EGM "Banned," Hsu Cries Foul

EGM "Banned," Hsu Cries Foul

According to Hsu, Midway, Sony and Ubisoft have all sent him notices of late asking him, would he kindly not be so hard on their games. The companies in question suggested EGM would be "banned" from reporting on their games in the future. Hsu reportedly responded by saying "Nuts!"

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Oh sweet. Now the fingers and big names.
I'm going out to the store, for more popcorn. Who wants?

Dude, I'm already set with my popcorn. But I can't help but feel this one isn't going to reach the same levels of Gerstmann and the Kotaku Blackball...

While it's possible Hsu is attempting to raise hell for publicity's sake, I think given publisher's histories of being rather unscrupulous about getting their glowing reviews, it's also possible that the publishers get pushier around the holiday season when a bad review has potentially even more impact.

I don't know, I guess I want to give Hsu the benefit of the doubt because he's always been one of "the good guys".

With the Gamespot thing (I refuse to call it any sort of -gate) so recent, I can't believe the publishers would try this stuff. I'm going with Hsu wanting some free pub as well.

If Hsu can find a way to stick it to the Man and get more attention for his work, I say more power to him!

****
"But, sir you are the Man."
"I know."
"So you want Hsu to stick it to you?"
"... Maybe."

I see why he wants to rebel, but why does he want to rebel at all? Publicity stunt perhaps? Or just the truth? I wonder...

I dunno, I think both sides, the reviewers and the publishers, are wrong in a sense. The easy one is the publisher. Bribes are generally not good. And attempting to strong arm someone is only going negatively affect your scores even if your game is good. Easy enough.

The reviewers need to be very careful though as they tread on company profits which in turn keep themselves in business. They are in a powerful position as what they say and write has the potential to effect what people buy. They must be objective and avoid personal bias. (Something 90% of game reviewers seem unable to do.) I've also noticed that they review games from the same perspective time after time no matter what the game. Say they love Halo but when it comes time to review say, "Hamsterz", which is targeted at kids under 10. They still review it as a 27yr old hardcore gamer who will obviously think it sucks. Whereas the target audience may absolutely enjoy it. But little Timmy may show Mom his EGM review of Hamsterz causing Mom to think the game isn't worth buying for little Suzy anymore. Reviewers hold greater sway in the impressionable minds of young gamers as well. If they can get it in one kid's head that this game sucks the kid is going to tell his friends it sucks as well.

Also, publishers spend a great deal of money on advertising in magazines and websites. When their game is torn a new one on the next page how can they expect a return on their investment?

So what are we to do? Getting unbiased reviews isn't going to happen. Publishers are always going to expect something in return for their advertising dollar. So we form our own opinions. Take a review as one guy's perspective, then read another, even go rent the game and try it yourself. I know I don't read magazines for reviews. I read them to learn what's new, for developer interviews, and other articles. Reviews are moot no matter the subject matter.

Bottom line is reviews are a necessary evil and will always be influenced by factors outside the game's flaws or merits. So think for yourselves.

Look at it from the developer's point of view. VGMwatch gives the example of Midway's "Mortal Kombat development team." Now, if you were Ed Boon and company, sitting there day after day, pouring your heart into a game, and a magazine, such as EGM always ravaged your artistic expression...is it inconceivable that after a while, you'd want to stop showing them your work in progress, your new screenshots, giving interviews..? After enough negative press, you'd become so depressed that you'd be too despondent to even send in review copies.

And incidentally, an advanced review copy is the life-blood of the review. But wouldn't it be more ethical for an outlet to buy it's own game..?

If they don't want to be told their games may be crap, they should stop making games. Because the second you ask my opinion you're getting it whether you like it or not.

HalfShadow:
If they don't want to be told their games may be crap, they should stop making games.

This quote made me laugh, because I thought you were going to say "...they should stop making CRAPPY games." But you just said "stop making games". Because gamers will call all games crap, presumably? Somehow that was really funny, and yet really accurate.

