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PR Firm Settles With FTC On Fake Game Reviews

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the amazing-summary-A-plus-plus-would-skim-again dept.

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eldavojohn writes "So, you pay a PR firm like Reverb to generate some positive buzz for your new mobile game, and what do they do? Hire employees to post fake glowing reviews of your game wherever it's being distributed. The FTC says that's not okay due to regulations enacted last year requiring that paid reviews disclose they are paid reviews. Originally, the fear was that this regulation would target the small-time blogger, but this news of Reverb settling with the FTC over fake game reviews shows that the FTC is also targeting big PR firms. They said, 'We hope that this case will show advertisers that they have to be transparent in their practices and help guide other ad agencies.' The article says fake reviews like those alleged in the complaint (PDF) are pretty much the norm on iTunes. Reverb denies that this settlement is any acknowledgment of wrongdoing; rather, just a timesaver over a costly court battle. Will the FTC continue to make examples of big PR firms? Wait and see."

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Oooh. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33394548)

2K Games, Bethesda, Activision... you are on notice!

Not just iTunes and games... (4, Interesting)

GuidedByVoices (1421045) | about 4 years ago | (#33394590)

These fake reviews are common for businesses as well. Take a look at restaurants on Yelp sometime; many "boost" their review status by posting fakes. How is the FTC actually able to deduce which are from a firm and which are legit anyway?

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (3, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | about 4 years ago | (#33394622)

Well, if we're talking about game reviews, I think a safe assumption is that if it's glowingly positive, it's fake.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

GuidedByVoices (1421045) | about 4 years ago | (#33394646)

I'm guessing you've never seen a review written by rabid fans; even before release...

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (4, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 4 years ago | (#33394692)

I bought the new iPad, and it made my penis grow 2 inches longer! True story!

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33394780)

Unfortunately for you it was only 2 inches to start with so it's still tiny.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33394786)

Congratulations on your new 4 inch penis.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 4 years ago | (#33400662)

That's creepy.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | about 4 years ago | (#33394824)

I bought the new iPad, and it made my penis grow 2 inches longer! True story!

Mmm... It is an iPad, but I guess that comment means there's better than 50% chance that you're male.

Nice moderation on this post, by the way. :-)

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (3, Funny)

SailorSpork (1080153) | about 4 years ago | (#33394966)

I bought the new iPad, and it made my penis fall off! True story!

Fixed that for ya... per FTC compliance.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 years ago | (#33394996)

But it was so tiny that no one can spot the difference.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33395042)

I bought the new iPad, and it made my penis grow 2 inches longer! True story!

I bought an iphone and got more sex.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Funny)

Andrewkov (140579) | about 4 years ago | (#33395718)

There's an app for that?

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

sirroc (1157745) | about 4 years ago | (#33398542)

There's an app for that?

I believe its called Safari.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33395818)

I bought the new iPad, and it made my penis grow 2 inches longer! True story!

I bought an iphone and got more sex.

and boy is my ass tired...

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33396118)

from righty or lefty?

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

kalirion (728907) | about 4 years ago | (#33395136)

iPad has introduced you to internet porn?

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | about 4 years ago | (#33395178)

It was the iPad?!? And I just thought you were happy to see me!

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 4 years ago | (#33395592)

It's not difficult at all to believe that an Apple product gave a Fanboi a raging boner.

If the change from flaccid to full-on stiffy is only 2 inches, I feel sorry for your boyfriend.

LK

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (4, Funny)

dubbreak (623656) | about 4 years ago | (#33395708)

I bought the new iPad, and it made my penis grow 2 inches longer! True story!

It's called an erection.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

DavidTC (10147) | about 4 years ago | (#33397446)

Mod parent +1: Epic Win.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (3, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 4 years ago | (#33394816)

The most obvious ones are where the section to list cons is just used to say more good things ("I have a hard time putting it down!").

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

GuidedByVoices (1421045) | about 4 years ago | (#33395060)

The most obvious ones are where the section to list cons is just used to say more good things ("I have a hard time putting it down!").

