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Gamespot's Editorial Problems in Perspective 79

Posted by Zonk
from the good-guys-finish-last dept.
Sam Kennedy is a guy you can respect. As the Editor of the 1up site, he's overseen some great features and some unbelievable breaking news; he also has a great point of view on the games industry. So his massive blog entry posted today talking about Gamespot's sad state of affairs post-Gerstmann-gate is something you should take seriously. Sam runs down the sordid affair itself, the changes to C|Net and Gamespot management that led to unreal expectations at Eidos, and what this could mean for the future of game reviews. "Shortly after Gerstmann was fired, I got a call from a friend at one of the major nationwide news networks asking me what I knew about what happened, as he was considering trying to pitch a story to his editor. You want to know what it was? 'Game Reviews: can they be trusted?' Basically, 'You're a parent and you're going to buy a videogame for your kids this holiday season, but can you trust those reviews you're reading on the web?' That's why this story matters so much. Gerstmann-gate ... made him want to give the industry a nice kick in the pants. I applaud his motives, but again, it's a shame to have this sort of doubt hanging over us all."
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Gamespot's Editorial Problems in Perspective

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  • by RockMFR (1022315) on Monday January 21, 2008 @08:52PM (#22133084)
    "GameSpot's cheat site" is called GameFAQs. The poll wasn't "hacked" - an employee apparently created it as a joke and let it go up on the site for 45 minutes, either intentionally or accidentally (the official story from Allen Tyner, the GameFAQs editor, was that it was accidental).
    • by Creepy (93888)
      I'm nitpicking a bit since GameFAQs was purchased by the CNET conglomerate which also owns GameSpot, but it technically is not GameSpot's cheat site - GameSpot has their own Cheats and FAQs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 21, 2008 @08:56PM (#22133108)
    We all realize the importance of advertising; we're Slashdot users. We've been wallowing in it ever since CmdrTaco sold us out as a userbase to VA Software, a public company concerned only with the bottom line.

    But Gamespot went over the line.

    It's one thing to inundate users with annoying ad after annoying ad, as Slashdot does, and quite another to modify site content to pander to advertisers. It's the difference between barely-watchable, ad-saturated broadcast television and unwatchable, ad-saturated broadcast television with product placement.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by knivesx11 (1085179)
      I'm not really that sure that gamespot fired him solely because he gave the game a bad review. I mean how can you watch his review of the game where he used the F-word three or four times. That and his comment that no one should ever buy this game was probably not the best. Its one thing to honestly point out flaws in a product, which he did and I'm not saying it wasn't a bad game. Its quite another to tell people that something is terrible and they shouldn't buy it. Especially odd is that this story is on
      • by The PS3 Will Fail (998952) on Monday January 21, 2008 @10:02PM (#22133466) Journal

        "Its one thing to honestly point out flaws in a product, which he did and I'm not saying it wasn't a bad game. Its quite another to tell people that something is terrible and they shouldn't buy it."
        Yeah, that is different. What's your point? Ostensibly, if a reviewer says a game is terrible and no one should buy it, he or she should be able to point out flaws with it. On the other hand, pointing out flaws doesn't mean that the game is not worthy of a purchase. I don't see your point because your statement is flawed. The two possible positions on a game you cite aren't mutually exclusive. Now, as far as the F-word being used in his reviews - that's up to an editor to handle. If Gamespot doesn't want video reviews with the F-word in it, that's fine but the editor would make that happen.

        What exactly is your point? Ebert tells people not to go to movies all the time and calls movies terrible. Are you saying Ebert deserves to be fired?

        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          The review was shallow and didn't really say much about the problems of the game and failed to demonstrate any complaints he had (if you're doing a video review you should at least show what you're complaining about, not run a trailer while you babble positives/negatives). Supposedly it was rushed and only contained footage of the first level of the game and was only one entry in a long series of half-assed reviews by Gerstmann. In other words, he just sucked at his job so he lost it.
          • I was more discussing the OP's statement that: "Its one thing to honestly point out flaws in a product, which he did and I'm not saying it wasn't a bad game. Its quite another to tell people that something is terrible and they shouldn't buy it." - not the specific reviews of Gerstmann. It is well within the range of a review/critique to call something terrible and suggest people not buy it. I'm not sure your reply really addresses the content of my post.
      • by Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) on Monday January 21, 2008 @10:53PM (#22133804)
        >Its quite another to tell people that something is terrible and they shouldn't buy it.

