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Game Journalist May Have Been Fired Over Negative Review

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the that-was-not-a-move-you-should-have-made dept.

The Media 397

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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397 comments

Corporate Censorship (1, Offtopic)

Kranfer (620510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531467)

Censorship is something that is big in corporate america these days it seems. Being Republican myself, I do not like censorship, which I guess is an oddity perhaps? But firing someone because of a review is disgusting. I have been "talked to" myself by management of places I have worked at in the past when political discussions arise. I live in NY... highly liberal... I voice my conservative opinion and management calls me in afterwards to tell me I am wrong and I should take the same stance on political things having nothing to do with work... Ah well. As for the reviewer, its a matter of opinion. The company hired him for his opinion on the games they want reviews on... To fire him goes to show "We want ONLY good reviews, keep the money coming in!" ::Fist on desk::

Re:Corporate Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531537)

One has to wonder why you find it necessary to voice your conservative opinions that aren't related to your job in the workplace.

Re:Corporate Censorship (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531961)

One has to wonder why you find it necessary to voice your conservative opinions that aren't related to your job in the workplace.
Could be that his coworkers are very vocal about their opinions. If it truly was a problem his bosses should be entitled to ask him to keep that stuff out of the work place, nothing more.

Re:Corporate Censorship (1, Insightful)

DaedalusHKX (660194) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532497)

You must've never worked with hard core "republicans" or even "mild core liberals"... both are adamant in views. Difference? If an equal set of experiences is shared, objectively, by two people, they are MORE likely to swing right wing anarchist (libertarian?) rather than left wing totalitarian or right wing totalitarian. The experiences I speak of are simple. Wrongful arrest within a year or two of being robbed without the police showing up. Top it off with a police officer and later judge saying "nope, cops aren't supposed to protect you, cops aren't even supposed to be on time or actually SHOW UP... and so says even the Supreme Court! Public peace means cops have to show up and arrest whoever disturbs the peace, so if you are murdered quietly, cops just clean up the mess and pretend to care. Tough tamales son! And no, no tax refund for you, we stole that fair and square!!"

I'm actually happy some righties are arguing with the vast leftist zone that is NY... but IMHO, the East Coast is LOST. Collectivists have conquered the East Coast almost 50 years ago, with a solid and resounding victory. Whether they call themselves "new republicans" or "liberals" or "neo-conservatives", they're all collectivists (people who believe the collective entity has ALL the rights and the individual members have NO rights if an argument arises, course these are also the same people who get upset when THEY are the organs the collective sacrifices on the "greater good" altar, but that's cosmic justice if I ever heard it.)

Re:Corporate Censorship (5, Insightful)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531597)

Being Republican myself, I do not like censorship, which I guess is an oddity perhaps?

It only seems like an oddity because you think a single name can sum up your political orientation, especially one that doesn't really define any. It is actually little more than the name of a football team that has a high player turnover rate.

Re:Corporate Censorship (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531785)

"It only seems like an oddity because you think a single name can sum up your political orientation, especially one that doesn't really define any. It is actually little more than the name of a football team that has a high player turnover rate."

That's one great definition. Where are my modpoints when I need them?

Re:Corporate Censorship (4, Insightful)

LDoggg_ (659725) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531791)

If we're doing analogies, I'd say it's even less than name of a football team. At least the players on the team really want the whole team to win. Members of political parties just use the team as a means of getting elected.
Does every republican candidate truly support the war in Iraq? Is every democrat really pro-abortion?
Just a means of raising enough money to get elected.

Re:Corporate Censorship (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21532267)

It's because people like Kranfer don't understand that the world isn't black and white. They want to view everything as polar opposites, with no middle ground. Unfortunately, the real world isn't like that, which just causes them to be even further mystified by everything, which causes them to further try to polarize things, and on and on.

Re:Corporate Censorship (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532337)

Members of political parties just use the team as a means of getting elected. ... Just a means of raising enough money to get elected.


Ding Ding Ding... This is exactly the reason I am guessing that Ron Paul said he will not run as Independent if not selected as the Republican runner. Who was the last President you know of that was not from the big two parties? 1849/50?

Re:Corporate Censorship (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532379)

At least the players on the team really want the whole team to win. Members of political parties just use the team as a means of getting elected.
Ok. How about a professional football team?

Re:Corporate Censorship (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532493)

Being Republican myself, I do not like censorship, which I guess is an oddity perhaps?

It only seems like an oddity because you think a single name can sum up your political orientation, especially one that doesn't really define any. It is actually little more than the name of a football team that has a high player turnover rate.
I'm glad someone else notices the sports mentality of the arbitrarily polar U.S. party system.

