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Gerstmann: I Was Fired Because I Wouldn't Play Ball

Where do you go to get your reliable reviews?

We're sure you remember the fiasco: Jeff Gerstmann leaving GameSpot under suspicious circumstances after posting a less-than-favorable Kane & Lynch review, a game that received a lot of advertising and promotion at GameSpot's website.

After he left, there was quite the exodus, as a number of GameSpot employees left. The general consensus was that Gerstmann had been fired for not playing ball; i.e., the site was given a lot of advertising revenue for Kane & Lynch, and the publisher expected a good review in return. Leaked information from other former staffers pseudo-confirmed this, although Gerstmann has never spoken about it since leaving and forming Giant Bomb.

That has all changed now, though: In an interview with GameSpot's John Davison, Gerstmann confirmed why he was fired. He said he was called into a room by CBS management (who owns GameSpot), and they told him he was terminated because apparently, he "couldn't be trusted" as the editorial director. Evidently, this decision came about specifically due to his Kane & Lynch review. Gerstmann also gave the example of how Sony threatened to pull ad money if Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction earned anything less than a perfect score. GameSpot gave it a 7.5, but we didn't hear anything after that.

Bottom line? Websites are businesses. Especially big websites. They're free to read so their only revenue comes from ads, and big-money ads can often come from game publishers...who just might expect a little something in return besides the advertising space. It's a tough world.

Tags: gamespot, jeff gerstmann, gamespot reviews, giant bomb

3/16/2012 10:40:28 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (42 posts)

Highlander
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:04:18 AM
Reply

Ben, you forgot to point out that the Editorial policy at PSX prevents this kind of abuse being an issue, and the fact that you do 90% of the reviews and writing of course...

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Beamboom
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:03:26 PM

What policy is that? To not accept multi million advertisers? :D

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Underdog15
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:04:37 PM

To not allow it to affect a review or put an employee's job at risk due to abject morality.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:27:58 PM

Oh, I think people are aware. I clarified that when this story first broke.

But as it was several years ago, I'll restate-

PSXE has never and will never accept ad money as a bribe for a good review. No publisher, developer, or PR representative has ever asked us to do so. And if they did, it really wouldn't matter anyway, because we have a responsibility to the gamers, and we value our reputation as a go-to place for reviews.

There. :)

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Beamboom
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 1:12:05 PM

Yeah I was just trying to be a bit funny. :)

But it gotta be said though, I believe all serious media have these principles. And it's easy to follow too, until the big money starts rolling, the big deals are knocking on your door and the temptations are starting to be really, really sweet.

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/16/2012 1:12:55 PM

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Killa Tequilla
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 1:16:06 PM

This is why I like this website, it's why this is the only website i signed up to and comment occasionally. Gaming websites that is. Ben does a real good job.

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Nas Is Like
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 3:31:24 PM

I love you even more, Ben, for your comment. Too many things nowadays are rigged, and once it is, the fun is just sucked out of it. I'm glad someone is keeping it real and honest for once, that kind of thing is becoming rare in today's world.

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Underdog15
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:07:46 AM
Reply

This kind of news disgusts me.

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Beamboom
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:03:52 PM

Me as well. Makes me sick.

And I recognize it too. I've worked in the media for many years, and the pressure is everywhere; The sales persons who want to get that signature, the customer who put pressure on editorial decisions, the board and owners who only measure your success in sales figures, the pressure is *all* over, both internally and externally.
It's *not* easy.

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/16/2012 12:10:53 PM

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Palpatations911
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 4:33:56 PM

This is the only site I will consistently read reviews on. Outside of PSXE, I generally stick to customer or user reviews.


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H0TSHELLZ
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:11:00 AM
Reply

It's EF'd up because he was telling the truth.

All Kayne & Lynch games are GARBAGE !!!!

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:28:30 PM

The second one wasn't too bad at all.

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Temjin001
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:19:45 AM
Reply

Yeah, I absolutely remember this. I do frequent Giant Bomb myself.

I liked that Gamespot crew back then.
Greg K.
Jeff G.
Brad S.
I liked their reviews.
It sucks this sort of stuff happens.
A person really has to question IGN. Seeing that IGN has spotlight time on Xbox LIVE's dashboard, it makes me wonder just how much negotiations go on behind closed doors.

EDGE is another. Their Halo ODST review, or just their MS published game reviews all around, are consistently inflated. No, really, they are.

Remember that article yesterday about publishers paying an incentive to their employees for critic scores? hmmm...

Also, anyone remember MS"s trick at E3? After their joke of a Kinect E3 presentation they closed by sending everyone in attendance home with a new 360slim? Hmmmm... don't think that was out of the kindness of their heart. No, it's essentially direct bribery before the press goes home and writes up their articles of MS's E3 presentation....



Last edited by Temjin001 on 3/16/2012 11:20:43 AM

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telly
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:22:27 AM

IGN in particular freaks me out. Those guys are REALLY cozy with publishers, and if I felt so inclined I feel like I could go back through so many reviews that were comically and blatantly inflated.

