Well, last night the internetz essploded. At least with us videogame aficionados who care about what happens within the industry. But the ramifications from all the hoopla may just affect all journalistic publications.
It all started with a comic piece by the guys at Penny Arcade about a rumor that Jeff Gerstmann, editorial director of Gamespot and 10 year vet in the industry, was fired over his scathing review of Eidos' new release Kane & Lynch.
Within a few short hours, forums across the universe lit aflame, calling for the heads of Gamespot for firing Gerstmann, Cnet (the parent company of Gamespot) for giving into the pressure of game publisher Eidos and its deep pockets invested in the advertisements for said game. Eidos reportedly threatened to pull its adverts from the Gamespot site, which would cause Cnet to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, because they did not like the tone of Gerstmann's review of the game, especially his video review which was pretty damn harsh. Members of Gamespot's paid gold subscription service threatened or canceled their memberships in retaliation, and the Eidos forums erupted in hate-filled threads, vowing to never purchase or support any Eidos release from here on out, while posting atrocious pictures of scat-fetishes, dismembered corpses, and furry porn.
Certainly the fallout from all this ruckus would be the ethical dilemma that numerous other gaming journalist sites will suffer. The nagging question about the honesty and validity of game reviews would be at the back of everybody's mind who reads them. Who paid off whom this time? How much did reviewer X get for this glowing praise? This practice isn't certainly new by any means, but it has now just given a huge black eye to not only the companies involved in this case, but to the gaming industry itself. As young as it is, the gaming community has been forced to grow up very fast, still struggling with how to govern itself and the products that it creates, and now, how to balance its own creative integrity against the ever influential greenback.
If today, a game publisher can expect to receive a score of 8.5 or higher just by buying some real estate on a reviewer's website, how far will that publisher push to get that score? How much leverage do they really have to get that review rewritten to their liking, or in this case, an individual fired, simply because they did not agree to his/her opinion of that game?
Well, now we can ask Jeff.
And at the same time, if you don't want your game to get a bad review, how about making it a good game? Hmm, thought of that Eidos? I am only speculating, but I am pretty sure Eidos expected this game to be the forerunner of a much bigger franchise, with sequels, movie deals, and comic books all touting the incredible universe that Kan & Lynch has to offer. Considering the average of scores for this game tallied by Metacritic, that wasn't going to happen anyways.
As all three companies try to save face from this debacle, by either denying, retracting, or no commenting, time will only tell how far the arm of big companies can reach, and how far the consumers are willing to grab a fork and stab it.
Best of luck to Jeff Gerstmann, he's probably better off anyway.