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Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure

News.com.au tells the tale of Toby McCasker, a former deputy entertainment editor for the magazine ZOO Weekly, who claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on efforts by Rockstar Games to influence coverage of Red Dead Redemption. McCasker posted excerpts on Facebook of an email allegedly from Rockstar saying: "This is the biggest game we've done since GTA IV, and is already receiving Game of the Year 2010 nominations from specialists all around the world," going on to say: "Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this — he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here." The Facebook posting is now removed, and McCasker is no longer with ZOO Weekly. "I did not sign up to become a journalist to write advertorials masquerading as editorial," he says. "This 'cash for comment' culture that is fast becoming the status quo within print media bothers me a lot."

Kotaku has a response from ZOO editor Paul Merrill saying: "I would like to make it clear that at no time has Rockstar EVER sought a preferential review in return for advertising. In fact no games company has ever suggested this. And Zoo would never give a positive review to a game we didn't rate in return for ad dollars. Toby McCasker was sacked for a number of reasons, one of which was his decision to post a private email on his Facebook page. This email was not referring to a game review. He should not be considered a credible source of information on this matter." News.com.au also has a comment from Rockstar Games Australia: "We are not clear on what the story is here. We always try to present our games in the most compelling way to media and fans alike and of course we, like every other video game publisher in Australia or anywhere else for that matter, want to have our games seen in a positive light." The article also says: "It is understood McCasker had earlier received two official warnings about his behaviour."

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46. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 18:49 jdreyer
 
Flatline wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 14:47:
Ever wonder why you see stock companies, defense contractors, and major multinationals advertise on network & cable news even though many of them don't sell a product that the majority of viewers can purchase? It's to make them a revenue stream, so that the news is reluctant to be critical of the advertisers. Same thing in video game magazines.

Exactly. It's why Seimens and Boeing and British Petrol other huge multinationals buy ads on CNN, MSNBC, etc. These ads aren't hawking a product. You can't go buy a Seimens Bluray player or buy gas at a BP gas station. They spend millions in ad dollars on these media networks, even though they aren't selling anything. It prevents these news organizations from being too critical or investigating these companies. Not that they would: all the the major media outlets are owned by huge multinationals themselves: GE owns NBC, Westinghouse owns CBS, Time/Warner owns CNN, etc.
 
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45. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 18:45 Hump
 
Kudos for this kid having balls.  
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44. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 18:24 Ventura
 
Longjocks wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 17:50:
Evidence please, or none of this happened.

Huh? Are you new to the planet Earth or something?

Try going outside mate, you know, actually leave the house. Spend some time among people, especially those that are forced to be around the same people each and every day because of the pressures of today's world. If you can do that, and you don't see evidence of people conspiring together against one another, I'll eat my shorts.

The only thing assuming this didn't happen because you don't see anything in the way of evidence tell me is that you just haven't spend very much time out there in the playing field, because given humanity's tendency to conspire against others, you're better off looking for evidence to prove it didn't happen, and not vice-versa.
 
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43. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 18:00 Tomas
 
Slippery Jim wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 16:55:
Why don't they just do like most game companies? Have the PR department write the review FOR the magazine so that it is done exactly how the software company wants. UBI and EA do it.

I wish you were joking, but haven't experienced this all first hand I can affirm that this sort of thing happens far too often. Some companies require that they have final say on reviews as well - so they basically come in and change things the reviewer wanted to say to paint them in the light they want. Sure, this isn't always happening or we'd never see bad reviews, but it does happen more than people think.

edit: forgot my quote...heh
 
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42. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 17:52 PropheT
 
eXFeLoN wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 16:09:
Rock Star isn't to blame for anything tbh. You have a multi-million dollar game being developed, if you can buy a few good reviews, who cares? They aren't even being dishonest in any sort of way. PR firms are paid to say what you want in a way you want it said. Same goes for lobbyists in any industry. The people who use sites like this to make buying purchases on video games are sheeple anyway.

You realize that those journalists aren't that company's PR, right?

