Ah, Gran Turismo 5. You beautiful, elusive, sweet-smelling breath of a petrol-sniffing angel. We’re so excited for you that we are genuinely worried about a little bit of wee coming out when the release date is finally (re)confirmed.
We’re not excited enough, though, that we’d post up a lengthy article piecing together all the information that has been drifting around, hinted at in off-screen YouTube videos and indicated via Polyphony Digital press releases. Well, actually we are that excited and we have done that once or twice in the past. We’ve never pretended it’s a review though.
We know that Sony are not allowing anyone to do comprehensive previews of the game, never mind reviews (because we ask them regularly for the opportunity). In fact, we’re reasonably sure (and have just confirmed) that review code hasn’t even been issued yet. So, even if someone was to review the game, it would be from early preview code or from trade-show demonstrations. We don’t think that’s professional or particularly ethical (unless it’s clearly declared).
So we’re slightly baffled as to why 3xG have posted what they claim to be a review. Without commenting on the technical quality of the piece, it seems to be written up from the wealth of speculative information on fansites and the sparse details we have from Polyphony Digital’s press releases. Furthermore, they’ve published something they claim is a review, before review code is available and long before Sony have given anyone the go ahead to write about it. They’ll no doubt get a cascade of visitors by doing this (go ahead, click that link and give them another pageview) but what of their reputation?
I know that I go on quite a lot about integrity, honesty and honour in what we do. To me it’s important. I want to be successful at this but I don’t simply measure that success on traffic figures. I want TheSixthAxis to be respected as much as I want it to be popular. So when we enter into an agreement with a publisher, I do all that I can to ensure that we stick to that agreement.
I hadn’t heard of 3xG before this morning (even though we’re listed in their blogroll links) when this “review” was brought to my attention so perhaps that’s it? A big “review” like this will certainly raise the profile of the site. But at what cost?
I have always believed that doing things like this would eventually lead to a loss of respect from your peers, your readers and the industry in general. Looking around though, at the landscape of online games reporting and seeing people who have built very successful businesses out of exactly this kind of model, I have to wonder. Do the readers really care if we’re dishonest in our approach? Some outlets that patently push for sensationalism are held up by others in the industry as bastions for quality. It’s unfathomable and infuriating in equal measure.
TheSixthAxis is doing very well at the moment, both in terms of traffic figures and in terms of our widening reputation. I feel that our hard work and reluctance to take the short cuts that others have rushed to are finally starting to pay off. And yet I see new sites taking those same short cuts and growing extremely quickly. Do our readers really care about honesty? I believe that our readers do but I think it’s clear that there are many more consumers of online media out there who simply don’t care. A story dies so quickly that by the time it’s disproven most consumers have forgotten about it and moved on to the next big traffic-driving drama.
Take this morning’s story from Engadget about the PSP phone. Engadget are a big, trusted source for tech news. They said, explicitly that this is the new PSP phone prototype they were reporting on. We don’t know for sure but we ran the story because there’s no reason not to trust such a large and respected outlet when they’re clearly so sure of what they’ve got. NowGamer are discrediting the story, claiming to have been told by Sony that the images are fake.
Now, they might have heard those words from a Sony representative but I’m almost certain that they didn’t. Sony would surely have said that they “don’t comment on rumour and speculation”. In fact, that’s exactly what they did say to us when we checked with them. To openly say it’s “fake” would be so out of character for Sony that I simply don’t think it’s credible. It’s not true and pretending it is is surely dishonest? I could be wrong. In the meantime, NowGamer are no doubt pulling in masses of new traffic to their headline (and a quick re-check shows that the body of the story has now been altered to reflect what they were actually told and they’ve reworded the headline to almost reflect that truth) that calls Engadget out as liars. If that exact model of PSP Phone (which Engadget say is a prototype, so styling will almost certainly change) is released next March who will remember that NowGamer guaranteed that it was “fake”?
In the world of games writing, especially online, readers are generally fickle. It’s easy to hit-bait and short-cut your way up to tens of thousands of unique visits per month within a very short period of time. Within a few years you can follow that technique and become one of the biggest in the country, winning industry awards along the way. If that’s your purpose then good luck to you, it works, it can be profitable and it certainly gets you known in the industry. But it’s not what I, personally, like to see.
Readers create a flurry of drama in the short term and have very forgiving natures, or very short memories. I suppose it’s very easy for some outlets to abuse that.
I would like to think (and I’m sure some will say I’m wrong) that at TSA we’re trying to do it the right way. Sure, we make the odd mistake and in the past we haven’t always been as consistent or as careful about quality as we are now but I like to think that most of our readers respect what we do. I’d like to think that we never have to resort to cheap tactics to boost our profile and I know that some of our regulars will point out when they think we do. And we’ll listen, like we always have.
To read what we are allowed to say about GT5, why not take a gander at Alex’s Hands On?