25 October, 2012

GMA Corruption Special

No, this isn't a comeback. You can read all about this year's exciting GMA corruption here and here courtesy of Walker, and then feast your eyes on the full, unedited version of The Unreliable Eurogamer piece below that saw the writer, Robert Florence, drummed out of EG for being honest:

There is an image doing the rounds on the internet this week. It is an image of Geoff Keighley, a Canadian games journalist, sitting dead-eyed beside a garish Halo 4 poster and a table of Mountain Dew and Doritos. It is a tragic, vulgar image. But I think that it is the most important image in games journalism today. I think we should all find it and study it. It is important.

Geoff Keighley is often described as an industry leader. A games expert. He is one of the most prominent games journalists in the world. And there he sits, right there, beside a table of snacks. He will be sitting there forever, in our minds. That's what he is now. And in a sense, it is what he always was. As Executive Producer of the mindless, horrifying spectacle that is the Spike TV Video Game Awards he oversees the delivery of a televisual table full of junk, an entire festival of cultural Doritos.

How many games journalists are sitting beside that table?

Recently, the Games Media Awards rolled around again, and games journos turned up to a thing to party with their friends in games PR. Games PR people and games journos voted for their favourite friends, and friends gave awards to friends, and everyone had a good night out. Eurogamer won an award. Kieron Gillen was named an industry legend (and if anyone is a legend in games writing, he is) but he deserves a better platform for recognition than those GMAs. The GMAs shouldn't exist. By rights, that room should be full of people who feel uncomfortable in each other's company. PR people should be looking at games journos and thinking, "That person makes my job very challenging." Why are they all best buddies? What the hell is going on?

Whenever you criticise the GMAs, as I've done in the past, you face the accusation of being "bitter". I've removed myself from those accusations somewhat by consistently making it clear that I'm not a games journalist. I'm a writer who regularly writes about games, that's all. And I've been happy for people who have been nominated for GMAs in the past, because I've known how much they wanted to be accepted by that circle. There is nothing wrong with wanting to belong, or wanting to be recognised by your peers. But it's important to ask yourself who your peers are, and exactly what it is you feel a need to belong to.

Just today, as I sat down to write this piece, I saw that there were games journalists winning PS3s on Twitter. There was a competition at those GMAs - tweet about our game and win a PS3. One of those stupid, crass things. And some games journos took part. All piling in, opening a sharing bag of Doritos, tweeting the hashtag as instructed. And today the winners were announced. Then a whole big argument happened, and other people who claim to be journalists claimed to see nothing wrong with what those so-called journalists had done. I think the winners are now giving away their PS3s, but it's too late. It's too late.


Let me show you an example.

One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: "Urm... Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that's a bad thing?"

Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: "Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider pic.twitter.com/VOWDSavZ"

And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist's apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she's in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I'm sure she isn't, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?

Another journalist, one of the winners of the PS3 competition, tweeted this at disgusted RPS writer John Walker: "It was a hashtag, not an advert. Get off the pedestal." Now, this was Dave Cook, a guy I've met before. A good guy, as far as I could tell. But I don't believe for one second that Dave doesn't understand that in this time of social media madness a hashtag is just as powerful as an advert. Either he's on the defensive or he doesn't get what being a journalist is actually about.


I want to make a confession. I stalk games journalists. It's something I've always done. I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won't name them here, because it's a horrible thing to do, but I'm sure some of you will know who they are. I'm fascinated by these creatures because they are living one of the most strange existences - they are playing at being a thing that they don't understand. And if they don't understand it, how can they love it? And if they don't love it, why are they playing at being it?

This club, this weird club of pals and buddies that make up a fair proportion of games media, needs to be broken up somehow. They have a powerful bond, though - held together by the pressures of playing to the same audience. Games publishers and games press sources are all trying to keep you happy, and it's much easier to do that if they work together. Publishers are well aware that some of you go crazy if a new AAA title gets a crappy review score on a website, and they use that knowledge to keep the boat from rocking. Everyone has a nice easy ride if the review scores stay decent and the content of the games are never challenged. Websites get their exclusives. Ad revenue keeps rolling in. The information is controlled. Everyone stays friendly. It's a steady flow of Mountain Dew pouring from the hills of the money men, down through the fingers of the weary journos, down into your mouths. At some point you will have to stop drinking that stuff and demand something better.

