Games Journalism! Wainwright/Florence/Tomb Raider/Eurogamer/Libel Threats/Doritos

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Nov 6, 2006
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I don't think being sponsored by a company is a bad thing. People don't discredit ESPN analysts because they are brought to us by All-State. It is shady when you are doing an interview about the quality of a product, surrounded by tons of merchandise with that product stamped on it.
Agreed. If you are clear that it is a sponsorship and handle it in a non-tacky, non-insulting manner, I don't think that is a problem. I don't think Keighley did either of those things, though.
 
Aug 7, 2008
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Fun Fact: This recent uproar over non-endemic product placement might put a bullet in some of the bigger, travel-heavy ideas I've pitched. Maybe that's for the best, maybe the tax on our credibility would be too high.
The Geoff thing was in part advertising for Halo 4, so that wasn't really non-endemic product placement. (FFS there is a giant Master Chief behind him!)

The context of it also appeared at first glance to be just an interview with Geoff about whatever, a sort of "what's up with you?" vibe, that for some bizarre reason is staged with a bunch of Halo 4 / Doritos / Dew crap.

It's not clear at all that it's basically a puff piece about Halo / Doritos / Dew. Off the bat they are coyly asking him about general comic con stuff...

I don't think too many people have a problem with advertising and sponsorship in general - this specific case is problematic because the sponsorship is not immediately obvious and it's really not clear if this is supposed to be an interview with a guy who is promoting Halo and Doritos or an interview with a guy who went to comic-con and is sharing honest impressions.

The Geoff thing is an advertorial in disguise, which is completely different from "this next segment is brought to you by Doritos - Doritos, the gamer chip!"
 
Jul 16, 2008
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Thanks Jeff for posting. As I've said here and on the GB OT, I think you guys have earned my trust. You've always been open and transparent. You're vision as to make a site about the people and not "giant bomb dot com" as a single entity played a big part of that.
However:
I encourage you to look at some of the less reactionary posts in this thread and other places as well. From what I know of you (gleaned from following Giantbomb since its inception), I do think you have a pretty good handle on where the PR/Games media lines are, and are cognizant of many of the potential pitfalls, but it's never bad to take a moment and consider some of the salient points people are bringing up.
There have been a number of good points raised about the hidden effect of PR on writers. The kind of effect that ensures the writer still believes he is not being affected, and is honest to himself.

It's easy to point fingers at 'corrupt' writers. But the bigger issue in my opinion is the result of billions of dollars and years of research to perfect the ways PR can subtly influence writers' opinions. You know it's effective because you know you think you are not being affected.

You can read more about that on that and other issues discussed here in the OP.
 
Dec 10, 2007
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Jeff's post was great, thanks for adding your thoughts to the thread.

I think one thing that is certain is that this whole thing is incredibly tricky and complex, for both sides. It's obviously not an easy task to navigate the world of advertising, PR, content creation, funding etc as a gaming site. Likewise, it can be hard as the audience to know whats going on behind closed doors. And when shady stuff does pop up, like it has recently, it makes it even harder for everyone. The audience is seeing corruption in every shadow, and the game sites are seeing hate and derision in every criticism.

I do think the more everyone talks about it, the closer to a mutual understanding we get, and an overall net positive is coming out of all this.
 
Jul 7, 2009
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I worked in a gaming related company and our PR manager would often speak to the press for coverage, as was his job. After some time the writers just told him they would include our company's product as long as we wrote the text (1 page, 1/2 page etc) in the style of the magazine. So the writers were not even cutting and pasting a press release at all just dropping in an article written by the company's PR manager.
welp
 
Nov 30, 2011
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I'm not really sure what additional level of transparency you're looking for. We're already quite candid about our policies and have discussed editorial issues like this to death on the podcast over the years. Are you just interested in seeing people in this line of work talking shit about each other? Between this and people Tweeting me nonsense like "HEY MAN POLYGON STOLE YOUR TAGLINE WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT??" I sometimes think some folks just want more Twitter drama in your lives.

I also think a lot of people in this thread are painting everyone who gets paid to write about video games with the same brush, when in reality there are tons of different jobs at tons of different levels. For example, I understand why a freelancer might want to get into the financially lucrative mock review market. I'm not going to begrudge someone doing something that puts food on their family's table, especially these days. But I wouldn't let anyone who writes for me do that, and if they had been doing it recently it'd probably prevent me from even assigning freelance work in their direction because it creates a conflict of interest that I'm not comfortable with.

It's the same reason I once threatened to fire someone because he had vocal dreams about someday working in development. Those two things aren't compatible. I actually used to take it really personally when someone made the jump into development. Nowadays, it's happened enough to people I respect that I've come to understand why some people do it and the ways that it can happen without it causing people to compromise themselves as critics. Sometimes people change their minds. Sometimes people fall into jobs. If my firing hadn't generated a lot of public outcry and I was forced to hit the actual job market, I might have ended up as... I don't know, a publisher-side producer or something insane like that. That shit happens. Sometimes people just grow up and don't want to work the weird hours that people like me end up working. Oftentimes the pay is significantly better. Sometimes there's an asshole like me in the EIC position and it's clear that I'm never going to leave, which in turn prevents other people from getting promoted. There are a billion reasons, it turns out. It took me over a decade of doing this to finally realize that people who went into development weren't betraying their now-former lives.

