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Game Reviewers Face Odd Bribery From Publishers 148

eldavojohn writes "You might be used to the idea that game reviewers receive games free and ahead of time, but Ars opens up a darker side to the mystery box. Like a $200 check from Dante's Inferno, reading, 'by cashing this check you succumb to avarice by hoarding filthy lucre, but by not cashing it, you waste it, and thereby surrender to prodigality.' Or how about a huge-ass sword from Darksiders. Or brass knuckles (illegal in some states) from the makers of Mafia II. Or rancid, rotting meat mixed with spent shell casings, teeth, broken glasses and dog tags from Bulletstorm. NCSoft gave out flight suits and trips to weightlessness. Nintendo apparently likes to send all manner of food, including elaborate cakes shaped as their consoles and games. Squeeballs sent a crate of stuffed animals. iPods from Activision and Zunes from Microsoft seem to be pretty tame bait for reviewers ... but there's one reason why this continues to happen: more news-starved review sites and blogs report on the extras and the publisher's game gets spread around just a wee bit more. Even if it is as freakish as bracelets from an insane asylum spattered with blood." I think we must be doing it wrong around here... we usually can't even get games before the release date, much less get free rotting meat.
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Game Reviewers Face Odd Bribery From Publishers

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  • Getting swag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:06AM (#33734624) Homepage

    Since you mentioned that you can't get any swag from publishers, here's the answer: get your reviews on metacritic.

    That score determines a lot of things and you're much more likely to be bribed if you can make it look good.

  • by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:09AM (#33734652)

    In these dire times, were I a reviewer, I'd specialize in Dead or Alive spinoff games.

    Just in case they up the ante.

    Yes, because nothing guarantees a good review like sending a woman who can break your neck with her thighs.

  • by gravos ( 912628 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:21AM (#33734804) Homepage

    I don't play games very often anymore, but I've found the easiest way to get an honest opinion of a game is to do the following:

    • Wait for a few months after the game is released (initial or pre-release reviews are always too positive)
    • Go to a game review aggregator site (metacritic, gamerankings, etc)
    • Start reading from the lowest-scoring review, up

    That works well.

    Reviewers who scored a game low were not compensated by the publisher, almost definitely had to buy the game themselves, and usually point out legitimate flaws instead of glossing over them. It's a great way to innoculate yourself against hype.

  • by wbav ( 223901 ) <Guardian.Bob+Slashdot@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:34AM (#33734992) Homepage Journal
    So here's the thing I've found, people want previews and reviews of games before they come out to figure out if they want to buy it.

    In order to get that, companies would have to send me a game early.

    For that to happen I would have to give people what they want (previews and reviews of games before they come out).

    Yup, that'd be what's known as a circular reference.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @12:16PM (#33735618)
    Giving someone a $2 piece of swag with a review copy of a product is OK, but once the value of "gifts" exceeds some amount then it becomes an inducement. Even more insidious is the implicit threat that if a product does not get a good review, more goodies and early access to future products won't be forthcoming.

    it's widespread among all industries - which is probably why there are so few reviewers who have anything approaching credibility. (not sure about what it's like in your country) In the UK there is a standard for travel reviewers that they should declare who paid for the trip / accommodation that's being reviewed - maybe it's time any product review carried a qualifier as to what benefits or freebies the reviewer received, too.

    As it is the only real indicator of whether a product is worth a dam' is from people who have bought it with their own money. Having someone who had a product dropped in their lap, telling you that it's definitely worth the money (what money?) is so hollow as to be laughable. Hopefully as more bona-fide owners write about their experiences, all these media-tart reviewers will be shown up for what they really are: entertainers.

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @12:18PM (#33735640)

    There used to be a time when those gimmicks would be included in the retail box of the games.

    Infocom comes to mind.

    ok,no rotting meat, but a blood splattered bracelet would SO be in Infocoms style.

  • Re:Threats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zonky ( 1153039 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @01:39PM (#33736842)
    FFS, i worked on the publishers side of the industry in the late 90's, and its even simplier than this.



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