        I KNOW, THIS IS THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF GAME REVIEWERS

        omg am I just missing the sarcasm because I'm tired and drunk or is this post insane?
      • Are you trying to say that he lacked journalistic standard because he was inaccurate or because he used 'the F-word'?

        if it's the former, i can assure you that he was, in fact, accurate.. and if it's the latter.. can i please point out that he was objecting to the gratuitous and 'lazy' use of the word, that he felt that it was used as an excuse for sloppy writing, and that if someone watching the review was offended, well.. they may also have been offended by the game?
        • No matter the site's target audience, using the word "fuck" (apparently, as cited, three seperate times) in something set up for general consumption is not appropriate. Journalism is the art of effectively conveying information to a very large audience -- the largest; the masses. If the way you present the information is unnecessarily repulsive, or otherwise gratuitious, then yes, you lack journalistic standards in that instance. That's exactly what "journalistic standards" means.

          Even though I have no p
          • hmm.. what about if it's cited (as noted) in context, protesting the gratuitous use of the word in the game?

            As i said in the previous post, if people are offended by the word 'fuck', Gerstmann basically did them a favor by pointing out exactly how gratuitous and unwarranted the use of the word was.

            Sadly, Gamespot is more than just their management. Until recently, Gamespot was a credible site with ridiculous advertising. Since the people in charge of said advertising started messing with the editorial con
          • by KDR_11k (778916)
            To be fair it was a video review (i.e. contained both video and audio, he didn't just sit in front of a blank screen) of a game rated M for severe violence and swearing, even without him swearing it would not have been appropriate for children. I think it actually showed a warning that the game is rated M before the review started so people offended by swearing had plenty of time to stop watching it.
      • by mike2R (721965)

        Its one thing to honestly point out flaws in a product, which he did and I'm not saying it wasn't a bad game. Its quite another to tell people that something is terrible and they shouldn't buy it.

        I really don't agree with this. There is a long tradition in mainstream journalism of giving no holds barred bad reviews. Sure you don't say "this movie was fucking shit", but you might well see something along the lines of "the movie started badly and by the half hour mark my brain had crawled out of my ears an

    • by Entropius (188861) on Monday January 21, 2008 @10:13PM (#22133530)
      I think that the product that Gamespot sells most effectively is... ... Firefox Adblock.
      • Agreed, but what happens when they skin their site with images provided by advertisers? Those wouldn't qualify as ads, unfortunately.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 21, 2008 @09:04PM (#22133152)
    Well, at least I can still trust in the objectivity of Nintendo Power.
  • A reputation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Monday January 21, 2008 @09:16PM (#22133216) Homepage
    The value of a reputation is difficult to quantify. Blizzard has a great reputation because all of its games have been solid. But what is the value? A Blizzard title may sell just as many as many other titles that year. So suits may look at that and say that the reputation itself has no value. They they calculate the profits from a cheap spinoff title, and release Starcraft:Ghost.

    Except they didn't, because they realized the value of their reputation. Ghost may have made a chunk of money in the short term, but it could have tarnished the reputation. And reputation ensures that the next great Blizzard game cuts through the noise and makes it to the top of people's shopping lists, instead of becoming yet another Ico or Beyond Good and Evil.

    A reputation does not ensure a hit. But it does ensure that things deserving of becoming hits, do so.

    GameSpot isn't selling advertising space. It's selling viewers. Its reputation as one of the better news sources out there draws in viewers. Selling off that reputation in the long term sells off viewers, and reduces what they have to sell.

    I hope GameSpot finds itself soon.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Blizzard has a great reputation because all of its games have been solid.

      Blizzard has a great reputation because all of its games have been popular. Starcraft: Ghost was canceled because the development team quit and the project was FUBAR. No noble intentions involved at all.

      It's not as if "Blizzard" is an entity with any decision-making power that matters -- they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vivendi, who does not have any reputation for customer service or satisfaction.

      A reputation does not ensure a hi

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cgenman (325138)
        Within the industry, Blizzard has a reputation for being a massive meat-house with crushing grinds and soul-sucking levels of authority. That having been said, they're willing to iterate on a title for a tremendous amount of time until it is really done. Warcraft 3 is a great example of this: The game went through much balyhooed RPG and action iterations before returning to an RTS with RPG elements. Ghost is another example. It went through several developers (not just one development team) and many ye
    • Until WoW SOE was the big (western) MMORPG company and seemed to have the market in its grasp. People tought that the half a million or so subscribers to EQ at one point was the maximum market.

