Recent reviews of Duke Nukem Forever across the ‘net have been highly negative, and according to a tweet caught by ars tehcnica, some have gone far enough into ripping the game that one firm says it will be reviewed and possibly rejected as far as getting early review copies in the future. Naturally Duke’s publisher, 2K Games, outright distanced itself from the offending tweet.
I had a few thoughts on this issue, obviously. My first one was, some people get review copies??
I kid, obviously. e-AAGH.net has only received a review copy of a game once so this issue doesn’t actually apply to us, but it is worth looking at. If you’re given early/preferential access to a product for review there’s an element of human nature that says, ‘don’t burn the bridge.’ You almost want to reward the contributor’s faith in you as a journalist, but that can come at the expense of doing your job. If what you are reviewing is not worthy of praise, or in worse situations befitting a swift dismissal, at what point do you draw the line?
Personally I feel that if your job is to review something, you do your best to be honest with the reader. If a game company decides to pull you from their distribution circles, it can harm them more then it can harm you. The reviewer can go and get a copy of the game if they really want to review it, but the publisher is in no position to complain if they don’t get any press from the reviewer.
Obviously with a smaller site (like e-AAGH.net) the game maker likely doesn’t care. However if a large, monolithic game site is blacklisted and stops coverage of their games, the PR firm may take notice.
The game site may lose readers due to not covering Big Game #1,094 too. It’s sort of a symbiotic relationship, but (and this may be because of my perspective on the issue) I still feel that the publisher is more out of line here. They rely on press (good press) to sell their product. While cash exchange can streamline that process, if the game site routinely reviews games favorably that don’t go over well with players the site will lose their following, which would have the publishers money going down the drain on a now-derelict site.
I’m not experienced on either end of this issue, so my opinion here is just that. The two sides need each other, so the worst thing they can do is spat. The issue is never going to go away, unfortunately, but maybe further exposure of the issue can help both sides see eye to eye.