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[Column] General: More on the Issue About Paid Review Scores

SBFordSBFord Former Associate EditorMember LegendaryPosts: 33,126

In our previous column, we took a look at four generalizations that are commonly made about the video games industry, and I offered some thoughts about how these myths can be debunked.  Most of the forum discussion that ensued revolved around the issue that reviewers are paid by developers for good scores.

Read more of Som Pourfarzaneh's More on the Issue About Paid Review Services.

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Comments

  • GoldenArrowGoldenArrow Member UncommonPosts: 1,186

    Myth is something that may or may not be true.

    Paid reviews have been done for a long time, it's a fact.

  • mnemic666mnemic666 Member UncommonPosts: 224
    Originally posted by GoldenArrow

    Myth is something that may or may not be true.

    Paid reviews have been done for a long time, it's a fact.

    Sauce for that? Or is it one of those, "It is known" things that never has any actual evidence.

     

    And I can't wait for someone to bring up the Gerstman example (which while shady, wasn't a paid review and is a single proven example nearly a decade ago now) as definitive proof!

  • CrazKanukCrazKanuk Member EpicPosts: 6,130
    Originally posted by mnemic666
    Originally posted by GoldenArrow

    Myth is something that may or may not be true.

    Paid reviews have been done for a long time, it's a fact.

    Sauce for that? Or is it one of those, "It is known" things that never has any actual evidence.

    And I can't wait for someone to bring up the Gerstman example (which while shady, wasn't a paid review and is a single proven example nearly a decade ago now) as definitive proof!

    Proof?!?!? HA! I present you exhibit A:

    THERE!! Is that enough proof for you? Case closed!!! 

    Crazkanuk

    ----------------
    Azarelos - 90 Hunter - Emerald
    Durnzig - 90 Paladin - Emerald
    Demonicron - 90 Death Knight - Emerald Dream - US
    Tankinpain - 90 Monk - Azjol-Nerub - US
    Brindell - 90 Warrior - Emerald Dream - US
    ----------------

  • Nemesis7884Nemesis7884 Member UncommonPosts: 1,023
    look at the totalbiscuit shadow of mordor "crisis" - it obviously happen to much greater extent than even i believed...look at the list of their demands for the review they had...what to say and to show (or not to say and not to show)...saying there rae no paid reviews is like saying politicians votes arent bought and there is no lobbying....
  • BattlerockBattlerock Member CommonPosts: 1,393
    Exhibit A works for me too and guess what? You can't prove there are not paid reviews. If you read the reviews though and play the games, you will also find plenty of circumstantial evidence that there is indeed pay for reviews.
  • grimalgrimal Member UncommonPosts: 2,916
    I think one would have to be very naive to believe it only to be myth.
  • AthisarAthisar Member UncommonPosts: 666

    As I said in the last article comments, I've worked in publishing for years and it goes on a lot. Every editor and journalist I've ever known would say the same. It's not always directly obvious. It's often not the writers' fault (who are mostly freelance). A magazine I once wrote for would not accept any real criticism of Microsoft (any negative points always had to be toned down and excused, e.g. "like all companies" type disclaimers).

    I'm not claiming that it occurs on this site, as I have no proof of that. But to call it a myth is plain wrong. It does go on, and it's nothing new.

    As for the freebies and so on. Yes, that's absolutely common. PR companies exist to woo the press and try to get them onside. I cannot say whether it has any psychological effect (I don't think anyone who isn't a qualified psychiatrist could), but I agree that most writers would try to separate personal feelings towards a company or developer from a review score.

  • BearKnightBearKnight Member CommonPosts: 461

    "Myth": Something that is most likely untrue, but is grounded in some form or another in truth somewhere.

     

    Modern use for the term "Myth": Something that is untrue but sounds really conspiracy theory-oriented.

     

     

     

    Paid reviews are a FACT, and are rampant within the industry. My girlfriend used to work for IGN 2years ago, and quit within 6months after realizing just how corrupt and broken the "Reviews" are for newer games. EVERY major game review is paid in some form or another, and they're given a list of things FROM THE GAME COMPANY THAT MADE THE GAME on things that they cannot talk about, and what things to focus on in a "Positive Light".

