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Giant Bomb to remain editorially independent

Thursday, 15th March 2012 23:41 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Giant Bomb’s acquisition by Gamespot parent company CBS Interactive will not result in its closure or a change in editorial direction, founder Jeff Gerstmann has said.

In a livestream, Gerstmann and GameSpot VP John Davison both assured users that the two sites are not going to be “merged” in any way.

“We’re not folding back into Gamespot, we’re not going to start posting our stuff there,” Gerstmann said.

“This is about Giant Bomb becoming a better Giant Bomb. Basically keep doing what we’re doing and then hitting [Gamespot] up to make sure we’re getting what we need to make it even bigger, even weirder.”

The pair said the deal had been in the works for a while, and that both went into the 2011 holidays expecting it to go ahead, but only got final confirmation yesterday.

The Review Scandal

Gerstmann said he’d had no opportunity to talk about his high profile 2007 firing from Gamespot due to non-disparagement clauses in his termination agreement, but that both parties appreciated the need to air the issue as part of the acquisition.

Gerstmann was Gamespot’s editorial director, primarily responsible for reviews, at a time when the site was going through several changes.

“We had a new management team in place around here who hadn’t really worked with an editorial team very closely,” Gerstmann said.

“Working in tandem with that we were working on rolling out a new scoring system and we went from this arcane math formula.”

Gamespot’s original review scoring system used a weighted formula which unfortunately resulted in a small range of scores appearing – and frequently being misinterpreted. The new system, used ever since, uses a one to ten range with half point incerements. The average review score on Gamespot dropped sharply as a result of a broader range of scores being awarded.

The Kane & Lynch: Dead Men review for which Gerstmann has become notorious was not the first major release under the new system, but it was the first to attract major publisher attention.

“The publisher threatened to pull advertising money,” Gerstmann confirmed. “That happens a lot in this industry.”

The pair said standard practice is to “stand by your man and eventually it blows over” but in this case, things went wrong.

Gerstmann said the new management team “wasn’t experienced in dealing with those kinds of issues”, and called him away for a serious chat.

“A lot of crazy things were said to me, threats as to what was going to happen to me as a result,” he said.

“Things were tense around the office.”

Nevertheless, business continued as usual until November when Gerstmann was suddenly fired.

“They felt they couldn’t trust me in the role,” he said.

“We did what an editorial team does. We were completely honest. There wasn’t anything shady happening inside of Gamespot editorial.

“This management team buckled when faced with seeing a lot of advertising dollars walk out the door. Just a few simple mistakes from people who didn’t have a clear picture of what we did for them.”

Davison and Gerstmann both mentioned putting the past behind them and looking forward to sharing office space.

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29 Comments

  1. YoungZer0

    Why didn’t hey say all those things sooner? All the blind-rage for Eidos and Kane & Lynch would’ve been avoided if that Frog-Face would’ve just said what got him fired.

    I really feel sorry for all those raging morons flooding Eidos forums with hate-spam and threats. Hope they can see now what idiots they were.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Johnny Cullen

    I honestly applaud Jeff and John Davison for their transparency in that stream. I enjoyed watching and listening to it. Well deserved props on that.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. absolutezero

    My favourite thing about the Kane and Lynch fiasco is that he was fired for giving it a bad score.

    Now if you actually read the review is question he rips it to shreds, I mean its the kinda review that basically states that there are no good features.

    He then went on to give it a 6/10.

    The review was a piece of shit in the first place, I’ve never liked Gerstmann and I don’t like Giant Bomb its like the worst of American style games journalism has flocked there since 1up vanished up its own arse.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. YoungZer0

    @3: No argument there. From what i’ve heard his 360-Profile shows that he never got past the third level of Kane & Lynch.

    Now, i’m not an expert on reviewing, but i think you should at least finish the game, before you talk about how ugly the story and characters are.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Aidan

    @1: He explained in his Gamespot video today that he legally couldn’t. Gamespot made him sign an agreement forbidden him from discussing the circumstances of his firing.

    @4: Review copies don’t always register achievements, and publishers will sometimes embargo reviewers to keep achievements hidden until release. The achievements you’re referring to on Gerstmann’s GiantBombing gamertag were unlocked a couple weeks after the game’s release date, so they’re not reflective of what Gerstmann played for the review.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DSB

    @4 That’s really a little naive.