It's generally easy to pick out the fake reviews posted by either one of these companies or by over zealous users. However, how can the FTC differentiate the two? It's not like they can just walk up and demand a list of IP's whenever a product gets strangely glowing reviews. Sometimes people really do absolutely love utter crap (Dan Brown anyone?). It sounds like they just told Reverb to fess up when doing these reviews, but thats hardly a solution.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 4 years ago | (#33398158)

Whistle-blowers most likely.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#33395192)

Well, if we're talking about game reviews, I think a safe assumption is that if it's glowingly positive, it's fake.

Hold your horses there cowboy. Now I don't disagree that game reviews are flooded with terribly positive reviews but there is no reason to assume that because a review is positive that it's faked.

Because every odd once in a while, a good game WILL be released and it goes from glowingly positive to explosively positive. I think Portal is one of the more recent/popular ones, so it makes a great example. Now, how many positive reviews have you read for that game? Well if you're anything like me, you heard the positive reviews before the game even came out, which would normally be a great indicator that its about to flop. Most games get that sufficient build up that it ends up a bit disappointing in the end. (Halo ODST, we're looking at you).

Now, there's no real "trick" to figuring out if a game review is fake or not. After all, some people are paid to write good reviews and some people are so inexperienced in gaming that they haven't actually played a good game. It'll make me sound like an old geezer to preach about classics so we'll steer clear of that.* But in all honesty, there are basically 2 types of reviews that come out. Type A is the kind you find on a tech site that basically works it as an advertising campaign for the game, by basically spewing everything thats on the box onto a web page and telling you to read it. Tybe B is a critique of the game, sometimes finding the most insurmountable details to nit pick on just to keep their cred as a cold-hearted-hard-to-please-hard-core-gamer.

If there's any "trick" at all, its to not rely on reviews. Specifically the online ones, but even word of mouth can be misleading at times.** So to tie this all in to the article, I think its good that the FTC is working on this kind of stuff, even if it ends with "settling" out of court. Slow and steady wins the race, most change in North America gets enacted slowly so its good to see that kind of approach working in benefit of the consumers.

*For Now

** One of my ex room-mates could not stop preaching about Borderlands. I had watched him play it a few times but it never really drew my interest as it seemed to be another run-kill-upgrade-repeat games with a few gimmicks here and there. Then he went on about how the opening theme song was just so good, but what he didn't realize was that it wasn't an original track, and it had been on the top of the radio charts for about 3 weeks before he even started playing the game, so when I drove to and from work I would hear it 3 times a day. He took the bus to school so I can't really blame him though.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 4 years ago | (#33398118)

I'm not a huge FPS fan (generally hate 'em, actually) but it had just enough MMO-likeness to drag me in, though I'm sure it's not everyone's bag.

Original track or not, though, the song really fits. :)

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about 4 years ago | (#33396348)

Right, since there's never been a great game released, ever.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (5, Interesting)

dmonney (1647327) | about 4 years ago | (#33394838)

Yelp was recently sued for extortion for modding down those who didn't pay though. Maybe that's what we are missing. We need to pay Apple!, oh wait that's already done by them making a "featured" secion.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

GuidedByVoices (1421045) | about 4 years ago | (#33394918)

Yelp was recently sued for extortion for modding down those who didn't pay though. Maybe that's what we are missing. We need to pay Apple!, oh wait that's already done by them making a "featured" secion.

If I had mod points, I'd mod you up for mentioning Yelp being sued. I was totally unaware of that.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | about 4 years ago | (#33395112)

They do it on blogs too. Unfortunately for them they can't capitalize on my site's high ranking for their restaurants because I track them down and expose them for what they are. See here: http://www.lazylightning.org/astroturfing-poor-attempts-at-changing-opinion [lazylightning.org]

If other sites were smart they'd be doing the same things. The actual userbase is far more pleased with the service you provide when you don't allow that sort of bullshit.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33397750)

Politicians pay bloggers these days, not only for fake positive opinions of themselves but for fake negative opinions of others. Companies routinely pay for positive articles in newspapers. Medical companies are currently under investigation for pressuring journals to only accept positive results from studies of their drugs (though it's unlikely the practice will change or be restricted). In the end, parasitic opinion pieces are a major problem in many, many different arenas. And that's just what these are - parasites. And given the efforts by the US to restrict lawsuits from countries with stricter rules on publishing, it's clear that these parasites won't be dealt with at any kind of systemic level any time soon - if at all.

Some might argue this is a good thing, some might argue it is a bad thing. I'm not sure it matters nearly as much as the willful blindness to the fact that it happens at all, or the fact that an informed opinion is impossible when you cannot identify what is information. (This could involve requiring that externally-imposed biases are identified, but it could equally well involve some sort of certification system whereby the reliability of information is evaluated and graded - much as Wikipedia's articles are, but you'd want this to be a little more independent and verifiably neutral. There are probably yet other alternatives. Picking one matters more than which one is picked.)

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33395240)

I don't know, because I'm too busy playing this new awesome game called "Kane and Lynch: Dead Men." The gameplay is so amazing and absorbing that I just can't tear myself away long enough to follow news stories. It's well-worth every penny of the $60 I paid for it and more. I would recommend it to everyone.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 4 years ago | (#33401598)

I know the story but you could at least have pointed at the recently released sequel.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 4 years ago | (#33395310)

They don't have to police the review. They just have to read the sales pitch. The FTC can call a PR firm (based on tips, probably) and say "Hey, I'm at XYZ startup. Can you hook us up with some fake reviews, sans disclosure?" Only one answer to that is legal.

What this will do is smash it as a money maker. Big, legit brands will avoid it. Mom-on-Pop's on Yelp will probably get away with it. The Yelp's of the world, who can make educated guesses about the profile of a fake reviewer (IP address, for one thing), will help police this, with the FTC as the hammer in rare cases.

This is, in the grand scheme, a pretty fair trade.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 4 years ago | (#33395330)

Uh, whoops. That's supposed to read Mom-and-Pops. Mom-on-Pops are an entirely different part of the internet.

Hell, What about Slashdot...! (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 4 years ago | (#33395350)

I mean, does InfoWorld pay snydeq [bit.ly] to do anything else besides astroturf daily on Slashdot?

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33396150)

"Take a look at restaurants on Yelp sometime; many "boost" their review status by posting fakes"

Those are thankfully filtered out (by the shill user having no other reviews or only a few reviews) or found and reported by the somewhat rabid community.

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33396546)

Here in Springfield we don't need no stinkin' reviews... we have the Illinois Times [illinoistimes.com] yearly "best of" poll. Businesses big and small who win the IT poll proudly post their plaques.

The funny thing is, it's like a Chicago political vote: vote early, vote often. But somehow, the good places/things/people manage to win (WQNA, D'Arcy's Pint, Saputos...)

Re:Not just iTunes and games... (2, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | about 4 years ago | (#33399054)

How is the FTC actually able to deduce which are from a firm and which are legit anyway?

I think they're going for the low hanging fruits first, many of which will be some of the worst offenders. Disgruntled former employees will be their primary source of information. And I'm guessing there will be a good number of them since this is not going to be a good job for anyone to have. The next ring down would be stupid PR firms that either brag/advertise what they're doing, or post suspect reviews from an ip address block that can easily be traced back to them.

After that, I think it will be in the hands of the web sites/app stores themselves. For instance, Amazon has a verified real person flag for customer reviews. The next step would be to flag who amongst the reviewers, has officially paid for the merchandise/books/apps in question that they're reviewing. There is no need to prevent anonymous reviewers or unverified reviewers from posting reviews, for me just flagging them and giving me a way to filter out those reviews (should I need to) would be enough a precise moment in time.

I suspect that if once Yelp/Amazon/App Store get bad enough, another better system will come along that's more trustworthy (at least for a short time) and will slowly siphon away many of their customers away. Which brings me to my last point, no system is perfect, no system is game-proof, it just needs to be good enough and slightly better than other potential alternatives.

Wait... (2, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 4 years ago | (#33394652)

Why should I pay someone to post fake reviews when I can create false accounts and post fake reviews all by myself for free? Unless there is some foolproof method of positively establishing the identity of the poster, these reviews should be considered crap anyway.

Re:Wait... (3, Insightful)

butterflysrage (1066514) | about 4 years ago | (#33394686)

volume... can you create hundreds, make sure none get taken down, repost the ones that do... day in and day out AND get your next game made?

Re:Wait... (3, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#33394950)

Correctumundo!

Why do people assume that just because something is free and trivial that you wouldn't pay someone to do it? Time is money, and its up to you to decide whether the money you save for posting your own fake reviews is worth the money you could be making doing something else - and whether the fake reviews are worth the money of paying someone else.

I mean - I'll give the neighbourhood kid 10 bucks to mow my lawn, even though I have a lawn mower and could easily do it on a Saturday afternoon.

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33395150)

"I'll give the neighbourhood kid 10 bucks to mow my lawn" or you can have someone like LawnMowingOnline.com mow your lawn!! They do a great job!! Why wouldn't you use them!?! They've been mowing my lawn for 10 years and I love them! Yaaaa!!! /sarcasm

Re:Wait... (1)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33397578)

Correctumundo!

"There's a word I've never used before... and hopefully never will again." (The Doctor)

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33398374)

Why do people assume that just because something is free and trivial that you wouldn't pay someone to do it?

I wonder what percentage of slashdot user vacuums the floors and cleans the toilets at the office. If people didn't hire someone to do things that are free and trivial janitors and maids would be out of a job.

Re:Wait... (1)

Terrasque (796014) | about 4 years ago | (#33396260)

Nothing is impossible for ShellScriptMan! ;)

Re:Wait... (1)

butterflysrage (1066514) | about 4 years ago | (#33396490)

captchas?

Re:Wait... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 4 years ago | (#33398194)

The point was, the fewer people involved in my astroturfing scheme, the less chance there is of the truth leaking out. These guys got in trouble because they were too lazy to do their own dirty work. Hundreds of other smarter businesses are still getting away with it.

Re:Wait... (1)

ian_from_brisbane (596121) | about 4 years ago | (#33394738)

Uuuuuh, maybe because you're just 1 person? Why did Ray Croc set up a global hamburger empire, when he could have just flipped burgers himself?

Re:Wait... (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 4 years ago | (#33394792)

Why should I pay someone to post fake reviews when I can create false accounts and post fake reviews all by myself for free?

Unless your game is free and not funded by someone else, wouldn't those still be paid reviews?

how hard or unusual? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33394694)

Surely there are businesses out there that will supply any number of comments on anything you want. It can't be that hard to fool the comment-receiving sites, and with a little software cleverness you could probably automate syntax variation etc. -- you could probably mine existing comment sites for expressions, tropes, even common spelling errors.

Wish I knew who did it. (1)

dmonney (1647327) | about 4 years ago | (#33394740)

I'm suprised any example of it's actions were not in the complaint or article. Kinda wish I was able to find out who paid for good reviews.

Why is the FTC getting involved in this? (-1, Troll)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 4 years ago | (#33394772)

Surely we don't need big brother getting involved, right? I mean how hard could it be to write an app that detected fake app reviews, that way people who want to see only genuine reviews can simply buy that app and they will have easy access to the best reviews available. Or perhaps once people realize that the iTunes app store is overridden with useless, poorly written apps they will take their dollars and talent elsewhere? I mean surely after 10 or 20 reincarnations of the same useless fart app gets released, it will be obvious that Apple's marketplace is too bloated to be useful...

Asking the government to get bigger to accommodate protecting us from some joker posting fake reviews is not the right answer!

Re:Why is the FTC getting involved in this? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33394888)

I mean surely after 10 or 20 reincarnations of the same useless fart app gets released, it will be obvious that Apple's marketplace is too bloated to be useful...

Yeah, instead they'll just make their fart apps from Android [androidtapp.com] .

droidFart is THE premiere fart application for the Android operating system.

Or if you are more into the Bieber craze you can get the Bieber Fart App [androlib.com] .

Re:Why is the FTC getting involved in this? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 4 years ago | (#33394892)

I mean how hard could it be to write an app that detected fake app reviews

Probably as hard as it is to detect fake email...

Business as usual (2, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 4 years ago | (#33394800)

Video game reviewing is probably one of the least credible forms of "journalism" out there. Back in the day it was magazine editors that were getting rewards for pushing reviews in perhaps more positive directions than they needed to be. Then it was game reviewing websites. Now it's a swarm of goobers who post "user" reviews to sites.

I'm fairly confident in saying that video game reviews, for the most part, are useless (or perhaps to be taken for entertainment purposes only).

Re:Business as usual (3, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | about 4 years ago | (#33395086)

It's not all bad, you just need to ignore both

a) Big-name publications. As you say, they're pretty much factories which output wonderful reviews for the sake of early-access and other perks.

b) Individual commenters and nobodies with blogs. They're either paid shills or, more commonly, frothing fanboys who don't meet any standards of objectivity.