     

    You got bonuses for "embellishing" in a positive manner", but not too much as to risk legal action from people reading the reviews. In essence, game companies have been using 3rd party reviewers as ways to generate MASSIVE hype, and sometimes almost outright lying about how good a game is or how features work, in order to avoid legal reprocussions of "False Advertisement".

     

    The turnover rate for people whom work for companies like IGN are MASSIVE, because they go in wanting to do something they love and then realize how corrupt, gross, and broken it really is.

     

    Please don't do Columns trying to deflect things we know as being hard-core FACTS.

     

     

    Does it happen to MMORPG.com? I don't know, but sometimes I wonder (SWTOR Review, GW2 Review, WildStar Reviews come to mind that are questionable).

     

    Sincerely,

    Bear

  • VrikaVrika Member EpicPosts: 6,434

    Mankind has fought corruption for over a thousand years, and now the battle is finally over: Game journalists have found a way to ensure that not a single individual among their ranks is corrupt!

    I propose we dedicate a holiday to honor game journalists who stand as a single pure beacon of light above the rest of the mankind.

     
     
  • Agnostic42Agnostic42 Member UncommonPosts: 405
    Originally posted by Vrika

    Mankind has fought corruption for over a thousand years, and now the battle is finally over: Game journalists have found a way to ensure that not a single individual among their ranks is corrupt!

    I propose we dedicate a holiday to honor game journalists who stand as a single pure beacon of light above the rest of the mankind.

     

    This made me laugh, but only because of just how real and right it is. I'm sorry, but you cannot say that this is a myth and expect to be taken seriously.

     

    It's there, it's real. I have no idea if it applies to MMORPG.com, nor do I care, I'll still come here and still read the reviews and articles. But, to say it's a myth well, that's just funny.

  • SlyLoKSlyLoK Member RarePosts: 2,698

    I do not have any proof that reviews are paid for but I first got the suspicion about 10 years with IGN when the NFL 2K series and Madden were going head to head. The 2K games had much better on the field gameplay with consecutive hit tackles , gang tackling , presentation..etc. But no matter what Madden would always score like .1 higher for whatever reason.  Especially when it came to NFL 2K5 and Madden 2005.. 2K absolutely trounced Madden in every possible way but yet IGN had 2K5 at 9.4 and Madden at 9.5.

    All the while Madden continued to have issues with super linebackers ( which is back in Madden 15 ) , defenses that know what side you are running to and would also mirror audibles / flipping the play ( also back in Madden 15 ) , no gang tackling or multi hit tackles , no signature animations and plenty more. 

    Havent trusted IGN since.. Come to think of it I dont think I ever visited their site again. My belief is that some reviews are bought and paid for in some form or another.

  • jmcdermottukjmcdermottuk Member RarePosts: 1,569

    It's not about paid reviews, I think we know that doesn't happen. The problem is when publishers threaten to withdraw advertising money over reviews, and we know that does happen, it's been commented on before.

    You can post as many articles as you want but you're never going to convince people that this isn't the case. We know that it is.

  • AthisarAthisar Member UncommonPosts: 666

    A site like this is in a difficult position, being a niche review/forum site for MMOs. Sites like this can't afford to upset companies too much (and believe me, some companies will absolutely refuse to cooperate with smaller sites that give a very negative review), at the same time they need the advertising, and they need the special offers to bring readers in. A scathing review will result in frosty relationships between the site and the company, no matter how professional the writer's intentions.

    What is troubling is if there is a clear correlation between lots of exclusive offers, interviews and advertising from a games company, and a string of positive editorial content towards that company, with any negatives worded to eliminate or excuse blame. Reviews are paid for in the sense that in these circumstances there's a quid pro quo going on.

  • PcprogamerPcprogamer Member Posts: 11

    SWTOR         9.0 on IGN

                            8.7 MMORPG.COm

     

    Paid.