    There’s no way you have to finish a game to review it properly. You just need to play enough to know what you’re talking about. If a game is shit for the first 4 hours, it’s disqualified anyway.

    Games are difficult because they range from maybe 5 minutes to 60 hours in length, so ultimately you’re gonna have to rely on your ability and intuition at some point. As long as you don’t comment on something you haven’t seen yet, it’s still honest and qualified.

    I’ve probably reviewed thousands of albums myself, and there’s definitely a point where you develop a very clear intuition in terms of quality. Pretty much after the first song you have a sense for where a band is at and what they’re doing. The only reason why you listen to the rest and do several sessions is to make absolutely sure you’re right.

    But that’s still only maybe an hour. Expecting games reviewers to finish every game they review means that they last maybe a year before going “Fuck this shit” and leave, with their enjoyment of the medium ruined. In spite of how timid and irrelevant most of them are, they aren’t robots.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. YoungZer0

    @5: The Video-Review also showed footage that never got past the first three levels. Got any excuse for that too?

    @6: Sorry DSB, but if it’s a job they might as well do it properly. That’s the real world, not every job is fun every time. And most reviewers don’t even review non-AAA titles. There are so many games that go past their radar. I don’t have any sympathy for that. Even if i love my job, there are parts of it that i just hate.

    And yes, if you review a game and talk about how shitty the story is, when the story didn’t even get started, then you’re a lazy asshole who doesn’t do his job.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Joe Musashi

    There’s no way you have to finish a game to review it properly. You just need to play enough to know what you’re talking about.

    Bullshit.

    You apply that attitude to ANY other medium or profession and you’d be laughed right out of the room. It’s a mentality like that which contributes to the sorry state of games ‘journalism’ today.

    JM

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Ben

    @7 The video review only showed footage of the first three levels because the review site (as well as publishers, I presume) don’t want to show too much of the game to people who might want to buy it and play it. Why would they spoil bits of the game?

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Ben

    To all now deciding that Eidos were the victims of unwarranted criticism please remember that they were the ones threatening to withdraw advertising dollars because of the review.

    Yes, the Gamespot management (at the time) were seemingly inexperienced and buckled under the pressure but this doesn’t take away from the fact that Eidos applied the pressure in the first place.

    What we can draw from this is that 1) Eidos shouldn’t be applying financial pressure to editorial content and 2) the Gamespot management (at the time) should have stood by their content.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Ben

    @7 Agreed, a reviewer should finish the game before reviewing it. However, you have no sound evidence upon which to base the claim that Gerstmann DIDN’T finish the game. As @5 suggested, review copies don’t always register achievements…but also, the review copy was more than likely played (for review) on a 360/profile specific to Gamespot (rather than Gerstmann’s personal 360/profile) so your reference to Gerstmann’s personal 360 profile is largely irrelevant.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Edo

    Edit button FTW!

    #12 2 years ago
  13. G1GAHURTZ

    The Gamespot review is only half a point less than the Metacritic average anyway, so it clearly wasn’t too far off the mark.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Ben

    @12 Explain?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Edo

    @14 Edit button needs no explanation,it’s WRIGHT THERE under your comment…try it sometimes.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Ben

    @15: Why would I need to use the edit button?

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Edo

    @16 Cause it’s a magical button that does all kinds of tricks,hell,it can even make three comments in a row seamlessly become only one,I know it sounds crazy,but it’s true!

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Ben

    @17: Does three separate comments confuse you somehow? Editing them into one would use up the same amount of space..

    #18 2 years ago
  19. YoungZer0

    @9: Oh don’t give me that shitty excuse. All reviews show footage from later levels of any game. They show mostly gameplay elements, nothing’s spoiled there. Especially if you consider how much the trailers showed.

    @10: Eidos would be fucking stupid if they didn’t want to pull the ads. Why pay a website if the website has a bad review of the game its promoting? That would be stupid. Eidos like EVERY other publisher put pressure on gaming sites when there’s a bad review up. Just like Gerstmann said.

