By Joshua Temblett (Dontkillmydreams), OnRPG Journalist
Around two years ago Gamespot.com did a review of “Kane and Lynch” which was published by Eidos, the famed Lara Croft developers. Unfortunately the publisher had signed a very expensive deal to advertise on the website. The game was given a score of 6/10 by one of the websites chief reviewers. As the rumours say, Eidos didn’t like this game score and forced Gamespot to fire the reviewer. No one knows whether or not this is true, neither does anyone know about the deal or what exactly happened. All people really knew was that some publishing company may, or may not, have been pushing their weight around.
Gamespot lost a lot of its respect from the gaming community that day. People understood that this incident may or may not have occurred but it was the idea and thought of such a thing happening that shocked people. Sure we have known for a while about publishers trying to push journalists around with regards to reviews; however this incident bought a lot more attention to these scandals.
As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Eidos is apparently at it again with their new game “Batman: Arkham Asylum”. The game is apparently quite good, not AAA quality but playable. So then the question has to be asked as to why the publisher would ruin the game’s reputation like this and have very little faith in the product itself. The story goes that Eidos has sent out the review code to various websites and publications who now have to sit on their reviews until the embargo date on the game is lifted. This is fine, this is normal practice in the video game industry; however there is a turning point. Eidos have apparently said that if any magazine gives the game a 90% score or above, and dedicates the cover of the magazine to the game, then the publisher in question will allow the magazine to run the review early.
So basically the publisher is score fixing. From what I’ve heard I can almost guarantee you that the game will receive 7s/8s. The game is said to be good, but perhaps not up to the “variety and depth of other games”. Once again though, we do not know for certain how true these claims are. The publisher has come out with this statement by their head of marketing, Jon Brooke stating that no such thing happened: “With regards an article posted on RamRaider alleging that Eidos has fixed review scores for Batman: Arkham Asylum, we want to state that no discussions have been held about review scores with any magazines,”. Yet who can we believe? RamRaider, the independent blog that has been correct about a few of its rumours, or Eidos the company that everyone believes is committing constant scandal?
Whether or not this is true, it’s interesting to look at. Some publishers seem to just go with the flow of reviews, whereas others try to fight them. The one thing you have to understand is that video game journalism can be a very messed up place. It’s a world full of exclusive rights, and bargaining with publishers. For you see these people who are trying to sell their games know the power that writers have, be they on blogs, magazines or professional websites. They need positive buzz around their game, so that it can get successful sales. You have to remember the video game industry is very high risk.
Video games nowadays cost millions of dollars to make, and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that it’s the same with the movie industry, and you’re correct. However movies have two chances to make money, they can make money in the cinema and then they have a second life with DVDs, whereas games only really have one chance and that’s when they launch. So publishers need the positivity. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are generally a lot of games to choose from on the market. Some very good games (sleeper hits) can get lost in the pack, so game makers need to distinguish their games from the rest and a positive review from a well established publication will create that.
Make sure you’re aware of the industry and what’s going on, and make sure you don’t fall into a trap when buying games and, in this economic climate more than ever, you’ve got to be careful about what you spend your money on. Check lots of reviews when deciding to buy a game; don’t just follow one person’s opinions.
We as consumers don’t see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes and, believe it or not, there are a lot of back hand deals being made to scam you out of your money. You work hard for your money, you don’t want to have some greedy company to take away what you’ve earned. Whilst the video games industry may seem beautiful and full of wonderful bright lights and technical gadgetry, it’s really not. There’s constant pressure (more so than any other industry) to achieve.
I think one of the points of this article is to make sure that you’re aware of the pressure that both journalists and the games industry have on them. With regards to the rumour about Eidos fixing “Batman: Arkham Asylum”, I guess we’ll find out if they’re true when a games magazine has the Batman on their front cover, and gives it 90% or higher.