Another story on the relationship between media sites and game companies

Posted January 9th, 2008 at 7:14 am


VGMWatch posted an interesting article yesterday detailing the recent editorial from a bitter Electronic Gaming Monthly editor-in-chief Dan Hsu. In it he actually went out of his way to name particular companies who were no longer giving them access to provide pre-release coverage and reviews.

According to Hsu, Midway’s Mortal Kombat development team, Sony’s sports game division, and Ubisoft have all allegedly banned EGM/1Up from further coverage of their products. The reason: Apparently, they didn’t take too kindly to EGM’s review coverage of their games.

And really, I can’t blame those companies for making that decision. Why should Sony give EGM/1Up anything when they killed MLB 07: The Show (PS3) in their review? It was the lowest score given to the game and contrasts with how well it has been received by consumers. Sony can offer other sites the opportunity to cover their games instead. This isn’t to say they are shopping around for better review scores. They would just like fair, respectable and complete coverage. And anyone who has read 1Up reviews knows those tend to be very light on details, spotlight random things while ignoring much bigger elements of the game, and are sometimes simply inaccurate. Those issues almost certainly factor into it, although the score ends up being the thing of most importance.

Gaming companies are in a position where they can choose who will get to cover their games pre-release. The bottom line is most sites don’t bother with anything post-release except possibly for reviews, although they’d prefer them pre-release as well. So the gaming companies have the control in this area. What would Sony have to gain from offering the chance at coverage to a site that had previously taken advantage of that only to turn around and tear the game apart giving it a ridiculously low score and poorly written review in order to attract attention and hits?

I’ve written previously about my overall distain towards reviews in general. The use of arbitrary numbers and different ratings “systems” while in the end it is only one individual’s opinion which comes from their own personal background along with their own specific biases. Unlike movie reviews, where you get a wide range of opinions and a site like Rotten Tomatoes gives a great overall picture, gaming reviews tend to all come in with similar findings. Sites that stand out from the norm get ostracized. Game Rankings/Metacritic require that sites rate the games using similar methods. Stand out too much and the site is removed from their database.

That to me is a sign that it isn’t about how much fun a game is because that is a subjective thing, but it is more about technical aspects, meeting certain expectations and sticking to comfortable formulas. The biggest problem is that we’re stuck with it like this. Individual reviewers or sites can’t make a change on their own, it would have to be industry wide.

Until there is a reinvention of what game reviewing is all about, news such as companies blacklisting certain media outlets or even the recent look into the relationship between advertising and the freedom to editorialize following Gamespot’s firing of Jeff Gerstmann will likely only become more common. Both sides will continue to protect their own interests.