There are reliable sources, though, when you look outside of these categories. Sites like Ars Technica are pretty good, although since gaming is just one of several things they do, there's never any guarantee that they'll review the game you're interested in. Penny Arcade is of course the gold standard: Tycho (or Jerry, or whatever) is a great writer, and you can be damn sure that if he gives a game a thumbs-up, he's not doing it as a favor to some PR man. As long as you stick to established good sources you don't have to worry about scams like this.

Re:Business as usual (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 4 years ago | (#33395384)

The key difference with someone like Tycho is that he has built up credibility. We may not see eye to eye on a lot of things but at least I can "trust" what he says to be his genuine perspective.

Sadly, game reviewing seems to be one of those wells that is all too easy to poison...

Re:Business as usual (1)

radish (98371) | about 4 years ago | (#33397986)

I would add Joystiq to that list, I'm sure someone will laugh or mod me down but as far as I'm concerned they have more cred than pretty much anyone in the industry (e.g. refusing any paid trips, giving away review copies once they're done with them, etc).

Re:Business as usual (1)

GuidedByVoices (1421045) | about 4 years ago | (#33395108)

You'd be surprised how often it happens for novels as well. "The Losers' Club" by Richard Perez is a fairly well known example of review poisoning. Hundreds of reviews, "Best of Lists" on Amazon, etc; all fabricated by the author and his friends. Review Journalism is often questionable, regardless of the medium being reviewed; it's just more visible with video games at the moment. 10 years ago it was PC Mag.

Re:Business as usual (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 years ago | (#33395140)

Somehow I rarely find them informative either, which is maybe a bigger problem with videogame journalism overall. Not that other kinds of reviews are always great, but I do sometimes learn things about a book, film, or album by reading a review---sometimes from both positive and negative reviews, and sometimes the review even adds an interesting perspective and background information for things I've actually already read/watched/listened-to. I very rarely get that feeling from game reviews.

Of course, this may be partly the games' fault as well. AAA titles focus so much on things like graphics and polish that the reviewers inevitably spend a lot of their time reviewing that, plus basic mechanical things like, "does the damn thing work", and "is multiplayer completely broken", leaving no time/interest for things that would be more interesting to me, like, "does this game break new gameplay ground?", and "in what ways are the core mechanics used in this game an interesting twist on games it draws influence from?"

Re:Business as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33395206)

Anything in the tech industry is automatically suspect, but you're right to target video game reviews. I'm quite annoyed that people will actually defend these PR pieces as legitimate reviews. The only way to really get unbiased reviews is to go to people like Consumer Reports, who buy the products themselves and have no advertising. Good luck finding that anywhere in the tech industry, though. Almost every site/magazine will give automatic 90/100 to any AAA title, for fear that their advertising will be affected by a non-glowing review.

Re:Business as usual (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | about 4 years ago | (#33396784)

It seems that many people here do not read Maximum PC magazine. I trust their reviews. For one, they have shown that they use the full 1-10 scale, and not just give everything a rating in the 8-10 range. In fact you almost never see a 10, and even 9 is hard to get. I remember seeing a bad (2 rating) review ripping apart a product that was on the opposite page from a large (possibly full page) ad for that very product. They have stated before in the editorials or answers to letters that they keep the advertizing department seperate from the reviewing department. They supposedly don't have any influence. It would seem that way after reading them for years. Best computer magazine out there!!! (Now I sound like an astroturfing review!)

They also do sometimes cover a bit more that just the graphics of the game, if there is more to cover. The only draw-back is, you don't get the review when you want it, you would have to wait for it to be in the magazine. I havn't used their website much, but maybe they have added more stuff there.

Re:Business as usual (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 4 years ago | (#33401942)

I was going to cite Mafia 2 but it looks like only a few publications actually criticised that badly (which happen to include the ones I actually read): See the list [metacritic.com] .

Re:Business as usual (4, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#33395510)

I feel like there is a quality scale in gaming, and a tickle-your-fancy factor. Borderlands is a reasonable quality game, but it never quite tickled my fancy. Some reviews were strongly positive (decent quality, very much of interest to the reviewer), while others just went "meh" (decent quality, not of interest to the reviewer). By comparison, I loved that terrible Burger King Pocket Bike Racer game. It wasn't amazing or terrible, but it happened to strike a sweet spot in my personal brain between a love of bikes, a love of kart racers, and a love of really, really short racing games. Similarly, I'm a fan of DeathSmiles. It is of moderate to high quality. But the appeal is on a razor edge of gothic bullet hell players. No matter the quality level, I can't think of a single friend that would enjoy playing the game.