    @11: Sorry, not buying it. Everything hints at him never finishing this short game. He probably already had trouble because of the whole Sony fiasco and never bothered. This is definitely odd if you consider just how much he loved Freedom Fighters and how positiv all previews of the game were before he got his fat hands on it.

    Edit: Here’s a quote from an article on WIRED that helps to prove my point:

    “Some of Game|Life’s own readers pointed to the fact that Gerstmann’s gamertag only showed one Kane & Lynch achievement, but he cautions using that as any kind of completion metric, saying “For the record, I saw both endings in Kane & Lynch before writing about it.”

    That’s some political bullshit talk. He said he saw the ending, not that he finished the game.

    And use he damn edit-button.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. silkvg247

    @8 and others. I guess MMO’s should never be reviewed, then.

    I don’t hink a game has to be completed to know if it’s shit. I played only the first level of K&L and thought it was utter garbage.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Ben

    @19: I’ll reply to your points in order.

    1) As far as I understand it, the publisher determines the extent of footage which can be shown of any game for review (before release). So blaming Gamespot/Gerstmann for only showing three levels – and then taking that as evidence that the game wasn’t completed for review – is misguided.

    2a) Even with a less-than-stellar review (let’s remember that it got a 6, not a 2) Gamespot still attracts a very significant audience which would still make it meaningful to advertise to. Especially in light of the fact that the developers themselves now agree that it’s a bad game.

    2b) I wasn’t claiming that publishers DON’T put pressure on review sites, I was claiming that they SHOULDN’T.

    3) I don’t have the evidence to hand, but from what I recall the game averaged about 65 overall, taking into account all reviews. On that evidence, a significant number of reviews went against the supposed positivity of the previews. So either you are claiming that a significant number of reviewers didn’t finish the game because their reviews went against the positivity of the previews, or you are misguidedly selecting one man for persecution based upon this same evidence. The first would need backing up with further evidence, the second reveals a bias.

    4) If it means so much to you – and helps you to read my comments – I will do my very best to contain them into as few a number of comments as possible.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. YoungZer0

    @20: All i’m saying is, if you start your review talking about how ugly the story and characters are, you better finish the 6 hour (If you’re slow) long singelplayer first. He was way out of line with the review. Don’t talk/write about something you’ve no idea of. It’s that simple.

    @21:

    1.) What makes you think Eidos didn’t allow them to show more footage? Reviews from other gaming sites included much more footage.

    2.) Erm, no. Even back then people flip out if a game has less then 9.2 out of 10. And where did the developer say that they think K&L is a bad game?

    3.) Whuh, what? Seriously, you lost me here.

    4.) Are you new to the internet? Because that’s usually how people write on the internet. Want to add something, edit the comment.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. DSB

    @8,7 Do try applying it to other mediums.

    A movie critic might only watch a movie twice, sometimes he might only get the single press viewing and that’s what, 2-6 hours maximum for the longest of them? Then the writing and drafting will take anywhere from 1-3 hours.

    I can guarantee you that videogame critics are paid less than half of the average journalist reviewing movies, but you’re expecting them to put in two to three times the work?

    What you’re expecting of them is simply unrealistic, and there’s absolutely no way that anyone would do it for that kind of pay, let alone anyone halfway qualified. I write myself, and I make very sure I do my research, and I’ll likely still spend a lot of uncompensated hours doing that, but there’s no way I’m going to break my back for 20 hours if I’m only getting compensated for 5.

    If a game doesn’t work for 4 hours, it’s not worth getting. There’s no fixing that.

    I don’t like most games reviewers, but that’s mostly because they seem incapable of forming an opinion, and applying actual criticism to the games they play. Expecting them to put in 35-65 hours of work, when they’re only compensated for 9 of those, is just being a self-righteous asshole. Who’s going to pay their bills?

    You can sit back and think that it’s no big deal, but then I’m guessing you haven’t been forced to sit through movies, music albums or games you don’t like for hours on end. It really tests your love for those mediums, and there’s is absolutely a limit to what you can expect from people in that regard. Nobody’s better off with a corps of reviewers who despise their own medium, but has to stay on and kill their love for it even more.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Joe Musashi

    A movie critic might only watch a movie twice

    Exactly. They’ve seen 100% of the article to be reviewed. Twice!

