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On blacklisting and reviews: it’s just a part of the game

Wednesday, 22nd June 2011 08:17 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Reviewer blacklisting is one of the industry’s dirty little secrets. Or is it? Let’s all calm down and take some deep breaths. This is just everyday business on the PR-media merry-go-round.

Duke Nukem Forever on Meta critic

Xbox 360: 50%

PlayStation 3: 56%

PC: 57%

Highest Score: MEGamers – 88

Lowest Score: 1UP – 0

Last week, a PR firm working with 2K responded to negative reviews of Duke Nukem Forever with what amounted to a threat to withhold future review code. Jim Redner’s little meltdown on Twitter and the furore that followed provide an excellent excuse to talk about one of the most controversial issues in gaming. Thanks, Duke!

In an impassioned response to critics, Redner defended his actions in awarding and withholding review code from media outlets based on the likelihood of good scores, and it’s currently very fashionable to respond with sneers and jeers.

But Redner’s implication that blacklisting – from the mild form of selection process he described right up to “we shall never speak again and are withdrawing our six-figure advertising campaign” – is a thing that happens all the time is completely true.

Publishers, developers and PR representatives regularly cease business with individual members of the media and whole outlets over review scores, and sometimes far less. This really happens.

It happens because it’s good business practice if you’re a videogames publisher to try to stop people speaking negatively about your products for a variety of reasons.

Key word: business

The games industry produces some amazing works of craft, some of which are arguably art. The people that work within it are passionate and talented. The results of their determined, sustained efforts can be, and frequently are, life-changing.

But all that exists based on you reaching into your pocket and handing over some fucking money. The games industry is here to sell games, and we in the games media are almost universally in the business of helping them do it, whether overtly or otherwise.

Even when we put out negative criticism, even when we laugh at ourselves and each other, even when we express disgust, that’s what we do and that’s why we exist.

If you want, you can treat games as technical achievements or art works, you can take them apart piece by piece, analyse them, have long discussions about them, and generally expand human knowledge in meaningful ways. Some of the best games writing in the world – maybe some of the best critical and academic writing in the world – does exactly this.

In the light of this kind of culture – a Holy Culture which exists only on the fringe of gaming, popular and academic circles even now – the idea of withholding review code for business reasons is fundamentally repugnant. People selling products have a duty to allow the general public good time to read professional critiques and judge whether or not they want to spend money. They should do the “right thing”.

Back in the real world, and in the light of “do we want to sell some games,” it makes perfect sense to withhold review code from certain outlets in certain situations, and it’s something games critics outside that Holy Culture simply have to live with.

This goes way beyond reviews. Games PR is locked down so tightly that, despite our best efforts, the vast majority of everything you read about games is something someone in a suit has decided you can know. It’s not ideal, and many games writers work very hard to deliver more than that and to effect change.

But it’s the system we have to work in, and, to be fair, it’s genuinely not that dissimilar to that of other entertainment industries. We need the words that grow business, and we need the words that foster art. There’s room for both.

Were you honestly surprised?

The mysterious review

As all commercial media outlets want to make money and continue hosting content by definition, almost all of them are careful not to piss in the faces of the companies which make that possible, but that’s not the only reason reviews normally end up clustered so tightly around the 7-10 end of the scale.

There are actually two reasons for this. Firstly, there’s a commercial reason, but there’s also the need to be “right” in the reviewing community.

The subject of the review scale’s disproportionate weighting is one for another day, so for now, let’s just accept the fact that most reviewers are uncomfortable giving low scores and negative reviews – until somebody else does.

When a real stinker of a game comes along – or just a game that fails to live up to the hype – it only takes two or three brave critics saying so, however mildly, and suddenly we’re having a free-for-all. The canister of tightly guarded vitriol bursts and reviewers can pour out their years of frustration and anger in a no-holds barred attack, and everyone will nod their heads because we have critical consensus.

I have no doubt that the review which Jim Redner took exception to (which I have no means of identifying, and couldn’t even guess at) was indeed venomous, because I read a lot of venomous reviews of Duke Nukem Forever, in which writers took low blows at Gearbox, made personal attacks, and indulged in the darkly humorous cynicism which is a lot easier to write than tight criticism.

Jim Redner’s outraged response to such a review, while unprofessional, may well have been a fair call. You don’t continue doing business with people who insult you when they ought to be critiquing, however poorly. Encouraging what amounts to trolling games companies for their failures doesn’t help anyone.

You never feed the trolls. You ignore them.

You blacklist them.

Who cares, anyway?

The existence of blacklisting, brownlisting, exclusives and selection processes may get up your nose, but you must understand that this is a business manipulating a situation to make money. This will not change.

People like Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford would have you believe that reviews don’t matter. This isn’t true. Reviews do matter – especially with core products – but only when they’re timely.

As has been mentioned in public by various media owners and sites, review code for Duke Nukem Forever was timed so it would have been extremely difficult for anyone outside of the “process” to deliver a review that would have a chance of affecting pre-orders. Kotaku, for example, only published its review yesterday.

Again, this is normal. The review embargo on many triple-A products lifts on launch day. It doesn’t take a genius to see why.

So, according to reviews DNF is a dog’s breakfast, but it sold like hotcakes. It does have passionate online defenders. Again, the failure of review scores to track performance is a whole other debate, but in the end what matters is that review scores are maybe not the barometer of raw sales success you think they are. The truth is that they are very easily manipulated, maybe not on a score level, but certainly in terms of when a general judgement can be found online.

The Duke Nukem situation is not a normal one, for so many reasons. We can’t speak for 2K, but its likely in this case the priority was to make sure pre-orders weren’t cancelled. No one honestly expected DNF to score highly. Right?