As for the idea that reviews are somehow sacrosanct... it's a great idea. I've been ignoring review sites (other than my own [ajs.com] ) for years because of this. The only shocking thing here is that someone at Gamespot managed to get a negative review published before they were fired. It was really the publisher that was, I'm sure, taking the heat.

Re:Corporate Censorship (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532077)

It is my conservative opinion that you're more likely reprimanded for your presentation rather than content. For what did the mean liberals oppress you?

Of course, if you really want to see how "liberal" corporations are, start talking about unions or salary transparency at work.

kettle self-asseses (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Obligitory (0, Redundant)

flitty (981864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532011)

In Soviet Russia, Game reviews you!

But, my question is... (3, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532175)

...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 brings with it the risk of being coopted by the purse string holders.

Re:But, my question is... (5, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532263)

### 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.

Re:But, my question is... (4, Insightful)

timftbf (48204) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?
 

Re:kettle self-asseses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21532451)

This is no surprise. I've spoken with reps from Sony, who said straight out that they've bought reviews for games.

Nothing new here... (5, Insightful)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Nothing new here... (1, Troll)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532015)

> Nothing new here... (Score:3, Insightful)
> no advertising money in Linux anyway
> just remember the "Golden Rule" folks

What's that, mention Linux in a completely irrelevant context to get modded up? Yeah we know.. Uh, Microsoft sucks!

Re:Nothing new here... (1)

Caball (58351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532215)

Or perhaps, Magazines have advertisements that appeal to their readers. Why target a user base of 3-5%?

Re:Nothing new here... (1, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532441)

Never mind; at least we can still go to IGN for our trusted reviews!

[Mod +1, funny]

a shame regardless of the reason (5, Interesting)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531511)

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 (4, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532027)

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:Unsurprising (2, Interesting)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532087)

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 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21532317)

And yet I still read post after post from people wanking off over their Slashdot contrarianism. Censorship through moderation on Slashdot is a small issue, given how many posts flow through the site in a given day. Sure, some high profile abuses happen, but I still get to read about "Slashdot groupthink" on a regular basis anyway.

Re:Unsurprising (5, Insightful)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532281)

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 (1)

atdt1991 (1069776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532357)

You can be as cynical as you'd like, but I've watched my editor bend over backwards to keep as separate from our marketing department as possible. We've turned down otherwise worthwhile stories as well as refused to accept "advertorial" style ads. Moreso, we've definitely written poorly about advertisers, and received threats from said advertisers for doing so, without backing down.

There are some people in this world who actually have some integrity.

Re:a shame regardless of the reason (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531845)

I subscribe to Gamespot, because IGN's website is incredibly obnoxious and cluttered and I want a place to keep up with all the videos (in decent hd quality), so it has been worth the $20/yr to me. And sometimes the reviews and scores help guide me in what games to absolutely stay away from and what to absolutely give a shot. Kane and Lynch is one I was going to buy on release day. Then I waited a little to see the review and was glad I did. After the review, I decided to find it demo-ing somewhere so I could try it and I couldn't stand it.

I doubt someone would be dumped because of a single review that pissed off a publisher. Multiple occurrences, perhaps but surely they knew one bad review resulting in a canning would be terribly obvious.

Anyway, if that's the case, I'll be canceling my subscription (even though it JUST renewed).

Re:a shame regardless of the reason (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532121)

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 when the game in question is not getting good reviews pretty much anywhere.

Readers SHOULD expect a firewall.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531515)

...but it has not been the case since, well, forever, when you are talking about online gaming reviews. Every serious gamer has been burned by reviews on sites like gamespot, years ago. I'm shocked there are actually people left that take them seriously.

The only reviews that have convinced me in the past decade have been the gaming experiences of clan/guildmates, and even those I take with a grain of salt.

One would hope this would be a wake up call, for the gamers and the publishers and the "journalists" that it is time for change. Make a good game, a fair publisher will give it a good review, well informed gamers will give it a try. Let's work on that model going forward, instead of the lie your ass off and try and buy your way out of bad design theory.

Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (4, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (4, Informative)

moranar (632206) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531569)

Roger Ebert is still alive... You mean Gene Siskel?

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531605)

My post was written to pre-emptively handle his death. Useful for future web searches that may reach this post.

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531659)

Good save.

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (4, Funny)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532067)

Ooh, and he's got evasion. No damage.

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (5, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532323)

If he ends up living forever you'll be soooo screwed - the entire Internet's laughing stock.

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (0, Redundant)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531735)

Ahhh, good ol' Filthy Ebert. He was great while he was still around...