    Then the writing and drafting will take anywhere from 1-3 hours.

    Not relevant.

    I can guarantee you that videogame critics are paid less than half of the average journalist reviewing movies

    Not relevant.

    but you’re expecting them to put in two to three times the work?

    I’m expecting a paid professional to do their job properly. Not judge a book by its cover, so to speak. How that pay ranks along others is not relevant.

    What you’re expecting of them is simply unrealistic, and there’s absolutely no way that anyone would do it for that kind of pay

    I’m expecting someone to do their job properly. That’s not an unreasonable expectation. There’s plenty of evidence that shows people will do the job for no money at all and do a very very professional job of it.

    Excuses for doing shitty work aren’t acceptable. EVERYONE has aspects of their work that are boring, annoying, a pain in the ass, arduous. That’s partly why it’s called “work”.

    JM

    #24 2 years ago
  25. DSB

    @24 They aren’t being paid to play these games 100%, they’re being paid to play them – at best – 25% when it comes to the 20+ hour games.

    Who is going to pay their bills Joe? Are you going to start paying to read reviews, just so you know they’ll have played 100%? I doubt it’s worth that to you.

    Not relevant.

    It’s precisely relevant. If these people aren’t getting honest pay for honest work, then nobody can be expected to check the boxes you’re suggesting, when it comes to the longest games out there.

    You don’t go into a shoestore, pay 500 dollars and walk out with a pair of 2500 dollar shoes. You get what you pay for.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t do their job professionally, I’m not saying they shouldn’t sock up the bad games, or try to cover as much as possible, we all do that in the other mediums too, but we’re compensated for it. What I’m saying is, if you expect a guy to work for 60 hours while only paying him for 9, you’re kidding yourself.

    I’m assuming you’re a developer of some kind. How many hours do you generally work for free? Has it ever been anywhere close to 75%?

    The fact that there are so many amateurs out there writing reviews is probably the reason why the games press reads the way it does. You really do get what you pay for.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. Joe Musashi

    They aren’t being paid to play these games 100%, they’re being paid to do their job – at best – 25% when it comes to the 20+ hour games.

    Not good enough. If you don’t know the product then you’re not fit to review it.

    Your argument is working on an assumed mandate that doesn’t apply anywhere else for any other review medium. Your exception is not the norm, nor should it be.

    Perhaps games reviewers aren’t paid as much because they don’t review properly.

    The fact that there are so many amateurs out there writing reviews is probably the reason why the games press reads the way it does.

    Its the fact that there’s amateurs and enthusiasts out there AT ALL that renders your argument about salary entirely redundant.

    JM

    #26 2 years ago
  27. DSB

    @26 I think compensating people for services rendered is generally a pretty accepted standard in any society with an open market.

    We can all agree that the ideal is fine, and reviewers should be expected to finish a game that’s six hours long, maybe even ten. But beyond that you’re just taking advantage unless you pay them extra, which few are willing to do.

    You might not like it, but your problem is with the employers, more than the writers. People generally don’t give their work away for free. You don’t get the professionals you need unless you pay them what they’re worth.

    I guess your last bit is a chicken and egg thing. Certainly a lot of games reviewers aren’t worth jack, but there’s more to it as well. The real critics are often isolated from the rest of the press, and a large amount of gamers are likely to write them off as contrarians for daring to form a different opinion, so maybe they’re just not ready for a competent press.

    Regardless of their talents or lack of same, it’s offensive to expect people to work for free, and I don’t think a lot of the people demanding that sort of thing would do it themselves.

    Its the fact that there’s amateurs and enthusiasts out there AT ALL that renders your argument about salary entirely redundant.

    Reality check. Those people still have bills to pay. They might do alright “working” from their moms basements, but that’s saying nothing for the fact that you’re apparently suggesting the user review as an acceptable substitute.

    Go check the “amateurs and enthusiasts” on any site offering user reviews. If you’re fine with reading that shit day in and day out, you can have it. Personally I’d rather have someone who knows what they’re doing, and doing it with enough professionalism, confidence and authority to demand something in return.

    Enthusiasm needs to be backed up by actual competence. I’m sure there are a lot of photographers who’d love to work for newspapers, and would even do it for free. That doesn’t mean that they’re good enough.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Joe Musashi

    You might not like it, but your problem is with the employers, more than the writers.