We'll go over some of the recent happenings on the podcast this week, I'm sure, but I also don't think it'll ever be enough for some of you because it's starting to feel like some of you have smelled blood and have convinced yourselves that this entire line of work is morally bankrupt. That's fine, you're certainly welcome to your opinion, and I'm not really interested in swaying you one way or the other. I spent years wringing my hands about that sort of stuff and sweating it to death and we still got nothing but shit from people who were CONVINCED that everyone was on the take. If you don't feel like you can trust me, go find an outlet that you do trust and support that instead. I'm comfortable enough with our policies and the more I sit and defend it, the more some of you will come up with weird theories about how that just makes me look less trustworthy.

The reason why I think some people in my position are blowing this off is because we've spent the last five years being all navel gazey about our line of work. Getting fired ended up generating a lot of conversation like that. I think the general feeling is that most readers and listeners have already heard us cover this ground and there isn't much more to add beyond "well, some of those people overseas are certainly behaving in a completely inappropriate way, aren't they?" But you all already know that. And I'd like to think that you'd know that I'm not out there behaving like that.

In short, please stop treating every single Tweet you see as a smoking gun of some kind (though HOLY SHIT some of that stuff looks bad).

*****
Boy, all this posting sure makes me hungry. I don't know about you, but when I get Big Hunger I think small! Kentucky Fried Chicken's Chicken Littles are available now at your local KFC!
*****

Fun Fact: This recent uproar over non-endemic product placement might put a bullet in some of the bigger, travel-heavy ideas I've pitched. Maybe that's for the best, maybe the tax on our credibility would be too high. But with the amount of money I wanted to spend shipping the team around the continent and putting on shows it'd be the sort of thing that would need a sponsor, like some sort of "and after the show let's meet up in the Fast Food Restaurant #3 or Big But Failing Tech Retailer #7 Parking Lot" sort of public appearance thing. It's, admittedly, not a great option, but at least it's cleaner than going around and doing verbal mentions of actual games. On top of that, I think going out and filming a world tour kind of thing would be fun.

Either way, the ad market is still really weird. Regular banners are increasingly useless, but video ads are, I'm told, holding their value. This was the basic idea that Whiskey Media's ad plan was founded on, but the process moves incredibly slowly, so most ad buyers wanted to buy raw pageviews (which we didn't have enough of) for their banners instead of this nebulous "engagement" thing that we're quite good at. We're the guys putting up hour-long videos in an era when everyone still thinks anything over three minutes is worthless. I'm convinced that, in the long run, we'll be right and everyone else will be wrong. The completion percentages on our video views already bears that out, to some extent.

Figuring out how to make all of that work as a business without it being completely sleazy is, as it turns out, kind of difficult and requires a series of checks and balances to be in place. So expect everyone in the business of putting content on the Internet to keep trying different things on the ad side. Some of it will work, some of it will come off as completely filthy. I feel like I already have a pretty good idea of where the line is, but the good news is that by letting us know when the line gets crossed anywhere on the Internet, you're potentially helping to define the future of advertising... in some weird way. At any rate, I sent this thread to our sales/marketing team so they can hopefully understand what it's really like out here.
Really appreciate this Jeff. I think to be fair although a lot of practices have been highlighted over the past week that a lot of us took for granted. You are right though, as much as some of these are very nefarious, people are looking for a smoking gun whilst there is plenty on the table to stoke a healthy debate for years. After your own experience it seams rather crass to suggest any ulterior motive regards to how you were presented with a 3DS.
 
Jul 7, 2009
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MonsterDunk said:
The reason why I think some people in my position are blowing this off is because we've spent the last five years being all navel gazey about our line of work. Getting fired ended up generating a lot of conversation like that. I think the general feeling is that most readers and listeners have already heard us cover this ground and there isn't much more to add beyond "well, some of those people overseas are certainly behaving in a completely inappropriate way, aren't they?" But you all already know that. And I'd like to think that you'd know that I'm not out there behaving like that.
All that five year navel gazing seems to have had zero impact though.

Whereas this recent turn of events may have opened not a few eyes to the going ons in the games media world.

So if you are serious about debating these issues now is the time to strike.
 
Dec 31, 2005
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In the grand scheme of things, isn't the majority of gaming money spent by people that don't frequent game journalism sites often?
I'm not sure if that's something that can really be qualified, but the heavily front-loaded sales trajectories of most games suggests that the majority of game buyers (at least in the retail space) are people who are influenced by the pre-release PR hype cycle.

Whether that means their hype is fueled by PR directly, through the gaming press or thorugh (gasp!) NeoGAF or other web forums is hard to say, exactly.
 
Sep 1, 2005
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An addendum - I really don't have a problem with video game advertisement. I don't. I understand that it's damn hard to get a product out there and have it be successful with the absurd budgets involved in modern game development, especially for high production value games.

It's the job of these marketing companies and these PR agencies to control the message, to control the access, to shape the reception, to generate hype, and to smoothly build up to the release of the game, regardless of the quality of the game.

