Corrupted Batman Reviews?

An anonymous games journalist who has been keeping a blog under the assumed name of “The RAM Raider” is suggesting that Eidos might be up to no good with their review scores.

You might remember that there were fairly well-founded accusations surrounding the review scores for Tomb Raider: Underworld last year in which it was implied that Eidos had hired a Public Relations company to threaten websites into not publishing scores which were under a certain level until after the game’s opening weekend. We refused to review Tomb Raider at all because we were appalled at the implications of blocking review scores until after a game’s opening weekend.

Well, this time the game is Batman: Arkham Asylum and the allegation is that Eidos are allowing magazines to break the review embargo (which is apparently up a the end of the month – TSA don’t currently have review code for this and so we don’t have details of the embargo) if those magazines commit to a review score above 90% and dedicate their cover to the game. The RAM Raider is suggesting, via his blog, that any magazine featuring Batman on it’s cover, running an embargo-beating review and scoring the game above 90% has been corrupted by Eidos.

Regular readers of my personal blogs and features here at TheSixthAxis will know that journalistic integrity is an issue which is very close to my heart. So, you might expect me to be extremely critical of Eidos in this situation but I’m not going to be. The simple fact is that Eidos have a review embargo in place which will apparently lift well before the game’s release (at the end of August). So there will be a multitude of reviews before or immediately after the game hits shelves which are not subject to any “get-out clause” which may, or may not, have been offered by Eidos.

The second pertinent point is that The RAM Raider is ambiguous in his accusations. There are no specifics mentioned. That is both completely understandable (the guy can’t disclose confidential sources, that would be unprofessional) and slightly suspicious. Without specifics all we have is “he-said-she-said” which is about as unreliable a basis for founding an opinion as I can think of. You just have to pick a side and you don’t have anything other than one man’s say-so on which to base your choice. I will wait for more information before I criticise any individual, publication or publisher.

The third and final reason for not jumping on Eidos and berating them for their alleged corruption is this: everyone does it. Most major publishers will work with large review outlets to allow them to publish early reviews if they are favourable. This benefits the publisher (who gets a positive early review) and the magazine, who are allowed to be amongst the first out the door with a review. As long as there is no pressure to artificially inflate review scores and as long as other review scores will be published before the game’s release (for unbiased comparison) then I don’t really see the problem.

The difficulty with pointing the finger and calling those magazines which are publishing early reviews with Batman covers corrupt is that we have no measure to hold against them. We are making an assumption that the reviewer and the magazine are corrupt simply because they are meeting the criteria allegedly set down by Eidos. It is obviously just as likely that the reviewer and the magazine would have made those decisions regardless of any guidance from the publisher. So perhaps we should not be quite so quick to criticise?

I suggest that we wait until all embargoes are void and we can see reviews from the outlets who didn’t meet the criteria allegedly set down by Eidos. Only then will we be able to reasonably assume that certain reviewers and certain publications might have been swayed by the obvious advantages of being amongst the first to rate the game. If, at that point, the early reviewers are notably more positive than the later reviews then I will be one of the first in line to criticise Eidos and the publications in question.

Source: The RAM Raider Thanks, ii3illy