The head of 2K's former PR company says that choosing who does and doesn't get review copies is a PR person's job, not some Sword of Damocles he or she holds over reviewers.
Jim Redner, who earned himself a fair amount of notoriety when he voiced his displeasure about the tone of certain Duke Nukem Forever reviews, says that he was surprised at the level of anger that was directed at him following his outburst, and that he even received threats against both him and his family.
Redner said his rant - in which he said that he would look at which publications he sent review copies to in future, prompting a great deal of discussion about blacklisting - had thrust him into the spotlight for a couple of days. In that time, he received a significant number of Twitter messages and emails. Some, he said, were funny or clever, some were mean, others were scary, and a few were actually supportive. He said that the experience had given him a new appreciation for how difficult it must be to be a celebrity, and that he shuddered to think about the volume of hateful comments that some people had to put up with every day.
He also refuted the idea that he would have blacklisted certain outlets, had 2K not terminated his contract. He said that people were using the word "blacklisted" incorrectly, as he would not have prevented anyone from working. Instead, he said that he would have simply chosen not to support certain publications in the future.
He said that PR companies were under no obligation to send games out to reviewers, especially not if they felt that said reviews would be detrimental to a game's sales. The job of a PR person, he said, was to get the best - or in other words, the most favorable - coverage possible, and that meant being selective about what reviews he or she sent games to, especially when those games weren't the best in the world. He reiterated that no one was being "blacklisted," as they could still review the game, but that he saw little point in sending games to people who - for whatever reason - would be unsympathetic to them.
While Redner's outburst was ill advised - something he himself admits - his points about the relationship between PR companies and reviewers have a lot of truth to them. The job of a PR company is not to make reviewers lives easier; it's to maximize the sales success of the brands they manage. Sometimes what a reviewer wants and the the PR person wants intersect, other times they don't. This isn't limited to videogame reviews - studios often won't show movies to critics if they think the reviews will be bad - and is simply one of the pitfalls of product-orientated journalism.
What's really interesting though, is that people cared enough about the behind the scenes interplay between reviewers and PR companies to send Redner threatening messages. It's highly doubtful that any of the threats were actually credible - this is the internet after all, the home of anonymous, vicious hyperbole - but that people sent them in the first place is rather remarkable.
Source: Industry Gamers