Standards are important. They are hard to live up to, sure, but that's the point of them. The trouble with games journalism is that there are no standards. We expect to see Geoff Keighley sitting beside a table of s***. We expect to see the flurry of excitement when the GMAs get announced, instead of a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. We expect to see our games journos failing to get what journalistic integrity means. The brilliant writers, like John Walker for example, don't get the credit they deserve simply because they don't play the game. Indeed, John Walker gets told to get off his pedestal because he has high standards and is pointing out a worrying problem.

Geoff Keighley, meanwhile, is sitting beside a table of snacks. A table of delicious Doritos and refreshing Mountain Dew. He is, as you'll see on Wikipedia, "only one of two journalists, the other being 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, profiled in the Harvard Business School press book 'Geeks and Geezers' by noted leadership expert Warren Bennis." Geoff Keighley is important. He is a leader in his field. He once said, "There's such a lack of investigative journalism. I wish I had more time to do more, sort of, investigation." And yet there he sits, glassy-eyed, beside a table heaving with sickly Doritos and Mountain Dew.

It's an important image. Study it.

06 April, 2010

Michael Pachter: Nostradamus, Or A Cunt?

A Things Cunts Say Special

When Wetbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter makes a prediction, it’s reported as if it were scratched into a granite tablet by the fingertip of God. But how often do these sage-like reports from the future actually fly? To celebrate our five years of blighting the industry, let’s find out.

EA will buy Take Two

So said Pachter on Gamespot, and then went on about how it was virtually certain that EA would win its buyout bid to GameDaily.

Over two years later, EA still haven’t bought Take Two.

Score: WRONG x1

PS3 will outsell Xbox 360 by the end of 2008

So he said on VG247. As you can see from the figures for 2008 and 2009, it didn’t.

Pachter has a real hard on for predicting the PS3 will outsell the 360, so really we should multiply his “wrong” score by the number of times he’s got it wrong. We’ll be generous, though.

Score: WRONG x1

The iPhone isn’t “a viable gaming platform”

Here’s the full quote from next-gen, as it’s a winner:

“I don’t see it as a viable gaming platform, due to the cost of owning one. The iPhone costs $400 plus an AT&T wireless subscription for voice and data, I’m guessing this is $80 a month, so the addressable market doesn’t really fit the core gamer demographic. To the extent that hip, rich people are an interesting gaming audience, iPhone games will work. My guess is that this group is only interested in the most rudimentary games, and that the market will be small.”

Here’s a graphic demonstrating how iPhone gaming has eaten some of the DS’s share, and eclipsed the PSP:
Score: WRONG x1

GTA IV to sell 6 million copies in week one

And that’s how much it sold. Slightly less impressive is that every man and his dog made a similar prediction, such as the less publicity-hungry analyst Mike Hickey. But we’ll still give him a point for it.

Score: CORRECT x1

Xbox 360 & PS3 price cuts in 2008

According to Kotaku. Xbox 360 dropped, as it was widely expected to, but the extortionate PS3 price stayed exactly where it was.

Score: CORRECT x1, WRONG x1

E3 “headed for extinction”

“In our view, E3 is headed for extinction, unless the publishers and console manufacturers wake up to the fact that nobody cares about the show anymore,” he said to VG247 in 2008.

E3 2010 is coming up in a couple of months.

Score: WRONG x1

New DS by the end of 2008

So he said to MCV. The DSi was announced shortly afterwards, which almost makes up for his iPhone faux pas. Almost.

Score: CORRECT x1

Pachter’s estimated 2008 sales wrong

As reported on VG247. Technically, he’s speaking accurately. But speaking accurately about the fact that you were wrong still makes you wrong, no matter how much backpedalling you do. Especially when it’s the serious stuff that people rely on to make themselves the big money. There are loads of faield predictions like this, but they don’t exactly make for entertaining reading, so this’ll be the only one he scores for.

Score: WRONG x1

Wii HD is coming

"A Wii HD would really position Nintendo well, which is why I'm absolutely convinced there is a Wii HD coming,” he said here.