Review scores do usually matter to PR people, because the higher the Metacritic average, the more likely they are to keep their jobs, which are not as easy as people like to pretend.

Review scores matter to executives, because the higher the Metacritic average, the more likely investors are to back the company’s decisions again when the game turns out to not be one of the five games per year which reach blockbuster status.

And review scores matter to investors, who have a lot more power in this industry than you imagine, because it’s an easily understood measure of whether the last two years of forking out cash was a worthwhile thing, and whether we might potentially make some money next year.

None of this, of course, matters more than simply selling videogames.

Restriction on review code and all the behind-closed-doors push-me-pull-you that goes with it is just part of the game. And Jim Redner now knows that better than any of us.

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61 Comments

  1. Christopher Jack

    He did mention that his outburst was more about what the reviewer said than the score. While that’s completely understandable in a real time situation, it just looks bad for 2K/Take Two to be connected to him. Redner’s view on mean spirited reviews is like somebody bitching when you give them a present, “you don’t have to like it but there’s no need to be a spiteful bastard about it”.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Robbins

    @2 Stop spamming this website

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Patrick Garratt

    @2 – I’ve deleted it.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. mojo

    im not sure how u guys handle it, but for me more or less since this generation review scores are more a piece of entertainment then actual informative material.
    i dont realy take them seriously.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. BraveLittleCrumpet

    @2
    If you want my credit card details I’d much rather you just ask out right.

    Also I’m not your friend because if I ever met you I’d punch you really hard in the balls, repeatedly

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Freek

    It is PRs job to manipulate the press as much as possible, that’s understandable and makes sense.
    But you as the press shoulden’t just accept that or even try to justify it. You should be working against that wherever possible, try to bring some sense of legitimate critique and interesting articles dispite the PR.

    Duke Nukem inspires allot venom because of it’s crass content. Duke used to be a parody action star who stole some lines from Bruce Campel and gave money to strippers.
    In the new game they turned him into an a supremly arogant self indulgent celebrity figure and drove the humor further down the toilet then is humanly possible. Without any sense of irony. You don’t get to complain about reviews when your own content misses the mark so badly.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. BraveArse

    I’m really enjoying these editorial pieces guys. Thoughtful, balanced and very well written in general. More please, and avoid reviews like the plague.

    “… indulged in the darkly humorous cynicism which is a lot easier to write than tight criticism.”

    I think it’s this bit that gets my goat more than anything else with a lot of games journalism. The sneer. It’s lazy imo. I’d much prefer to see well crafted tight *criticism* even on a 1/10 game than a complete dismissal of the effort that went into making it. To my mind, it’s pretty much a simple question of basic respect.

    Of course, gaming isn’t the only medium where this kind of criticism exists, but it’s far more prevalent on games sites ( not so much in print ) than I’ve seen elsewhere.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Rhythm

    What a superbly honest piece! Fantastic read – nothing we didn’t know or suspect but excellent nonetheless

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Erthazus

    “There are actually two reasons for this. Firstly, there’s a commercial reason, but there’s also the need to be “right” in the reviewing community.”

    and thats why no one will take games industry seriously. Before this generation everything with scores was more or less ok.
    But now, it’s out of the place. Every Mr. Dickenson that played Halo can be a professional reviewer and can slap 10/10 to any game HE likes.
    Do someone realise that 10/10 is a masterpiece for F sake?

    “The subject of the review scale’s disproportionate weighting is one for another day, so for now, let’s just accept the fact that most reviewers are uncomfortable giving low scores and negative reviews – until somebody else does.”

    then they should go work somewhere else. These guys are not reviewers, they are vultures and butt hurted assholes.

    “you must understand that this is a business manipulating a situation to make money.”

    This is not a business, it’s a FUCKING CORRUPTION Brenna and it hurts the industry.

    One word: Corruption.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. dubya75

    Errrm, Ok whatever! I still think it’s the worst game of the year and I still won’t buy it. How’s that for PR!

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Erthazus

    Nothing good in this article, because all i read here: “Don’t blame reviewers they need to make money with the cheapest way as possible”.

    Thats basically a corruption and you know it. Because of that we have stupid shit like SPIKE VGA TV awards and other crap that makes a lot of talented developers look like shit

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Zurtech

    I generally stopped paying attention to reviews a fair few years back when reviewers started only listing the negative aspects of a game and ignoring the good qualities, or in some cases give glowing reviews to very mediocre games.

    Imo too many reviewers nowadays don’t actually know how to review a game, they put too much of their own personal opinion into it, whether it’s a franchise or genre they don’t like, they’ll mark it up or down just because it’s not something they personally like. Some reviewers have been known to not even play the full game or enough to come to a balanced and fair judgement.

    I just wish they’d get rid of all the tabloid quality journalism that’s plaguing everywhere. The current state of Games Journalism is damaging to the whole industry. Whether it’s down to poor grammar and punctuation, swearing every other line to be “cool”, or just being lazy and slagging stuff off for hits. I think it needs to be about both positive and negative aspects equally, and showing some effort on the reviewers part to truly get across what’s right and wrong about a game and who would enjoy it.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. GamezIdiot

    Maybe if us gamers had any patience at all and didn’t rush to consume the next new thing on the nanosecond of release the system will fall down, the PR chain would be hampered, the sphincter twitchy publishers would no longer need the PR firms to inflate quality and journalism could go back to its roots of fair creative critique and evangelism. Review code shouldn’t need to exist. It’s an artificial device because us gamers are spoiled novelty seeking brats, publishers and PR exploit it because we all lap it up like suckers.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Mike

    I understand all of the article above, but what irks me is that the games media is so passive. Its passivity, of course, is down to market competition, low wages, and a lack of a homogeneous “journalistic ethic.”