  • bcbullybcbully Member EpicPosts: 10,212
    Sure.
     
    Money talks BS walks.
  • Iceman8235Iceman8235 Member UncommonPosts: 205
    Originally posted by Athisar

    A site like this is in a difficult position, being a niche review/forum site for MMOs. Sites like this can't afford to upset companies too much (and believe me, some companies will absolutely refuse to cooperate with smaller sites that give a very negative review), at the same time they need the advertising, and they need the special offers to bring readers in. A scathing review will result in frosty relationships between the site and the company, no matter how professional the writer's intentions.

    What is troubling is if there is a clear correlation between lots of exclusive offers, interviews and advertising from a games company, and a string of positive editorial content towards that company, with any negatives worded to eliminate or excuse blame. Reviews are paid for in the sense that in these circumstances there's a quid pro quo going on.

    Exactly.  This article acts like people think a game company shows up at a reviewers door with a sack of money that has a dollar sign on it.  There are 100 different ways to influence a review and it's pretty insulting for mmorpg.com to expect people to believe that they aren't all happening at one point or another.  You guys should honestly just delete this article, it really makes you look like chumps.

  • RusqueRusque Member RarePosts: 2,785

    Well, unfortunately, the options currently are as follows:

    1. Reviewers are being paid or receiving some type of gift/benefit for a favorable light (continued early access to our games would be a good one). Imagine a game review site that didn't have access to games before release day . . . hmmmm, might make them lose eyeballs.

    2. You're all terrible at your job.

     

    So which is it are game reviewers receiving something in return for favorable outlooks or are you just incompetent?

    Just looking back at the GW2 review - it tells me so little about the game and just throws out scores (10 in innovation! Longevity 9!!!! Social 8 - while saying it makes people socialize less). I read those snippets and it just fails to explain what is good or bad about that aspect. Here read the combat paragraph:

    "Combat is yet another area in which GW2 alters the mold just enough to make the action feel new and different from what we’ve seen in the past few years. Far from having perfectly balanced professions however, Guild Wars 2’s variation between different professions mean that the game’s action is largely replayable where many other games often are left feeling very “same-y” between different classes.  The addition of dodge mechanics and the fact that they make such a large impact on survivability means players must learn to move while they fight. Not in and of itself a new phenomenon, but for the most part it’s pulled off excellently here. Though I will say that there are some mobs which can be handled perfectly by merely circle-strafing around them, though this is mostly early on."

    So it feels  "new and different" . . . how?

    Professions are far from perfectly balanced? Wait, why did you not expand on this, this seems important don't you think?

    And circle-strafing is not just early on. It works the whole way through. You can easily solo most veteran mobs if you know how to circle strafe and move out of red circles.

    No discussion about whether skills are designed well, whether interesting combinations between weapons exist and if so, how and how does it impact your experience. Also, do these weapons and combinations make sense, what about the fact that you get locked into ability sets based on weapon type and then you have gear that doesn't support the abilities. Thief is a great example. If you play D/D your 'Death Blossom' is basically useless in zerker gear, your 'Throw Dagger' is almost always useless, even in PvP. That leaves you with 1,2 and 5. Three skills!  Or let's say you play with condition gear, abilities 2, 4 and 5 become largely useless (on top of condi being pretty bad due to condition damage cap on enemies - so you become redundant with other condi users).

    It also fails to talk about traits (a great customization system in the game!) runes (another big positive) and the utility/elite ability selection and how you can craft builds based on certain types.

    That's just the combat section.

     

    So like I said. Either favorable reviews are awarded inappropriately, or the current crop of game reviewers are unable to articulate various aspects of the games they review. What's going on?

  • XiaokiXiaoki Member RarePosts: 3,358
    After the previous article it would have been in MMORPG.com best interest to never comment on this issue again but here we are.


    Do they really believe that video game websites are some kind of secret society and all of their machinations are hidden from the ignorant populace?


    We this isn't some "myth."

    We know how the sausage is made.