    No. My problem is with the people that write the words.

    They don’t do the necessary work, they don’t do the necessary effort, they don’t pay the required attention to detail, they still write the words, they still accept money for what they do and then they cry whenever their work or standards are criticised as though the concept of accountability simply doesn’t apply to them.

    None of the excuses seem especially important to me. Certainly nothing that any other person with a job isn’t already facing. But I’m expected to make special cases for people that acknowledge are NOT DOING THEIR JOB properly?

    Yeah. No. Go cry me a river.

    Go check the “amateurs and enthusiasts” on any site offering user reviews. If you’re fine with reading that shit day in and day out, you can have it. Personally I’d rather have someone who knows what they’re doing, and doing it with enough professionalism, confidence and authority to demand something in return.

    And yet it’s the “knows what they’re doing” that undoes your point again. Because if they don’t evaluate a product properly how can they possibly know it to the standard required to review it and reliably inform a broad audience of its worth? “Knows what they’re doing” seems to be “I know how to do the minimum and still get paid LOL, better head off to Twitter and demand a review copy of something and schmooze with the PR to get my free swag too.”.

    Sadly, it’s the professionals that are getting shown up by the amateurs on a daily basis. And as soon as those PAID professionals get taken to task? Zero transparency and waffle about ‘being misled’ and ‘journalistic integrity’. ANYONE who got paid AND wrote about those PS Vita games on the Play.com website the other week proves how shitty the are at their ‘job’. Some, being the professionals they are, went as far as to ban their critics from their website rather than hold up their hands to their own shitty standards.

    JM

    #28 2 years ago
  29. DSB

    @28 No. My problem is with the people that write the words.

    Well, no one can stop you from being irrational, but they’re doing exactly what they’re paid to do.

    Does a long game generate more revenue for a publication than a short game?

    No. A 6 hour game can generate far more revenue for a magazine than a 60 hour one.

    And that’s why it doesn’t make any sense for an editor to pay more for the review of a long game, than that of a short one.

    Should you either stop reviewing games of a certain length, or should you run your publication into the ground by correctly compensating the guys who have to play through them?

    This is where the reality check should start to set in.

    the concept of accountability simply doesn’t apply to them.

    Who said it doesn’t? Of course it does, but accountability simply means that you don’t report on what you don’t see. That still makes it possible to review a 60 hour game like Skyrim even though you haven’t completed every single quest. You just make sure you’ve seen enough to know, and don’t comment on the ending or the late game.

    A review can be detailed, or it can be general. Whether you like one or the other is a matter of personal preference, but generally you get further by not bogging down your readers with overemphasis, and you can be far more informative by doing a general review.

    “Knows what they’re doing” seems to be “I know how to do the minimum and still get paid LOL, better head off to Twitter and demand a review copy of something and schmooze with the PR to get my free swag too.”

    Get over yourself champ. I’m pretty sure people realize what kind of movie they’re watching before they see the last scene. That’s where competence, experience and authority come in.

    I don’t know what role swag holds with most writers, but personally I couldn’t give less of a fuck. They’re cheap trinkets made for 25 cents in China. Big fucking deal. I have review copies coming out of my ass. Doing the job for that reason makes you little more than a trained (and still undercompensated) chimp.

    PRs can go fuck themselves too. This isn’t East Germany, and I can still write whatever the hell I want.

    It’s certainly true that there are lots of great writers out there who don’t get paid. Getting paid isn’t a qualification in itself, but I don’t know very many people who take pride in their work, but are willing to send it away for free, to people who do make money off it.

    How do they pay their bills? I don’t think you make a living that way.

    “Sadly, it’s the professionals that are getting shown up by the amateurs on a daily basis.”

    Once again, you’re looking at the chicken and the egg.

    Actually, they tend to get shown up by much better compensated professionals covering other mediums.

    So are games writers shit because they’re undercompensated, or are they undercompensated because they’re shit?

    Personally I’m leaning towards the former. Dangle the right amount of money in front of a professional writer, and he’s going to take it. It’s not the best paid gig in the world compared to a lot of other things, and we do have bills to pay.

    #29 2 years ago

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