo-published game, Nintendo of America refused to send out any review codes for Devil's Third, which was a game they were also notably on the fence about releasing. In fact, they didn't even supply a preview blurb for it in their weekly "New Releases" press release, seemingly wanting to bury it. The reason for this was clear: Nintendo of Europe released the game themselves four months prior to negative reviews from critics and a mixed reaction from players, and reception from North American audiences upon its release ended up being even worse.
  • Everybody One Two Switch already had its original early 2022 release date delayed due to it testing very poorly with the casual audiences the game was aimed (it didn't help that the original 1-2-Switch had already gotten a fair amount of criticism for being a relatively bare-bones collection of mini-games that charged full-price when it really should've been a pack-in game like the original Wii Sports was). Feedback was so negative that Nintendo debated cancelling the game altogether, but eventually settled on dumping it onto store shelves in June 2023 with no fanfare, virtually no promotion and without a single advance copy sent to critics (making it the very first time a Nintendo-developed game has ever been withheld from critics for quality reasons), causing many people to be surprised by its stealth-release.
  • Doom (2016) wasn't given out to critics as publisher Bethesda had been marketing it with a focus on the multiplayer aspect of the game. However, the pre-release multiplayer demo "beta test" received a mixed reaction due to it being too Call of Duty-esque, which scared Bethesda into not sending out review copies. While the multiplayer was generally ignored by the fanbase & reviewers upon release, the single-player campaign was extremely well-received to the point that it became the prime reason most people played the game. Later, towards the end of 2016, Bethesda revealed that this would become a standard practice for them, and reviewers shouldn't expect advance copies of any of their games in the future.
  • Rednar, the public relations firm for Gearbox Software, threatened this in light of negative reviews for Duke Nukem Forever. Gearbox promptly fired them.
  • Square Enix did send out copies of Final Fantasy XIV to critics, but also asked them not to give out their reviews until they'd fixed some of the bugs before releasing it. Naturally, since the game was already on store shelves, most didn't feel like playing along and gave decidedly negative reviews, and for good reasons. The game was so bad that Square Enix had no choice but to make the online subscription free until they fixed it, something that the new director, Yoshida, actually managed to do with A Realm Reborn (aka Final Fantasy XIV 2.0). It did take him 3 years though (the original director, Hiromichi Tanaka, was terminated from Square Enix thanks to version 1.0).
  • Nintendo did this for Fire Emblem Warriors though not because of the game itself, but because someone that got an early review copy for Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga 3DS remake a month prior leaked it to the public, which prompted NOA to put review copies on hold while they try to find out who it was.
  • According to Metro's gaming supplement, Gamecentral, review copies of games often get "lost in the post." They become more wary of a game when this happens, since they are known as being among the more strict game reviewers.
  • Rockstar Games did not give out any preview copies of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition, a Compilation Rerelease of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas with enhanced graphics, to professional critics, and any reviews by them only came out several days after its release. Leaked footage of the compilation showed that it was an unfinished, buggy mess.
  • No Man's Sky: Review copies of this game weren't given to PC users at all, and the No Man's Sky review embargo was lifted on August 9th 2016, the same day as the game's release date. Hello Games didn't like that leaked copies footage got published on the internet, claiming that it "didn't represent in which the game would take on its release day". As it turned out to be, the leaked copies of the game were a perfect representation of what the game would look like on its release day, and many players were in for a bad surprise.
  • While Seven45 Studios did send copies of Power Gig: Rise of the SixString as well as their touted SixString guitar peripheral out for review, they did not send their AirStrike drum peripheral to reviewers. The few who bought their own AirStrike to review noted that the peripheral looks nothing like a drum kit, and its operation was very finicky at best to completely nonfunctional at worst due to a complete lack of tactile feedback; the player had to use the "special" drumsticks that came with the peripheral and hold them in a specific way in order for the unit to register a "hit" on a "drumhead".
  • There were no review copies sent out for Ride to Hell: Retribution, for reasons that became obvious when the game finally released and was universally panned by critics.
  • With The Sims 4, EA refused to provide a review copy (and many gamers thus expected the worst). Indeed, when the game launched, it garnered much criticism from fans for doing away with a lot of staple features of the series. Critical reaction, while considerably more positive than fan reviews, was generally mixed, echoing fan sentiment that the omission of several features made the game more dull to play in comparison to its predecessors.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sega declined to send any review copies of either initial Sonic Boom game to major reviewers prior to the launch date, though some advance copies were sent to a select number of fansites. Given the games' negative status among the fanbase as tie-in games made to advertise the animated series of the same name and a lukewarm pre-release reception from critics, it's not hard to see why Sega pulled this move. The games had also received barely any advertising in the months leading up to the games' release. Needless to say, critics alike outright trashed both games once they were able to obtain copies for review purposes; though reception to Shattered Crystal was somewhat more favorable than Rise of Lyric, which ended up being the worst-reviewed Sonic game to date, receiving critical aggregate scores even lower than the largely derided Sonic the Hedgehog (2006).
    • Sega did it again for Sonic Forces, with review codes for the game withheld until the game's release date. While a Sega PR representative stated the move was done so the review codes would coincide with a day-one patch for the game that added various updates to the game, people were quick to draw comparisons to the aforementioned review embargo pulled with the Boom games, while also making note of the game's muted launch campaign and budget price (unheard of for mainline Sonic games). While Forces wasn't as reviewed as poorly as the aforementioned Boom games, critical reactions were tepid at best.
  • Activision did not send any review copies of Tony Hawk: Ride prior to release. Instead, a weekend before release, they organized a Family Fun / Review Event, which, due to the obvious attempts at essentially bribing the reviewers, many reviewers such as GameSpot's declined the invitation. They did something similar for Modern Warfare 2, but unlike Ride, Modern Warfare 2 was well received. It really didn't help that Ride was controlled by a clumsy skateboard peripheral which was savaged by most reviewers and buyers. The game now goes for a 75% discount of its original $120 sticker price in bargain bins everywhere.
  • In a weird case, VA 11 Hall A got this specifically for the Vita version, which came out long, long after the PC release did. Even weirder, the development team for the port brought up giving review codes to journalists multiple times on their Twitter account, there wasn't any additional content, the only changes were to make things more comfortable with the handheld's control scheme (such as the cursor snapping directly to the next interactable thing, or being able to use the touch screen when it'd make sense), and there wasn't even anything wrong with it.