18 months later, still no sign…

Score: WRONG x1

Assassin’s Creed 2 to be set in the 1700s

And during the French Revolution too, apparently, according to what he told GiantBomb.  But in the real world, it was set in the 1400s during the Italian Renaissance.

Score: WRONG x1

PS3 price cut for April 2009

According to a report on VG247. Wrong – it happened in August.

Score: WRONG x1

Assassin’s Creed 2 & Splinter Cell Conviction out before March 2010

Despite setting up the calendar equivalent of a barn door on MTV, he still managed to miss it with Splinter Cell. AC2 was within his gargantuan 14 month area of prediction, so well fucking done for that.

Score: CORRECT x1, WRONG x1

Sony PSP Go is a rip off

Here's the full quote from GameTrailers:
“$249 is too much, period. The $169 PSP-3000 is a profitable device – the disc assembly, for a UMD, costs more than 16 gigs of flash does. So this new device doesn’t cost them as much to make as the PSP-3000 and they jack the price up $80. I’m sorry to say it. I don’t want to get bad fan mail from the Sony fanboys, but… They’re ripping off the consumer.”

Amen to that. Only Sony could take a handheld that’s sorely in need of a second analogue thumbstick and re-release it with less functionality for UMD owners, added internal storage that nobody wanted or asked for, and still no second thumbstick. Thankfully, there are people in the industry with influence who have the balls to call them on stuff like this.

Score: CORRECT x1000

But… hang on, what’s this?

“I sincerely regret the choice of words in my response to Geoff Keighley’s question in last week’s Bonus Round, where I said that Sony is ‘ripping off’ the consumer by pricing the PSP Go at $249.99. I made a poor choice of words, and I do NOT think that Sony is doing anything nefarious in choosing their pricing strategy.” (Via IndustryGamers)

That’s right – the one thing that man has ever said that’s been honest and relevant was retracted within a day. So…

Score: CORRECT -1000, WRONG x1

Borderlands is being “sent to die”

Over to Gamasutra reporting Randy Pitchford from Gearbox:
“It was tough for Pitchford to hear Wedbush Morgan's prominent industry analyst Michael Pachter declare, prior to Borderlands' release, that the game had been ‘sent to die’ amid big competition from Bungie's Halo 3: ODST, Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and other major holiday titles. Pachter argued Borderlands had little chance of competing. We were sandwiched between the two biggest first-person shooter franchises ever. And the guys at BioWare, who walk on water, were releasing Dragon Age around the same time.

“But Borderlands sold around 3 million units, Gearbox continues to invest in the franchise through new downloadable content, and the title became the best-selling new property of 2009. "It was tough for me, because it's Mike’s job to analyze these things. You know what, Mike? I knew you were wrong."

Score: WRONG x1

Final Score: CORRECT x4, WRONG x12

Now, we’re no analysts, but… oh, you get the picture.

10 November, 2009

Ubisoft Offer To Drop Assassin’s Creed 2 Embargo For “Very Good” Score

Omar Boulon, the journo who heroically revealed the Dragon Age: Origins review corruption in Canard PC last week, has informed us that another mag has stepped up with details of another dishonest deal. This time, German mag Computer Bild Spiele has revealed that Ubisoft would only provide them with review code for Assassin’s Creed 2 if they would guarantee that they would give it a “very good” score. Computer Bild Spiele did exactly the right thing (and exactly what no British mag would do) by telling Ubisoft to fuck off whilst delaying the review and, in its place, blowing the deal wide open in an editorial.

Here’s the link if you still think we’re making this crap up for shits and giggles.

Congratulations, Boulon / CanardPC and Computer Bild Spiele. And bollocks to EA and Ubisoft (not to mention any mag that takes the deal).

02 November, 2009

EA Offer To Remove Dragon Age Embargo If 9/10 Awarded

For this story, you can pretty much remove “Eidos” and “Arkham Asylum” from our last few posts and replace them with “EA” and “Dragon Age: Origins”.

Reviews for Dragon Age: Origins are under embargo until 5th November. But, in what’s becoming an increasingly common deal, EA have offered to remove the embargo for anyone who’s willing to guarantee them a score of at least 90% (or 9/10, if you’re that way inclined).