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (2, Interesting)

Symbolis (1157151) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531941)

If you want some review-tainment(ogod!), you might want to consider checking out Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's contributions to The Escapist.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation [escapistmagazine.com]
Also? God I hate /. "html".

Re:Ebert, Filthy, and game reviewers (0)

TRS80NT (695421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532225)

Two points:
Roger Ebert is alive and reviewing movies, just not (currently) on TV.
And B, while I don't always agree with him and his aisle-opposite at least they were/are consistent enough in their criticism that I can get a good idea of what my impressions of the movie in question will be. The raises the point of why review neutrality is important. I don't know, by name, as many game critics as movie critics, but would like to think that whether or not I had the same tastes as a Jeff Gerstmann, at least he would be consistent and unbiased enough that I could use the review for my purchasing decision.


Gamespot reputation going down the sink. (5, Interesting)

redscare2k4 (1178243) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

There is no firewall (1)

drunkahol (143049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531547)

The has never been, nor will there ever be a separation between advertising and editorial.

We like to think that they live separate lives and are ethically policed, but this is a falacy.

Advertisers know this and have meny different ways of "influencing" things. A sacking may be too far, but what can we do?

D

Re:There is no firewall (5, Insightful)

Kodack (795456) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531695)

What can we do?

Avoid Gamespot like the FN plague. Do what we all have the right to do, go somewhere else.

Re:There is no firewall (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532277)

You can run Firefox, install Adblock Plus to eliminate the reward of advertising dollars to the companies, and read as many reviews as possible to get a good feel for whether or you'd actually like the game, plus play the demo if possible.

Re:There is no firewall (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532421)

You can demand journalistic integrity, for starters. You can boycott advertisers that take such underhanded tactics. You can boycott the publications whose lack of testicular fortitude leads them to cave to said advertisers. And you can tell other people about what's going on and why they should do the same thing.

Update - 7:12 AM EST (5, Informative)

dlZ (798734) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531551)

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.

There's a huge disparity in money here... (1)

nordee (104555) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531555)

A publisher might spend $10M to promote a big game.

A reviewer might make $100K per year, but I doubt it.

Why is anyone surprised that the big money pushes the reviews upwards?

Some will say it's proof (1)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531563)

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 (3, Interesting)

adml_shake (1196483) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:suspicious (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531913)

I've found the reviews to be largely reliable in my time there. The games they absolutely hate tend to absolutely suck. I think they missed the ball on their adoration of Assassin's Creed (a 9?! REALLY?! You must have been playing a less sucky print of the game than I did!), but they usually fit into the same ballpark.

They also show other game site's average review scores of the game as well as user scores. While I would not doubt this current story, it would be rather obvious if Gamespot went around rating games an 8, 9 and 10 while all the gamers and other game sites rated the same games a 2, 3 and 4.

Re:suspicious (1)

tomz16 (992375) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532161)

... While I would not doubt this current story, it would be rather obvious if Gamespot went around rating games an 8, 9 and 10 while all the gamers and other game sites rated the same games a 2, 3 and 4.
Doesn't matter who votes... just who counts those votes...

Relevance (4, Interesting)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531817)

This coming from someone who reviews games himself...

Re:Relevance (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531859)

I have reviewed games before, yes (though very informally), and don't misunderstand: I don't begrudge anyone from writing a review on the game to tell people what they think about it. What I have a problem with is sites who assign one guy to Game X, another to Game Y, and then trot it out as the entire sites opinion on the game. To me it is much more useful to have many people review a game, to get a range of opinions.

Re:Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531979)

I find amateur reviews useful as well, but you have to disregard the first few "10"s as they are almost always shills. Not even modern teenagers use that many LOL's...

Re:Relevance (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532343)

### 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.

The beauty of xbox live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531593)

There's no reason to consider it if they don't offer a free demo, preferably one that has some lasting value in and of itself such as Shadowrun, Lost Planet, Phantasy Star Universe. And when you have people you regularly play with someone will rent or buy something and tell you all about it. I heard all about how horrible Kane & Lynch is almost the day it came out. The other good games, Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, they suck people out of the group you regularly play with. It's a beautiful beautiful thing to have people inadvertently spend your money more efficently as a by-product of natural behavior. All hail the network effect.

Sad but inevitable (4, Insightful)

megla (859600) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

It's a secret to everyone (4, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531619)

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.

Re:It's a secret to everyone (1)

andi75 (84413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532237)

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

Re:It's a secret to everyone (1)

RocketScientist (15198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532353)

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".

Community blacklash (5, Informative)

Arrow_Raider (1157283) | more than 6 years ago | (#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]

Re:Community blacklash (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532019)

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.

