Saturday, 1 December 2007

First horse out of town

Eidos have pulled their advertising already. Reading through Rock, Paper, Shotgun's take on things, it looks like more experienced journalistic minds than mine have a credible explanation:

Review appears.
PR or someone similar phones up and go apeshit. Really apeshit. This is par for course. A major game getting sub average reviews is something which PR *have* to phone up about. It’s what their bosses expect. Better PRs and Editors all know that it’s part of the game they play with each other, and roll with it.
Problem in this case, is whoever above Greg isn’t a good editor or manager. They’re someone who actually takes the threats seriously instead of something that’ll blow over by the next game. The panic, cave and sack the guy.
Now, this is the last thing any experienced PR would expect. I dare say Eidos are as surprised as everyone else at the sacking - and horrified, as a sacking over a review score is the worst publicity they could ever recieve if it got out (And, of course, being the internet it WOULD get out).
Internet chaos.
So it looks like my previous statement may have been an over-reaction. My apologies Ian. It looks like the entire industry has ethical problems, not just yourself.

The reason why I say this, is that the unholy trinityuneasy triangle of game journalism, game PR and game advertising is ripe with ethical irresponsibility. Games journalists rely on game PR for a large proportion of their content: footage, previews, early code to review and so on. This historically has been more important, but the power of the Internet is such that even if you don't get the scoop, you can quickly link to whoever does and represent it as a breaking news story anyway (which is why you get so many duplicate stories in Google Reader for instance).

However, the power of game advertising has grown proportionately. When you are giving away your content for free, as opposed to retail or subscription models, the revenue from advertising is your only source of income. For the independents, this is not a huge problem, because you get a name for yourself, and write where ever you can get the work. But for in-house journalists, such as those employed by Game Spot, it is a delicate line between integrity and income. As a journalist, you rely on your editors to protect you. As a Game Spot, you rely on taking an hit on the income in the event someone pushes too far, and the kudos you get for saying no.

But as a major games publisher, you should recognise the serious conflict of interest integral to the industry. In 'the real world', what you'd do is develop a code of conduct at the board level to ensure that situations such as what is currently developing don't occur. And then you push the code of conduct out at all levels within your organisation, to ensure you don't have PR ringing up and going apeshit on people.

You do this because you have a fiduciary duty to your share holders to maximise return, while minimising the risk of failure or legal misadventure. And clearly this hasn't happened.

Eidos has already gone into damage control mode. Maybe when they pull their head back out of the sand, they'll realise the problem and ensure that such a document gets developed. I'd like to see some heads roll on the Eidos side at a senior management level first. You just don't make mistakes like this.

[Edit: Kevin Grifford at GameSetWatch has another great take on this, from a slightly different angle.]

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