We’ve learned from O Boulon, a staff writer from French PC games mag Canard PC, that his mag withheld their review on the grounds of “honesty” and “good conscience”. You can work out what that means for mags that don’t seem to have a problem taking EA up on this deal, mentioning no names…

And before we get swamped in the Dragon Age fanboys’ semen – we know it’s a decent game, and we’re not disputing whether or not it’s worth a 9. We’re disputing that these kinds of deals should happen in the first place.

EDIT: From Anonymous Knight: “As far as I know, the deal was print only. Online had a different embargo - earlier. I’ve got a mate on [removed European PC mag] who was offered it, but I don’t know about the consoles / officials. Sounds like an over eager EA rep trying to impress his bosses.”

Agreed, but it still shouldn’t happen. We asked PC Gamer editor Tim Edwards about the deal, and he refused to comment.

20 August, 2009

The Price Is Shite (Starring Gillen, Taurus, Porter & Mott)

Well over a year ago, we were asked to write a piece on how much reviewers should take game prices into account when reviewing and scoring in light of EA taking the piss out the entire country with its pricing for the original Rock Band set. The mag it was going to appear in folded shortly before it was due to publish (they usually have the decency to go tits up after we’ve administered our kiss of death). It seems a shame to see it go to waste before we disappear again, as it had some excellent contributions from Rick Porter (Editor of gamesTM), Dave McCarthy / Taurus (ex-Editor of Edge and current Triforce slacker), and Kieron Gillen (RR Award-winner).

We also asked current Edge Chief-Editor-In-Chief-Editor-In-Chief Tony Mott for comment, and received some of the finest prose to escape his fingertips:

“I've just had a look at your web site and you don't seem to have changed your stance on Edge (you still believe it to be a piece of shit, as far as I can tell).”

Although the focus of the piece was originally concerned with stuff that nobody cares about anymore such as the Rock Band pricing, the original iPhone, Gerstmann-gate and EA being cunts, it now seems relevant again thanks to Activision openly taking the piss out of you with their pricing for Modern Warfare 2, Tony Hawk RIDE and DJ Hero. So here, without the vast majority of our own wittering commentary, is the piece presented in more of an interview style so you can enjoy it even if you hate everything we stand for.


Every editor has their own idea about how much price should affect the scores given to games when reviewed. I've had my fair share of arguments with editors who think prices should play no part in the review, as I couldn't disagree more. Our jobs are to tell our readers whether they should part with their hard-earned money for the privilege of playing a game. Some editors get so totally lost somewhere in the yards of intestinal tract they spend most of their adult lives inspecting that they forget this simple fact. They become utterly blind to the notion that just because they get sent everything for free, along with assorted bribes and freebies, and of course the free parties where they play with all their little chums and have a jolly good time, all of their readership will have to pay out to enjoy the same experience.

Fortunately I'm describing a minority here, as most editors and review outlets do adopt a policy in their style guides that prices should be considered when awarding a score. Fifty quid for Audiosurf? Fuck off – 2/10. Five quid for Audiosurf? Yes please – 8/10.

But hey, I'm not always right, so I asked some of the mags and review outlets what they have to say about all this.

Rick Porter (Editor, GamesTM): “How to score titles when the price-tag strays away from the norm? It's something that myself and the team have struggled with plenty over the last 18 months. When a game is more or less free, it is very easy to justify treating the price as a distinctly separate issue. Besides, if pricing were allowed to be a contributing factor to scores then any flash game or title that's made available for free should almost certainly be awarded a perfect ten. Therefore, when reviewing games, the only way is to have a policy that disregards external factors such as pricing.”

David McCarthy (Former Editor, Edge): “I remember when I was working on Edge, the reviewing policy was to simply assume that Edge readers, being the early-adopting technophiles that we all imagined them to be, would assume that price was no object, and we reviewed games accordingly. And actually, that was fairly easy for me, because, impoverished though I was, price was no object for me when I bought Samba de Amigo, or when, for example, I bought an import GameCube with the money my mum had given me one Christmas to buy a bed. I'd rather play Super Monkey Ball than sleep comfortably.”