I find it's most useful to skim the reviews to get a sense for the overall build quality of the game. And if the soul of the game also genuinely appeals, go for it.

Full disclosure: I work in gaming.

Re:Business as usual (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 years ago | (#33395594)

And what video game companies (and companies in many other industries as well) fail to realize is that fake reviews that uniformly tout what's "wonderful" about new products cause people to stop paying attention to reviews at all. I used to use reviews to decide which of several games to spend my money on. I did this because I had bought several games that the game company description made sound like the sort of game I enjoy and they turned out to not be to my taste at all (and not very well done either). When I realized that game reviews were no more reliable than what the company put on the box in telling me whether I would enjoy a game or not, I stopped spending money on games.

Movie reviews on itunes (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 4 years ago | (#33394812)

On the bright side, they've added the "believable" tomatometer to itunes movie reviews,
but it's pretty obvious from the vacuous generic positive platitudes that many of the "user"
reviews are bought and paid for.

New Ad Template (1)

skuzzlebutt (177224) | about 4 years ago | (#33394818)

"EA Sports doesn't want you to know that the characters in their so-called 'wrestling' games are really just actors, spitting chicken blood and stomping their feet to simulate impacts.

If they really cared about gamers, why would they pull this trick on innocent people?

Call EA Sports and tell them: no more jumping off of ladders onto balsa wood tables.

I'm THQ UFC Undisputed, and I approve this message."

hmmm (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 years ago | (#33394854)

Now if they only started actually enforcing the payola laws.

Re:hmmm (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 years ago | (#33395064)

You're telling me payola, and not a word class set of tits, is what's behind Katy Perry's success?

Re:hmmm (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | about 4 years ago | (#33397340)

Are we talking about the same Katy Perry? The one that remade "I wear sunglasses at night" into a pop song (again), about lipstick lesbians? Because if we are, I'm pretty sure it's not the tits. It certainly isn't talent. That pretty much just leaves the payola.

"also" targeting large firms? (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 4 years ago | (#33394878)

Originally, the fear was that this regulation would target the small-time blogger, but this news of Reverb settling with the FTC over fake game reviews shows that the FTC is also targeting big PR firms.

"Also" targeting big PR firms? Where has the FTC been "targetting" "small-time" bloggers?

Something tells me the FTC has zero interest in enforcement for individuals, unless they're misleading a LOT of people.

If I were kind of the judicial system (3, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 years ago | (#33395010)

I would make it illegal to settle a lawsuit without admitting wrongdoing.

If you're innocent, then it's wrong for the plaintiff to get a dime from you. And if you're liable, then the results of discovery should be available to any other would-be plaintiff.

Settlements basically set up a shakedown system.

Re:If I were kind of the judicial system (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | about 4 years ago | (#33397856)

Except that in a settlement, both parties agree to the resolution.

If either one doesn't like the proposed settlement, they have every right to say "Um, no. We're going to court."

The terms of the settlement COULD be to admit wrong doing, should the other party insist on it and the accused party agree to it.

I think if both parties are willing to come to an agreement, without wasting any more tax dollars, then that's a great thing.

And if you don't like it, but felt that you too were damaged by the outcome, then you have every right to sue someone about it. :)

Are these (2, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 4 years ago | (#33395038)

Are these bloggers typical slashdot bloggers?

Duke Nukem Forever is the wonderfulest game ever gone and played. It is more better than the other one. I dont no of any gooder game available for the xbox windows. It wood only gets betterer if they cud have included Natalie Portman as a playable character.

Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33395048)

Since American corporations now have pay for votes, Fox News, which is a self-described news organization and which contains vast amounts of astroturfing of current events, should be treated as false advertising as well.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 years ago | (#33395854)

Compare the number of political operatives from the Democratic Party who now work for MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC to the number of political operatives from the Republican Party who now work for Fox News (by political operative I mean someone who once held an elective office or worked in the government answerable directly to someone who held an elective office). I think you will find that each of the other networks have at least as many Democratic operatives (former?) working for them as Fox News has Republican operatives (former?). My impression based on comments I have seen online is that Fox News has more (former?) Democratic Party operatives working for it than MSNBC has Republican and that Fox News has fewer (former?) Republican Party operatives working for it than MSNBC has (former?) Democratic Party operatives. This may not be true as I watch neither one of them (or any other television news), but that is the impression I get.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33398994)

Fox News was founded by Reagan apparatchiks. It's owned by Rupert Murdoch. It donated money to the RNC.

I wouldn't even know where to go to get the employee records needed to make the counts you imply someone's made.

As for "comments I have seen online", I used the word "astroturfing" in my OP. And I don't know how you get an impression about a propaganda organization by not watching it.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 years ago | (#33399980)

It is comments such as this http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/08/027102.php [powerlineblog.com] The numbers in the link are for the networks as a whole, but I have seen articles on line in the past that list just the news divisions and they are comparable. As for the counts I was referring to, I was thinking of on-air personalities.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 years ago | (#33397554)

Guess you don't watch msnbc, abc, cbs or npr. I could cover a football stadium by the amount of astroturf they pump out.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33398950)

You need to look up astroturf. Those outlets are reporting the facts. If anything, they're failing to properly deal with the facts about Fox News.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 years ago | (#33399148)

You need to look up astroturf. Those outlets are reporting the facts. If anything, they're failing to properly deal with the facts about Fox News.

Actually perhaps you should get out of your comfort zone, and try doing some research. The only facts they present half the time is that they happily manufacture news, or report news that has no needed basis in reality. Manufacturing news is not reporting the facts, and they've been going hog-board-wild with it for the last 10 years.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33399296)

I haven't been in my comfort zone since the plutocracy got the Gingrich nazis elected in the 90s.

And I can't tell who you're ranting against, since Fox News is the one manufacturing stories and ignoring the news.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

hal2814 (725639) | about 4 years ago | (#33399872)

"Guess you don't watch msnbc, abc, cbs or npr."

Given those networks' viewing and listening figures these days, that's a safe assumption.

Re:Cool. Can we do this to Fox News? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 4 years ago | (#33401956)

Privately run TV stations are worthless for news, the only thing they get done is show some decent movies and even then they stuff them so full of advertising that watching them is no fun.

So tell me ... (2, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | about 4 years ago | (#33395166)

What is a review that isn't "fake" or paid for? Where do you find such a thing? Certainly not on the Internet.

There are two reasons for anyone to write something: they personally feel so strongly that they have to tell other people and they are getting paid to do it. The former is pretty much restricted to people with negative comments. So I guess that means any review that is positive is paid for.

Similarly, negative reviews about your competition are an extremely powerful tool if you assume that people are still reading fake, misleading reviews about anything. So that means a good portion of the negative reviews can be assumed to be put their by people trying to make their competition look bad.

So why would anyone believe a review on the Internet? Near as I can tell they are all fake or paid for.

Re:So tell me ... (1)

GuidedByVoices (1421045) | about 4 years ago | (#33395280)

About the only reviews I've given credit to in the last few years have been satirical reviews from people like Spoony or some of the other YouTube vloggers. However, even these can be hard to detect as fake (such as the e-cigarette reviewers who genuinely seem legit - Actors, they make all the difference).

Re:So tell me ... (2, Insightful)

LatencyKills (1213908) | about 4 years ago | (#33395486)

There's a third group of people you missed in your post - those who review games because they genuinely love playing them and want others to find the good ones and avoid the bad ones, and maybe even in some Darwinian fashion improve gaming as a whole. I've been doing online game reviews for almost a decade - companies send me games, some ask for me to review them specifically - and I've always posted my honest opinion of them without dilution or pressure from my agent. I've had companies send me games that I subsequently slammed. They're probably not happy about that, but it allows my readers to know that I do write unbiased reviews (or at least biased by nothing more than my own opinions). Here's a hint to finding fake reviews - if you're reading a game review with a banner ad for that game across the top of it, it's probably not a real review.

Re:So tell me ... (1)

e4g4 (533831) | about 4 years ago | (#33400014)

if you're reading a game review with a banner ad for that game across the top of it, it's probably not a real review

For once, an argument _against_ running AdBlock in Firefox.