      And then Blizzard came along and didn't so much raise the bar as send it into orbit.

      Currently SOE has a lousy reputation, which makes me extremely reluctant to try any new MMO from them, Pirates of the Burning Seas is the latest and altough it was developed outside SOE, well so was Vanguard.

      I on the other hand woul

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by king-manic (409855)

      The value of a reputation is difficult to quantify. Blizzard has a great reputation because all of its games have been solid. But what is the value? A Blizzard title may sell just as many as many other titles that year. So suits may look at that and say that the reputation itself has no value. They they calculate the profits from a cheap spinoff title, and release Starcraft:Ghost.

      Reputation has a great deal of value. They operate in a market that usually sells titles in the hundreds of thousands on average. They sell millions. They release a small 30s snippet from a game and get more free advertising then most titles receive in paid advertising. They have a user base that will buy the game first and then look for reviews only to re-affirm the value of their purchase. I know that if Diablo 3 comes out, I will first check into a rehab isolation clinic.. then check out 15 min later ch

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by MBraynard (653724)
        For SC2, I have 2 weeks vacation I rolled from last year and all my vacation this year reserved so I can use it to take a month off when it comes out.

        Are you being serious?

    • by bioshake (793163)
      Please don't ever site Blizzard has making 'solid' titles in any argument in the gaming world for OR against something.

      Blizzard old out a long long time ago. You speak affectionately about a company called VU (Vivendi Universal). This entity is all about the bottom line like any other large corporation.

      Blizzard's success is one that is of pure dollars and zero sense. Their games are well, their games and their EULA and TOS will beat you over the head about how you are blessed to be playing their game and
      • I'll give you a hint as to how Blizzard has retained its fanbase: we like their games. No, we are not just blinding ourselves, as you insinuate. Hell, I don't even like every Blizzard game (I practically hated Starcraft), but the majority of them are really damn good. If you disagree, well, there are more games out there, so you're sure to find the ones you do like... but it's ridiculous to say Blizzard has their fans for no reason, just because you don't like their games.
  • Trusted? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rpillala (583965) on Monday January 21, 2008 @09:36PM (#22133332)

    Of course game reviews can't be trusted. Or I guess they can be trusted insofar as your experience matches the reviewer's. It's like movie reviews- you find a reviewer who seems to share your likes and dislikes and stay with them. This is, of course, if you look at reviews as purely a buying guide. For game criticism of a more literary caliber there's no real source that I know of. Frankly I don't think most games would stand up to that, and I've been playing games since 1980.

    • I think the use of "trusted" here is as in, hasn't been paid or pressured to give it an undeserved score. As in, we'll get an honest impression of what is being reviewed, rather than playing the part of a shill or glossing over problems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      >For game criticism of a more literary caliber there's no real source that I know of.

      http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation [escapistmagazine.com]
      • by enderjsv (1128541)
        I love zeropunctuation. He's hilarious and enjoyable to watch, but he's actually a bit biased in his reviews. He obviously has a preference for PC gaming (which is actually slowly subsiding as he grows more familiar with consoles) and he doesn't care for multiplayer games. Hell, he said so outright in his Halo 3 review. Still, I can forgive all that because he's hilarious.
      • Though I thoroughly enjoy it, I'm not sure I would describe Zero Punctuation as "literary" in any normal sense of the word. Perhaps more so than most of the dross out there though...
    • by gknoy (899301)

      It's like movie reviews- you find a reviewer who seems to share your likes and dislikes and stay with them. This is, of course, if you look at reviews as purely a buying guide. For game criticism of a more literary caliber there's no real source that I know of. Frankly I don't think most games would stand up to that, and I've been playing games since 1980.

      This is one of the biggest reasons I enjoy reading Gabe and Tycho's (of Penny Arcade, for those under a rock ;)) views on games. Tycho likes really stran

  • Driv3r (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday January 21, 2008 @10:08PM (#22133498) Homepage Journal
    I thought it was leaked that Atari out-right paid for Driv3r reviews, many of which were extremely high despite the game sucking. When it came out, many sites claimed they only gave high reviews because they tested an early very-buggy build for a few hours, and then was told all the bugs would be fixed before retail ship. When the game actually shipped as a buggy mess (not to mention, a piss-poor game) the reviewers were claiming they never played the retail game and gave a review based on hype and expectations.

    Either you believe what I consider a lie, and then reviews are worthless because they're based on hype, or you call them liars and reviews are worthless because publishers pay for them.

