Not Fair Game, Spot II

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Well the Gamespot crisis that I’ve talked before doesn’t stop to surprise me. Here are some snippets of an inside account of the events in the last year at Gamespot, as posted on Valleywag.com:

What you might not be aware of is that GS is well known for appealing mostly to hardcore gamers. The mucky-mucks have been doing a lot of “brand research” over the last year or so and indicating that they want to reach out to more casual gamers. Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we’ve started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up. Other publishers have started giving us notes involving when our reviews can go up; if a game’s getting a 9 or above, it can go up early; if not, it’ll have to wait until after the game is on the shelves.

I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were “multiple instances of tone” in the reviews that he hadn’t been happy about, but that wasn’t Jeff’s problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that “AAA” titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site.

When companies make games as downright contemptible as Kane and Lynch, they deserve to be called on it. I guess you’ll have to go to Onion or a smaller site for objective reviews now, because everyone at GS now thinks that if they give a low score to a high-profile game, they’ll be shitcanned. Everyone’s fucking scared and we’re all hoping to get Josh Larson removed from his position because no one trusts him anymore. If that doesn’t happen then look for every game to be Game of the Year material at GameSpot.

So it’s time to forget about any possibility of a professional review of Fallout 3 at Gamespot.

Saw this at V3D.

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9 thoughts on “Not Fair Game, Spot II

  1. Let’s not turn this into a “Fallout 3 won’t get a fair review”, because this is much bigger than that. This has been going on for a long, long time so I really can’t understand why people are surprised. They are being asked to review the games of companies who are paying their bills- of course theres collusion, whether it’s outright or ‘here’s some money with a wink of the eye’. It’s basically the game industry equivalent of payola*, and really highlights the immaturity of the game industries business practices.

    There’s just no way that reviews cannot be biased in this climate. IGN is owned by Fox News Corp, which owns 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age) for example. You think IGN is under pressure to rate it’s sister properties a little higher? You bet. Coincidently, the game for Ice Age 2 Metacritics at 68 but IGN gave it a 79, second highest score.

    Until game sites stop accepting major revenue from *within* the industry, or becomes more honest with its consumers, this is just going to get worse.

    *For people who don’t know what payola is – Payola, in the American music industry, is the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on music radio, in which the song is presented as being part of the normal day’s broadcast. Under US law, 47 U.S.C. § 317, a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be counted as a “regular airplay.”

  2. Let’s not turn this into a “Fallout 3 won’t get a fair review”, because this is much bigger than that.

    Oh it is, no doubt about that. It’s just that when a few years ago a few of us predicted that the publisher always first policy of Gamespot would end badly no one believed us.

    And when I had some pretty hard discussions with Tor Thorsen (he isn’t happy, as SurfGirl said yesterday, my solidarity goes to him on this) because I felt they were twisting the mood on Fallout 3 to help out Beth he said they would never do that.

    He was right about FO3, it was just his and a few other editors fanboyism speaking, but the pressure to help out advertisers was in fact there, as we suspected.

    That’s the context of that sentence.

    I really can’t understand why people are surprised.

    I was definitely not surprised, ask around, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, that was always my idea.

    Of course that since this might be the most profitable holiday season ever on the gaming world the temptation to take off the gloves is much higher.

    Until game sites stop accepting major revenue from *within* the industry, or becomes more honest with its consumers, this is just going to get worse.

    The French mag Joystick opened their pages to advertising from outside the gaming world because of that, with mixed results, a few years ago. Future publishing PCFormat reviews games that they buy, from the shelves, and refuse reviewing copies, but the results are also mixed, PR has his ways, gaming advertising isn’t the entirety of the problem.

  3. Sad to see the state that game journalism is in. Not surprising, but deeply disturbing that everything needs to be viewed from a commercial viewpoint first and foremost.

    Just read the news myself that Blizzard & Activision are merging and, well, bleh…

  4. “The new Activision Blizzard, now that’s a surprise…”

    Yeah, that caught me too. How the hell do they keep something that big a secret? I don’t even remember hearing rumors about that.

    Seems like everything should be business as usual though. If anything, maybe that will make EA work a little harder, because Activision and Vivendi’s major properties have a uniformly much higher standard of quality than anything put out by EA.

  5. Ricittielo had just stated something in these lines:

    “Is it ripe (for mergers), or has it already been picked? I would argue that it’s been largely picked. That doesn’t mean it’s done. I think there will be more consolidation to come. But let’s just say a lot has already happened.”

    Instead, Riccitiello believes the gaming market will expand through nontraditional areas, such as micro-transactisions, casual games and gaming subscriptions.

    Which means he probably had the largest WTF! of all 🙂

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