RAM Raider: “Now that's an interesting viewpoint – if your readership are so hardcore that they've learnt Japanese so they can play Final Fantasy "the way it's meant to be played", and think nothing of crashing the Tokyo Game Show whilst keeping a copy of their Scandinavian Game Development supplement with them for the plane journey, then it would be senseless to punish the quality of gameplay through a review just because of its associated RRP. In a way, it's moving away from critiquing the pure quality of the game. Nevertheless, £180 is still taking the piss.”

Porter: “When something is horrendously overpriced, the conscience begins to nag a little harder. When you're advising a largely young audience to part with hundreds rather than tens of pounds, you feel obliged to take things such as value for money into consideration. Fortunately, being one of the more mature videogame magazines on the market, I choose to assume that anyone reading gamesTM knows the worth of £180, is aware of the risks involved in spending it on a videogame and are, ultimately, sure that they can afford to spend the amount without too much consequence.”

RR: “So it seems that both Edge and gamesTM are familiar enough with their readership to know what the majority of them want – reviews of the games, rather than their price tags. But this brings us around to the question of whether particular audiences are that demarcated from Mr Average Gamer. If someone outside of the demographic picked up a copy of either mag hoping to see whether the game is worth mortgaging their house for, would it be reasonable for them to expect the reviewer to have considered the price?”

Kieron Gillen (RR Award-winning journo): “There's some very well meaning people, including several of my friends, who believe that the price shouldn't influence a review. I think they're about as wrong as you can get. A review in a consumer magazine is primarily a consumer guide, and the mark a shorthand for 'Should I get this or not?'. If a game is drastically overpriced – that is, giving an amount of entertainment beneath what a consumer would expect – I think it should affect the mark. It's part of the consumer protection part of the gig, and punishing developers who try to gouge consumers. You deal with everything in the body copy, allowing people to make up their own mind. But you can't give a 10/10 for a game that's ludicrously overpriced, because then people will think you mean 'It's worth it'. And you *don't* think it's worth it.”

RR: “Three reviewers, three different perspectives. On one extreme, we've got Gillen who thinks reviewers should take pricing into consideration. On the other, we've got McCarthy who thinks the dead opposite. Somewhere in between the two, albeit closer to McCarthy's camp, Porter thinks pricing should only minimally influence the reviewer when it's extraordinarily high. Are you following all this?”

Porter: “Could there be confusion? Almost definitely. When we gave Wii Play a fairly low score, there was a cry from many forums claiming that we were wrong to score a game that essentially cost five pounds in such a harsh way. It was agreed that it wasn't a great title, but all were willing to pay the asking price due to the Remote they received in the package. A shrewd piece of marketing by Nintendo who were obviously aware that all who purchased a Wii also owned Wii Sports – a title that near demanded a second Remote to be fully enjoyed. In the case of Rock Band, we awarded a high score. The game is excellent. Would we have come under fire from the same people who didn't agree with the Wii Play score had we marked it down to a four simply because of its high price? Definitely.”

RR: “So what about import reviews – can mags really be blamed for reviewing foreign code for the sake of an early review?”

Gillen: “Imports isn't really relevant to what I mainly do – a lot of mags re-review when it gets a UK release, like the lovely NGamer. What may be relevant is when I get sent a boxed copy of a game which is available much cheaper online, like many casual games. In that case, yeah, it affects the mark – as I'm reviewing the package I was sent and I'll actively point people in the direction of where they should get it from in the text.”

RR: “There's a lot of sense in that argument. To describe the job of the reviewer as being to review the game purely on its merits to the exclusion of all else would be misleading semantics. The real reason reviewers exist is to allow the reader to vicariously experience the game through them so they know if it's something they need to buy. In this sense, wouldn't ignoring the price be effectively ignoring the fact that in the real world, people have to pay for stuff?”

McCarthy: “I don't have a massive amount of sympathy for people complaining about the price of Rock Band. If you don't like the price, don't buy the game. Or move somewhere better than Britain. I mean, it's not just games, is it? As for the general point: if reviewers want to review a game based on its price, that's up to them, as long as they make it clear that's what they're doing. I'm basically in favour of reviewers reviewing a game however they want, as long as they make clear the basis upon which they form their judgements.”