    Take your pick. Personally, what I'm looking for (and what I rarely see) is a good description of how gameplay goes down. I don't need an arbitrary score, because the reviewer and I might not have the same tastes. We all like differen genres of games. But if the review does a very good job describing objectively what gameplay is like, then I might be able to decide for myself whether or not I will enjoy the game.
    • Re:Driv3r (Score:5, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @08:31AM (#22136866) Journal
      "But if the review does a very good job describing objectively what gameplay is like, then I might be able to decide for myself whether or not I will enjoy the game."
      +1 Spot-On.

      I wrote computer game reviews for more than 10 years for a handful of niche-market websites and even a magazine or two, more as a hobby than anything else. We were fairly small potatoes, and the money was trivial.
      So I definitely had less riding on the reception of my reviews and my continuing as a writer for a specific outlet. But at various times I felt both the overt and implied pressure from games companies, one blatantly saying "if you don't change that review, you'll never see another game from us" - not much of a threat, since if we'd really wanted to review it we'd have bought it anyway and in any case they were really relying on US to get their game publicized. But the fact that they'd have the nuts to come out and say it was stunning.

      From the point of view of someone who's been in that market, I'd make some recommendations:
      - A review should state clearly if the reviewer or his firm was GIVEN the game or BOUGHT the game. The cost of an individual game is a meaningless amount of money for a business, yet there is still a large step up in credibility and editorial freedom when one is not beholden to the game company by even that small amount. There's a reason Consumer Reports has done it for all these years on all the products they review.
      - the game reviewer's machine specs need to be stated clearly in the review. Optimally, the game should be run on both 'min spec' and 'recommended or better' machines.
      - the game should be reviewed AS RECEIVED; no last-minute patches, no 'supplemental' disk that the consumer isn't going to get. Anything that's not a 'gold' version going on the shelves is a PREVIEW not a REVIEW. (Another reason why buying a copy off the shelf is a sound practice.) *Any* other swag from the company should be refused or donated away.
      - I like reviews that set out the reviewer's bias at the beginning; it lets me know outright if they want to like the game or not. Usually that's clear from the text, but stating it explicitly is more transparent.
      - As the above-poster said, a review is strongest when it's descriptive. Hyperbole should be at a minimum, and the best reviews never say anything as bluntly as "this is a good game"...such should be clear from the text.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Unfortunately, reviewing "retail copies only" means that your review isn't going to come out until at least a few days *after* the product hits the shelves (a month later if you're doing a magazine review). Which is fine if you're reviewing vacuum cleaners, but not okay in the gaming world, when you can get a million people shell out $60 to get a copy the first day of release.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by amuro98 (461673)
          Magazine reviews already come out AFTER the game anyways. Halo3, for instance, had been out for weeks by the time I got my copy of GameInformer which was practically covered in drool from the reviewers.

          Game reviews should, at worst, be based on the golden master. This is the version that is sent to manufacturing, meaning, it's also the version that shows up on shelves for regular folks like you and I to buy.

          Game reviews based on "near final" versions or earlier are almost useless. Sure, you could get a r
    • You should check out Ars Technica's game reviews. They don't attach a number but go into the gameplay details with a discerning eye. Unfortunately, they only seem to review the most hyped games and so you'll most likely miss the hidden treasures if you rely solely on them.
  • Long-Term Impact (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kidcharles (908072) on Monday January 21, 2008 @11:15PM (#22133974)
    One thing Kennedy didn't address fully was the long-term impact on Gamespot of its behavior. In the short term, they can make some cash selling ads and boosting associated review scores to please game distributors. In the long term, if their credibility is shot among the community, they will see fewer and fewer website hits as people find their reviews elsewhere. As the hits dry up, so will the advertisement money. Internet traffic can shift quite violently when better alternatives come along (e.g. the "Friendster -> MySpace -> Facebook -> ?" progression), Gamespot would do well to take heed and clean up their act before they become irrelevant.
  • If you are a gamer "READ THIS ARTICLE."

    Lameness filter encountered.Reason: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

  • A few days ago I was at the magazine shop of the local train station trying to get me something to read for my 5 hour trip. I was thinking of getting me some Nintendo or Wii magazine...but I found out that reviews don't get much more biased than when it comes to console games.

