Earlier this week Kotaku reported receiving an annoymous tip claiming that long time reviewer Jeff Gerstmann had been fired from Gamespot because he had given a bad review (6/10) for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. This was, apparently, a massive conflict of interest, since Eidos (publisher of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men) had taken out a huge, full page ad for the game on Gamespot.
The full size ad
Eidos took issue with the review, apparently they couldn’t understand they paid for advertising and not a 10/10 review (or did the Gamespot sales team promise otherwise). What was the management at Gamespot to do? Fire Gerstmann after 10 years of hard work and keep the money, of course. Kotaku dug further, and finally managed to get a comment from CNET (Gamespot is part of the CNET network) about the issue:
GameSpot takes its editorial integrity extremely seriously. For over a decade, GameSpot and the many members of its editorial team have produced thousands of unbiased reviews that have been a valuable resource for the gaming community. At CNET Networks, we stand behind the editorial content that our teams produce on a daily basis.
Somehow, I highly doubt that by the massive amounts of ads placed everywhere on the site. Nice damage control, though. The plot thickens even more, as an alleged Gamespot employee revealed more of what was going on inside Gamespot. The main issue people saw with this whole story was that the review was published two weeks before Gerstmann was fire, why wait two weeks? The anonymous employee responded:
Also, despite the fact that this occurred two weeks ago, there was no way they were going to fire him then; the last big games didn’t come out until just before Thanksgiving, and there was no doubt that management knew that the rest of the reviewers would refuse to write any reviews after his termination, which is indeed what is happening. After thanksgiving nothing major comes out in games; everything is either before thanksgiving or comes out in January. They waited to fire him until they knew that any strike or walkout by the rest of the staff wouldn’t have much of an effect.
Also, keep in mind that these salespeople do have axes to grind with editorial. I know a lot of people busted their asses to get not only this large deal with Eidos done, but also other huge ad deals. The salespeople and the marketers are the ones who have to deal with the publishers when a heavily-advertised game gets a bad review, so obviously they like it if every game that comes out is peachy keen and gets a 9.0 or above. If a salesperson knows anything about unprofessional review practices, then that says a lot about the management team that we have in place because not a single other member of the editorial team had heard word one about this until Jeff was fired. Surely site management would want to let us know about their concerns before firing the most senior staff member and one of the most respected game critics in the industry? If they’re sharing their concerns with the salespeople and not with us then that says a lot about their priorities.
Wow…the video game news industry is out of control. On Friday, 1-Up held an impromptu rally outside the Gamestop offices, holding up signs of support for their fellow game reviewers. That same articles also talked about many users canceling their subscriptions to Gamespot:
We’re also told that the Kane & Lynch user reviews on Gamespot have been, at least temporarily, disabled and there are rumors that people are canceling their Gamespot accounts “en masse.”
Another website, Destructoid decided to make a statement, too, creating a nice new banner:
Well…crazy. I mean, honestly, this type of stuff has to be happening. I’m not saying everyone does it, but it must happen. If a company is spending thousands of dollars a month on advertising and calls up the websites managers and says “You know what, we don’t like your review, we’re pulling our ads”, the website managers are going to do whatever they can to keep that customer. It’s too much money, they have too much control of the process. The company could refuse to give the website preview copies of future games, or refuse to give comments or interviews about other news.