Porter: “Wherever there is room for confusion and complaint, you can be sure that some will be confused and complain about it. I doubt there's any real solution to the problem. All that can be asked is that each magazine team is aware of the readership it has and points out issues where they see fit.”

RR: “The most important point underpinning McCarthy and Porter's argument is that there has to be clarity when it comes to the magazine, or the reviewer, getting the approach they're taking in the review across to the reader. But in an age where people will log on to MetaCritic to view a list of scores, or will happily just flick through to the last paragraph of a mag's review in WHSmith, what are the readers expecting?”

Gillen: “I suppose it's a natural conclusion of 'Some People Just Read The Mark'. If that's all they read, you need to actually carry the message, 'Not Worth It', in there. People who read the review will make up their own mind. And – frankly – publishers should be punished for trying it on.”

RR: “As compelling as the well considered and largely well-meaning viewpoints of fine journalists such as McCarthy and Porter are, particularly the attitude of reviewing the “game” rather than the “product”, it's hard not to ultimately agree with Gillen on this one. At the end of the day, we're not just here to tell the readers what's worth investing their time, and nothing more, in. Some other reviewers really do need reminding occasionally that their readers, those people they write for (remember them… anyone?), don't generally get sent stuff for free.

Gillen: “I suppose the central point is, 'I think that games journalists should remember when they spent thirty quid on a game and felt ripped off'. It's a good general rule.”

03 August, 2009

OPM Dodges Arkham Asylum Embargo With A 9

Still playing “spot the corruption”? There’s still time, as the general embargo hasn’t lifted yet. Ding!


Ding ding ding!

Scans of the entire thing here.

By the way, if cunts keep posting numerous anonymous comments as if they’re from several different people, we’re going to start publishing IP addresses. Especially the ones associated with Eidos.

01 August, 2009

Why Publishers Love Exclusive “Reviews”

This ad is running on the back of issue 86 of GamesTM, out next week. It went to print before the issue of GamesMaster we featured last week was sent out to its readership, meaning that Eidos was privy to the score and text of GM’s “exclusive” before it was published. This, by the way, is very common, as it allows publishers to place borderline hysterical quotes like “Batman is a masterpiece” onto their advertising whilst simultaneously plugging the magazine the quote is plucked from.

For the record, the latest issue of GamesTM doesn’t feature Arkham Asylum on the cover, nor a review, as they didn’t arrange to be excused from the general embargo.

25 July, 2009

Arkham Asylum: We Have A Winner

Have you been playing “spot the corruption”?

Excitingly, the embargo hasn’t lifted yet. Ding!


Ding ding ding!

“With regards an article posted on RamRaider alleging that Eidos has fixed review scores for Batman: Arkham Asylum, we want to state that no discussions have been held about review scores with any magazines. In short there is simply not one shred of truth in this article, except for the title of the game.”

Jon Brooke, Eidos UK marketing manager

Scans of the full review here, if you can somehow heroically endure it.

17 July, 2009

ONM’s Rushed Wii Sports Resort Review

This has probably been the worst attempt at closing down a blog in the history of everything, ever. Seeing as we’ve already broken silence (erm, twice), we’re going to offload a few posts that we were saving up for a one-off later in the year. And then we’ll fuck off again. Probably.

“Just thought I'd bring the Official Nintendo Magazine’s review of Wii Sports Resort to your attention (flagged up by the GRcade forums). The review is atrociously bad on practically every single level. I’d wager the word “well” & variations of “works really well” have never appeared together so often ever before. Bear in mind this is one review...

When describing the Frisbee... “The controls work really well”

Wakeboarding... “The controls work well”

Table Tennis... “Actually works really well”

Power Cruising... “Actually works really well”

Table Tennis again... “In fact it actually works really well”

Archery... “But I have to admit this one worked really, really well”

Cycling... “Works well”

Archery for a second time... “Works very well”

Couple in typos ("you have get to the front of the course over the whole competition") & their review must have been cobbled together in record time. Shameful.