But how it is handled by the gaming websites is difficult for me to swallow. I'm not going to call out specific examples, there are far too many to list, anyone with any knowledge of this stuff knows exactly what I'm talking about, beyond all the examples in this thread of really obnoxious stuff.

I don't really know if there is a good way to have game ads on sites at the same time as there is theoretically independant, uninfluenced content being created about those same games.

On some level I think I would be happier with completely blatant advertising (this weeks features brought to you by: sponsor), because right now, a lot of the 'news articles' on these sites are simply advertising by another name. That's what an unboxing is. That's what a 'list of exciting new features' is. That's what a carefully screened, timed release of interviews is. Those are messages and timings that PR wants out, at a specific time, for a specific title. And they're all over every news site on the day of.

The entire concept of embargo dates and such is completely hilarious to me, particularly prerelease previews et al. They're dictating exactly when and often how that material is covered. But it's all independantly written, you decry. Show me substantive differences in preview content for a major title on the day an embargo comes up. You'll also find site after site describing the same feature before release, because that's the only information available on the game.

The majority of this only applies to really big games, which need the least attention, the least help to penetrate the market, while smaller titles tend to work their way up from the other direction, only getting significant traction if players and fans spread the love until some news site notices the buzz and picks up on it.

To me at least, it's not really news if ten sites post the same damn press release at the same time. That information has no value as unique reporting to me. If ONE site posts an interview with a developer of a game I've never heard of, that wouldn't otherwise be getting any coverage, that has value to me.

And yes, again, I know there are sites that do this, but even if a larger site picks up on something like that, it's typically going to be drowned out in the storm of 'big daddy' PR information for bigger titles that makes up the bulk of the 24/7 news cycle for gaming pages.

It's not just the quality of the individual article, it's an issue of raw quantity of information. Big titles will see multiple 'bumps' in the news cycle over the prerelease span up until release, and its very easy for one shot articles, features, interviews, etc to get drowned in that mess.

And fucking forget it if that (interesting, to me) content is also competing with what I consider horrible and vapid articles that make up a chunk of the newsscape (oh boy, a top ten list you say? reasons why <x 50 million selling game> isn't that great?).

Again, I understand some of that stuff gets hits, and thats great, but it does not get hits from me. I don't know how widespread disgust towards that sort of material is though, shrug.

edit: Also how fucking boring is that for your job if you're spending x hours every day reposting shit from the same PR offices instead of tracking down an interesting story on a smaller game, or an important industry story about companies misbehaving, unusual trends in the marketplace, or whatever else would actually qualify as unique content. I can't imagine that's a bed of roses.
 
Mar 25, 2007
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Sweden
Update: RPGCodex, Penny-Arcade 2, Zissou, Stephen Totilo 17, 18, Rab Florence Tweets, Destructoid, Jeff Gerstmann 1-5 (2 via EternalGamer, highlights some other stuff, 3-5 are his forum posts here), JSchreier 22-28, BoingBoing. Also changed the layout. Didn't add stuff about Wainwright since it's been made clear this is not about her.

Current articles/videos/podcasts
Wings over Sealand articles (second article has summary) 1 2
Rab Florence (the guy who started all this) criticizing games writing since 2008
John Walker's (Rock Paper Shotgun) blog (start with Games Journalists, And The Perception Of Corruption, includes guest post by Rab Florence)
TotalBiscuit
Jim Sterling
Penny-Arcade 1 2
Gamasutra
Forbes
Worthplaying
GiantBomb
Jason Lauritzen editorial and GAF post
RPGCodex writes an excellent summary
Destructoid
BoingBoing

Old (but still relevant) articles/videos/podcasts
An old episode of CGW Radio discussing Gerstmann-gate
Old Gamasutra article on the influence of PR
Old GFW radio bits

Comments from the industry
Shawn Elliot - 1 (aegies is Arthur Gies of polygon.com) 2 3 4 5 6 on the psychology of PR etc
and some more Arthur Gies - 1 2 3 4 5 and some replies 1 2 3
Jeff Green on the way it actually works, and another post, an another
ShockingAlberto on his view as a former games writer
Jason Schreier (Kotaku) - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
N'Gai Croal initial reaction on Twitter
Chris Schilling (freelance) likes both people involved and so doesn't want to write about it
Danny O'Dwyer (Gamespot UK) on why his site won't cover this (audience is not interested) - 1 2 3
GillianSeed79 and firehawk12 on how journalist do criticize their peers
pastapadre on being shunned by the industry
Stephen Totilo (Kotaku) doesn't think this is an important story (has changed his mind about that part, read post 9). Wants to focus on good games journalism, this prompted a pretty funny picture and a comment about it, then Stephen Totilo enters the thread 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 (ignore the comment on 18, couldn't find a direct link to Totilo's comment)
Weekend Confirmed 1 2
Syriel on his experiences of PR
Jeff Gerstmann short comment on swag
Christian Donlan and Simon Parkin of Eurogamer want to change how they do things[/QUOTE]
Nert on his experience as PR in the tech industry 1 2
John Walker (RPS) on why the site won't cover it like his blog did
Rab Florence tweets
Jeff Gerstmann 1 (1 is from Tumblr) 2 (2 via EternalGamer, highlights some other stuff) 3 4 5 (3-5 are comments by Jeff in this thread)