N. Evan Van Zelfden:
After enough negative press, you'd become so depressed that you'd be too despondent to even send in review copies.

This doesn't stop bad filmmakers from releasing terrible movies year after year. And writers who pump out crappy novels every six months don't seem to be too perturbed.

Anyway, it's the ethical responsibility of a critic to give his honest opinion on the subject, and preferably in a way that gives the reader enough information to determine whether or not said game is going to be up his or her alley. It's simply wrong for publishers to try to influence the process. Of course it will still happen, because publishers care fuck all for ethics.

Whether or not Hsu is going rock and roll on us for the publicity, the fact remains that the readers deserve to know that this kind of thing is happening so that they can factor that... suspicion, cynicism, or whatever into their decisions.

After reading N'Gai Croal's piece about the contempt publishers have for the enthusiast press, I can't help but feel the enmity between the two parties is reaching a boiling point. More interesting will be if anyone gives a damn, now that the internet has effectively made obsolete the videogame news rag a la EGM.

In my foolish optimism, my hope is that Hsu's letter and Gertsmann Gate are the beginnings of a lot more friction between publishers and reviewers because it should be a publisher's privilege to get coverage in a magazine not a guarantee. Keep in mind, that's me dreaming about a world with no bottom lines.

Considering that editorals are more of a "speak thy mind" bit in most magazines, I don't think Shoe's doing it just for the publicity and is genuinly pissed at publishers thinking that they can do things like that.

Though I am a little surprised that he's naming names now.

Oh, and for the record, didn't EGM just reveal pretty much everything we didn't know and wanted to know about Street Fighter 4? How does revealing such a big name game to the world make them old and obsolete?

EGM has had a history of pissing off game publishers. Heck, they managed to worm their way out of a merger with EA (or another company) early on in their life.

Even with the recent stuff about corruption and dodgy reviews, I stil trust EGM, if only because they have resisted the siren's call.

Oddly enough, I haven't bought EGM for a few years. Lost interest in gaming until rather recently.

Also, someone had better find me that Penny Arcade comic about Midway and making games.

ditchell:
With the Gamespot thing (I refuse to call it any sort of -gate) so recent, I can't believe the publishers would try this stuff. I'm going with Hsu wanting some free pub as well.

Just wanted to say that I'm glad someone else is sick of everyone calling scandals "-gates".
And as for Hsu, I'll trust him and EGM for now, since it's looking like it is getting harder to trust anyone these days and I need somebody to have faith in.

I'll stick to whatever Yahtzee says about games.... although a second opinion is often useful to see the brighter side of things.

And I agree that publishers shouldn't assume that their game will get a review, indeed a list of games that have not gotten a review would be interesting.

I mean the thing is, if the review is from a trusted, credible source and that you know will likely influence your buying decision, you wait for the review. People love Yahtzee's reviews, but he functions more on a consumer's timeline, in terms of when he actually gets the game. It's the same thing with Edge; all the reviews are month late, but I wait because I generally trust what they have to say.

My other fool's prediction is that small independent review operators, not reliant on game advertising dollars, will continue to rise in credibility and influence, and that in turn, will force game companies to rethink their enmity towards the enthusiast press. Now where did my Che Guevara beret go?

tendo82:
My other fool's prediction is that small independent review operators, not reliant on game advertising dollars, will continue to rise in credibility and influence, and that in turn, will force game companies to rethink their enmity towards the enthusiast press. Now where did my Che Guevara beret go?

As the proprietor of the (recently launched) independent game review site SecretLemur.com, I really really hope you're right. I have to buy every game I review, and with 102 reviews so far...well, you do the math. Thing is, I don't expect I'll ever get review copies. I can't imagine any company in their right might would send me one (and believe me, I've asked). I'm probably just going to rip it a new one, anyway, so they don't want my opinion. The majority of games produced, like the majority of movies and the majority of music are mediocre at best and I'm tired of reading 8.5/10 reviews for games that pretty much suck.