The people who use sites to make buying decisions not being able to get credible information is exactly the problem. You're posting it on a gaming site, so are you one of the sheeple you talk about since you're getting your news from one of the places you say have no value?

Imagine if movie reviews were all done by critics on the payroll of the studios that produced the films. It devalues the entire critical process, and makes it ridiculously hard for consumers to appraise the value of a product when making a decision on whether or not to buy it.

It's not hard to understand.
 
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41. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 17:50 Longjocks
 
Evidence please, or none of this happened.  
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40. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 17:26 PHJF
 
Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this — he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here.

Sounds exactly like something a mafioso would say while menacingly handling a baseball bat or tire iron.
 
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39. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 16:55 Donkey_Punch
 
Why don't they just do like most game companies? Have the PR department write the review FOR the magazine so that it is done exactly how the software company wants. UBI and EA do it.  
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38. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 16:36 Krovven
 
I read the email to suggest "other people are already hyping game of the year, don't you forget that when you write about the game". Even if there isn't a dollars for metacritic points style deal going on, it's still the manipulation of a supposedly "neutral" third party.

Exactly, it's subtle manipulation. Are they trying to influence the outcome to a third-party article/review? Yes. Is it wrong? That's up for debate, but the email was also easily ignorable by the recipient.

It's nothing more than that. Toby McCasker took it too far, and went about it stupidly. There was no "cash for comment" here as he is suggesting. If you are going to post a private email online...do it anonymously, and black out the names, etc, etc. You got fired for being dumb and crossing a line that you apparently had no trouble treading on in the past.

 
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37. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 16:33 zirik
 
Beamer wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 14:56:
Ever wonder why you see stock companies, defense contractors, and major multinationals advertise on network & cable news even though many of them don't sell a product that the majority of viewers can purchase? It's to make them a revenue stream, so that the news is reluctant to be critical of the advertisers. Same thing in video game magazines.

Or it's because businesses watch these channels. You know, the businesses that then go out and hire them...

But you can keep your conspiracy theory over something sensible.

those types of businesses do not look to TV ads to make their next RFP. they know who they are dealing with and send out RFPs to relevant parties regardless of who has more TV air time.
 
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36. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 16:09 eXFeLoN
 
Rock Star isn't to blame for anything tbh. You have a multi-million dollar game being developed, if you can buy a few good reviews, who cares? They aren't even being dishonest in any sort of way. PR firms are paid to say what you want in a way you want it said. Same goes for lobbyists in any industry. The people who use sites like this to make buying purchases on video games are sheeple anyway.  
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35. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 15:47 Agent.X7
 
Rigs wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 12:10:
They always have and always will.

Proof please...and don't give me any Gamespot crap either...

Edit: I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm sure it does. But I seriously doubt that it's as wide spread as some of you say...


=-Rigs-=

Nice to see a reasonable person here. I used to write reviews for pc hardware and MMO games, and the amount of crap email and comments from people who were sure I got money for my favorable opinion was insane. (Of course, I got almost as much email from people who weren't happy because I gave their favorite game or hardware an unfavorable review, or because I just didn't gush enough in a positive review...)

Nobody I knew ever got money for a positive review. (Or any other perk, for that matter)
 
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34. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 15:27 Lincolns Mullet
 
Seriously? You think people from companies that would do business with Lockheed Martin are hiring them because of a commercial they saw on CNN? There's no "theory" involved here at all, it's just how it is. There's a lot of commercials I see during the day on CNN that have little or nothing to do with consumers, many are simply cheerleading ads to talk in general terms about how great they are.

In return, CNN or whoever gets a nice revenue stream and they keep sensitive subjects out of the news that would affect the profits of these companies. Conspiracy isn't the right word. It's just American business practices.

Beamer wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 14:56:
Ever wonder why you see stock companies, defense contractors, and major multinationals advertise on network & cable news even though many of them don't sell a product that the majority of viewers can purchase? It's to make them a revenue stream, so that the news is reluctant to be critical of the advertisers. Same thing in video game magazines.