Comments from others
voodoopanda highlights that the issue is not in any way black or white
Snowden's Secret comments on gaming press reactions
Zissou weighs in

Other relevant/interesting links and examples of PR
Examples of various press kits
The 3DS comes to GiantBomb
Letter sent to reviewers from UbiSoft along with their press copy of Assassin's Creed 3
How Rockstar handled the reviews for GTA4
 
Nov 6, 2006
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Really appreciate this Jeff. I think to be fair although a lot of practices have been highlighted over the past week that a lot of us took for granted. You are right though, as much as some of these are very nefarious, people are looking for a smoking gun whilst there is plenty on the table to stoke a healthy debate for years. After your own experience it seams rather crass to suggest any ulterior motive regards to how you were presented with a 3DS.
I don't think any of us ever even suggested an ulterior motive there. Rather it was merely a conversation about how PR leverages the creation of content. But, yeah, it is small potatoes compared to a lot of the conversation here. It was really more of an intellectualizing on the topic.
 
Aug 12, 2007
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Ultimately I think Jeff hit on what makes this part of their job so tough and also what makes it so potentially ugly. It's a very fine line between integrity and selling out. Thankfully, it sounds like some journalists are starting to hear some of what the more reasonable voices are saying. A lot of gaming coverage simply looks... questionable. And this latest series of events has brought that to a head for a lot of us, allowing us to identify some questionable structures and practices. Gaining some perspective is good for all of us, on all sides of this bizarre flare up.
 
Jan 29, 2012
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I'm not really sure what additional level of transparency you're looking for. We're already quite candid about our policies and have discussed editorial issues like this to death on the podcast over the years. Are you just interested in seeing people in this line of work talking shit about each other? Between this and people Tweeting me nonsense like "HEY MAN POLYGON STOLE YOUR TAGLINE WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT??" I sometimes think some folks just want more Twitter drama in your lives.

I also think a lot of people in this thread are painting everyone who gets paid to write about video games with the same brush, when in reality there are tons of different jobs at tons of different levels. For example, I understand why a freelancer might want to get into the financially lucrative mock review market. I'm not going to begrudge someone doing something that puts food on their family's table, especially these days. But I wouldn't let anyone who writes for me do that, and if they had been doing it recently it'd probably prevent me from even assigning freelance work in their direction because it creates a conflict of interest that I'm not comfortable with.

It's the same reason I once threatened to fire someone because he had vocal dreams about someday working in development. Those two things aren't compatible. I actually used to take it really personally when someone made the jump into development. Nowadays, it's happened enough to people I respect that I've come to understand why some people do it and the ways that it can happen without it causing people to compromise themselves as critics. Sometimes people change their minds. Sometimes people fall into jobs. If my firing hadn't generated a lot of public outcry and I was forced to hit the actual job market, I might have ended up as... I don't know, a publisher-side producer or something insane like that. That shit happens. Sometimes people just grow up and don't want to work the weird hours that people like me end up working. Oftentimes the pay is significantly better. Sometimes there's an asshole like me in the EIC position and it's clear that I'm never going to leave, which in turn prevents other people from getting promoted. There are a billion reasons, it turns out. It took me over a decade of doing this to finally realize that people who went into development weren't betraying their now-former lives.

We'll go over some of the recent happenings on the podcast this week, I'm sure, but I also don't think it'll ever be enough for some of you because it's starting to feel like some of you have smelled blood and have convinced yourselves that this entire line of work is morally bankrupt. That's fine, you're certainly welcome to your opinion, and I'm not really interested in swaying you one way or the other. I spent years wringing my hands about that sort of stuff and sweating it to death and we still got nothing but shit from people who were CONVINCED that everyone was on the take. If you don't feel like you can trust me, go find an outlet that you do trust and support that instead. I'm comfortable enough with our policies and the more I sit and defend it, the more some of you will come up with weird theories about how that just makes me look less trustworthy.

The reason why I think some people in my position are blowing this off is because we've spent the last five years being all navel gazey about our line of work. Getting fired ended up generating a lot of conversation like that. I think the general feeling is that most readers and listeners have already heard us cover this ground and there isn't much more to add beyond "well, some of those people overseas are certainly behaving in a completely inappropriate way, aren't they?" But you all already know that. And I'd like to think that you'd know that I'm not out there behaving like that.

In short, please stop treating every single Tweet you see as a smoking gun of some kind (though HOLY SHIT some of that stuff looks bad).

*****
Boy, all this posting sure makes me hungry. I don't know about you, but when I get Big Hunger I think small! Kentucky Fried Chicken's Chicken Littles are available now at your local KFC!
*****

Fun Fact: This recent uproar over non-endemic product placement might put a bullet in some of the bigger, travel-heavy ideas I've pitched. Maybe that's for the best, maybe the tax on our credibility would be too high. But with the amount of money I wanted to spend shipping the team around the continent and putting on shows it'd be the sort of thing that would need a sponsor, like some sort of "and after the show let's meet up in the Fast Food Restaurant #3 or Big But Failing Tech Retailer #7 Parking Lot" sort of public appearance thing. It's, admittedly, not a great option, but at least it's cleaner than going around and doing verbal mentions of actual games. On top of that, I think going out and filming a world tour kind of thing would be fun.

