Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Game reviewer axed for the love of money?

If you're a videogame review geek like me, you may have already heard of the messy separation of Gamespot's Former Editorial Director Jeff Gertsmann after 11 years at the company. For the uninitiated, Gerstmann was fired from Gamespot at the end of last week for undisclosed reasons. Because of a lack of information provided by CNET, Gamespot's parent company, and some kind of gag order on Gerstmann preventing him from discussing the reasons for his termination the rumor mill ran overtime this past weekend.

In what may be more than coincidence, Gerstmann's termination comes on the heels of a fairly harsh review of Eidos' Kane and Lynch:Dead Men. On the surface that's not a big deal, however shortly before the game's release all sorts of Kane and Lynch advertising appeared on banners throughout Gamespot. Eidos had made quite the investment in terms of ad dollars hyping the game. Reportedly, clicking through one of the ads brought you to Gerstmann's unfavorable review.

So now we have what appears to be sour grapes on Eidos' part. They gave Gamespot a bunch of ad money and their senior editor craps on their highly touted release. The rumor mill goes on to speculate that Gamespot in an effort to appease Eidos (as well as pocket future ad dollars from them) tried to get Gertsmann to re-evaluate his review. After correcting it for factual errors alone, he was let go because he would not change the content of his review.

After an insane amount of speculation from bloggers and former reviewers at Gamespot, a CNET press release was issued acknowledging that Jeff Gertsmann was let go and that his last review had no impact at all on his separation. That may be well and good but the original video review of Kane and Lynch:Dead Men by Gertsmann was taken down and has yet to be restored.

To add further fuel to this controversy, it appears that Eidos has been misquoting review sites when it comes to scores for this game. Quotes taken from a preview showing of the title at E3 were used to address the final product.

There are only three people that know the story to this and none of them are talking; Gertsmann, CNET and Eidos representatives. If it ever comes to light that Eidos had a hand in "massaging" the Gamespot review, it would not be looked upon favorably especially since their marketing uses quotes out of context. If it comes to pass that Gamespot terminated Gertsmann for his review, it would be most unfortunate not just for Jeff but game-related journalism as a whole. Most reviewers go out of their way to be impartial when it comes to reviews; Dean Takahashi sent back a duffel bag full of about $800 worth of Halo 3 swag to Microsoft because he didn't want to appear to be swayed by such an extravagant gift.

Here's to hoping that this remains an isolated incident and not a sign of things to come for video game journalism. What's your take?

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