    2K should now be banned across the board. VG247 should not promote any story featuring any of their games. EG should not review their games or give them any coverage. As should CVG, RPS et al.

    The power has to be with the publication, not the publisher. This reeks of journalism in the 80s where a politician could call an editor and get a story pulled. Now the power is with the paper (maybe too much, some might argue) and the powers-that-be simply need the publication for exposure just as much as the publication needs them; a two-way street.

    In the video game industry, publishing houses can pick and choose who they want to cover their stories. Where’s the balance in that? How can we now trust the next review of Duke 5 in 13 years’ time? How do we know how far their influence reaches? Why should we blindly trust a reviewer to be impartial when his or her editor just sits back and takes it?

    A blanket UK boycott against all 2K products (or if you count Eurogamer then you’ve got Germany, Portugal, Denmark etc. etc.) Hopefully the coverage blackout will effect certain wings of the 2K corporation financially and they’ll soon think twice. But if editors continually focus on finance, oneupmanship and the “exclusive” above and beyond principle, ethics and the balance of power between the publisher and the publication, the industry will never be considered a real home for journalistic talent as question marks will always hang over just how much a publisher has influenced certain sections of it.

    Which is a shame, as on the whole, and the people that I’ve met and worked with are just as talented as any broadsheet writer.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. NightCrawler1970

    Censorship in Duke Nukem?? 2K ARE YOU NUTZ???? saw that clip, there is nothing wrong with it… can’t believe they censorship it… “facepalm”…

    #15 4 years ago
  16. KAP

    Brilliant read Brenna, i agree totally on this subject.
    Its a very sly movement review scores are becoming, alot like movie reviews too. Only more ruthless i feel.

    I was at work yesterday and i mentioned Shadow of the damned to a customer and they replied, ive never heard of it i’ll go to IGN and see there review and it got me thinking; that one guy will buy shadow of the damned depending on the mood of a complete stranger has on the day of reviewing said game or the relationship the site has with the publisher(how much £££ there getting from sponserships etc)

    Its really quite sad that videogames has been coated in this thing they call business. It takes away alot of what i like games for. If people were completely honest and blunt with their opinions on games these days, the big named games we all know and ‘some’ love wouldnt be getting the praises you see today i can tell ya.

    But i guess at the sametime you cant win really, the more money/business a game generates the more likely you’ll get more games like it, which is a win for us right?

    #16 4 years ago
  17. AHA-Lambda

    very informative piece and a great read thank you! ^_^

    just one problem…you keep making this sound like quite frankly that this is a normal thing to happen and will never change. That is quite fundamentally shocking D=

    When it appears that the very nature of games journalism is so locked down by the money men that no one out there is willing to call a spade a spade then something has gone fundamentally wrong.

    I must ask this then: Why does the game industry have this problem? Movies and music get by fine with reviewers and all sorts of varying opinions on the latest blockbuster or big release, why can’t we?

    Critics out there are willing to call transformer 2 a pie of shit, critics are willing to have incredibly diverging opinions on music, why not us? Call of Duty in fact is a great example, its very plain from E3 that many journalists are not impressed by mw3 and that it has definitely lost its luster by now but itll still get a big fat high 80+ MC rating anyway!!

    This may not change but it damn well HAS to!!

    “No one honestly expected DNF to score highly. Right?”

    Deep down? no.
    but constant news stories about it would lead any impressionable person to believe otherwise and there is no right minded person willing enought to tell them otherwise. Hmm, no i know why every preview ever made under the sun is always positive and never has a bad thing to say.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. NightCrawler1970

    2K is and will be the second nasty company like Activision.. GREED, MILKCOWS, MONEY!!!! to bad Duke Nukem have to suffer, great Game….

    #18 4 years ago
  19. BraveArse

    Mike +1 for the most part.

    There is a huge credibility problem, which has existed for years in this particular medium. Now that’s been brought to a head all parts of the industry need to address it. Already I rely more on my peers for an idea of the quality of a game than on journalists, that must be an increasingly common situation. I visit EG much less than I did, and other sites barring this one even less than that.

    Personally I think Brenna’s done a good job of highlighting it in a calm and objective way here – which should be the very basis of all journalism. Objectivity – a word little used in these circles… :(

    #19 4 years ago
  20. Patrick Garratt

    Genuine question: what is it about this topic that shocks you? Do you find it shocking that a games publisher would stop talking to a site over what it considers to be a bad review, or that it would hold back on releasing review code until the game itself launches?

    #20 4 years ago
  21. AHA-Lambda

    @20 – do i find it shocking? no

    do i find it shocking how much games journalism is seemingly in the pocket and under the control of PR and execs? Yes.

    I already said above that other entertainment mediums dont have this problem so why do we?

    Music and movie criticism have varying opinion pieces on any release but for games you’d think everything was written by one hive mind. Anyone that seems to step out of line is punished and blacklisted.

    http://www.ingsoc.net/big_brother.jpg

    And personally you can almost feel cheated and left out if you dont like a game that everyone else “seems” to like and proclaims to be the next big thing since sliced bread, before it all starts over again.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. BraveArse

    @Pat – neither of those are surprising. And none of this is genuinely shocking.

    The incident is a slightly disappointing window into what we all imagined was going on anyway. Corporations are corporations after all. No conscience, no morality.