Either way, the ad market is still really weird. Regular banners are increasingly useless, but video ads are, I'm told, holding their value. This was the basic idea that Whiskey Media's ad plan was founded on, but the process moves incredibly slowly, so most ad buyers wanted to buy raw pageviews (which we didn't have enough of) for their banners instead of this nebulous "engagement" thing that we're quite good at. We're the guys putting up hour-long videos in an era when everyone still thinks anything over three minutes is worthless. I'm convinced that, in the long run, we'll be right and everyone else will be wrong. The completion percentages on our video views already bears that out, to some extent.

Figuring out how to make all of that work as a business without it being completely sleazy is, as it turns out, kind of difficult and requires a series of checks and balances to be in place. So expect everyone in the business of putting content on the Internet to keep trying different things on the ad side. Some of it will work, some of it will come off as completely filthy. I feel like I already have a pretty good idea of where the line is, but the good news is that by letting us know when the line gets crossed anywhere on the Internet, you're potentially helping to define the future of advertising... in some weird way. At any rate, I sent this thread to our sales/marketing team so they can hopefully understand what it's really like out here.
Excellent post. I look forward to many pages of isolated quotes being taken out of context and misinterpreted.
 
Nov 30, 2011
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All that five year navel gazing seems to have had zero impact though.

Whereas this recent turn of events may have opened not a few eyes to the going ons in the games media world.

So if you are serious about debating these issues now is the time to strike.
Someone posted a scan of an issue of Amiga Power from April 1995 that highlighted what was going on in the UK. For those who are unfamiliar with AP they really got under publishers nose's. They felt that an average game should be scored a 5 which most publishers where none to happy. AP were pretty much blacklisted by the big boys for fear of getting a bad review or to be fair give an honest review. Didn't stop them too much though as they would just go buy a retail copy when said game came out and give their verdict (I know it was touched upon in the thread that people would be fine with late reviews). This wasn't just some fanzine or a struggling publication but was, at the time, the most popular gaming magazine in the UK.
 
Feb 7, 2011
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Ultimately I think Jeff hit on what makes this part of their job so tough and also what makes it so potentially ugly. It's a very fine line between integrity and selling out. Thankfully, it sounds like some journalists are starting to hear some of what the more reasonable voices are saying. A lot of gaming coverage simply looks... questionable. And this latest series of events has brought that to a head for a lot of us, allowing us to identify some questionable structures and practices. Gaining some perspective is good for all of us, on all sides of this bizarre flare up.
It took 125 pages to gain the perspective that videogame journalism is sloppy when it comes to stuff like this? Impressive
 
Nov 30, 2011
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I don't think any of us ever even suggested an ulterior motive there. Rather it was merely a conversation about how PR leverages the creation of content. But, yeah, it is small potatoes compared to a lot of the conversation here. It was really more of an intellectualizing on the topic.
Sorry that might have come off wrong. I wasn't suggesting anyone has said anything of the sort, let alone here but using this as an example that sometimes people can get rather tunneled and look for something that isn't there.
 
Sep 1, 2005
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I think post release reviews are a dead concept, I don't see any realistic way for sites that only do those to compete with sites that do in terms of traffic.

Now, whether consumer behavior is altering because of the widespread damn near instantaneous availability of information about a new game on day 1 - that's a more interesting question.

If you can wait one day, literally one day, you will have dozens, hundreds, thousands of youtube videos, twitch streams, and forum posts to absorb, forget gaming press website reviews.

All the information you need to make a very informed decision is right there at your fingertips, in some cases the same damn afternoon the game came out if it's a big midnight release title.

You can be certain advertisers, marketers, and PR are watching that sort of consumer behavior carefully.
 
Nov 6, 2006
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Excellent post. I look forward to many pages of isolated quotes being taken out of context and misinterpreted.


It took 125 pages to gain the perspective that videogame journalism is sloppy when it comes to stuff like this? Impressive
What is with the sudden meta-trolling of this thread. This has been one of the best threads I have ever read/participated in here. Yes there are drive by comments; there always are. But there is also a lot of really, really good discussion.
 
Funny to think about how much free advertisement Doritos and Mountain Dew have gotten out of this whole thing.
Heh. It isn't always that those that land the killing blow get the spoils.

Suddenly Andrea's statements on Weekend Confirmed make a lot more sense. She works for Machinima. They got PAID money by EA to post early videos of Need for Speed.
She continues to deliver continual reminders of why I don't like her.

True, a forced segment on the Cast would be artificial, and with so many before you NOT doing so it would look like a dick move. "Lookit at these fucks over here. They for real? pfffffffft" Sad, really, as I like the Inside Baseball stuff when it sneaks in on Bombcasts, TNTs, and Jar Times.
 
Nov 6, 2006
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I think post release reviews are a dead concept, I don't see any realistic way for sites that only do those to compete with sites that do in terms of traffic.

Now, whether consumer behavior is altering because of the widespread damn near instantaneous availability of information about a new game on day 1 - that's a more interesting question.

If you can wait one day, literally one day, you will have dozens, hundreds, thousands of youtube videos, twitch streams, and forum posts to absorb, forget gaming press website reviews.

