We all know that Mike and Jerry at Penny-Arcade have lots of friends in the industry, so when they claim to have actual “insider” information, I see no reason to dismiss them as being agents of tomfoolery. In their most recent update (which ties into that comic I told you about yesterday), Jerry confirmed — as best as he can through outside sources — that the rumor of Jeff Gerstmann’s termination from GameSpot over the Kane & Lynch review was true:
“I will tell you the Gerstmann Story as we heard it. Management claimed to have spoken to Jeff about his “tone” before, and no doubt it was this tone that created tensions between their editorial content, the direction of the site, and the carefully crafted relationships that allowed Gamespot to act as an engine of revenue creation. After Gerstmann’s savage flogging of Kane & Lynch, a game whose marketing investment on Gamespot alone reached into the hundreds of thousands, Eidos (we are told) pulled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of future advertising from the site.
Management has another story, of course: management always has another story. But it’s the firm belief internally that Jeff was sacrificed. And it had to be Jeff, at least, we believe, precisely because of his stature and longevity. It made for a dramatic public execution that left the editorial staff in disarray. Would that it were only about the 6.0 – at least then you’d know how to score something if you wanted to keep your Goddamned job. No, this was worse: the more nebulous “tone” would be the guide. I assume it was designed to terrify them.”
At one time or another, I’m sure we’ve all suspected the GameSpots and IGNs of the world of inflating review scores in the interest of keeping advertisers happy, but for those of us on the outside, we’ve never known for certain. The revelations over this issue with GameSpot and its firing of Jeff is probably as close to hardcore evidence as we outsiders are ever going to get, and as such, I will never be able to look at GameSpot in the same way again. I was never a big fan of the site, but nonetheless, a fan I was, and this recent series of events feels like a slap in the face. You’d like to think that you’re getting the honest opinions from the GameSpot staff in its game reviews, but after initiating what is essentially a scare tactic to GameSpot’s remaining staff by firing jeff for not artificially gushing over Kane & Lynch, how could you ever believe a word they published from here on out? By mollycoddling Eidos as they have and unjustly letting one of their most talented and beloved staffers go, they have sold off whatever remaining integrity they had left. Even moreso, they have destroyed any credibility they may have had in the world of video game journalism, and once that’s gone, it’s essentially impossible to ever get it back.
But, what goes around, comes around, and I’m sure the suits at GameSpot/C-Net are going to feel some negative after-effects of this whole situation. If there’s any justice to be found, hopefully they’ll lose a lot more in future revenue than the money Eidos is threatening to keep from them. I know that I will no longer be contributing to their traffic statistics data.
A shame, that.