    What *disappoints* me, personally is that business concerns ( putting to one side the realities of having to stay afloat for the moment ) can influence journalists quite so much. The word journalist for me evokes ( and should evoke ) the idea of principles, objectivity and truth. You know your photography. To me when I hear the word journalist, I see the face of Robert Capa. I realise that Murdoch and his friends have pretty much made a mockery of that in the mainstream for years now. Mike, imo is right, there’s too much passivity in the wider circle of games journalism.

    This site is now pretty much standing on it’s own, to my knowledge, in that it’s taking an active stance on these issues.

    Now I know it’s impossible to be a Capa in the medium of games writing ( you’d have to risk your life somehow ), but it’s possible, surely for the industry as a whole to refuse to be influenced by threats of blacklisting.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. moralless

    It`s all about the benjamins!!!

    There is an absurd thing about the game medias at all. To get popular and to get somewhat constant reading community the same game media organisation should be honest with the readers, mind speaking and clear with the reviews. Of course, they`ll need some talented writers or journalists and some other factors but the essence is in the correct point of the materials.

    After they had the community and popularity they need the same game media most probably will attract the attention of the publishers, PR`s, sales departments or whoever has money and wants just more money. The ads will start to come, the payments will increase but then the “cash guys” will start to want some “nice” reviews, scores and so on. Then the community around the media will start to look for more honest writers and the circle will be complete.

    Of course, some /maybe big/ part of the community will continue to visit and read the sites but the trust will be lost. And every personal mistake will be classified as a payed review or conspiracy.

    It`s fuckin absurdic. I don`t know how you guys will manage with this circle of shit but I believe being honest with the reader is still the most important thing.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. Zurtech

    @ Pat

    Nothing shocks me really, has been happening for YEARS. I just feel that games journalists are often too biased nowadays towards the games they review, for both and against them. When I read a review I expect an impartial viewpoint and to just give the gist of what’s right and wrong with it and what sort of gamer would get the most enjoyment from it.

    Oh… and I couldn’t help but read your post as an Elcor from ME. ^_^;

    #24 4 years ago
  25. polygem

    i love to read/ watch reviews but i really try to ignore the scores. when interested in a game i check out several reviews and try to compare. overall i like to see gameplay footage and try to judge by that and by my many years of gaming experience. if i had followed only the 8´s, 9´s and 10´s i would have missed out on some of the most enjoyable games this gen…atm i believe alice madness returns will be a game that i will probably enjoy a lot. it sounds like there are some flaws but the flaws mentioned do not bother me at all. to me this game seems to be a wonderfull oldschoolish adventure action platformer mix in an awesome setting. maybe nothing new but i would even aprecciate that in a game like this. i will get this game and give it try eventhough it received mixed reviews. i hope i can trust my gamingkarma again…

    #25 4 years ago
  26. IL DUCE

    Great take on that Brenna, enjoyed reading that article…

    Also I for one did not expect Duke to score high, any game with one of the roughest and longest developments in gaming history is never going to turn out well…not to mention 3D Realms imploded in 2009 and the game was basically canceled…

    I have my go to sources for reviews, as I’m sure we all do, whose judgement I trust (IGN, GameTrailers, Game Informer(most of the time), Gamespot) but I usually just use reviews to determine whether a game is worth renting or not…if I am really looking forward to a game and have already paid for it some bad reviews won’t change my mind or won’t come soon enough to change my mind anyway…or if the review is bad but the reason for its low score is not gameplay related I usually give the game a chance anyway…I also check Metacritic just to see what the industry as a whole feels about a game but usually that’s not very accurate until there’s about 40-60 reviews included in that average, and like was said in this article once one or two bad reviews comes out other publications pull the trigger as well…

    #26 4 years ago
  27. IL DUCE

    @Erthazus – totally agree with comment #9 dude, pretty much a 10 should not even be given out unless you can pretty much play a game forever and be satisfied…or if it revolutionizes its genre or gaming as a whole…

    @Mike comment #14…they would never do that, they won’t concede traffic to another site that IS covering the game…not to mention you’re telling me those sites are going to refuse coverage to GTA V because that is a pipe dream dude…no one is that stupid and that’s why it is the way it is, because every site needs to cover every game and get all the exclusives or previews they can in order to increase traffic and exposure to the site…no one is going to sink their own ship by refusing to cover TakeTwo games (I know you said 2K but TakeTwo is the parent company that this is all about)

    #27 4 years ago
  28. Lounds

    If MW3 gets 10/10 i’m never reading or watching a review site again.

    #28 4 years ago
  29. DaMan

    I don’t think aggregate scores or reviews is that much of a problem, I ‘d say butthurt fanboys and clinically insane liars ruining message boards all over the internet is way more of an issue. Dicks indeed.

    Also, 10 doesn’t imply perfection, lack of any cons or any of that sort whatsoever at all. It means the game is the pinnacle of fun.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. mathare92

    @26 Heh, the four monolithic sites you listed there are among the worst offenders when it comes to conforming to publisher PR pressure. Just as an example, remember the Gamespot Gerstmann incident? And on a smaller scale, remember how Bobby Kotick(!) managed to squeeze into #16 on AskMen’s (a division of ign)Top 100 men list? :D

    @14 I never thought I’d say this, but spot on Mike. Well said.

    #30 4 years ago
  31. DSB

    Hilarious.

    I don’t want anyone tinkering with review scores – So if you don’t give this game a 5/10, I’m never reading reviews again!!!

    Way to go, dude.

    Mike has it right, apart from the fact that the gaming press is so deep in the pockets of the publishers, that they’ll never be able to mount a coherent boycott. All they’d get from refusing to cover certain games is fewer readers, and leaving the market for the stooges.