All the information you need to make a very informed decision is right there at your fingertips, in some cases the same damn afternoon the game came out if it's a big midnight release title.

You can be certain advertisers, marketers, and PR are watching that sort of consumer behavior carefully.
Giant Bomb quite regularly writes post-release reviews. Their X-Com review was nearly a week after release, for example.
 
Aug 12, 2007
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It took 125 pages to gain the perspective that videogame journalism is sloppy when it comes to stuff like this? Impressive
I was actually talking about Jeff, not myself. Yes, it took 125 pages to get the attention of dozens of different journalists, many of whom posted in this thread, and yet one more seems to be slowly recognizing what many of us have been talking about for the last week. And, yes, I do think that's impressive.
 

MonsterDunk

Giant Bomb eSports Editor
Mar 7, 2008
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www.giantbomb.com
But the bigger issue in my opinion is the result of billions of dollars and years of research to perfect the ways PR can subtly influence writers' opinions. You know it's effective because you know you think you are not being affected.
So... I don't inherently disagree with this concept, but I think it's not Conspiracy Theory enough for my tastes. They've got bigger fish to fry than the enthusiast media. Some of us speak to large audiences and can be influential, but we reach people that already know and love games. That crowd, while large, isn't large enough for most publishers. If they want to influence people, they're going to do it with widespread advertising that goes directly to the public before any critical oversight can touch it.

Already we see plenty of cases where publishers are skipping over the press completely when it comes to releasing trailers and other preview-related information. Some publishers are attempting to cut people like me out of the loop. They're conducting and posting their own developer interviews and packaging them up into little minishows. They're more interested in getting Likes to their Facebook page than even bothering to offer any game site a 24-hour exclusive with a trailer. They're collecting user information directly and contacting you directly. Some publishers are embracing a new (and, in some cases, naive) population of YouTube and Twitch users, some of whom could be more easily swayed by the notion of getting a free game. Many of these people probably wouldn't self-identify as journalists, but they're gaining audiences of people and gaining influence.

I'm actually fine with all that, because even if I have to buy every single game we cover, I will always have the final say. And there are more interesting ways to preview games than to shit out 300 words on Gun #7 or The Food of San Andreas, which has become my favorite example of the preview cycle gone wrong, even if it's a little dated these days. As long as there's an audience that's interested in an independent and considered voice on that topic, people like me will serve a purpose.

Also I can sort of beatbox, which is a decent fall back in case this whole thing falls apart.
 
Nov 30, 2011
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I'm aware, I'm talking broadly - as in, enough to kill Metacritic dead. I don't see that happening. GB is unique in its memberships and inception as well.
I think though the way most site are financed, with ads, that if they were willing to take a gamble and say "Lets take our time and give this a worthy review" whilst everyone has already got there's written and ready for publication as soon as an embargo has lifted they might run the risk of getting left behind or worse getting next to no hits and a subsequent drop in revenue. If they really all wanted change it would have to be all of them or none of them I fear.
 
Jun 7, 2004
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I don't think being sponsored by a company is a bad thing. People don't discredit ESPN analysts because they are brought to us by All-State. It is shady when you are doing an interview about the quality of a product, surrounded by tons of merchandise with that product stamped on it.
Ironically enough, ESPN's "journalistic integrity" might be even shadier than video game journos. They have working, paying relationships with a lot of the organizations and people they are supposed to be impartially reporting on. You don't think the multimillion dollar deals they have with the NFL and NBA, for example, are in conflict with reporting stories about those leagues? They already ran into hot water with the Ben Roethlisberger rape allegation story a few years back.
 
Dec 5, 2008
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Good discussion regurgitating the same stuff we hear all the time.
Have you read Jeff post? Have you read Jason and Totilo posts here? Have you read some of the reactions of games writers to this outside of this thread saying that they will most certainly change behaviors? Don't demean the discussion that is here in this thread, or in other outlets, as it is seems to be getting some results. This thread has six thousand and something posts, four hundred thousand views and some change. Its reach is greater than your cynic post might insinuate. And it is growing. Try to add something of significance to it. Maybe you'll be surprised and have some results back.
 
Oct 22, 2009
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You know it's effective because you know you think you are not being affected.
I fucking love this sentence. There's no win condition.

You know you're being affected = you lose.
You're not being affected = you're being affected but don't know it and lose.

Monsterdunk said:
Also I can sort of beatbox, which is a decent fall back in case this whole thing falls apart.
Your fans demand a beatbox bombcast opening!
 
Dec 31, 2005
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So... I don't inherently disagree with this concept, but I think it's not Conspiracy Theory enough for my tastes. They've got bigger fish to fry than the enthusiast media. Some of us speak to large audiences and can be influential, but we reach people that already know and love games. That crowd, while large, isn't large enough for most publishers. If they want to influence people, they're going to do it with widespread advertising that goes directly to the public before any critical oversight can touch it.

Already we see plenty of cases where publishers are skipping over the press completely when it comes to releasing trailers and other preview-related information. Some publishers are attempting to cut people like me out of the loop. They're conducting and posting their own developer interviews and packaging them up into little minishows. They're more interested in getting Likes to their Facebook page than even bothering to offer any game site a 24-hour exclusive with a trailer. They're collecting user information directly and contacting you directly. Some publishers are embracing a new (and, in some cases, naive) population of YouTube and Twitch users, some of whom could be more easily swayed by the notion of getting a free game. Many of these people probably wouldn't self-identify as journalists, but they're gaining audiences of people and gaining influence.