    Western Animation 
  • Before A Charlie Brown Christmas was first aired in 1965, CBS initially refused to let any critics see the special beforehand, fearing that the avalanche of bad reviews they expected to receive would kill the careers of everybody involved. Not only did the network order a lighthearted, goofy cartoon starring the Peanuts gang only to receive a bizarre and rushed production featuring Linus quoting the Bible, voice acting by actual kids, and Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack, but producer Lee Mendelson and director Bill Melendez likewise thought it was a disaster. CBS eventually relented and invited a critic of Time Magazine to view the special. He wrote a positive review that was published the day after the premiere; turns out all of those things turned the special into an instant classic that would go on to become the first of dozens of Peanuts cartoons.
  • Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue had to be made within six weeks instead of the more typical 12-to-16 weeks for an half-hour cartoon. As a result, they had to forgo the usual preview screenings. The only preview they did was of a 15 minute excerpt (with no sound effects and some of the music missing) to members of Congress two days before the simulcast airing. Reviewers were forced to wait until air time because the special was still being edited days before.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): No Preview Tapes Were Available, Preview Tapes Not Available, Not For Critics


Did you hear about Cyberpunk?

At the beginning of their editorial regarding Cyberpunk 2077's infamous launch, Jim Sterling broke out into song about it, pointing out specifically in the first part of the song how the versions seen on the PS4 and Xbox One were horrid.

How well does it match the trope?

4.48 (33 votes)

Example of:

Main / PortingDisaster

Media sources: