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Game Journalist May Have Been Fired Over Negative Review 397

Posted by Zonk
from the that-was-not-a-move-you-should-have-made dept.
It started as a rumour post on Kotaku and a Penny Arcade comic strip: reviewer Jeff Gerstmann was fired from the gaming news site Gamespot for giving the co-op action title Kane and Lynch a low score, and snarking on the game in the review. The catch? The firing was dictated by games publisher Eidos, who didn't appreciate the veteran reviewer's tone in the piece. Their ad campaign (spread across the entirety of the Gamespot site) may have been used as a bargaining tool of some kind. Joystiq has a lengthy, detailed summary of this event and its implications, which is no longer technically a rumour. Gerstmann confirmed to the blog that he has been let go from the C|Net-affiliated site, but as of right now can't talk about the details. "The ramifications of the story, if true, are huge. Readers should fairly expect there to be an inviolable firewall between advertising and editorial in journalism, and game journalism (yes, that includes "just reviews") is no different. While our industry has had its fair share of accusations of impropriety, nothing so far has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Giving a publisher the power to fire a senior editor is a line no outlet should be willing to cross." Update: 11/30 17:40 GMT by Z : The Joystiq story continues to be updated, and Tycho has put up what the PA guys heard about the tale in text. Joystiq also has an additional post about the story, with a brief (noncommittal) response from Gamespot.
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Game Journalist May Have Been Fired Over Negative Review

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:42AM (#21531497)
    "While our industry has had its fair share of accusations of impropriety,..."

    Actually, I think your industry has its fair share of genuine corruption. What make you think you're any better than other industries?
    • by WED Fan (911325)

      ...Is the game as bad as he said? Is this guy dead on with his review?

      Game reviewers are like movie reviewers. There are the ones you trust. Then there are the ones you don't. Is this guy an asshat reviewer like Harry Knowles or Michael Medved? Or is he generally right on about the games?

      Here in the Seattle area, we have local movie reviewers and game reviewers that I trust a hell of a lot more than some of the national ones. I only wish they'd get national attention, but maybe national publication bring

      • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:44AM (#21532263) Homepage
        ### Is the game as bad as he said?

        He gave it a 6/10, Metacritic had an average of 6.5/10 last time I looked, so he isn't alone with his opinion.
        • by timftbf (48204) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:52AM (#21532385)
          And 6/10 should be 'a bit above average'. *Bad* games should be getting 2s, 3s and 4s. What's the point of a 1-10 scale where half of it is effectively out-of-bounds?
           
          • by Fex303 (557896)

            And 6/10 should be 'a bit above average'. *Bad* games should be getting 2s, 3s and 4s. What's the point of a 1-10 scale where half of it is effectively out-of-bounds?

            While I see your point, I view game review scores as being similar to school grades. Just because 50% on a test is the middle of the range of possible scores doesn't mean that half of the students should score below that.

            I would like to see more games receive a 'failing' grade, but I would view 6 out of 10 as a 'low pass'. It's not great,

          • by grumbel (592662)
            The score-scale is really a different problem, I actually don't even consider it a problem at all, since in video game reviews its a pretty well established fact that the actual average is around 70%, not around 50%.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by zerocool^ (112121)

            Maximum PC has addressed this; they are better than some about the wall between advertising and reviews. I remember once they called some iomega product the worst tragedy ever for data storage, and two pages earlier was a full page iomega spread. Someone wrote in and asked about it, and they said the advertisers don't get to know the content of the reviews, and everyone who sends a product to them for review basically signs something that says they understand this product might get a bad review.

            Anyway, as
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Creepy (93888)
            2s, 3s, and 4s do appear, but rarely, and the really bad ones usually don't get published by major publishers, so a true bell curve with 5 as the median really isn't a fair judgment. Usually a rating under 5 means there are fundamental issues with the game (horrible controls, badly dated graphics, bad gameplay, lots of crashes, etc). The reality is you end up with a compression slightly above the middle for most games. There aren't many 1s, but there also aren't many 10s, either.

            I've played ET on the 260
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:43AM (#21531503)
    why else are there so many fawning reviews of hardware in computer magazines... and why else doesn't Linux get any real press in the same magazines when there's no advertising money in Linux anyway... just remember the "Golden Rule" folks... who pays the piper calls the tune... magazines etc. are not gonna jeopardise their major advertising accounts... when it comes to the crunch, they'll buckle...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      Never mind; at least we can still go to IGN for our trusted reviews!

      [Mod +1, funny]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 7times9 (955358)

      It's the same with all published journalism:

      What is the product? The publication. No. The product is the reader.

      And who is the customer? The reader. No. The customer is the advertiser.

      So a publisher sells readers to advertisers. Got it?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xtracto (837672)
        It's the same with all published journalism:What is the product? The publication. No. The product is the reader. And who is the customer? The reader. No. The customer is the advertiser.So a publisher sells readers to advertisers. Got it?


        Therefore, if you really want unbiased and critic journalism you should get it from sources which objective is to satisfy *your* demands. To achieve that you would have to PAY for such kind of work (instead of allowing advertisers to pay for it).

        But guess what, it seems nobo
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      just remember the "Golden Rule" folks... who pays the piper calls the tune

      You've got that very slightly wrong. The Golden Rule is "Those with the gold make the rules".
      • If you've been paying any attention to the markets, you would know the golden rule is "he who sold his gold a few days ago and bought stocks makes the rules."
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:43AM (#21531511) Homepage Journal
    I frequent Gamespot often enough that I set up a Firefox quick search ("gs gamename" in my address bar), and I recognize Gerstmann as one of their senior, more talented writers and personalities. I actually thought he was one of the founders of Gamespot, considering his seniority and tendency to review many of the more anticipated AAA titles.

    The site won't be the same without him. I may even change my quick search to 1up.com or metacritic.com as a result. I can't attest to the veracity of this gossipey claim in the article but Gerstmann has earned enough journalistic integrity that I'm not surprised that he'd review high profile games honestly.

    Really, is getting fired for accurate journalism a curse or a great bullet point on your resume? I'd wish Jeff luck but thanks to his outstanding track record I'm sure he won't need any.
    • Unsurprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:49AM (#21531615)

      Readers should fairly expect there to be an inviolable firewall between advertising and editorial in journalism, and game journalism

      You'd have to be seriously naive to think that such a thing would be true. Maybe I am cynical, but I think that realistically one can expect no wall at all. Any separation between money and journalism is out of the norm, and should be a pleasant surprised.
      • Re:Unsurprising (Score:5, Interesting)

        by garcia (6573) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:26AM (#21532027) Homepage
        I don't even think it goes that far. I know plenty of restaurant reviewers for news print magazines that refuse to have their poor experiences published. Only the good restaurants (according to their opinions) get exposure and the others don't get jack. It's disappointing that our media culture is full of a bunch of pansy motherfuckers who are afraid to say exactly what they think.

        Bloggers are happy to write their opinions honestly and truthfully and I'm glad they exist. I refuse to believe any "real" restaurant reviewer. They're all full of shit and in my experience have never hit the nail on the head.

        All this (and many other examples) prove is that for-profit journalism is really declining fast. I just hope that the government, the advertisers and whatever future groups don't get a stranglehold on the citizen journalists too.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by heinousjay (683506)
          It's disappointing that our media culture is full of a bunch of pansy motherfuckers who are afraid to say exactly what they think.

          That's a funny sort of opinion to post on Slashdot, where if you don't avoid offending the groupthink, you soon aren't able to post at all.
          • Re:Unsurprising (Score:5, Insightful)

            by 1u3hr (530656) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:26PM (#21534585)
            That's a funny sort of opinion to post on Slashdot, where if you don't avoid offending the groupthink, you soon aren't able to post at all.

            Bullshit. For all its faults, there are certainly plenty of opinionated people on both (or more) sides of most contentious issues. Look at the flame fests when "evolution" or "Gun rights" are mentioned. Plenty of +5 rated posts on both sides. And you can support OR piss on Microsoft, Apple or Linux and find support for your view.

            Just look at this thread where all these wacky Ron Paul supporters have made a bunch of off-topic posts promoting their candidate, yet are still not modded down.

            About the only thing guaranteed to get you modded down is if your (foreign) country is attacked by some redneck American and you complain about it, or worse, retaliate. Then you will be attacked and modded down quickly enough. As you may guess, that has happened to me often enough; yet still I have "excellent karma" from my other posts so always start at +2.

        • by gknoy (899301) <gknoy&anasazisystems,com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:27PM (#21535531)
          I am extremely grateful for the negative reviews of things. There will always be people that like it just fine, and then there are those (like Mr. Cranky) that can find even more todislike than I can. They will tell you the things that irked them, that made them regret it, etc -- and that helps me avoid bad experiences.

          If all I had were positive reviews, it'd be hard to narrow down the field of potential restaurants (especially in an area I am visiting), or games. If all I heard were negative reviews, I'd still buy things, but either expect them to suck (and then be pleasantly surprised), or just determined to experience them for What They Were.

          At the same time, I'm grateful for dissenting views, even if positive. For example, I've been interested in Assassin's Creed for a while. (In case any readers aren't video gamers, it's a "sandbox" style game for the Xbox360 which has you tooling around in Crusades-era holy lands.) Many reviewers said it was very pretty, but that some things got repetetive (and didn't really like the combat system). I was worried that I might not like it, until I read Penny Arcade's "trust us, it does actually rock" post.

          I appreciated Gabe's argument that reviewers don't play games the same way many of us do, and that the review process is poorly suited for sandbox games. Reviewers play with a deadline, whereas in a sandbox game the point is to take your time, explore, and find cool stuff. Perhaps even replay to do things differently. Gabe saying this, and his subsequent "real world" review (along with Tycho's explanation of the combat system), convinced me that I will probably greatly enjoy the game. (Assuming I manage to buy an XBox360 and the game. D'oh.)
      • Re:Unsurprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:45AM (#21532281) Homepage Journal
        You are cynical.

        We can live in a civilized society where publications are known for accurately rating things. Where the media does not takes bribes. Where reporters have ethics, and say what they see, not what they're told to say. Especially when they claim they are unbiased.

        We should demand such a world, and we can.

        There's a lot of talk around how the internet is killing journalism with blogs and whatnot, because the professionals have less clout and amateurs can't be trusted, but perhaps the internet can free journalism. The fact that we're discussing this know is a victory for ethics.

        No one who reads this story can trust a Gamespot review again. The more corruption is exposed and reacted to (by not going to gamespot ever again) the more likely we can select what mediums have not been corrupted. If we teach our children to shun corruption, perhaps there is hope for the future.

        All it would have taken is for the lead men at Gamespot to have a spine and say 'we won't sacrifice our site for your shitty game'. But they thought they could cut corners, and deserve to loss their business.
      • Re:Unsurprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roxton (73137) <roxton&gmail,com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:07AM (#21532573) Homepage Journal
        Your cynicism does you a disservice. Most publications of any merit grant independence to the senior editorial staff, often in the form of tenure. That the sacking of Gerstmann was even possible is a reflection of the relative immaturity of game journalism, although the backlash against this event may improve matters.
    • by hibiki_r (649814)
      Wow, someone that actually liked the guy. I personally put no value in his reviews, because he's been so far off what I thought about many games over the years: Many times he loved games I just couldn't enjoy much, like Tony Hawk, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves and Halo 3, others he bashed good games for apparently no good reason. Given that he was in charge of reviewing many high profile games, he alone made Gamespot pretty much useless for me.

      That said, the reasons for his firing are inexcusable IMO. More so wh
      • I'm a computer nerd and an English nerd so I enjoy video game reviews just for the writing. Sometimes I read his reviews even if I'm not interested in the game or don't have the system. My entertainment dollars are short so if I'm really considering a game I'll check several sources. Reviewers are only human so it's reasonable to expect a wide range of scores from site to site.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:44AM (#21531521)
    I really enjoyed listening to Roger Ebert's opinions when he was alive and doing his movie review show. I also love the Filthy Critic and his lively take on modern movies.

    But as much as I like them, I find that I disagree with them almost all the time. My own movie experience is so different from theirs, my reaction to the movies being sometimes in direct opposition, that the only benefit I get from reading their "reviews" is the entertainment value.

    I can't imagine how much more divergent something like a game would make these types of opinions. After all, you're not just a passive viewer of a game anymore. You're actually taking part in it and shaping the outcome as you play. How can someone's impressions of something as personal as this be of any value to anyone else?
  • by redscare2k4 (1178243) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:45AM (#21531535)
    I like gamespot reviews because they're usually quite tough with the games. Most games get an inferior mark on gamespot that in most other sites, which I find nice. I like to know that if they give a game an 8, it's probably a really good game. And that if they give it a 7, and I like the genre, it's a solid buy too. Now I'll start questioning their reviews. If I see a game advertising at gamespot, then I'll go to read that game review somewhere else, just in case.
    • by trifish (826353)
      Most games get an inferior mark on gamespot that in most other sites, which I find nice.

      The real question though is whether those games were from companies that didn't pay the magazine (for ads or whatever)...
  • Update - 7:12 AM EST (Score:5, Informative)

    by dlZ (798734) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:45AM (#21531551) Journal
    From Joystiq:

    Update - 7:12 AM EST: Jeff has confirmed his firing to us via e-mail, but says he's "not really able to comment on the specifics of my termination." He added that he's "looking forward to getting back out there and figuring out what's next." We're still digging.


    I haven't given Gamespot reviews any real thought in a long time, due to the massive amount of advertising games would get on the main page at the same time the review was out.
    • by nobodyman (90587) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:03PM (#21535161) Homepage

      I haven't given Gamespot reviews any real thought in a long time, due to the massive amount of advertising games would get on the main page at the same time the review was out.

      What's funny is that the same thing happened back when the Spiderman 3 game came out. There was a similar advertising deal where the site was skinned with spiderman artwork and there was even a "countdown" clock leading up to it's release. The trick is that the review was held until launch day. Sure enough, clock hit zero and the review hit: 6.6 [gamespot.com]. I'm sure Activision was pissed but it earned Gamespot some respect. Jeff Gerstmann didn't do the review, but as the editorial director I'm sure he took the heat. I wonder if the Kane and Lynch review was the final straw.
  • Some of the review sites really are in the pockets of advertisers. Newspaper reviews and reviews on other sites can survive it. They have advertising revenue, and other revenue streams, from companies other than the ones they're reviewing. Even movie studios, typically, release so many movies in a year that they don't care is some review site pans one of their movies, and there's no sense in retaliating.
  • suspicious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adml_shake (1196483) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:47AM (#21531575)
    How many gamers here haven't been suspicious of Gamespot being influenced by their advertisers, I stopped going to their site for reviews after feeling burned a few times by the reviews and wondering what the hell that person was thinking.
  • Relevance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:47AM (#21531581)
    To me, this doesn't really represent any kind of crisis of gaming journalism, so much as it just highlights how pointless most "magazine" game review sites are. Does anyone still go to Gamestop caring what one of their reviewers think of a game? Or IGN or Gamespy or any of those places? What do I care what one guy who is trying to play through a game on a deadline thinks about it?

    Say what you will about amateur game reviewers, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to games, the wisdom of the masses usually holds true. If I'm not sure about a game, or I have a choice between two similar games to make, I'd much rather go look at GameRankings, or heck even the GameFAQ's reviews.
    • by grumbel (592662)
      ### Does anyone still go to Gamestop caring what one of their reviewers think of a game?

      For most part I look at metacritic and gameranking instead of a single review side, but yes, I do care. The difference isn't so much if I buy or not buy a game, but when I buy it. If a game got a bad reviews, but it still interest me, I likely wait a few month and buy it used for cheap instead of brand new when its out. I doubt that I am alone in that behavior.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wren337 (182018)

      This just in from Barber Magazine: You Need A Haircut!

  • Sad but inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by megla (859600) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:48AM (#21531601)
    This is what happens when companies start valuing advertising revenue above all else.

    To be honest I've avoided Gamespot for a while. Partly this is due to the increasing trend of locking away everthing to subscribers only, but mainly it was because I've read several reviews there that I felt were far too generous towards inferior games - and this was backed up by much lower scores on other sites.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find that advertisers have had leverage over Gamespot reviews for quite some time now (ever since the CNET aquisition maybe?) and that we're finally seeing the fallout of that.

    It's a double kick in the face really - not only are they selling out their core values and business, but they're effectively cheating their subscribers out of what they are paying for.


    Hopefully this will generate enough negative publicity (and drop in subscribers) to make the management team wake up and realise that they've completely lost the plot.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:50AM (#21531619) Homepage
    Pretty much everyone knows that game reviews have been co-opted by advertiser bias, and that this has been a problem since pretty much forever, although things always seem to be getting worse. Reviews are simply not looked at as though they were objective works of criticism, but rather as more advertising and hype masquerading as information. It's an intolerable situation, and the wonderful thing about it is that the days are numbered.

    It's the easiest thing in the world stop paying attention to reviews, turn off the hype channels, and buy games based on information that you can trust. Word of mouth from friends who game is hugely more trustable than a game magazine or web site. Rent the game or download a demo and play it before you buy, or watch a video of the game being played on YouTube. Suck can't hide from direct experiences like that.

    Maybe some day the video game critic will be able to throw off the oppressive advertiser dollar and write finely crafted reviews that read more like serious art and film criticism [excellentcontent.com] than they do press release and ad copy. Maybe the way to start is to start selling advertising space to people advertising stuff OTHER than games. Sell more ads to Doritos and Mountain Dew, they don't care if $newshineygame sucks or not. It's possible to sell adveritising and maintain a certain amount of independence and objectivity. It's not easy, but it is possible.
    • by andi75 (84413)
      Or you could only run ads for games you actually liked. I hear it works for http://www.penny-arcade.com/ [penny-arcade.com]some peeople
    • I'd highly recommend the Zero Punctuation column/movie/animation/thingy from The Escapist (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/) for game reviews. Witty, accurate, and to the point. If the game sucks, he'll tell you in a way that leaves you with no doubt as to his opinion. No careful turns of phrase to say "well, this game sucks but I don't want to piss someone off". More like "the developers should be cut with rusty knives and thrown into a shark tank".

      • I think that Zeropunctuation reviews are entertaining and far more worthwhile than a typical shill reviewer's imaginationless tripe. I don't really find them useful as game reviews, per se, so much as criticisms of gamer culture, using the game at hand to criticise the lack of creativity and innovation in games. While I share that guy's views on many points, it's not to say that some of the games that he's panned aren't fun in their own right. Like, he routinely slams entire genres of games, such as RPGs
  • Community blacklash (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arrow_Raider (1157283) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:50AM (#21531623)
    There seems to be a huge community backlash in the user scores section: http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/kanelynchdeadmen/players.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;yousay [gamespot.com]
    • I browsed through ten pages of scores which seemed to be about 200 user scores... there were only four that were not 1.0

      Not sure what Gamespot or the PR people were thinking when they did this. Glad to see it is backfiring though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DuctTape (101304) *

      There seems to be a huge community backlash in the user scores section

      Don't worry. They'll be gone soon.

      DT

  • User Reviews (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackholepcs (773728) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:53AM (#21531657) Journal
    I've always ignored the Gamespot review score and just looked at user reviews. Nothing more honest than a pissed off user spilling the beans about bugs and crashes and what not.
  • by realinvalidname (529939) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:01AM (#21531739) Homepage
    ...someone other than bots reads Gamespot? Now that's news.
  • by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:05AM (#21531799) Homepage
    Seriously - if your headline for a story contains the word "may", you're a lazy journalist.

    But this has to happen once every few years, everyone needs to blow off steam.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:08AM (#21531839) Homepage
    I once worked for a Village Voice Media publication and a music writer was fired for giving a bad review of the local musical venues... advertisers. The clients were livid and the sales team did everything they could think of to appease them, but in the end, termination of the writer was all they could do.

    It is a terrible thing when journalistic integrity it compromised by selfish business interests. But then again, it's terrible when selfish business interests compromise the integrity of just about everything. There should be SOME drive to make profit and all that, but there should be some understood limits to what a company can or should do. Unfortunately, it would also be bad to legislate morals and ethical behavior into law. But still, if someone were to pass laws stating that business interests cannot be allowed to influence government or journalistic integrity, I'd be all for it. Not gonna happen I think... at least not until we can get a more interested public.
  • by aepervius (535155) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:10AM (#21531853)
    And where is the original review by the above persons ? Or how one can see it in some sort of internet archive if it was deleted ?
  • by InbredTom (1189565) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:12AM (#21531877)
    As an investment banker I can confirm that this practice is common in the world of Finance too. Banks will often pay a newspaper, investment magazine, investment orientated website a fee in return for their product being 'officially recommended' by the journalist. When I discovered this in my own industry I was (maybe rather naively) shocked; but the ramifications of my discovery are that one needs to question the independence of reviews in ANY industry.

    I know to take reviews left on online retailers with a pinch of salt, ie they are probably more shills writing for most products than genuine reviews - how many times have I left a +ve review? None. How many times have I left a -ve review? Often. Even when reading reviews written by supposedly authoritative journalists working for supposedly independent journals, one must always my mindful the likelihood that the author is not just writing out of a passion for the subject, but just because he has been financially rewarded for writing +ve spin to his/her readership. Evil I know.

    There is a magazine in the UK called Which? I believe it is a not-for-profit organisation that carries out reviews of a wide range of products. I recommend.

    [I didn't get paid by Which? to say that]

  • YouTube video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrXym (126579) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:25AM (#21532017)
    Here is the link [youtube.com] to the video review.

    My own opinion is that if you continue to read Gamespot that you should take note any game that is prominently advertised on their site, by means of flash ads, wallpaper or whatever. Then go read the review of that game and automatically deduct 2 points from that game when considering to buy it. A 10 means 8, an 8 means 6 and so on. After all, if Gamespot is the go-to place for shill reviews, you simply cannot trust the score they give and it must be modified accordingly.

    Better yet, ignore Gamespot. There are plenty of other game sites and some of them care a great deal about their editorial control. Send traffic to those sites and show the likes of CNET and Eidos that such strongarming does not pay off in the long term.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bud Dickman (1131973)

      "My own opinion is that if you continue to read Gamespot that you should take note any game that is prominently advertised on their site, by means of flash ads, wallpaper or whatever. Then go read the review of that game and automatically deduct 2 points from that game when considering to buy it. A 10 means 8, an 8 means 6 and so on."

      I think your second suggestion is the proper one. Just because a publisher isn't paying Gamespot to run ads all over their site doesn't mean the publisher hasn't paid Games

  • Long suspected (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LarsWestergren (9033) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:36AM (#21532173) Homepage Journal
    I've always found it odd that games with massive advertising budgets behind them always tend to get VEEERY high scores from the mainstream gaming sites. Case in point - Halo 3. Ok, so I haven't played it myself, but a perfect 100% score on some sites? There is NOTHING that can be better about this game? Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame put this best [escapistmagazine.com]. He argues that the 10/10 score is especially strange since they go on to say in the review that the single player campaign is flawed, but the totally awesome multiplayer "makes up for it". If the game was really perfect, it wouldn't need something to "make up" for any flaws.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ochu (877326)
      To which I would refer you to this Kotaku article [kotaku.com].

      If there is no such thing as a perfect game, when why the hell are you scoring out of 100? It's not just PC Gamer that thinks this way--most publications, even those who do give out "perfect" scores, do so begrudgingly. It's as if the developer has somehow cheated and broken their system.
      The movie reviewers solved this problem a long time ago. That's why most adopted a simpler rating system in which a 4-star movie didn't imply "perfection" but supreme ex

  • You know, I distrust all reviewers of any ilk. You go to a guitar magazine and all the ads for guitars and guitar stuff, same for computers and games and anything else you care to mention. Often times the paid for ad is on the page next to the review. Heck, I even saw on TV the other day Morgan Webb say how great Vista was. ???? All you do to yourself then is prove what we already knew, that you were a sellout and not to be trusted for an honest review. Game reviews? Are you kidding? You can gauge how big
  • by guidryp (702488) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:37AM (#21532183)
    Which sites nail bad games? I notice long, long ago that you almost never see a bad car review at any of the big pages. I read "Edmunds" now, they don't seem afraid to say something sucks. Or "The truth about cars", it is rare when they say anything is good.

    Where are the gamer equivalents?
    • It's sites like Penny-Arcade, that don't have direct ties to the publishers, that somehow maintain a level of credibility above and beyond that of "Professional" journalists by calling a spade a spade. They even make a point of it to play games they advertise (even if it's only in pre-beta), and refuse the ones they don't like. While obviously they can't review every game, when they take issue with something they don't hold back to avoid pissing off a developer or publisher. Hell, I'd think the publisher
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:48AM (#21532325) Homepage Journal
    on the larger available boards out there.

    I know in IGN, their VN boards to be specific, that posts with negative comments about Turbine were regularly whacked and the poster banned as someone from Turbine made it known they would not frequent IGN or its boards unless some ground rules were in place : mainly no negative comments about the state of the game and no anti-turbine comments allowed.

    It seriously tanked the boards. Needless to say within the year Turbine had their own boards as most sites balked at the restriction. Those that didn't saw their user numbers go down.

    Game publishers hold big sticks. With professional level magazines they withhold money, with fansites, even big ones, they withhold their people. Works wonders until the word gets out.
  • Being one who works in the gaming press, I have experienced just this problem. I often have to moderate or edit my team's writeups and articles to line up with publisher's expectations and to avoid receiving letters about reviews that are 'overly negative'. This often makes it difficult to give anything much below about 70% if you want to hear from the publisher ever again... we made that mistake with Codemasters and they're not very co-operative.

    There are very few companies who will actually continue
  • by spinkham (56603) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:00AM (#21532489)
    The interesting thing is that his review is lower then the norm on metacritic, but not by all that much. IGN and EGM, other big reviewers gave it a 70 and 72. 1up, which often has good reviews but inflated scores, gave it a 75.
    No reviewers I would consider at all "respectable" gave it higher ratings then that, and many lower. Gamepro, Gamespy, and Edge Magazine all gave it the SAME score as the GameSpot reviewer.
    See the Metacritic page [metacritic.com] for more details.
    From GameSpy:

    For everything cool that the game does, from the heightened tension of breaking into a prison to a shootout in a Tokyo nightclub to some amazing chase sequences, it shoots itself in the foot with a terrible cover system, artificial incompetence, and a multiplayer mode that sums up everything that's half-baked about the experience.

    From GamePro:

    Sure, the gritty atmosphere and balls out gunplay offers up some thrills, and yes the multiplayer options hold some potential but the hard-boiled noir tone and interesting amalgam of varied ideas never truly comes together to form the cohesive action thriller that the game aspires to be.
  • I didn't rtfa, but most don't.

    Here's how it may have gone down.

    Boss: Your review was really harsh on our biggest client.
    Editor: So? The game was a festering turd with a large ad budget.
    Boss: I don't like your tone.
    Editor: F&*@ you, how do you like that tone?
    Boss: You're fired.

    Same end result - different reason. :)
  • by Loosifur (954968) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:03AM (#21532517)
    Seeing that they're willing to can an honest (and talented) reviewer rather than risk losing an advertiser is definitely a disappointment, and I'm finding myself relying more and more on user reviews and Metacritic as a result. However, consider this point: Gamespot is a business; they're trying to make a profit. That profit can come from user subscriptions, and it can come from advertisers. Right now, I'd hazard a guess that something like 85% of their income is from ads. How much of a subscription fee would you be willing to pay to remove all software and hardware advertising so as to ensure that reviews would be unbiased?

    Now, you may be thinking that game adverts could be replaced by non-tech companies as mentioned earlier in this thread, such as Frito-Lay, Honda, etc. Maybe that's doable, but pretend you're the head of their sales department, and you're trying to get advertisers. Would it be easier to convince Eidos to buy ad space on a game site, or Pepsi? Because Pepsi can reach a lot of its target audience on the websites for ESPN, mtv, etc. Eidos can't really have that same level of success shilling this Kane and Lynch monstrosity on, say, MSNBC. And, after all, pick up any car or motorcycle mag that does reviews, and you'll see a whole host of car or bike ads.
  • nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nedder (690308) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:22AM (#21532757)
    I was the head reviewer for AGN3D (allgames.com). I gave Turok 2 a fairly scathing
    review and Acclaim contacted my boss (Jeremy Alford) and tried to have him pull it
    or give it a higher rating.

    Thankfully, Jeremy had high integrity and he stood behind my review.

    We didn't say anything about the matter on the site, but now I'm starting to think
    that all sites should expose publishers/developers who try to coerce review sites.
  • Glowing review after glowing review of the various turds the gaming industry has dropped in the past had already led me to the conclusion that most of the game reviewers out there are at best retarded sheep who will laugh and clap their hands excitedly at any shiny object and at worst completely corrupt whores who will never give a sponsor's game less than a perfect score. I was quite surprised that Lair received all the bad publicity it did. I suppose the silver lining is that when a game DOES get a bad re
  • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:41AM (#21533003)
    This is why I stopped reading PC Gamer.

    When CIV 4 came out, I bought it right away. It was massively buggy, huge memory leak problems, was not ready for release ... all the things PC Gamer used to scream about in game reviews, trying to protect the average gamer from crap.

    A large percentage of CIV 4 players could not complete a single game due to the problems that got worse and worse as the game progresses, even when setting the game to a gimped version with few opponents and low graphics.

    But, PC Gamer mentioned nothing about the problems, except that it was 'a little unpolished'. CIV 4 got a great score just because it was another Sid Mieir Civ game.

    Of course there was no reply when I wrote to them, my letter wasn't published.

    I've checked back with them a couple times in the couple years that have passed since they stopped being fair and unbiased, and it all reads like crap. It's all slanted to who they are promoting. Dungeon Siege II was similar. A huge pre-release major story on the game ... and it was crap. No where near living up to the promises.

    PC Gamer hasn't received a penny from me since.

  • by jidar (83795) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:44PM (#21533843)
    I will quote from this thread on Gamespot: http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/kanelynchdeadmen/show_msgs.php?topic_id=m-1-39530902&pid=934403 [gamespot.com] I'm sure some of you are aware Jeff Gertsmann, now the face of GameSpot is responsible for the review. It should come as no surprise he played this game on an Xbox 360 for the review and like most people with a 360 he has a GamerTag attached to his account... as I gazed upon his weak gamescore I found only two achievements had been unlocked. One for beating the first mission and one for trying the co-op. It should be noted that the OP is dated prior to the firing, so perhaps Gertsmann wasn't sacked for a bad review, but sacked for not doing his job.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:32PM (#21535631)
      Actually, reviewers use a separate live service called PartnerNet instead of the one the public does. Otherwise there'd be huge problems with secret achievements being unlocked before a game is even released, info leaks etc., and not to mention there'd be problems from hell where reviewer accounts would get banned for playing games before release dates. Example: people got nailed for playing Halo3 copies that were picked up before the launch date.

      That particular Intarwebz Forumz Detective has forgotten his common sense; please don't follow him around just because he has his siren blaring. If anything, seeing achievements on Gerstmann's normal account could just as easily mean he tried to give it another shot or was doing even more research or something.

      Links of interest because I'm too lazy to figure out how to properly tag the words I was going to tag in the paragraph:

      PartnerNet info: http://www.google.com/search?q=xbox+PartnerNet&hl=en [google.com]
      Halo3 Bans: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=halo+3+banned+before+release+date&btnG=Search [google.com]
  • by gamer4Life (803857) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:46PM (#21534891)
    Many other sites have probably been compromised or "influenced" by their advertisers. Consider Slashdot for example - notice the Games section of Slashdot - all of the stories are chosen by Zonk, and none of them are from contributors. Since Microsoft advertises quite a bit on the site, and the fact that Zonk is a XBox fanboy, it's no surprise to see most news on the Xbox 360 to be positive. People might point out to the other negative stories about Microsoft - well Microsoft might not care as much about it's OS or Office business, because they have a monopoly.