I'm actually fine with all that, because even if I have to buy every single game we cover, I will always have the final say. And there are more interesting ways to preview games than to shit out 300 words on Gun #7 or The Food of San Andreas, which has become my favorite example of the preview cycle gone wrong, even if it's a little dated these days. As long as there's an audience that's interested in an independent and considered voice on that topic, people like me will serve a purpose.

Also I can sort of beatbox, which is a decent fall back in case this whole thing falls apart.
I don't think most (or even many) here at this point think it's all some big conspiracy, but PR is good at what they do, and nobody is really immune to it.

I think your site is in a rather uncommon position, where your viewership is relatively small compared to the mega sites, and the site is really about you and the other guys on the team as much or more than the games you cover. Just look at the reactions to most of the Quick Look EX videos that get posted. A lot of the audience don't want to hear (most of) those guys talk about their games in lieu of getting the GB crew's take.

This might lead to you guys getting a little less pressure than some other places might. It might also be due to the fact that some of these PR types know you're all veterans of the industry and probably a bit more hardened to the siren song than most. You especially, given your history.

That said, a lot of the content that shows up on GB is still de-facto ads for games. I know I've bought games based on watching you guys play them on a QL or TNT (Hotline Miami comes to mind as a recent example), so I can even confirm that it's effective advertising. I don't think I'm telling you anything you don't know here, but I think a lot of readers of this thread and the other articles posted on the net are becoming more aware of the PR hype train and its effects on the gaming media. I think it's a discussion that's important to continue, since there's always new younger gamers out there who may not realize what's really going on and how advertisers use various ways to manipulate consumers.

Most of it isn't moustache-twiddling villainy, but there's a pervasive creep of it in all forms of media, and it's important for media personalities and consumers to remain cognizant of it.
 
Aug 12, 2007
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So... I don't inherently disagree with this concept, but I think it's not Conspiracy Theory enough for my tastes. They've got bigger fish to fry than the enthusiast media. Some of us speak to large audiences and can be influential, but we reach people that already know and love games. That crowd, while large, isn't large enough for most publishers. If they want to influence people, they're going to do it with widespread advertising that goes directly to the public before any critical oversight can touch it.
But I'm positive that doesn't stop them from trying at every turn. They may devote more money to mainstream media and advertising, but I'm sure they give you more of their time and energy than you'd like. And even though you probably wouldn't want to speak to the issue, the smaller outlets and vast army of freelancers are less equipped to hold their ground than you are.

Already we see plenty of cases where publishers are skipping over the press completely when it comes to releasing trailers and other preview-related information. Some publishers are attempting to cut people like me out of the loop. They're conducting and posting their own developer interviews and packaging them up into little minishows. They're more interested in getting Likes to their Facebook page than even bothering to offer any game site a 24-hour exclusive with a trailer. They're collecting user information directly and contacting you directly. Some publishers are embracing a new (and, in some cases, naive) population of YouTube and Twitch users, some of whom could be more easily swayed by the notion of getting a free game. Many of these people probably wouldn't self-identify as journalists, but they're gaining audiences of people and gaining influence.
...which is something we've discussed in this thread. It seems to me that some basic content (trailers and whatnot) would be better suited to come direct from publishers. It forces you all to be more editorial and unique. Luckily, you at GB seem to have that covered.

I'm actually fine with all that, because even if I have to buy every single game we cover, I will always have the final say. And there are more interesting ways to preview games than to shit out 300 words on Gun #7 or The Food of San Andreas, which has become my favorite example of the preview cycle gone wrong, even if it's a little dated these days. As long as there's an audience that's interested in an independent and considered voice on that topic, people like me will serve a purpose.
Awesome. I may be slowly coming around to your schtick, Jeff.
 
Sep 20, 2006
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Excellent Eriador
Ironically enough, ESPN's "journalistic integrity" might be even shadier than video game journos. They have working, paying relationships with a lot of the organizations and people they are supposed to be impartially reporting on. You don't think the multimillion dollar deals they have with the NFL and NBA, for example, are in conflict with reporting stories about those leagues? They already ran into hot water with the Ben Roethlisberger rape allegation story a few years back.
Don't forget the Craig James/Mike Leach thing.
 
I think the big thing about GB is they have let you get to know themselves and the 'friends of the site' in a way that mitigates a lot as you have your knowledge of the staff to accompany what they are telling you an help frame and add depth to the information your getting.

Same goes for trusting GAF and other favourite commentators.

I thought this might fall away with the fall of the magazine style site to the fresher more personal YouTube style commentary on games but Jeff has a great point if PR are turning their eyes to a more vulnerable prey and also evolving.
 