User Reviews (4, Insightful)

blackholepcs (773728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531657)

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.

another stand out example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531663)

Please see: GameSpy's 3DAP [3dactionplanet.com] . The entire site was shut down a few years ago, along with all of the staff, so that the parent site [gamespy.com] could control who recieved what kind of review. The staff was informed about the closing about a month in advance, with a reason given as something along the lines of "content issues."

I was involved, anon for obvious reasons.

Mob (1, Redundant)

vurg (639307) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531687)

Now Gamespot users are doing their own protest by rating the game 1.0: http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/kanelynchdeadmen/players.html?tag=readerreviews;alluser [gamespot.com]

Re:Mob (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532459)

Amazing. I wonder what Jeff would think of this.

Even though it's a slightly juvenile thing to do, having that sort of support from your fans has to be pretty touching.

You get what you pay for. (1)

Essequemodeia (1030028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531705)

Are we suddenly expecting Gamespot to be Consumer Reports?

Wait, do you mean... (3, Insightful)

realinvalidname (529939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531739)

...someone other than bots reads Gamespot? Now that's news.

Anyone is suprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21531757)

I can understand being upset but things like this should surprise no one. Businesses that do print/TV/news/reviews need advertising dollars. This happens all the time and always has. If you want a review from someone not getting paid you can maybe get lucky at Slashdot now and then.

It applies to politics the same way. Listen to every political debate this year and see how many times a candidate says he is going to do something about China. Of course none of them are actually going to do anything - not until you have more money than wal-mart. But they have to say it.

So this just confirms what everyone believed (1)

DarthTeufel (751532) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531789)

That the majority of online game review sites ARE biased by their advertisers. Its why I still trust the reviews from PC Gamer over any other venue.

Re:So this just confirms what everyone believed (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531901)

Yeah, because physically printed media is exempt from bias. [/sarcasm]

While PC Gamer is certainly a lot better off than it use to be I still remember the days where a game was either considered shit or a gift from God. Seriously. Just a few years ago everything as either over 80% or under 25%. It kind of fouled my taste for their magazine.

Re:So this just confirms what everyone believed (1)

Tozog (599414) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531957)

You may want to rethink your opinion of PC Gamer. Check out the review for Hellgate: London. PC Gamer gave it an 89, the average on metacritic is 70 now.

Just read the tone of the articles. It makes the PC Gamer review sound like a puff piece.

Re:So this just confirms what everyone believed (1)

DarthTeufel (751532) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532359)

Hey... I've subscribed to the magazine since the early 90's (when it was PC Entertainment). I trust them. They rated it an 89, but not a Kick Ass product.

Game Reviewer May Have Been Fired For Sex With PS3 (2, Insightful)

acvh (120205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531799)

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.

Those interested reading his article ... (1)

cbart387 (1192883) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531829)

here it is [gamespot.com] .

on other word (1)

Chris whatever (980992) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531831)

Gamespot sucks, they have been sucking since they started wanted people to pay for free content like demos and files and pictures which you can get elsewhere legally,why bother with this company.
Now they cant honestly criticize a game, wow, i'll stick with reviews of non-paying erbsite where the adds people are not from game companies.

It's probably true. I've seen this personally! (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531839)

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.

Re:It's probably true. I've seen this personally! (3, Interesting)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531943)

"but in the end, termination of the writer was all they could do"

That's funny. I would have thought journalistic integrity could have been on the table. Tell the advertiser "no, you can't influence our reviews, take your business elsewhere".

Re:It's probably true. I've seen this personally! (1)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532037)

I don't think we can really legislate ethics, but we could at least legislate disclosure. If you're selling subscriptions, I don't think it's an unfair burden to disclose at purchase time whether or not your writers have editorial independence. Extending that to anyone posting their opinion on a forum somewhere would be a tad overboard though.

Re:It's probably true. I've seen this personally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21532297)

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.
A more interested public would not need laws to dictate journalistic integrity;
A more interested public would vote with their wallets and therefore deprive such outlets of their rite to exist in the marketplace.

And where is the original review by the above ? (2, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 ?

It's the same in Finance (4, Informative)

InbredTom (1189565) | more than 6 years ago | (#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]

Jail would seem appropriate (1)

jontsok (652013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21531991)

If this was the financial sector and our Games analyst was a financial analyst: 1 He would be suing successfully for xxx Millions. 2 Anyone connected with the decision would now be arrested. In the uk they would be looking at 14yrs + an unlimited fine. 3 The authorities would have closed the company down pending legal action. What makes it ok to do this sort of thing when selling games (kids make up a large element of the customers) but not when selling stocks and shares (you also go to jail for selling those to kids).