Anonymous Knight”

13 July, 2009

Eurogamer Editor Tom Bramwell On Embargos

By now we've all read RAM Raider's post about Batman reviews. I wrote Rammy an email on Friday night in which I raised a few points about it, and, as with all good Friday night emails, I regretted it immediately when I woke up on Saturday morning, because I was horribly inarticulate and bonkers throughout. So I wrote another email asking if I could write a clearer reply making a point that I think is often overlooked or goes without discussion, and then maybe he could publish that. If you're reading this, rather than a post entitled "Eurogamer editor sends mad email then panics", then Rammy is a gentleman. (Although, actually, that's still quite a good title.)

I believe we would all be much better off without review embargoes. One day, I hope to live in a world where developers finish making games, and their publishers immediately ship them off to as many critics as possible, encouraging us to write them up whenever we like, and allowing us to tell you whether we love them or hate them well before you find yourself staring at them in the shops. You would have plenty of time to make your mind up, developers and publishers would have lots of feedback to consider, and the quality of reviews would dictate the success or otherwise of the magazines and websites that published them, so there would be no sense in rushing to be "first!" (People would still do that for a while, but they'd get over it.)

That's the dream, so what's the reality?

With websites, the most common approach taken by game publishers is to provide review copies a week or two before release and specify a date and time that the review can go live. This is usually just before the US release date, which is a few days before the European one. Some publishers only specify embargoes on big releases, and allow other reviews to go up as soon as the publication likes after receiving the game. Elsewhere, there are a couple who I'd happily single out for praise. Sony frequently provides review code a month or more in advance of release on major games, and although it does set embargoes, these are usually well ahead of the release date, as with Killzone 2 and inFamous this year. One company, meanwhile, often provides games a month or more ahead of release and seldom sets any embargo at all. Stand up Nintendo, and take a bow.

However, it's not all like that. In the bad old days, websites struggled to get hold of review copies until the day of release, and sometimes had to wait until after that. Or - more frequently with magazines than websites, as far as I know - review copies were only provided if a publication agreed to a high score in advance, which is the sort of thing Rammy is highlighting. This behaviour is much less prominent than it used to be, but it does still happen. One of the biggest publishers in the world, for instance, makes it very difficult to review its games in the UK before the US release date, and sometimes even the UK one, even when said games are actually very good.

In this case, I'd like to separate the two aspects of Rammy's report and try and demonstrate why there is hope amongst the apparent bleakness. Whether or not the events described are true is immaterial - this sort of thing does happen, and the two key parts are: 1) A game provided for review in time for magazines to publish their thoughts ahead of release. 2) An offer to allow people to publish earlier if they really like the game. The part about the 9/10 proposal is something I've written about before, and as I said then, I think that in theory it is acceptable providing the publication behaves honestly. It's then up to its readers to decide whether it acted honourably or not.

In this instance, I think it's worth focusing on the first part: the idea of a publisher providing review copies in sufficient time for all manner of magazines and websites to publish their verdicts before the game is available to buy. This is becoming more common, and I believe that's progress. Similarly, I think Sony and Nintendo and the other examples I provided originally are signs of progress.

One has to remember that a game publisher's ideal scenario is completely the opposite of ours. Theirs is that only positive reviews appear before release, and preferably right around release, so that people's attention is drawn to the launch of something apparently loved by critics. While some do still attempt to stage that situation, plenty are now on the road to siding with us. There are loads of reasons for this, but one of the most prominent is that the internet remembers, and people don't like being fooled. It's actually better, a few Mr Publishers now believe, to live with the fact that a mediocre game is going to get low scores, because one day they will have a really good game to sell, and people will be more likely to believe the good things they're hearing about it.

Let's not paint too rosy a picture: we're still a long way from the dream scenario of tons of early reviews and every publisher taking the bad with the good, and it's important that commentators like Rammy continue to talk about review embargoes and let the people publishing games know that, in the long run, it will be best to do away with them completely. But the point I wanted to make, which I've hopefully stumbled into somewhere in the knots of text above, is that we *are* getting there, slowly but surely, and I believe that, in attacking the practices of PR and marketing people, we must make sure that we define our criticism specifically so as not to discourage that progress.

Tom Bramwell
Editor, Eurogamer