MonsterDunk

Giant Bomb eSports Editor
Mar 7, 2008
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After your own experience it seams rather crass to suggest any ulterior motive regards to how you were presented with a 3DS.
My previous experience doesn't mean that I should be above reproach, either. I'm just some dude that has seen the industry go through a lot of weird changes, from the time Namco took us out to fly planes over Vegas to the Eidos E3 party in Atlanta that supposedly had "working girls" in some weird VIP area to today, with everyone running out of money and bringing their events down to a more reasonable level. So it's interesting to see people up in arms about the way things are these days... because it used to look a lot worse. Social media, for better or for worse, has made everybody a lot more accountable. There was no Twitter when Sony put us all into a demolition derby to promote Twisted Metal 4. Anyway, people often tell me that I should probably write a book at some point.

I often sweat decisions about whether or not to post things like that 3DS delivery, because I know how it can look. But it was just too weird. Sometimes I feel like people need to see the insane lengths that some companies go through to make their product stand out from the crowd of junk that crosses our desks every day. In the case of that 3DS video, I knew it would look flashy, but I also felt like people needed to know how fucking weird this business can be sometimes. In other cases, I might not say much publicly because I don't want to give any extra airtime to a brand. I got an autographed (by game developers) bag of chips with a video game logo on it today. Given the current promotions out there I'm sure it's not hard to figure out what I'm talking about. But if I promote their product directly by mentioning it by name on Twitter, they win. And fuck that.

Anyway, I think a lot of that fancy delivery stuff is more meant for the mainstream press. Obviously people like us would cover the 3DS, we're a game site. But if you're a PR person that needs to catch the attention of a tech editor at a newspaper that maybe writes one game article a month, you need to include some sort of stupid flag in the package. You need to send the chain of girls. You need to hope that you make an impression and get that writer to take one extra look at your product before tossing it aside. Because that guy reaches people who don't already read game sites and see game trailers and memorize game release dates. That guy isn't preaching to the choir. That guy is, like, the PR holy grail or something. If he writes about your product, millions of people who might not have heard about your game otherwise now know it exists.

Fun Sort-of-Related Fact: I apparently reach like 10,000,000 people a week or something with a syndicated 60-second radio bit I started doing when we were picked up by CBS. That sounds crazy, but then I don't know how radio works in terms of audience counting. It's sort of like that newspaper guy because 60 seconds is really only enough for one game and, except in rare cases, I try to pick something that's out that week. Should I pick Assassin's Creed 3 or Need for Speed: Most Wanted? Since I reviewed one and not the other, I'll probably pick Need for Speed, even though the dude who does the editing on them said that the car games "sound boring." I like doing it because it's giving me a little more perspective on the mainstream side of things and writing really short scripts that still say something meaningful about the game is actually really fucking hard.

Uh... OK, I really need to go to sleep now.
 
Feb 27, 2006
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...
Figuring out how to make all of that work as a business without it being completely sleazy is, as it turns out, kind of difficult and requires a series of checks and balances to be in place. So expect everyone in the business of putting content on the Internet to keep trying different things on the ad side. Some of it will work, some of it will come off as completely filthy. I feel like I already have a pretty good idea of where the line is, but the good news is that by letting us know when the line gets crossed anywhere on the Internet, you're potentially helping to define the future of advertising... in some weird way. At any rate, I sent this thread to our sales/marketing team so they can hopefully understand what it's really like out here.
You're welcome. Thank you.
 
May 20, 2009
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It´s pretty hard to keep up with this thread, so I have no idea if this has been mentioned before. But do you guys really think you can change how the industry works...? it´s the same old story all the time, some reviewer or PR person fucks up, and releases some "suspect" news that shouldn´t be on the net for people to read.. forums have a discussion for some days/weeks, and think they are entitled to a better treatment from the "games journalists"

do you remember Battlefield 3..? the game that launched last year.. and reviewers (in scandinavia at least) had to fill out a questionnaire if they wanted to review the game before it hit the shops..?



if the reviewers "failed" the questionnaire, they where not allowed an early copy.. That was a questionnaire from the PR company.. crazy but true. We discussed it, but nothing ever changed..

How do you guys intent to change the industry this time around..?
 
Jul 7, 2009
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It´s pretty hard to keep up with this thread, so I have no idea if this has been mentioned before. But do you guys really think you can change how the industry works...? it´s the same old story all the time, some reviewer or PR person fucks up, and releases some "suspect" news that shouldn´t be on the net for people to read.. forums have a discussion for some days/weeks, and think they are entitled to a better treatment from the "games journalists"

do you remember Battlefield 3..? the game that launched last year.. and reviewers (in scandinavia at least) had to fill out a questionnaire if they wanted to review the game before it hit the shops..?



if the reviewers "failed" the questionnaire, they where not allowed an early copy.. That was a questionnaire from the PR company.. crazy but true. We discussed it, but nothing ever changed..

How do you guys intent to change the industry this time around..?
The rot, it is everywhere.
 
Jan 29, 2012
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What is with thr sudden meta-trolling of this thread. This has been one of the best threads I have ever read/participated in here. Yes there are drive by comments; there always are. But there is also a lot of really, really good discussion.
It's not sudden (and my view is not that of the other poster's comment). There's some great insight and discussion going on in this thread and elsewhere, however much of it's drowned out by the gibbering, flawed dissections, and venomous reactions of those (including some "journalists") who seem to have just had their eyes opened for the first time as to how the world works, and are taking it far too personally. Can you tell me truthfully that what I predicted in my previous post hasn't already come to pass?
 
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