If they don't want crappy reviews, then they should stop producing crap.

On the topic at hand: I don't see how Sony or Ubisoft are going to ban anyone from anything. You just can't stop someone from reviewing your product. (Yay, 2nd amendment!) I can see that they might stop providing review copies. Or, they might say, no preview and no interview for you! But they can't ban you. That's just stupid.

Uh... that would be 1st Amendment, SecretLemur. Unless you plan to shoot anyone who doesn't send you a review copy.

SecretLemur:
You just can't stop someone from reviewing your product...I can see that they might stop providing review copies. Or, they might say, no preview and no interview for you! But they can't ban you. That's just stupid.

It is not uncommon in diplomatic circles. They really can ban you. And it has nothing to do with your freedom to review. When you "ban" someone, you are making a statement about the relationship. It's clear, unclouded, and firm. And if the banned party wants the blockade removed, they can discuss the matter in hopes of changing the relationship.

Turnabout is also fail play. (See this example of "The Fourth Estate Sticking it to The Man," as the kids say: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/10/sorry-pr-people.html?cid=88149552)

There's great virtue in transparency. Would you instead hope for this conversation?

Magazine: Hey!
Publisher: Hey, BFF!
Magazine: Could we do an interview sometime?
Publisher: Sorry, no.
Magazine: Some screenshots, maybe?
Publisher: Not so much.
Magazine: Are we still friends?
Publisher: Absolutely. Best friends. Forever.
Magazine: Sweet. So how about a review copy?
Publisher: Uh, sure. It's in the mail. (But not really.)

Archon:
Uh... that would be 1st Amendment, SecretLemur. Unless you plan to shoot anyone who doesn't send you a review copy.

He was a publisher and I was a bitch,
The review would make me filthy rich,
Bang bang, I shot him down,
Bang bang, he hit the ground,
I shot the PR down.

hickwarrior:
I see why he wants to rebel, but why does he want to rebel at all? Publicity stunt perhaps? Or just the truth? I wonder...

Since when is journalistic integrity a form of rebellion? Game journalism in general is weak because it's dominated by bloggers without a proper news background and the tradition of ethics that come with it. EGM is an the closest thing to an old-school news rag that gaming has, so it pisses me off to see Hsu's motives being doubted.

Hsu should be praised for his editorial integrity. Give the man credit for coming forward. How many sitting in front of their monitors would have the balls to take on Sony, Midway and Ubisoft at once all while risking the jobs of an entire magazine staff and the magazine itself? These are big players, losing preview and review coverage is not something many mags would be able to cope with especially given the tough times print publications have faced in the past decade. This Editorial WILL NOT SELL magazines. This Decision WILL NOT SELL magazines. Only by bringing it forward can he hope that his colleagues will stand behind him and cry foul and in doing so make these companies rethink their decisions. Whether you agree or not you can bet it's better than the alternative of bowing to their wishes.

The piece is available free online anyway.
http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8568051&publicUserId=5379799

PS

N. Evan Van Zelfden:
Now, if you were Ed Boon and company, sitting there day after day, pouring your heart into a game, and a magazine, such as EGM always ravaged your artistic expression...

LMAO

Archon:
Uh... that would be 1st Amendment, SecretLemur. Unless you plan to shoot anyone who doesn't send you a review copy.

heh. whoops. I knew that. Brain fart.

Er...assuming ol' Shoe really did have in mind of using the debacle to increase circulation...how is THAT the bigger story over three major game companies (one a Big 3 console maker) allegedly coercing an independent publication into compliance? I'm honestly a bit confused about that.

Bit confused also about EGM's apparently "increasing lack of relevance" as well. Trolls on the internets who are probably the same type of sods attacking Yahtzee nowadays if not corporate plants vs. their recent expose (and borderline panning) on SF4, or their part in the PS3's launch woes. I'm not seeing a great pile of evidence for it.

I work in games, and let me tell you, someone needs to tell them the old saying "Do not shit where you eat".

