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The Official Jeff Gerstmann Gets Fired from GameSpot Thread


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Jeff Gerstmann canned for negative Kane & Lynch review?

 

We've heard an unsettling rumor today from an anonymous tipster that longtime game reviewer Jeff Gerstmann from Gamespot has been let go. That wouldn't necessarily be newsworthy' date=' but the conditions under which he was allegedly dismissed were. According to the source, Gerstmann was fired "on the spot" due to advertiser pressure for his review of Eidos' Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. A visit to Gamespot shows that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game has taken over the site very prominently, with backgrounds and multiple banner ads all pitching Kane & Lynch. Allegedly, publisher Eidos "took issue with the review and threatened to pull its ad campaign."

 

Jeff's review was certainly less than glowing. He assigned the game a 6.0, otherwise known as "Fair" on the Gamespot scale. The game is currently enjoying a Metacritic score in the 65 to 69 range, which the site describes as "mixed or average reviews." According to our tipster, it wasn't necessarily the score that was reason for Gerstmann's rumored axing, but the "tone" of the review.

 

Gerstmann has been no stranger to controversial reviews, as his scores of 10 for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and 8.8 for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess had sensitive internet users up in arms. It's now possible that many bitter fanboys may have had their wishes for his firing granted.

 

As our tipster points out, if the rumor is true, it could point to a distressing precedent at Gamespot and parent company CNet. "As writers of what is supposed to be objective content, this is our worst nightmare coming to life," wrote the tipster.

 

Our efforts to confirm the story with Gamespot haven't proved successful. Our current requests with PR, Gerstmann and other CNet contacts have either gone unanswered or yielded a "no comment."

 

Update: We did get confirmation that Mr. Gerstmann is no longer with Gamespot. The circumstances in which he was terminated or left of his own accord, however, were not disclosed.[/quote']

 

Penny Arcade had this to say about it today.....

 

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I've no doubt something of this natue goes on at several publications. We just don't happen to hear about it. That being said, I am no fan of Jeff Gertsmann and I generally consider him to be one of the worst reviewers out there in general. Therefore I rarely give any of his review any due attention. Regardless of that opinion, the circumstances surrounding his firing are...bullshit for lack of a better word. If he was indeed fired for writing a negative review for a heavily advertised game on the site, then shame on Gamespot for bowing to that pressure and for not standing behind thier reviewer.:(

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Good riddance, never agreed with most of his reviews...

 

Whether you like his reviews or not is irrelevant. The issue is an editorial site bowing to pressure from an external source and letting it influence their decisions. If this is true, CNet/GameSpot's just blown their credibility. It's not unusual for a publisher to try & get better review scores - it's part & parcel of any industry that gets reviewed (books, music, films, any consumer product etc). What's bad is allowing that pressure to change the editorial & this sets a terrible precedent if it's true.

 

We also don't know if the K&L has anything to do with it at this point other than scuttlebutt - we have no clue what sort of relationship Gertsmann had with his bosses or what other issues had been simmering. Everything I've heard about Gamespot says they've worked hard to keep editorial separate from sales, and it's worth noting that the K&L review was already slightly edited to add more info about PS3 vs 360 & network support. But that's by the by.

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After watching the original version of the video review, it was pretty negative, but I didn't see anything that sounded dishonest. Harsh perhaps, but I think that all of the criticisms were founded.

 

I never really put a lot of stock in gamespot reviews (although I did like their new system), but I did enjoy the gamespot podcast quite a bit. I thought it'd just started getting back on track after Rich left, but without Jeff, there's a big hole to fill.

 

Hopefully at some point the situation is cleared up, but I have the feeling that we'll never know all of the facts.

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Whether you like his reviews or not is irrelevant. The issue is an editorial site bowing to pressure from an external source and letting it influence their decisions. If this is true, CNet/GameSpot's just blown their credibility. It's not unusual for a publisher to try & get better review scores - it's part & parcel of any industry that gets reviewed (books, music, films, any consumer product etc). What's bad is allowing that pressure to change the editorial & this sets a terrible precedent if it's true.

 

We also don't know if the K&L has anything to do with it at this point other than scuttlebutt - we have no clue what sort of relationship Gertsmann had with his bosses or what other issues had been simmering. Everything I've heard about Gamespot says they've worked hard to keep editorial separate from sales, and it's worth noting that the K&L review was already slightly edited to add more info about PS3 vs 360 & network support. But that's by the by.

 

It most certainly is relevent. I'm glad to see him go along with all his (IMO) misinformation. I'm sure he will end up reviewing elsewhere.

 

Although my comment was limited to his departure, it is not an indication that I'm not concerned with the influence that advertising has on editorial content/reviews.

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The review has now been totally taken down from the site...

 

That's some concrete evidence right there that this is, in fact, a, well, FACT.

 

But seriously guys, this kinda thing happens ALL THE TIME. Which is why places like LCVG are the only kinds of places I really look for reviews.

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It does not happen all the time. There have been plenty of games that were heavily advertised on sites, but still got horrid reviews.

 

Che who used to work for 1up/EGM mentioned today that when he was there companies always threatened to pull ad dollars over reviews but John D always stood by his staff even if they lost ads.

 

Gamespot seems to have been the same way. However recently they got some new management over there. It seems Eidos got pissed at the harshness of the review, and higher ups in the "company" asked Jeff Gerstmann to tone it down a bit. Which he did , but supposedly not enough. Which led to the firing which just made Gamespot a place I will never read again

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Gamespot seems to have been the same way. However recently they got some new management over there. It seems Eidos got pissed at the harshness of the review, and higher ups in the "company" asked Jeff Gerstmann to tone it down a bit. Which he did , but supposedly not enough. Which led to the firing which just made Gamespot a place I will never read again

 

Let's be clear - that's the rumour, but we've precious little facts so far. We have no knowledge of what happened between GameSpot's management & Jeff, nor what exactly he was fired for.

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It does not happen all the time.

It's terribly naive to think such things do not occurr. I would wager it's completely common place for marketing to push on these pubs for better review scores and I'd wager there are a number of publications that happily break for more ad dollars. Just because EMG/1up don't happen to be that publication doesn't mean others haven't done so. In the end, whether said publications crumble is the real question and there's absolutely nothing to say that either Gertsmann or CNet are being dishonest here. As Brian noted, there's no evidence either way and until we hear from the parties involved it's all just ample speculation.

 

Being completely truthful, Gamespot lost a good number of hits for me when Kasavin departed anyway. I know there are plenty of folks that didn't care for him but I knew when I clicked on one of his reviews I could always depend on a well written, insightful and generally enthusiastic review from guy. Even if I didn't happen to agree with him.

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Which is why I said does not happen ALL the time

..and I'm saying it does. If you think that big sites like Gamespot, 1up.com and IGN are not CONSTANTLY under pressure from thier advertisers to inflate scores then please begin sharing that wonder drug you're on Joey. Feel free to bring some down in January.:detective

 

I mean really, can there be any other explanation for Yakuza and WWF Raw getting a 9.0 on IGN?;) (oh man, I went there)

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Note: You'll see several edits to this as I'm writing this as it comes out. This is an issue that has plagued the game review editorial industry forever. It shouldn't be, but as I have said before, many "journalists" are hacks who have no backbones and should be fired. I won't name names (aside from the good ones), but they make life quite difficult for those of us who actually give a shit. Also, I write this in the spirit of candor with a closed community, so this is completely off the record. Not that you would, but don't go sharing this with your friends.

 

This really depends on how well a publication is doing, how the ad-sales department is set up, and how much church-and-state the editorial staff sets up.

 

I have been working in online journalism for 13 years and I have never been asked to alter my content or review because of an advertiser. I have been asked to do pure advertorial, but I will only do that if the content is explained as such (i.e. "Sponsored by").

 

There's a little word that some editors and writers just don't know because they're desperate for a paycheck. That work is called called "no."

 

If a publication is doing poorly, and the ad-sales people are desperate for CPM, they'll try to force these kinds of things. If the higher-ups are also fearful for their jobs, they'll sell out and let these things happen. Honestly, while I feel bad for Gerstmann, he should have bailed before this happened, as the writing must have been on the wall. I doubt this was the first time that happened there given some other questionable "content" they have posted.

 

In fact, I was just on a call today with an ad sales person and a certain chip manufacturer. This company wanted us to do some "reviews" of their products. I told them we'd be happy to work with them to put together some how-to's and service pieces about Intel technology, but under no circumstances would it be presented as first-party content. They were fine with that, as they were still being promised the impressions they were paying for.

 

In this case, a crappy game has a big marketing budget. That's not all that unusual. I've trashed products made by advertisers on numerous occasions. It happens. In this case, I'm more upset with Eidos for pulling strings. They can piss off.

 

My take:

 

1) Gerstmann should have bolted and seen this practice before.

2) Eidos sucks for allowing this to happen.