    What they could do is be subversive, and simply review games on their own dough, and categorically give them a 3/10 so the publishers will feel it on their Metacritic scores. They wouldn’t even have to review them unfairly in the reviews themselves, they’d just have to fix the numbers, which apparently is what publishers want them to do in the first place – Just to the opposite extent.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. IL DUCE

    @30 yeah but most review scores from Gamespot hover around the same area… I prefer IGN or GameTrailers because they give every game a fair shake and actually have constructive opinions not just a rant about how much a game blows unless it really does blow that badly (see: Iron Man 2, Thor etc.)…and Game Informer is usually honest to, which is pretty surprising for a publication owned by a gaming retailer (GameStop) but they didn’t hesitate to give certain games the low scores they deserved, and give games high scores that were getting beat up on for minor issues…

    The ones that are the problem are people giving incredibly low scores to express frustration or shock value, while some are justified others are not…(1UP, Destructiod, Eurogamer, Joystiq are all guilty of it)…not saying every review but a decent amount, just look at 1UP’s average on Metacritic, hardly anything is in the green out of games released the past year with an overwhelming 50+ percent in the red…which is ridiculous, maybe its a problem in translated letter grades into number form but if that’s the case they need to get a better format for scores…basically for a game to be a 0, it needs to be unplayable and absolutely worthless…while DNF may be worthless to some it is not unplayable tech wise so 1UP giving it a 0 (or F) is uncalled for…

    #32 4 years ago
  33. Erthazus

    “Also, 10 doesn’t imply perfection, lack of any cons or any of that sort whatsoever at all. It means the game is the pinnacle of fun”

    the pinnacle of fun that is measured by a reviewer. 10/10 means that every aspect of it is absolutely innovative, incredible and perfect at the same time. Perfection = polished product

    there is no more then 10. If it’s fun, then it’s 7 or 8 at best. 9-10 is something unique where you can’t find anywhere else except for that one game that provides that exciting polished experience.

    Done.

    #33 4 years ago
  34. mathare92

    @32 I’m not quite sure how Metacritic translates letter grades to actual scores. If you ask me, 1UP should just ask not be listed there – though that would probably be suicidal for them.

    #34 4 years ago
  35. IL DUCE

    @31 exactly it would never be coherent and therefore Mike is wrong, while it may be a good idea it simply would never work…and once again no one will refuse to cover GTA V or even have the balls to give it a 3/10…also the point you (DSB), Mike and mathare92 are missing is that its not just TakeTwo, it is the whole industry…Bethesda sent out barely any review copies for Hunted because they knew it would flop and withheld them for about a week after the game came out if they even sent them out at all…so at the moment TakeTwo may be your scape goat but they are not the problem, the industry as a whole is, and its just too costly of a fight for those involved to really take action…but overall, I really don’t think reviews are swayed that much by publishers or corps, yeah they may put embargos on reviews until the game comes out which is good business to avoid people from canceling pre orders if the one pub they read gives it a low score…and publications in the end have the choice to write what they want and score the game as they wish, and if they are paid off then they shouldn’t be in the industry or if they write a non-objective review full of criticism and “venom” then they deserve to be blacklisted and don’t belong in the industry…its as simple as that, if you keep your reviews objective and give the game a low score there is nothing wrong with that and you will not be blacklisted…reviewers just need to stop being dicks, esp when they criticize things that are part of the game that are supposed to be there and they knew would be there like Duke’s personality, expecting him to drastically evolve makes no sense whatsoever, he’s a static character for the most part un like us who get older and grow up…it may not be as funny to us now but its just like that recent South Park episode when Stan starts seeing everything as shitty…sure tastes change, but you can’t blame a game for not evolving with your tastes as you get older, because I’m sure some younger people still have that sense of humor and think its funny, some jokes may be years behind but the game has been in development since 1997 or earlier, wtf did they expect…as I’ve said before its a miracle the game even came out

    #35 4 years ago
  36. DaMan

    @33 Not at all, everything aside from the graphics or narrative is being ‘measured’ by reviewers. One can say the plot makes no sense and is insulting, the other might say it’s psychedelic and refreshing. I can dislike cover based shooters, others might believe it’s a ground for tactical elements.

    ‘Unique’ and ‘polished’ are as much of different things as ‘beautiful’ and ‘clever’ are. one might give an innovative rushed game a 10 saying it was that refreshing, other might rate a polished stale entry in an old franchise 10 because it was that much of a quality.

    it’s been that way since the dawn of time, Chrono Cross got a 10 from Gamespot with them stating ‘it might not have the biggest budget but it has the biggest heart’ (paraphrased).

    #36 4 years ago
  37. IL DUCE

    @36 yeah but the reviewers opinions need to be separate from the review score or at least clearly stated as their opinion…reviews are meant to be objective to translate information across a large base of consumers…a review can’t be purely opinion driven because if that’s the case the reviewer is not doing their job…you can’t just bash a game bc in your opinion the genre sucks…

    #37 4 years ago
  38. DSB

    Actually you can Duce.

    A reviewer is free to review something the way he sees fit, just as you’re free to think he’s an incomptetent moron based on his method.

    Ultimately all reviews are opinion, that’s the entire point. You can’t judge a piece of material without making up your mind about it. It is pretty important to have a wealth of references, and a deeper understanding of the material than the layman, if you are to have any credibility, but sadly that’s not some kind of legal requirement to being a reviewer.

    A truly great reviewer will be able to distance himself from his own peeves and obsessions though, provided that they probably won’t be shared by the audience.