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telly
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:25:43 AM

Oh, and that 360 slim gift thing was a f**king joke. Every one of the reporters in that room should have left the "gift" where it was and walked out. Blatant conflict of interest. At the risk of taking the moral high ground, when I was a Capitol Hill reporter we squirmed when a lawmaker staffer so much as tried to pay for coffee during interviews. The idea of taking a several hundred dollar GIFT from a lawmaker's office would almost surely have gotten one of us fired. But s**t like this happens ALL THE TIME in some parts of the gaming press. Terrible.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:29:42 PM

EDGE has been in Microsoft's bed the entire generation. All you need to know is that three 360 exclusives have received perfect 10s, and ONE PS3 exclusive has. ...given the very obvious gap in exclusive frequency and quality on the two platforms, that alone speaks volumes.

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telly
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:20:52 AM
Reply

Morally reprehensible. Being a reporter is tough in any field -- I know from personal experience. The pressure on you to deliver the coverage those on your beat want is BRUTAL. And they can threaten to withhold information, ad dollars, etc. if you don't play ball. The publishers of Kane and Lynch, Sony (if the Ratchet and Clank story is true) AND CBS management should all be ashamed.

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Mr_Sterg
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:11:21 PM

Yea man I agree. Especially with the COD games. Something is definetly up at ign hence why I came here.

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CheddarClyde
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:42:18 PM
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The troubling thing about the whole Gamespot fiasco was that it was clear confirmation of the bias nature that we've accused many of the major review site of harboring but just couldn't prove. Big business does have its benefits but it also has a tendency of corrupting any medium that it comes into contact with and the gaming industry (especially this generation) is no exception. These companies pump millions into these games each year and they will do anything to ensure that they have a return on their investment, no matter how unethical.

I take game reviews with a grain of salt because of this and the fact that, at the end of the day, they are just opinions and not necessarily fact. If I'm on the fence about buying a game, I'll read a review from front to back and see if there were any red flags (bad controls, short campaign/story modes, etc.) that would stop me from buying it. If the review is badly written or holds that game to standards that it doesn't for others, I'll simply ignore it.

When it comes to the major review sites, I'd say G4 is probably the most notorious for this kind of behavior across the board, possibly because their parent company (NBC-Universal) is partnered with Microsoft. We all know fanboys exist across the board, but they tend to go out of their way to ridicule PS3 fanboys every chance they get while ignoring the fact that X-Box fanboys do exist as well. IGN may be bias as well but at least they've criticized Microsoft on a number of issues recently, particularly their recent lack of exclusives in comparison to Sony's and over their showing at last year's E3 which they felt was the worst of the 3. They've even tried to address accusations of them being bias in a somewhat more intelligent and less hostile way than G4, whose reaction to being accused of being biased involves words I can't type here.

The issues that went down with Gamespot are probably more common than any of us realize and are unlikely to stop anytime soon. I don't want every PS3 game to be given a great review if it genuinely doesn't deserve one, but I would like for reviewers to hold every game to the same set of standards good and bad.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:48:08 PM

You know...you just contradicted yourself. ;)

It drives me crazy when people say reviews are "all" opinion. It simply isn't true, as you proved in your second paragraph, where you said you look for red flags like bad control, short campaign, etc. Those right there are absolutely objective, and not subjective. In fact, a great deal of game analysis comes down to people knowing what they're looking at, and telling others about it.

There's always some opinion, of course. But I think there's a very good reason why the vast, VAST majority of games that score over a 9 also sell very well. Good games can be qualified on a number of different objective points, and not everyone is qualified to find all those points.

That being said, when you toss a wrench into the works, like critics having ulterior motives (for the sake of ad money, for example)...things get iffy. ;)

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 3/16/2012 12:48:45 PM

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CheddarClyde
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 1:31:34 PM

This is what happens when I try to write before having coffee.

There are some parts of game reviews that would be classified as fact like bad controls or glitchy gameplay so my bad on not clarifying that. However, wouldn't the quality of something like writing, acting, originality, level design, graphics and the overall experience be something that would be more subjective to the person playing it? As Mass Effect 3 is proving, many people will slam the writing in a game just because they don't like the way things ended and not because of whether or not the ending makes sense. To me, what makes a review solid is whether the reviewer can properly explain why they think any of these aspects are good or bad as opposed to just saying the writing sucks or the graphics are lousy. :)

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 2:46:16 PM

Not really, no. Writing and acting are qualitative, too, to a certain extent. Regardless of personal preference, it is fact to say that Anthony Hopkins is a better actor than Pauly Shore. No matter what you like, Oscar Wilde is a better writer than Danielle Steele.

Same goes for graphics. Uncharted 3's graphics are better than Knight's Contact. There's just no two ways about it. The acting in Red Dead Redemption is superior to the acting in older titles where professional actors OBVIOUSLY weren't used.