3) Gamespot's editors had better grow some balls or get out of gaming journalism.

4) Gamespot's ad sales people, who I assume are CNET ad sales people, whoever they are on this account, should be blacklisted.

 

Finally, if you think this happens all the time, you're wrong, or you're reading the wrong publications. It should be pretty obvious who is kowtowing to the ad-sales people, and you should move on. The guys at Joystiq, Kotaku, and even EGM are pretty straight-up about their separation of church and state, and the quality of their work shows that. Stephen Totilo, a good friend of mine, is also very church-and-state despite MTV's efforts to change that.

 

There's no conspiracy. There are just good and bad editors.

 

..and I'm saying it does. If you think that big sites like Gamespot, 1up.com and IGN are not CONSTANTLY under pressure from thier advertisers to inflate scores then please begin sharing that wonder drug you're on Joey. Feel free to bring some down in January.

 

Sure it happens. So does bad food at bad restaurants. Go find another chef and stop giving them your business. I'm not blaming this on the readers (okay, maybe I am a little, because people who read Gamespot are tools... I kid, I kid...but not really), but there are better sources. You have a choice. Speak with your clicks.

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Go find another chef and stop giving them your business. I'm not blaming this on the readers (okay, maybe I am a little, because people who read Gamespot are tools... I kid, I kid...but not really), but there are better sources. You have a choice. Speak with your clicks.

Well no shit. That goes without saying but then that has nothing to do with my point which was concerning the actual the pressure being there, not the outcome to match Gertsmann's situation. You're speaking to someone that generally doesn't put much faith or care into most any reviews that I happen to read (including your own..I kid I kid...no not really;)). Especially considering I end up buying whatever games I want regardless. You'll You should know me well enough to be well aware of that fact Josh.

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Someone please explain to me why Gerstmann isn't going to publically expose what happened? If you were fired for something so ridiculous, you could perhaps sue, but at the very least, he should blog in an attempt to clarify what happened. If any of this is true, then it will hurt gamespot and EIDOS which would be fair payback. Why wouldn't he do that? What does he have to lose?

 

I ask this because unless you guys have a rational explanation for why he wouldn't do that, I'm going to assume that none of this is true simply because Jeff isn't talking.

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Someone please explain to me why Gerstmann isn't going to publically expose what happened?

Non-disclosure agreement? I would imagine he can't go blathering about publically about how Gamestop conducts thier advertising business without being culpable in some form.

 

To be entirely clear, I've absolutely no idea if that's the case. I'm just throwing it out there as a possibility as to why he can't be outright blunt about discussing the reality of his circumstances. Anyone more familiar with this type of thing (such as Josh) can feel free to correct me on that end of it.

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Non-disclosure agreement? I would imagine he can't go blathering about publically about how Gamestop conducts thier advertising business without being culpable in some form.

 

1Up also mentioned non-disclosure as they claim he refused to comment when they contacted him.

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Someone please explain to me why Gerstmann isn't going to publically expose what happened? If you were fired for something so ridiculous, you could perhaps sue, but at the very least, he should blog in an attempt to clarify what happened. If any of this is true, then it will hurt gamespot and EIDOS which would be fair payback. Why wouldn't he do that? What does he have to lose?

 

Jeff works(ed) in California, an at will state which allows employers & employees to sever employment pretty easily and without explicit cause (though most employers will still document attempts to "fix" the situation or problems to give them good legal backup). Additionally, he likely signed a NDA in return for whatever severance he received, a fairly normal action in layoffs/redundancies etc in my experience.

 

It's looking more like this is fallout from changes/influence from the 'new & improved' GameSpot management that went in place a little over a month ago going by comments by GS staff/ex-staff.

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This is worth a read - blog post on GameSetWatch that covers some of the ground that's been discussed on here before with regards to the emphasis on GameRankings.com, scores in general vs actual criticism of games & how to a large degree, the "fallout" at GameSpot is a direct consequence of this.

 

As an example, we have at least one large publisher tying bonus payments to developers (on a team level & to individuals) on game scores on Metacritic.

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This is all speculation, however, and it misses the real underlying cause of all this. Game publishers, nearly all of whom these days are multi-million-dollar corporations with shareholders and Wall Street analysts breathing down their necks harder than their gamer audience, don't care what Jeff Gerstmann or any reviewer has to say about their games. They care about the score, the Metacritic average, and it's been that way ever since the Internet became the primary vehicle for game media.

Unfortunately that goes for many of the gamers as well which is the real unfortunate part.

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