    #38 4 years ago
  39. IL DUCE

    Also the problem with reviews is one person’s 9 is not another person’s 9…like Game Informer most of the time gives scores higher than the average even with the same pros and cons…its just really how a reviewer judges the game and determines the score it receives based on whatever method each particular reviewer uses…also something like a 3/5 sounds a lot better than 60/100 even though they are the same score, so some scores seem even worse on Metacritic like as I said before translation, especially of letter grades…if I got an F in school it was usually anywhere under 65, not a straight up 0…so I guess really no matter what you do in the end review scores end up being opinion even if they are backed by facts and constructive criticisms, just depends on how they develop that grade…

    #39 4 years ago
  40. IL DUCE

    @38 Well put DSB, I agree, I wrote comment 39 before reading that but I totally agree and had a similar realization…in the end, we are obsessed with the scores when really its the content of the review that matters (which is what I usually base my decision on)…but I still think you can’t bash a game for fun or for hate of the genre, that if someone is to review a game it is someone who can tolerate the genre or have moderate interest in it just to get a fair fact based opinion…but in the end its really whose opinion most meshes with your own way of thinking…

    Basically just like plenty of movies I thought were funny or entertaining got horrible review scores so I guess the games industry is finally starting to go that same route in some instances…

    #40 4 years ago
  41. Mike

    @31: I really don’t think credible sites like Edge, CVG, RPS, VG247 the EG network, are suddenly going to lose their die-hard readers if they start boycotting publishers. In fact, advertising this fact by way of a news article will most likely garner an even stronger bond from the readership to the site.

    Also, don’t under estimate your punters. They know quality when they see it. If there was a blanket UK-wide boycott from the big players, I doubt you’ll see mass migration to a bedroom project written by a teenager just because they’re covering the games that are boycotted.

    I read sites because I like the design, the style of writing, and the community (not in that order). If one of them give the “fuck u” to 2K and stops printing the “NEW AWESOME SCREENSHOTS/DEV INTERVIEW/DRIP DRIP HYPE” stories, I doubt my life will be affected that much. If the publisher wants to go down that route, it’s they who should lose out, imo.

    It’s just a shame the vg industry is so underfunded and reliant on hte publishers’ advertising money in order to keep the sites themselves afloat. I mean, would you read a newspaper solely funded by The Conservative Party and its affiliates and then expect genuine harsh criticism of the inner-workings of the Tory Party?

    Such a shame, really.

    #41 4 years ago
  42. DSB

    @41 Of course it would all depend on how you carry a boycott. The content of RPS is more about the writers themselves, than the games they happen to include, but I very strongly doubt that anyone under the umbrella of Future Publishing would ever be able to carry out a boycott, without the entire staff either leaving or being sacked.

    You can always guess as to how a boycott would play out, but I think places like Gamespot and IGN would ultimately see an increase, with the boycotting publications seeing a decrease. I don’t think very many people prioritize their time out of loyalty to products like magazines, they go where the content is.

    The market is pretty oversaturated, essentially because a lot of it has started out as bedroom projects. That also has a lot to say for why the gaming press is the way it is. If you work for an ancient newspaper with hallowed traditions, people who have diplomas saying they can call themselves journalists, and unions to back them up at every step, then something like a boycott, and obviously a wave of negative publicity directed at 2K would be a given, and it would be extremely succesful.

    #42 4 years ago
  43. Mike

    I fail to accept that games media’s hands are completely tied on this issue. Eurogamer is fucking huge. As is Gamespot. Surely if the major players while maintaining healthy competition can form some kind of alliance in order to stand up to publishers and readdress the balance power then it doesn’t just benefit a couple of sites but the games industry as a whole.

    #43 4 years ago
  44. OlderGamer

    But Mike its like anything in life, those that benifit from the current structure will never want to have a hand in seeing it change.

    #44 4 years ago
  45. Mike

    @44: As I said, I feel that games media would eventually benefit more by being pro-active in the long run.

    #45 4 years ago
  46. DSB

    @43 I share your frustration 100%, but I think this whole thing is case and point of why we won’t get anywhere. Blacklisting is brought up, and only Tom Bramwell cares to react – And he does it on twitter?

    How pathetic is that?

    “Don’t try to encroach on the journalistic integrity of the press, or I’ll write a twitter post”.

    The only way I see anything helping, would be if those major players, the “credible” posts on Metacritic, started dumping the scores of those who are trying to screw them. And obviously, started being honest about who those publishers are in a very loud, public way.

    That’s another thing though… Who among the games writers are actually capable of doing investigative journalism? Is anyone keeping an eye on the industry itself? I don’t recall any of them ever uncovering anything, that wasn’t directly fed to them through a volounteer.

    #46 4 years ago
  47. Mike

    I am curious as to why the EG network still has videogame ads that are directly funded by publishes. A couple of years back they released a PR claiming that they have over 1 million UU. That’s a lot of visitors. Rupert Loman has since made the national press, as has the EG Expo. The site itself has grown in readershp and I’m sure the hpm tally has risen to boot.

    Why not have ads funded by 3rd parties outside of the industry? The average age of gamers is purported to be around 25-40. Why not have Gillette as an ad? Why not Lynx? Kellogg’s fucking Cornflakes?

    There’s a huge customer base out there and surely other areas of the market must be interested in peddling their wares to a million plus users per annum? It wouldn’t bother me if VG247 had Ronald McDonald in the sidebar. It’s the content. You don’t put a newspaper down because it has a perfume ad in it, do you? No matter if it’s tabloid or broadsheet.

    Games media needs to stop looking within itself in order to survive. The big guns need to strike out and remind the publishers that sales of their games, hype-building and communication can only happen through them, and for that they should be grateful.