I mean, there is opinion, of course. But I always say there's far more in the way of objective analysis than most people are willing to admit. Because admitting that also implies that not everyone can do video game reviews...and as far as I can tell, no avid gamer wants to admit that. ;)

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 3/16/2012 2:46:53 PM

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Beamboom
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:04:55 PM

Since I so often disagree with you, Ben, I'd like to use this opportunity to state that I completely agree with you here. What you say is so obviously true that it almost feels silly that you really have to repeatedly say it.

(JAWKNEE! See that? I *can* agree too! ;) )


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/16/2012 3:07:04 PM

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CheddarClyde
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:11:33 PM

Never looked at it like that. All goods points.

All the more reason why we need sites like yours Ben. Stay uncorrupted for as long as you can and keep up the good work.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 8:28:20 PM

I've got only a sliver of pride and an ounce of integrity left...but I'll hang on to both with every scrap of strength I've got. ;)

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Looking Glass
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 1:17:45 PM
Reply

Looks like Sony was probably bluffing. Making such a threat wasn't a very good move (perhaps another one of numerous lessons that Sony has had to learn in more recent years) and Sony was wise not to make good on it. It would have made an unfavorable situation even worse.

Having said that I really don't think game reviewers should accept money from publishers and developers. It creates a conflict of interests.

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Beamboom
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 2:28:28 PM

Problem is that is easier said than done, Looking. Your most important income will usually be from businesses whose target is that crowd that you are writing for.

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PC_Max
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 1:30:21 PM
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Well, money talks or makes people talk a certain way. Glad to know there is still some integrity in this business.

Thing is, if a game for lack of a better word... "sucks", and a certain site reviews it and gives it a perfect or "generous" rating, my thought would be that gamers would eventually see through it and move to a more credible site, such as this one. :) Regardless if the sponsors or owners of the site do.

That said its good to know that there are sites and people who still know that the audience is who they are obligated to speak in truth to regarding game reviews, and not necessarily the pay cheque.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 1:32:52 PM
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It's really no wonder when I put out the ed "Do you trust big game sites or small gaming sites for reviews?" the result was that most gamers trusted small sites.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 3/16/2012 1:34:35 PM

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Deleted User
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 2:09:32 PM
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As someone who has been playing video games since the 1970's, I remember when magazines like Electronic Games were in circulation. The journalism in that publication was top notch and very honest and professional.

Today, it's an utter joke. Bias all around for MS, writing that comes from the pen of oversexed teenage boys, comments from grammatically challenged adolescents, pictures of a topless Olivia Munn, etc. is rife all over the Internet and on T.V. We video gamers deserve better. Not all of us are mindless 11 year olds.

I'm glad there are people like Ben and Arnold who maintain the professional editorial stance everybody else refuses to follow or fakes.

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H0TSHELLZ
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:03:46 PM

100% FACT, TRUE, REAL, LEGIT

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Highlander
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:11:45 PM

Actually, I'm not entirely sure that Olivia Munn has ever done nude, or semi nude work.

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TheCanadianGuy
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:20:29 PM

she did a semi nude shoot in playboy. i don't think shes ever done nude :(

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Beamboom
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:23:50 PM

Aha - so you googled it as well, Highlander? ;)

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TheCanadianGuy
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 3:41:37 PM

nope. i just knew. i have the issue xD

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Highlander
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 4:04:00 PM

Actually I already knew she hadn't, and the playboy shoot wasn't as semi nude as it's hyped to be, she shows nothing. that's always been a part of her contracts. About the most revealing thing she's done was the Leia golden star wars bikini for attack of the show. It's actually one of the things that makes me like her much more. That and the fact that despite playing dumb so often, she's really very sharply intelligent.

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TheCanadianGuy
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 4:16:33 PM

ohh sorry i always thought semi nude was like nothing on but still showing nothing. my bad

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Beamboom
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 7:29:24 AM

Ok so I am apparently the only one who doesn't know who Olivia Munn is. :D
So yes I had to google it and no I found no nudes.

But semi-nude *is* being nude without showing anything. Like a woman in the shower turned her back at you, that's being semi-nude. Or sunbathing topless faced down on the towel. That's semi-nude too - she has nothing on still nothing shows.

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/17/2012 7:31:22 AM

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TheCanadianGuy
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 2:29:38 PM
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oh my god this so messed up just earlier today out of nowhere i started thinking about this then boom out of nowhere ben does a piece on it! seriously wow.
anyway looking back i bet jeffs glad it happened GB is a much better site than GS could ever dream of being. ever sense that happened i've never gone back to GS.
jeffs a good guy i enjoy his work

Last edited by TheCanadianGuy on 3/16/2012 2:32:18 PM

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FxTales
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 5:28:03 PM
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Honesty is hard to come by these days.

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Victor321
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 7:02:01 PM
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Capitalism...:(

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Robochic
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 8:16:11 AM
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and this is why i stick to this website i don't even really trust kotaku anymore.

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