Or it's because businesses watch these channels. You know, the businesses that then go out and hire them...

But you can keep your conspiracy theory over something sensible.
 
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33. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 15:07 NicklePop
 
Beamer wrote on Apr 7, 2010, 14:56:
Ever wonder why you see stock companies, defense contractors, and major multinationals advertise on network & cable news even though many of them don't sell a product that the majority of viewers can purchase? It's to make them a revenue stream, so that the news is reluctant to be critical of the advertisers. Same thing in video game magazines.

Or it's because businesses watch these channels. You know, the businesses that then go out and hire them...

But you can keep your conspiracy theory over something sensible.

People are WAY to dismissive of "conspiracy theory" ... you do understand human faults right? History is littered with this kind of behavior. It doesn't take that much of a jump in logic to see that both of what you are saying is true (or at least partially true).

Companies and politicians will always "conspire" against the common good in order to benefit themselves... again, history bears this lesson out thoroughly. Read up on European financial systems from 1500-1900 lol.
 
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32. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 14:56 Beamer
 
Ever wonder why you see stock companies, defense contractors, and major multinationals advertise on network & cable news even though many of them don't sell a product that the majority of viewers can purchase? It's to make them a revenue stream, so that the news is reluctant to be critical of the advertisers. Same thing in video game magazines.

Or it's because businesses watch these channels. You know, the businesses that then go out and hire them...

But you can keep your conspiracy theory over something sensible.
 
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31. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 14:47 Flatline
 
It's a bad email as it's trying to manipulate, but not evil. Evil would be "remember, we're buying lots of ads with your company. We always have."

I don't think you'll ever see a smoking gun like that in print. You never leave a paper trail that blatant. If you do, you pretty much are okay with being caught.

I read the email to suggest "other people are already hyping game of the year, don't you forget that when you write about the game". Even if there isn't a dollars for metacritic points style deal going on, it's still the manipulation of a supposedly "neutral" third party.

The advertisement connection is sort of implied. It's nothing new, Edward R Murrow had to deal with it back in the 50s with television. Anyone who deals with advertising even tangentially understands implicitly that to criticize your advertisers results in loss of ad revenue. It's not something that, at this point, I feel needs to be proven, or needs a smoking gun pointing to it. It's an axiom of advertising nowadays.

Ever wonder why you see stock companies, defense contractors, and major multinationals advertise on network & cable news even though many of them don't sell a product that the majority of viewers can purchase? It's to make them a revenue stream, so that the news is reluctant to be critical of the advertisers. Same thing in video game magazines.
 
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30. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 14:42 Beelzebud
 
The answer for why this sort of behavior is permissible in the world of game journalism can be found in the comments here. Some people actually don't see anything wrong with it! It's pathetic! This is why standards have dropped so much. Because the average consumer just shrugs his shoulders and says "So what?".

Garbage in, garbage out.
 
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29. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 14:31 Kxmode
 
It sounds to me like Toby made a moral decision. He wouldn't have risked his career and reputation on something frivolous. I believe him, because this isn't the first time a game company was exposed for "payola" tactics.  
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28. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 14:23 Beamer
 
I didn't get a chance to check it out, how was the combat? That's my main concern here. Rockstar games tend to be awesome in terms of driving and open world components but their actual combat system is fucking terrible. They've been essentially retreading the same one since like GTA3 and it just does not work but they refuse to move on, it's really frustrating.

Which is the main reason I grew tired of GTA4 yet have played through SR2 twice. Combat in SR2 is butter-smooth. Combat in GTA4 is lock-on and fire - it damn near plays itself.

Red Dead Revolver 2 was done by San Diego, though, right? And then the studio was neutered?
 
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27. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 14:14 Verno
 
I didn't get a chance to check it out, how was the combat? That's my main concern here. Rockstar games tend to be awesome in terms of driving and open world components but their actual combat system is fucking terrible. They've been essentially retreading the same one since like GTA3 and it just does not work but they refuse to move on, it's really frustrating.  
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