The greedy pubs playing mafioso towards the gaming press are going to eventually rue this when games become the dominant media. Game review will inevitably be expanded into mainstream, big money print such as Time magazine or a red top. If you make big enough noise/money, the big print will get a hold of you and not let go.

When that happens, good luck with the Soprano bit on that. Ask the makers of Fight Club what happens when you get on the wrong side of the mainstream media review press.

More luck as well with returning to the gaming press for help after the MSM has their way with you. For Sony et all., this would be after having already burned bridges/helped destroy theirs and the gaming news media's credibility.

Im lost, who is HSU then all of this would make sence to me :ummmL

N. Evan Van Zelfden:
Look at it from the developer's point of view. VGMwatch gives the example of Midway's "Mortal Kombat development team." Now, if you were Ed Boon and company, sitting there day after day, pouring your heart into a game, and a magazine, such as EGM always ravaged your artistic expression...is it inconceivable that after a while, you'd want to stop showing them your work in progress, your new screenshots, giving interviews..? After enough negative press, you'd become so depressed that you'd be too despondent to even send in review copies.

Or maybe you should stop making some shit and call that games. :D

hooloovoonate:
Just wanted to say that I'm glad someone else is sick of everyone calling scandals "-gates".

You wouldn't say that if you were aware of the MGG=REVIEWSgate.

viciousmaniac:
Bit confused also about EGM's apparently "increasing lack of relevance" as well.

lewa nua:
Im lost, who is HSU then all of this would make sence to me :ummmL

Best sequence ever.

I'd maintain that the other poster knows of EGM the publication, just not necessarily it's EIC. :) (please don't prove me wrong, Mr. Iewa)

viciousmaniac:
I'd maintain that the other poster knows of EGM the publication, just not necessarily it's EIC. :) (please don't prove me wrong, Mr. Iewa)

Perhaps, but it's still amusing.

And to clarify my own remarks, EGM may, or may not, still be the number one selling print game magazine, but print magazines as a whole are on the decline. They aren't relevant in the same way they were even five years ago. I know a lot of fine folks who work in print, and they do great work. But a format like EGM's is much better-suited to the online space. Particularly now, in light of the fact they may be getting a lot more games too late to do anything useful with them. Print lead times are death, and it's finally catching up with them.

Honestly, I don't think Dan is saying these things just to get attention in the slow months after Christmas. I think it's far more likely that he blows up in January because for months their publication NEEDS to be dominated with the usual Christmas fare and only when it slows down does he get the chance to vent.

That being said, this issue has been slowly building over the last few years as review scores have become noticeably more and more padded. The recent events within gaming journalism have simply blown open the doors and confirmed to consumers what we've suspected for years now, and we're not pleased.

Russ Pitts:

viciousmaniac:
I'd maintain that the other poster knows of EGM the publication, just not necessarily it's EIC. :) (please don't prove me wrong, Mr. Iewa)

Perhaps, but it's still amusing.

And to clarify my own remarks, EGM may, or may not, still be the number one selling print game magazine, but print magazines as a whole are on the decline. They aren't relevant in the same way they were even five years ago. I know a lot of fine folks who work in print, and they do great work. But a format like EGM's is much better-suited to the online space. Particularly now, in light of the fact they may be getting a lot more games too late to do anything useful with them. Print lead times are death, and it's finally catching up with them.

I agree completely, not just with print either. It's just that I doubt the journalistic institution of EGM or its brand is in any immediate trouble from irrelevancy just for being mostly old media. Why else would Sony et. all pressure them then, especially when gamers are apparently happy to see the gaming media find their testicles as it were? (or: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/01/20 )

Besides, the whole show (games or not) is still run mostly by old codgers. They are best familiar with (and still pay attention to) the older institutions such as magazines and trade shows.

tendo82:
More interesting will be if anyone gives a damn, now that the internet has effectively made obsolete the videogame news rag a la EGM.

I dunno... I really like EGM. And I'll take it over the internet because I can read it while I'm on the can.

 

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