Re:So tell me ... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 4 years ago | (#33401978)

I've seen cases where a review was surrounded by ads for its game and completely tore that apart. Especially smaller sites tend to grab advertising packs where they just get money per X views and the agency they're getting the pack from decides what goes in there (also leads to cases where ads distribute malware without the knowledge of the site owner), the site and the maker of the advertised product never meet on advertising. Review copies also seem to be given out like candy even for games that will obviously be reviewed terribly.

Re:So tell me ... (1)

Trufagus (1803250) | about 4 years ago | (#33397896)

All the law requires is a basic degree of honesty: don't pretend that the review is simply your opinion if you are actually being paid to take a certain position. There was a /. article this week about this same problem in political blogging. In all cases the consumer can make a better evaluation of any review (or political opinion) if they know whether the author was paid for the position they are taking.

What I don't get is this part:
> Originally, the fear was that this regulation would target the small-time blogger
Why should small-time bloggers be allowed to deceive their readers if big-time bloggers can't?

Re:So tell me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33398934)

So why would anyone believe a review on the Internet? Near as I can tell they are all fake or paid for.

Why would you believe anything on the internet? e.g. Most slashdot posts, not just articles, about steam appear to be paid shills. They don't even bother being subtle.

Re:So tell me ... (1)

Gaffod (939100) | about 4 years ago | (#33399238)

There's a difference between being paid to express your opinion, and being paid to adopt an opinion and then express it. It's called a conflict of interest.

It would be pretty nice if reviewers had to disclose those, now that I think of it. Having a note saying "CoI: I was paid by the developer to write a positive review." under a pile of baloney (and knowing that there is legislation ensuring that you can trust that note) would change things quite a bit. It would probably make review magazines/sites more expensive as well, but I'd gladly pay more for at least slightly more honest journalism.

yes (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#33395758)

Will the FTC continue to make examples of big PR firms?

It is the modus operandi of the FTC to go after big firms and hope that the smaller guys will play along. They suggest that if you notice a small business not obeying rules, you should report them to the BBB, report them to local authorities, or sue them yourself. Presumably they don't have enough resources to chase everyone, but for whatever reason, if you are a small blog, you have nothing to worry about from the FTC.

It's all around us (2, Informative)

ProfanityHead (198878) | about 4 years ago | (#33396446)

Newegg, Amazon, any online reseller has reviews for each item where in some cases I'd guess 50% of them are fake.

At least on Amazon you can reply to a comment and challenge the person's authenticity.

I wouldn't see a reason why game reviews would be any different.

How hard can it be? (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | about 4 years ago | (#33398982)

We've all seen obviously fake reviews, on all our favorite internet stores. However, you've probably also seen very nice, balanced user reviews (I sometimes leave these on Amazon whether I liked or disliked whatever it is... I don't think I've ever reviewed a game on there, though).

So how hard would it be to pay people to write reviews that aren't so obviously fake? Provide your fake reviewers with mostly positive points about the game - not "It's great! I can't stop playing it!!!" nonsense, but actual aspects of interesting gameplay or whatever (assuming your game has this). Also provide them with a few negative points. Ask the programmers, I don't expect the marketing droids to be able to figure this out for themselves. Just ask the programmer for a few honest negative points that they wish they'd had time to improve before release. They don't have to heavily criticize huge aspects of the game, just a few small points.

Then the marketing droids can come up with several similarly-worded reviews, different enough to not obviously be the same, to post on various sites. It'll be an overall positive review, but it will seem balanced from the negative points (and the lack of mindless praise), meaning people will be more likely to trust it. Meaning you'll influence people a lot more effectively. If certain market segments are actually influenced by the mindless positive reviews, then post those too I guess if it makes you money.

Well, I don't know why I'm giving the marketing department ideas. I'm not saying I would approve of such measures, I'm just saying that if they had given it even a little bit of fault they could be a whole lot more effective, and those of us who recognize the fake reviews might not be able to anymore.

hiii (1)

claura28 (1888470) | about 4 years ago | (#33401668)

Video game reviewing is probably one of the least credible forms of "journalism" out there. Back in the day it was magazine editors that were getting rewards for pushing reviews in perhaps more positive directions than they needed to be..... http://globetv.co.uk/ [globetv.co.uk]
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