    Although it’s an extreme example, you don’t get car manufacturers pulling their whole range from Top Gear, do you? It’s financial suicide. You need your car on the show. Sure, some companies have tried to challenge the program for what they consider unfair treatment and misinformation, but generally, everyone wants their car on that show. In the world of gaming, IGN, EG, Edge, GameSpot are the “Top Gear.” However, publishers believe that cutting off supply is somehow a “punishment” to the site in question whereas in reality the lack of coverage from the games media means almost no matter how good, your game WILL fail. 2K needs to be reminded of this.

    #47 4 years ago
  48. Noodlemanny

    I can’t believe how much people have gotten ruffled up about this.
    Boycott 2K? Are you fucking serious? I like alot of the games 2k make and I know those games wouldn’t be possible with out massive corporate companies like 2k.

    I’m sorry but you really need to wake up and smell the coffee. This is the world we live in, it’s hugely materialistic. You wanna know why. Because the people and the companies who are materialistic are the ones who make it to the top. The ones that take every possible thing that they think they can get away with, are the ones who get every possible thing that they think they can get away with and so are the ones that get on top.
    Seriously its EXTREMELY basic evolution. They guy who does everything to survive is the guy whose more likely to survive than the one who tries to be fair and share everything. Because when the going gets tough, the guy who took as much as he could is going to survive that extra cold winter, where as the other guy starves. It pretty much the same in business.
    The business that takes as much as it can, no matter how shady it is, and hordes its are the ones that can make it though the dip in sales, the bad year.

    Of course the other side of this is that you have to be a least subtle about the shady stuff or ripping people off because everyone’s gonna become your enemy otherwise. And ultimately no matter how powerful you are, if you have enough people who hate you someone will eventual find a way to take you down. So you need friends too. If you just piss everyone off they begin to hate you and want to take you out. So this is the one shinning light in the dark. Big corporate companies will take as minimal massive risks as possible because they know that if people find out, they get fucked. So when they do their ‘shady’ business they either keep it controlled or they hide it as far down in the shadows as physically possible. If it weren’t for that fact that it would give them really bad coverage to the extent it would end them, they would go round killing thousands if they though they could make millions out of it. You know its true, if nothing stopping them and they think that they can get away with it, why wouldn’t they? Morals doesn’t come into it, if they had morals they wouldn’t had made it this far.

    In the end its completely pointless because their making millions on top of the billions which they already have. Then of course they’ll invest in making themselves bigger so they can make more money so that they can invest the trillions their now earning into becoming even bigger and then invest their even more fucking ludicrous amounts of money into because even bigger. And you know why? Because self-explanatorily the biggest companies are the ones who do this, they’re the ones who survive. Also the littler companies have no way of competing against these massive fucking monsters so the best way they can get money and survive is if they play along. If you make the massive bastards happy they’ll make sure they reward you for that so you do it again and make them more money. And of course the guys who do things that piss off these massive companies are the ones who make some really fucking seriously powerful enemies. And you’ve got to have alot of luck and support (from people like us) to survive against that kinda hate. This might actually work were it not for the fact that the ones who do go against the flow are taking massive risks that could easily kill them, one slip and you get a trillions funded corporate axe to the face… say “bye bye”. The ones who don’t take these risks are much more likely to survive. So they’re the ones your probably gonna see much more often cos their the ones with a MUCH longer expected life span.
    I’m sorry everyone but that’s just how this fucking suck ass world works.

    Then again having said that it might be possible to change the system a little bit. If all consumers stop buying these guys products because they did something that we didn’t like, their going to stop doing it to survive. But then again some people will always be pushing to try and get as much juice as they possible can (Its why I don’t think socialism is a plausible ideal). People literally kill alot of people to get stuff, history proves this time and time again. It means that there’s always going to be scams that takes advantage of people, because there will always be people willing to take advantage of these people. It’s hard-wired into our blood because of evolution. What I’m saying is that there always be stuff out there that we don’t like no matter how many things we get rid of.

    The way I see it is its like the drugs war. If you take a massive player down someone else is going to reach to the top and take his place. There will be someone somewhere willing to stop at nothing to get to the top, always. If you take out some big ‘corrupted’ company another will just come and quickly take its place.

    @Mike
    The thing about ‘boycotting’ 2k is that this is a gaming news website. By boycotting 2k your cutting out a huge portion of the gaming news. This is the reason I come to this site in the first place so I’m going to go somewhere else if there a massive gaping hole in it. I want all of the news that interests me, not just a part of it.
    Not to mention the fact you’d need more than just VG247 to boycott 2k to actually make any sizeable difference. You’ll need things like IGN and others doing it to actually make a difference. Thing is they made it this far which means they haven’t done that kind of thing very often so why would they start now, why would they want to really badly risk their company all of a sudden? No its like I said, the ones who survive are the ones who don’t shake the boat. Its like OldGamer said, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    #48 4 years ago
  49. Mike

    @48: Try reading what I wrote and then replying again.

    #49 4 years ago
  50. Noodlemanny

    @49
    I fail to see how changing ads is going to change big publishers need to manipulate reviews. Its like solving world hunger by changing our water source.
    So now everyone’s funded from somewhere else, but then still if a reviewer reviews really badly or really early then that publishers just going to blacklist them and not let them test any more of their games. Then we get back to why would I go on a website that has a massive hole in it? Then if no ones going on your website then you get less funding from ads then you start failing as a business. Also again big website arn’t going to try ‘revolution’ because it would be just too much of a risk to their well being. Do I really have to repeat myself? We’re not going to have a massive up rising because most places have gotten this far by not doing that shit. So their not going to start now.

    #50 4 years ago
  51. Mike

    @50: It’s not about you having to repeat yourself. it’s about you having an opinion I don’t fully agree with and you can repeat it until you’re blue in the face but unfortunately it won’t make a difference.