    I know that a game review is mostly a thing of opinion and matter of taste...but the way most of those magazines kept portraying games was so shallow and obviously trimmed for "buy this, get that, spend money here" that I was afraid so
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Colourspace (563895)
      Edge and Games TM, both UK publications from different publishers, are well worth seeking out a subscription for. Both are very well written and appear to be without bias, I would thoroughly recommend either of them as they are both designed well (Edge beautifully so) and have a much more mature side to them then many of the XBox/Ps3/Ninty Official etc mags out there. Also, flick through Edge and you will find very few game ads in there - their main ad revenue appears to come through ads for jobs in the gam
  • Some controversy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @09:54AM (#22137606)
    For all this hand-wringing and talk about how this is going to affect Gamespot in the long term, I would point out that this "great controversy" barely even warranted a brief mention on Gamespot's wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] and had virtually no effect [alexa.com] on their site traffic.

    This controversy is only known to a handful of geeks and will be forgotten a year from now.

    • by Murrquan (1161441)
      And every one of those geeks will be telling the people they know not to go to Gamespot for reviews.
    • It's not on wikipedia due to concerns with a living person being involved. And who'd have thought that /. was the appropriate place to discuss a topic relevant only to a subsection of the geek crowd.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        not on wikipedia due to concerns with a living person being involved

        WTF is THAT supposed to mean. Since when has wikipedia banned controversies involving living people (and well-known journalists no less)!?! I suppose they're no reference to the Stephen Glass or Dan Rather controversies either?

        • Read the talk page for the article.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons

          "Biographies of living persons (BLPs) must be written conservatively, with regard for the subject's privacy." from the policy. Basically, since there's no actual confirmation of the events from either side, only speculation and (honestly) rumor being discussed, they won't put it on there. Rightfully so, in my opinion. If Wikipedia wants to be taken seriously, it should act seriously. No place for tab
    • by enderjsv (1128541)
      Sadly, to some extent, you're probably right. It's like when some employee pisses you off at Wal-Mart and you tell the manager you're never coming back to the store again. He might act apologetic, but you know in the back of his mind he's thinking "who cares, we have enough customers."

      Still, they've lost me as a customer, and not really because I'm angry or anything, but rather that all my favorite reviewers like Alex, Greg and Jeff have left. So why stick around?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by immcintosh (1089551)
      How big an entry do you want it to have in Wikipedia? Should the entire article now read, "GERSTMAN FIRED, GO ELSEWHERE?" Clearly there is a section which outlines the controversy, in generally the same area of the article as controversies always seem to appear. In fact, for it to appear at all on the Wikipedia entry for any length of time is a clear indicator of its level of importance.

      As for the effect of this whole deal on the company, I think you're being a trifle naive. The majority of Gamespot'
  • ... because I normally go to GameFAQs as a starting point to learn about any game.

    Sounds like I can't exactly trust them for honest coverage anymore.

    Where can I go to find honest reviews, plus FAQs and the like?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by amuro98 (461673)
      I dunno, what's wrong with GameFaqs? Read the forum for the individual game to get reactions from folks who actually bought the game. If it's a bad game, you're going to find out pretty quick in the forums.
      • But if they're changing their reviews based on the whims of their advertisers, then I'd prefer not to grant them more ad revenue.
      • And what happens if the mods delete most/all the bad reviews?

        Plus GameFaqs is owned by CNet, who is the parent company of Gamespot. CNet's management is where most/all the blame lies for this Gamespot issue.
      • i dont read any forums, before purchasing games. i read reviews, and just find out what the game is actually like. whats the gameplay like? whats the little things that the reviewer finds annoying? one of my pet peeves is bad camera work, especially in platformers of various kinds, so if a reviewer goes "the camera work is a little iffy", that usually sets off MAJOR alarm bells for me.

        one review is better than a whole forum of tweens going "Hal03 rulz 4eva!" "Nuh-uh!" "STFU N00B!"

        I also usually chec
  • EA (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The article mentions that EA has a "hands off" approach when it comes to review scores. Part of why this is key is the upper management decides if a game was "good" not just on sales, but directly on its metacritic score. If they mucked about with the scores, they would not then be able to use those scores as a good metric on what games to make in the future (and thus make more games people wanted to buy and thus make more money).

    As much as people hate EA in these parts, they understand the business and the
  • I'm surprised to see such an in-depth editorial on GameSpot's problems. Late last year, other sites seemed to take a hands-off approach to the subject, almost in fear of what CNET might do or claim (i.e. slander). Hsu recently said on a GameTrailers' Bonus Round interview that he has no idea what happened to Gerstmann, when in my opinion it seemed obvious. Maybe that's the fair way to play, but I appreciate seeing a guy like Kennedy get out there and tell it like it is.

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