    There are other gaming sites that have heavy advertising from Microsoft - you'll see that many of these sites describe Sony in a snarky tone, while giving a much gentler hand to Microsoft. This is no different when PC Magazine had many, many ads from Microsoft, and you wouldn't be surprised to see Word, Excel, and it's other Office products rate consistently above WordPerfect, QuattroPro, and so on - based on dubious factors as "ease-of-use".

    If you take a look at Halo 3 - look at the huge advertising campaign, full of schwag - people focused on the schwag, but the real dollars exchanged comes from advertising. It's not surprising that Halo 3 got perfect 10s, even though they criticized how short and repetitive the single player campaign was, and how the graphics were nothing special compared to other games. Mmny sites even claimed that Bioshock or COD4 were better.

    Bottom line is, many sites are bought out by advertising, or behind-the-scenes bribes/schwag. Weblogs, Inc (Joystiq, Engadget), Gawker Media (Kotaku, Gizmodo), CNET (Gamespot, CNET) all have shown a correlation between the advertising dollars and reviews.
  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:47PM (#21535927) Homepage
    ...I have little doubt of the "darker" side of the Gamespot tale.

    My own tale comes from what you might call the Dark Ages, back in the dim days of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, I was a monthly columnist for the now-extinct life-form known as a "programming magazine."

    My specialty was comparative reviews of compilers -- back in those days, there existed A LARGE NUMBER OF CHOICES as to which compiler you could use for C or Fortran programming on PCs. And, in a review of Fortran compilers, I stated (correctly) that a certain vendor's product failed miserably at a well-known benchmark.

    The vendor pulled several full page adds; I was fired. The editor was quite honest in admitting that my dismissal was entirely based on placating a disturbed source of income.

    The purpose of any business -- even television shows, magazines, and commercial web sites -- is to generate REVENUE. They do NOT exist for the greater public good, or for the search for truth, or for any other reason than to make money.

    What amazes me is not that someone is fired for telling the truth or expressing an opinion -- what amazes me is how many people EXPECT morals or ethics from profit-oriented entities.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday November 30, 2007 @03:25PM (#21536551)
    Ok, this may be a naive question here but I'll stick my neck out. I'm going to lump games, TV shows, movies, and music together here. They're all creative products.

    Now, the cynical view says that there are certain games that are licenses to print money. A Harry Potter game, EA could have the programmers shit in the box and put it on the shelf and it would still sell. If we want to get all filthy and accountanty here, you could probably model a function here were you put in the price of the license and then the cost of making the game, figuring where the profit would be. I'm sure that the max profit comes in somewhere at about half the funding level to make a good game. So from their perspective, spending the money to make a good game is mismanagement because it cuts into the profits.

    Ok, that may be the case. But what about games that don't have a license to go with it, where you are talking about the potential of creating a franchise instead of continuing one. If we look at movies, the script has to be the cheapest part of the production. When you're looking at spending a few million on a single stunt in a $100 million blockbuster, why not throw a million at the writers? Surely making the fucker good would be a better return on investment. If the movie is a brainless popcorner, you'll maybe get one viewing tops. But if the movie is fun and rewatchable, you'll get people buying it 20 years down the line. And to think that there's all this money spent on bribing reviewers trying to polish a turd, wouldn't it be easier if they were pushing fillet mignon instead?

    Let's talk about games. When I've been blessed enough to encounter a new classic fresh on the market, I'll be evangelizing the fucker to my friends like a Jehovah's Witless on Saturday morning. They do the same when they discover a classic before me. When it comes to TV shows, networks don't see fans storming the gates when idiot knock-off comedy #3 goes off the air but they'll see the geeklerian jihad when a Futurama or Firefly gets canned. It's the quality that creates the rabid fans. So shit, if quality is what makes people happy, why don't the suits just go for quality? I still find it hard to believe that with all the money involved, it's more cost-effective to crap out a clunker than to craft a classic. I understand that you will run into clusterfucks from time to time when the team is given the proper time and resources to make it happen and things just fall apart due to personality clashes, politics, acts of God, etc. But I just don't get the willful disregard for quality that goes into most of these efforts.
  • by 6350' (936630) on Friday November 30, 2007 @03:43PM (#21536813)
    Difficult to say if it is related to the events described above, but the editor Tim Tracy appears to be leaving Gamespot as well.

    His (exceedingly brief) post on the site blog: http://www.gamespot.com/users/TimT/show_blog_entry.php?topic_id=m-100-25233420 [gamespot.com]

    A comment or two on destructiod.com http://www.destructoid.com/gamespot-drops-reviewer-to-appease-eidos-w-r-hearst-rolls-in-his-grave-56683.phtml [destructoid.com]

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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