Most of the folks who read this site probably don’t care too much about this topic, but indulge me, I’m going to rant for a minute, and if you can stick with it please consider boycotting the companies mentioned above during your holiday shopping this year.
Hardcore gamers have known for, well, forever that there’s an inappropriate relationship between publishers and the publications reviewing their games, what with the “exclusive” reviews that often wildly overrate the games, the fawning multi-page previews for upcoming games which are always remarkably positive, and the occasional industry insider expose calling out the print/web publishers for this stuff, but this past week really brought this all to an uncomfortable head.
The exact facts haven’t been confirmed, but the gist of what happened is long time editorial staffer at gamespot.com Jeff Gerstmann was summarily fired for his negative review of the Eidos console/PC game Kane and Lynch. This game is Eidos’s big holiday release, they had a large advertising contract with gamespot for the game, including a reskinning of the entire site, they were reportedly incensed, and threatened or otherwise intimidated either gamespot or its parent cnet.com to the point where they reacted by firing Jeff.
It should go without saying that you just don’t pull shit like that and expect to maintain any credibility or pretensions of journalistic integrity, and consumers should reward all companies involved with zero of their holiday shopping dollars and zero of their web browser traffic.
For what it’s worth, I’ve played Kane and Lynch, and while it has some promising ideas (well…1 anyway, the multiplayer was conceptually cool) the gameplay mechanics are so poorly executed as to be broken, the graphics are just mediocre, and the enemy AI is brain dead – it’s at best a 5 on the gamespot scale of 1-10, and Gerstmann actually gave it a 6, more than it deserved in my opinion.
It’s also sad that gamespot had been one of my preferred sites to check for reviews on games, but not anymore, they’re banned.
I’ve intentionally not linked to the game or sites in question here, but a few links for the curious:
A joystiq.com piece that summarizes the story as of this morning.
A youtube archive of the video review of the game by Gerstmann, which is supposedly what got him fired.
A stickied thread on neogaf that outlines the sites and companies to avoid doing business with as a way of protesting this corrupt BS.
Eidos publishes a lot of games, so for busy shoppers, the games to avoid this holiday include the Kane and Lynch game (it sucks anyway), anything from the Tomb Raider series, anything from the Hitman series, and their recent Battle of Midway game. There’s tons more game series listed in the neogaf thread as well – these are just the most likely holiday purchases.
Hopefully if enough gamers complain long enough about this the publishers print and game will get the message about preserving editorial freedom from the ad sales guys. Whoever made the call to fire Jeff at gamespot and or cnet should be canned themselves. I’ll also note that some folks think everyone should leave Eidos alone, that they were essentially doing what all publishers do by cajoling and complaining and threatening to protect their products, but pressuring Eidos by boycotting their products is another way to apply pressure on gamespot/cnet from my perspective, and it helps send a message to all publishers about where to draw the line in terms of PR/advertising relationships.