YouTube video (3, Insightful)

DrXym (126579) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:YouTube video (2, Insightful)

Bud Dickman (1131973) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532135)

"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 Gamespot to run a positive review. You can't trust Gamespot reviews at all.

I'm just going to avoid the site entirely.

Interesting Ad at Bottom of Review (1)

riffzifnab (449869) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532063)

I went and skimmed the actual review [gamespot.com] and found this little gem at the bottom:

"The 10 Worst Games Ever: Read a Canadian review of the top 10 worst games ever! pcworld.ca"

surprised by payola? (1)

Mutagenic (1105159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532071)

surprised by payola? well son once you leave the tit of your wet nurse it is easy to see this goes on in all aspects of the media and is nothing new.

If it's true... (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532081)

...it'd be one of the most ironic things ever. Publishers are the #1 reason most games are rushed out and patched later. No developer wants to put out crap because it stains their reputation, not the publisher's. If Eidos pushed the game before it was ready (and from all reviews it sounds like there are plenty of reasons to think this), you'd think they might realize it's their own fault.

CNET reviews can never be trusted again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21532113)

Call and Email CNET's management and let them know that they are essentially out of business - no one will ever trust their product reviews again

Investor Relations Contact Information
Cammeron McLaughlin
Vice President, IR
Phone: 415/344.2844
E-mail: cammeron.mclaughlin@cnet.com

Gloria Lee
IR Manager
Phone: 415/344.2975
E-mail: Gloria.Lee@cnet.com

Long suspected (3, Insightful)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532173)

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.

Reviewer and Critic Credibility? That's a Laugh (1)

gadlaw (562280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532179)

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 the swag bag was by the number of glowing reviews and 'it'll get better' reviews for what crap game you'll actually hear about in a few months after the release when you can read articles in those same magazines like "What went wrong with Halo" (looking at one of the new mags now). My other pet peeve with reviewers and critics is the 'I'm smarter than anyone else snarkiness' and the plain mean and nastiness disguised as 'cleverness' that is everywhere as well. So I'm not feeling sorry about this guy is he was mean and snarky in his tone. They should fire everyone who is like that. But honest and fair reviews and criticism? Why would they start doing that now?

Where are the cut-throat review? (2, Interesting)

guidryp (702488) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Crysis, Bioshock, Unreal Tournament III (1)

ueltradiscount (1195109) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532231)

Crysis was released as a buggy beta, with all of the nice plant/objects physics intentionally disabled in DX9 multiplayer (EA/Microsoft want you to buy Vista/DX10 to get that...) and a rushed feel and gamelogic bugs in the last half of the single player game. Result? 92% overall rating on Metacritic, indicating rave reviews all around. Bioshock was shipped with a really nasty DRM software made by Sony DADC, mandatory internet activation, a 5x limit on installs and uninstalls, no multiplayer, no widescreen support and garbageworthy framerates or crashes on a lot of hardware. Result? 96% overall on Metacritic, indicating fantastic reviews all around. Unreal Tournament III. Crashcity on many hardware configurations. GPU post-processing that makes everything look blurry. Just like Crysis and Bioshock, a forum full of disappointed or angry customers. Metacritic rating? 85%. Good to very good reviews all around. All of these games were promoted like crazy, rushed out the door with serious flaws, and the glowing reviews for them have obviously been paid for in hard cash. If you doubt it, Google for "Crysis support forum" "Bioshock support forum" and "Unreal Tournament III support forum". Count the number of people who have serious problems with these games or are angry about the state they were released in. So yes, game reviews are bought and corruption is the norm rather than an exception in the game industry. No doubt in my mind about that.

These same companies threaten public forums (3, Interesting)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532325)

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.

But there are ways around it... (2, Interesting)

JamesF1 (918998) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532329)

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 to co-operate with you after a negative review towards one of their products. I tend to find that reviewing products by dividing reviews up into two 'categories' of target audience, you achieve better results. By saying

This game is brilliant for those who don't care about the details of , but just want to kick back and relax with friends on a Friday night

you make it look good... and then simply follow it by

For those who are addicted to their games, you might want to wait until it hits the bargain bins.

That tends to mean you can average up your rating a bit... and no-one tends to notice - and your readers get to know your strategy after a while, resulting in 'accurate' reviews whilst keeping publishers happy.

The irony is... (1)

Alexpkeaton1010 (1101915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21532365)

Jeff Gerstmann, if he can't find another Journalist job, will most likely end up working PR for a video game company; the very same position that likely got him fired. Exhibit A: Luke Smith from 1up.

What metacritic has to say (2, Interesting)

spinkham (56603) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.
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