Friday, January 11, 2008
Got my copy of EGM yesterday, but didn't have time to crack it until I had started seeing reports about Dan Hsu's editorial in the latest issue today.
Apparently, some publishers have gotten peeved at EGM's less-than-favorable coverage of specific games-- Mortal Kombat, Assassin's Creed, and whatever junk sports game Sony's put out lately. The result is that the publishers are apparently going to withhold access to their upcoming titles as some sort of retaliation.
People bag on EGM at times-- myself included-- but I have nothing but respect for Hsu and his choice to speak out in spite of the potential consequences. Writing for GameCritics.com, our site has been on the receiving end of publishing cold shoulders at least a few times over the last few years, so I know what he's talking about.
(Last I checked, GC holds several of the lowest score slots for a number of games on MetaCritic.com's rankings. I may or may not have been responsible for most of those.)
It's no secret that the game press is dependent on publishers for any information on their upcoming titles, which inherently puts said journalists in a perpetually sticky situation, ethically. There's no such thing as independent research or investigative journalism when the subject of coverage is on computers under lock and key in private development offices. Naturally, good reviews and favorable coverage earn you cherry perks and inside peeks while low numbers and negative comments reduce the likelihood that you'll ever get such access again.
I can understand the position of the publishers, but I can't say I sympathize. If you want your games covered, be prepared for people to talk about what the product is actually like. Don't want crap previews and bad word of mouth? Don't make crap products and try to sell them as blockbusters. I can't think of any category of writers so prepared to gush positively over the slightest promising glimpse, so is it really fair to yank the rug out from under us when we start talking honestly about things that look sketchy... or worse?
Hell, half the time honest words don't put a dent in a bad game's sales, anyway. How many times has a movie license tie-in turd sold millions regardless of all the cautionary reviews? And look at Assassin's Creed. That game's a half-step above being a tech demo and got a surprising number of low scores, yet it was still one of 2007's biggest sellers.
Publishers, don't punish game journalists when they finally decide to tell it like it is... Take the bad news and use it as motivation to create better games. And when you do? Sit back and watch us fawn all over you.
It's what most of us do best, anyway.