    We know there is a man behind the curtain.


    To say otherwise is insulting to is and embarrassing to you.
  • mmoguy43mmoguy43 Member UncommonPosts: 2,770

    So this article was made in response to some possibly unreasonable comments for some game? Ok..that's dumb.

    I hope that's all it is because this certainly doesn't speak for every journalist reviewing for every game. Do you really want to cover for the journalists that are actually getting something in return for their "positive on all required points" review?

  • thunderclesthundercles Member UncommonPosts: 510
    Come on folks...you really expect us to buy this. (Smh)
  • AvarixAvarix Member RarePosts: 665

    'Even though I may receive a tote bag from a company, pick up a beta key at an event, play a free review copy and, unthinkably, make a new friend on the development team, I’m not going to give the game a good score if it’s crap.'

     

    'One more niggling comment on this topic that may be out there is the idea that because writers are human, somehow all the swag, parties, and privileges must in some way influence their thought process when they go into a review, even if by a 0.1 score margin.  To be quite honest, I’m not the biggest fan of swag, and while I do enjoy going to parties as much as the next person, I’d be just as happy attending a lecture-style preview by a developer and paying for my own lunch.  The truth of the matter is that the video games industry, as any other field, has its own way of functioning, and free stuff, game shows, and schmoozing are all part of it.'

     

    Reciprocity. Look into it.

     

    As for the rest of the article the best you can gain from this is to get people to believe that YOU don't accept bribes or increase scores for perks. You can't possibly speak for the entire industry and to try is silly. Have you personally been attacked about your review process? I don't understand the point of this article.

  • grimalgrimal Member UncommonPosts: 2,916
    Originally posted by Avarix

    'Even though I may receive a tote bag from a company, pick up a beta key at an event, play a free review copy and, unthinkably, make a new friend on the development team, I’m not going to give the game a good score if it’s crap.'

     

    'One more niggling comment on this topic that may be out there is the idea that because writers are human, somehow all the swag, parties, and privileges must in some way influence their thought process when they go into a review, even if by a 0.1 score margin.  To be quite honest, I’m not the biggest fan of swag, and while I do enjoy going to parties as much as the next person, I’d be just as happy attending a lecture-style preview by a developer and paying for my own lunch.  The truth of the matter is that the video games industry, as any other field, has its own way of functioning, and free stuff, game shows, and schmoozing are all part of it.'

     

    Reciprocity. Look into it.

     

    As for the rest of the article the best you can gain from this is to get people to believe that YOU don't accept bribes or increase scores for perks. You can't possibly speak for the entire industry and to try is silly. Have you personally been attacked about your review process? I don't understand the point of this article.

    I'm guessing it is in preparation for some controversial upcoming review here <cough> Archeage <cough>.

  • SuperNickSuperNick Member UncommonPosts: 460

    It depends how you look on the term "paid reviews".

    Do companies sit down and have a meeting where the objective is "hey bud, we'll pay you guys to post good words!". Er, no, not really. Maybe it has happened but this isn't the norm.

    It's done either as an "exchange of gifts" or a threat system. By this exchange I mean companies will offer incentives like SUPER early copies of a game, free copies for your entire staff, tickets to events/trade shows, early access information.. stuff like that.

    The threat system is done on a "we'll take your access to us away alongside ever sending you early review copies."

    Sometimes both will occur and sometimes neither.. depends on the companies involved.

  • Four0SixFour0Six Member UncommonPosts: 1,175

    If you have to "prove" you are unbiased, you generally aren't unbiased.

  • ButeoRegalisButeoRegalis Member UncommonPosts: 594

    "Essentially, a proliferation of advertisements on a website does not necessarily equate with a bias towards a game."

    1) Well - anyone here remembering (or still seeing!) the constant banner ads for League of Angels (MMORPG score: 4.0), or a short while back the game called Scarlet Blade (score: 4.7), both of which featured prettily-drawn, scantily-clad girls? Go look up their reviews. They weren't so pretty!

    2) Some sites seem to have more of an issue with this than others.

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