    I can understand your frustration if you had to repeat a fact, as in 2+2=4, and I simply didn’t get it, but it’s just an opinion you’re stating backed up by your own form of logic in order to support it. Which again, I can easily pick holes in, and have done indirectly earlier in this discussion.

    Anyway, the bottom line is, the games media needs to be self-sufficient and not actually reliant on the products they write about single-handedly funding their existance. Surely this “fact” is obvious to all and sundry and needs no further debate?

    Maybe the ideas and thoughts I have put forward can be debated, or maybe they’re just plain lacking. But I refuse to accept this, “there’s nothing that can be done” attitude.

    Something always can be done. It just takes someone to stick their neck out.

    #51 4 years ago
  52. Noodlemanny

    Yes nothing bad can come from this media branching out and getting funding from people outside the gaming world but that still doesn’t get us anywhere near to solving the problem we’re discussing. It doesn’t solve this particular problem at all.
    Your argument is completely valid but just not in this particular area.

    I’m sure some of the stuff I said could get really confusing (and I’m not just being patraising) I repeated and don’t phrase things very well sometimes so I’ll say it again.
    The thing is the kind of reviewing websites that get to the top and might actually be able to make a difference are the ones who played the game and sung the songs. They haven’t done any thing to piss of the big players, so why would they start now. Stop doing the things that got them to the top in the first place and start taking massive risks over something they participated in. The get change you need resources, otherwise your revolution gonna flop. And there’s no one out there that are going to provide these resources. Maybe some little small timers but they don’t have the resources to actually do anything.

    #52 4 years ago
  53. Mike

    I think it does, the more games media doesn’t actually need publishers for survival, the more power the media will have, thus the more the publishers will need the media, hence stupid regional embargoes, not sending out games for review etc. would hopefully become a thing of the past as it would end up being detrimental to the publisher to impose such a sanction.

    They hold all the cards.

    And outside funding is just one of many things mentioned in this discussion. Myself and DSB and others have talked about many different things.

    #53 4 years ago
  54. Noodlemanny

    Sorry I made some pretty major edits to my post while you made yours.

    Also games kinda do need publishers to survive. Game developers simply can’t get the kinda of funds up to make a truly triple A game. And most people aren’t really interested in sub-par triple A games.

    Also yes if the media could get the power then they could start to rule over the publishers but the problem is how are they going to get this power in the first place? They’re just going to get slaughtered before they can get any.

    Forget the above I misinterpreted what you said. I’m leaving it here just for some extra thinking candy.

    #54 4 years ago
  55. Noodlemanny

    Oh wait I just got what you meant… give me a minute.

    But even if the reviewers do lose their dependence from publishers for funding. They still have a dependence on publishers for games. If they get blacklisted they get that life line severed. No amount of moneys going to change that.

    #55 4 years ago
  56. Mike

    I’m not talking about the dev/publisher relationship. I’m talking about the media/publisher relationship. That needs to be completely severed, or separated to the extent where there’s mutual dependency.

    In response to your second point, as I said earlier, I think companies like EG Network, IGN etc. are now too big for one publisher to bring it down. Call me naive, perhaps. But they got over 1 million+ UU’s. That’s a lot of customers. It simply wouldn’t be in any publisher’s interest to completely boycott them. However, it would also mean that the UK industry would have to show some kind of solidarity.

    Why not get Future and EG etc. in a room together and thrash out a common code of ethics.? Do it properly. Sure, still compete against each other, but at the same time recognise that they’re also in the same boat on the same side of the fence. If a publisher gets arrogant and shrty with one, they all cut them off.

    I think I’ve been living in Socialist Denmark for too long, but I know there’s a Journalist Union over here where similar things are agreed upon.

    #56 4 years ago
  57. Mike

    Just download the games from the internet. ;)

    A lot of reviewers do this, anyway.

    #57 4 years ago
  58. Noodlemanny

    Read my posts again, its my bad.

    In response to your latest post its true that IGN is big enough that no publishers going to be able to bring it down very easily and it would be a MASSIVE hit to they if IGN started boycotting them. The thing is, theres just no reason for IGN to do that. Its been doing this stuff for years now and its made them hugely successful. You don’t bite the hand that feed you. The only reason that IGN or any other big reviewer is going to want to change is if their consumers (us) demand it. If it becomes some sort of massive scandal. Thing is I just can’t see that happening in the near future.

    #58 4 years ago
  59. Noodlemanny

    @57
    Yeah but it means said reviewer isn’t ahead of the game since they can’t get ahold of the game until after its come out. So other reviewers who review games before they come out or as soon as they come out are going to get much more lime light than others (and of course their the ones playing the publishers game).

    Anyway even if everybody started getting the games to review themselves the publishers will just start finding ways to sue them for illegally downloading their games or just by offering huge benefits to those who play along. Like exclusive interviews or previews.

    #59 4 years ago
  60. Mike

    @58 I agree with you all the way. It would demand a sense of solidarity between the various publishing houses. It would demand that IGN, EG recognise and accept that although they’re in competition, they actually need each other. So if a publishing company hurts one media outlet, they’re hurting them all.

    Again, it’s just my socialist ramblings in a cut-throat post-Reagan/Thatcherite society.

    #60 4 years ago
  61. BraveArse

    Mike, have you noticed the advertising on the front page of EG? Looks like we might have a site with some gumption after all :D Good on ‘em.

    edit: ah not front page – but this page…

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-06-24-playstation-3-game-collections-unveiled

    Season of The Witch movie ad…

    #61 4 years ago

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