« | Main | »

Editorial: Why Eidos is getting more crap than it deserves

By Phil | December 4, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Every internet-addicted video game dork worth his or her salt has by now heard about GameSpot’s controversial firing of Jeff “Mr. 8.8” Gerstmann. The community has erupted in outrage over GameSpot and Eidos shirking ethics for the sake of a buck, as both Eidos and GameSpot, as well as GameSpot’s parent company CNET, have endured a volley of anger over the past 4 days.

But you know who’s really getting more flak than it deserves? Eidos.

Eidos’ job is to sell a game, not to make sure that web sites remain objective. Even if they know the game’s a piece of crap, it’s their job to convince people that it’s the best boxed turd they’ll ever buy. GameSpot is the one responsible for keeping its integrity intact. It’s GameSpot’s job to keep bias in check and say “hey, screw you. We’re GameSpot. Someone else will snatch that ad space up in a second.”

The agenda of a publisher severely clashes with what should be the agenda of a game reviewer: to be honest, forthcoming, and informative with his or her readers. Whereas, one of the primary jobs of a publisher is to manipulate people’s minds as much as the law allows. It sucks, but companies are well within their rights to refuse to provide ad revenue to sites when they don’t want to, and companies do this all the time.

Eidos taking media articles out of context…this is…new? It most certainly is not. Not in the games industry, and not in most other types of industries where products are reviewed, for that matter.

Have you ever seen glowing quotes from “movie critics” plastered all over posters and commercials for movies that are notoriously horrible? Generally, a lot of those quotes are fabricated by studio representatives that are posing as movie critics, or are taken out of context. For example, the “review” quote from Game Informer that Eidos is using on its Kane & Lynch site, “A mercenary, a psychopath, and a bundle of cash…what could go wrong?,” is actually a negative quote, Eidos just removed it from the context of the article they yanked it from and made it look like a positive remark.

Eidos using graphics that imply that particular outlets gave Kane & Lynch 5 stars, when none of them did, is a similarly old tactic. The intent here is obvious, but at the same time, it’s very easy for Eidos to say “those are just header graphics. Decoration.”

These aren’t lies. These are examples of Eidos being misleading in its marketing which is, you guessed it, commonplace in all types of advertisement.

Have you ever seen a commercial for a new fast food item that looks absolutely delicious, only to find that the item, in reality, doesn’t look quite as appetizing as it did when it was on a rotating pedestal surrounded by Victoria’s Secret models? Same idea. Eidos is taking things that actually exist and dolling them up so that they look better. Both Eidos and that fast food chain are, in the end, trying to sell you something. Why should they be held to different standards? If people are going to hop on Eidos’ back because of this, they need to also hop on every other publisher’s back.

Am I defending Eidos? No, I’m not. I don’t like being misled, and I could never be happy as a salesman because I don’t like misleading people just to make a buck. What I am saying is that Eidos isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done time and time and time and time and time again. If a publisher is big enough where they can afford to do this, then they usually try and do it, and one of the media’s primary jobs is to filter out this bias and give it to people straight.

GameSpot, on the other hand, deserves all the flak it gets. While nothing is set in stone, judging from the reactions of editors and GameSpot freelancers who aren’t under NDA, it’s all but certain that something highly unethical went down. Whoever made the decision to bow to advertiser pressure in this manner betrayed the site’s readers, betrayed one of GameSpot’s most senior editors, and made the site’s staff guilty by association. Unless GameSpot’s management is shuffled, the place has officially become a proxy advertising firm for video game companies and its credibility will be in question for years and years to come.

This whole debacle has definitely been bad for GameSpot, however, it could turn out to be a good thing for games journalism as a whole. Maybe editors at other sites will take note of the community’s outrage over GameSpot’s behavior and avoid following in its footsteps. Maybe, if similar policies are already practiced at other outlets, they’ll have a change in heart. Maybe this will encourage media outlets to be more transparent if the cloud of doubt over GameSpot eventually floats over games journalism as a whole.

Maybe I’m not cynical enough.

Topics: Uncategorized