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IGN clarifies how it got the exclusive GTA IV review

Friday, 2nd May 2008 19:05 GMT By Patrick Garratt

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Speaking to GameDaily, IGN Xbox 360 editor Hilary Goldstein has given a frank interview about how he secured the exclusive on GTA IV and his reaction to a Variety article that came out and called the piece unethical.

There’s a lot of stuff over there, so it’s best the read the whole thing. Essentially, the early review was signed in exchange for a string of header features leading into the piece over a week.

Goldstein does say that “it’s something that Rockstar has never allowed before,” and we’re unsure about that if he means Rockstar’s never done an exclusive review on one of its games before.

He also says that “that entire week was all GTA tops on IGN.com, which was something we’d never done before.” Again, we’re not going to call him out, but is that actually correct?

Whatever. It’s an interesting read, and it’s about time someone was honest about this process, because this happens with every major game ever released on any platform and it’s the same for every territory, so we find the whole wide-eyed “IS THIS RIGHT?” thing more than a little naive, to be frank.

Securing exclusives of this nature is what part of what makes a good editor a good editor, period. The bottom line about editing commercial publications is traffic, and if you think it’s about anything else you’ve clearly never had to make money from a high profile consumer games site or magazine.

Read what Hilary has to say and make your own mind up.

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6 Comments

  1. morriss

    Just because “it’s a reality” it doesn’t mean we have to simply lump it. The problem here isn’t whether IGN’s 10/10 was valid under the circumstances, or whether the frankly laughable “Oscar winning script” quote actually holds water or not. No. The real issue is about how much power big business has over media and is any commercial media we read – gaming or otherwise – impartial?

    Surely the question should be “What if GTA IV was rubbish?” Would IGN have slated it?

    I was having a chat with an editor of an extremely popular publication about this very question a couple of weeks ago, and all he/she had to say was, “Hmmmm, that’s a difficult one.” And it really fucking shouldn’t be. But unfortunately it is. The gaming publishers have got the gaming media by the balls, which is pretty tragic if you want to read balanced, informative reviews by reviewers and publications who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade.

    So in summation, the fact the we should all stare reality in the face and get on with it isn’t really the issue, imo. The issue is how does the media regain its credibility and independence so that big money deals like these don’t actually have to take place in order to secure their survival?

    I doubt we’ll get it sorted out in here though.

    #1 6 years ago
  2. patlike

    There is a simple reality to the entire question though, and that’s the fact that unless the publication makes money, it closes. Goldstein secured the exclusive and IGN hugely benefited as a result.

    The real question is whether or not you trust the score. Goldstein says in that interview that he agreed to let Rockstar know if it was going to get a bad score before it went live, and that’s standard practice. If you’re going to twat a game, it’s common courtesy to forewarn those working on it. I honestly don’t believe they would be swayed by an exclusive in terms of the score. Sure, it’s a huge game, but IGN’s a huge site.

    To be honest, I doubt they’d ever be swayed on score for any game in return for anything. It’s very obvious how good the game is, and I doubt IGN would ever enter into anything that high profile unless the ed team was 100% sure it was going to get a good score.

    It’s in my opinion, obviously, but you have to accept that there’s a vast amount of competition to get dibs on content at that level, and when he says it took him six months I completely believe him.

    Traffic, ads, tightrope between marketing and integrity. And that’s pretty much it, to be honest.

    #2 6 years ago
  3. morriss

    So for arguments sake, they phoned Rockstar and said, “we’re giving a 7″, what do you think would’ve happened?

    #3 6 years ago
  4. patlike

    That would never have happened, and both parties would have know that well in advance, although I very much doubt it would have been explicitly said. There’s absolutely no way the exclusive review for that product would have got to that point if the game was fucked. It just wouldn’t have done. I can’t speak for IGN or Rockstar, obviously, but I don’t believe there was ever a risk of that game being given a bad score.

    For an example of what can happen in that situation, though, see Jeff Gerstmann. Also see the aftermath.

    #4 6 years ago
  5. morriss

    Well in some quarters the game has been criticised for being “just another GTA”, which in turn, could result in a loss of a mark. Also, if they reviewed the PS3 version and got the freezing issue – which has only become apparent after release – then perhaps that could and ‘should’ dock it another mark or two. So tbh., as long as the reviewer explained why a 7 or 8 is entirely justified, imo. I’d ‘only’ give it a 9 myself as the pacing is all off at the start and it feels like an RPG level grind for the first six or seven hours…but I digress.

    Anyway, we’re going round in circles. I understand how the big boys play and why it’s necessary, I just don’t have to fully like it, that’s all. :)

    #5 6 years ago
  6. OrphanageExplosion

    Playing this now and I don’t see anything wrong with awarding it a 10/10. In terms of what they set out to achieve, I think it’s superb. My only nagging doubt is that I’m not as wowed by this or having as much fun with it as I did with Crackdown.

    I don’t have any problems with editors making deals for exclusives either. The best editors will only ever chase the truly deserving games and will know how to package their coverage in order to make it work for their readers.

    Personally I think IGN has much bigger problems than questioning the integrity of this particular review. I don’t visit the site due to its complete lack of personality, and its production-line treatment of games. IGN strikes me as being as corporate as the games publishers themselves, and that’s a massive turn-off.

    #6 6 years ago

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