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BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged [Updated]

BF3Blog has a report by way of Norwegian news outlet NRK on what would appear to be attempts to manipulate review scores for Battlefield 3 by determining who receives review copies of the upcoming shooter sequel based on their preconceptions about the game, its beta test, and the competing Call of Duty franchise. They reproduce a questionnaire asking questions about potential reviewers including their review scores of previous Battlefield games, whether they are a Call of Duty fan, and even their present view of the game. They also note that: "A number of Norwegian gaming outlets, including popular ones like Gamer.no and GameReactor*, have been refused review copies of Battlefield 3 due to their review scores of past Battlefield games." They also quote a portion of an apology from EA Norway marketing manager Oliver Sveen saying: "this should not have been sent out. We have made ​​a mistake and we apologize. This is not something that neither should have happened earlier or what we intend to continue."

*Update: We received a note from one of the publications mentioned in this story, as Gamereactor writes to explain: "We would like to have our name removed from the article, we have received a preview code and have not had any problems with EA. We have had nothing to do with the 'shenanigans'. it seems to be a matter between EA Norway and a major newspaper, why dedicated gaming media are mentioned also must be a misunderstanding." The contact was from their Danish arm, but they operate as one entity, and say none of their Norwegian colleagues can understand why they were mentioned in this article.

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42. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 20:22 Sepharo
 
Opinions of posters on Blue's are really the way I tend to go too. I know who likes what genre and who has what preferences/peeves so I get a good cross section of viewpoints. Other than Blue's posters I go on recommendation from Tycho@PA but he's been much more console focused over the years.

Speaking of yall's opinions, is anyone in the Tribes beta tonight?
 
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41. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged [Updated] Oct 19, 2011, 11:12 Dev
 
Business as usual. I don't exactly have high levels of trust in EA, so yeah, I'll believe they've done this in the past, continue to do it, and will do it in the future.

Blackhawk wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 18:39:
Had a company the size of EA tried to pull something like this, they'd have been our front page. Why? Because we'd get more readers on something like that than we'd get putting out the review four days early. It is possible that the 'Big Five' have enough to lose that they'd cave, but the rest of the gaming press would have more to gain reporting this kind of conduct than they would accepting it.

If this kind of thing was common, you'd hear about it a lot, lot more than you do.
Except that that short term page hit gain from "outing" the publisher won't outlast their not giving advanced review copies for a couple years to the website that "outs" them.
 
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40. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged [Updated] Oct 19, 2011, 10:02 Jackplug
 
how do we know that is isnt our friends from Activomit kickin the dust up in EA's eyes and everyone elses, trying to kick down the game and make us all wanna play MW3.  
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39. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged [Updated] Oct 19, 2011, 10:00 space captain
 
shocking news!!  
Go forth, and kill!
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38. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 09:35 Beamer
 
Dr. D. Schreber wrote on Oct 19, 2011, 05:58:
That's all well and good, but as the end consumer, I don't feel (nor do I think I should feel) any less violated for being the victim of consumer-unfriendly business practices just because it doesn't involve a conspiracy. Whether or not it's a dude twirling an evil mustache in a smokey room filled with high-level players deciding how to screw over the little people, or a normal dude in a normal office just conducting business as usual shouldn't really matter.


But if you had read you'd see it's not even a normal dude in a normal office conducting business as usual. It's just standard human behavior combined with a review industry that can't sustain itself.

Bottom line? If you're a half-educated consumer you know this. You know IGN has higher scores so you know that a 7.5 deserves higher scrutiny. You know that these reviews typically go into gameplay issues regardless of final score so you can scan them to see what the reviewer liked or didn't like and judge how you'd react to the same thing. And you know that, for some idiotic reason major technical issues like Rage's texture problems aren't covered in the bulk of PC reviews and you should give a game a few days and see what people on Blues are saying.
These reviews shouldn't be your sole method of judging whether you buy. No reviews really should be. They're just a tool of varying usefulness, and all of these reviews are somewhat useful. When you find a site that you consistently agree with, like perhaps Out of Eight, or a certain reviewer on IGN, you may stick with him and trust him more.

I just don't get how some people operate. You're a member of a board here that has rather flamboyant and harsh opinions (all of us) but will go into great detail what we like and don't like. On top of that we all know how valid numerical scores are. Yet some people still rush out and preorder everything even if it's a 2 hour download on Steam. The same people will complain about reviews in one breath and then laud a high score on IGN in the other. And then complain when the game they preordered that IGN loved wasn't as good as they hoped. At this point you're just being an idiot consumer. I don't think I'll buy a single PC game without reading the reviews of several people here.
 
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http://www.hydrahead.com
http://www.painkillerrecords.com
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37. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 09:27 Beamer
 
Sepharo wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 23:22:
Beamer wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 22:54:
This one't some kind of twisted plot against you.

[...] there's zero chance EA will offer you job if you call Bobby Notice a child touched in every review.

Did you write this novel on a phone?


Touchpad with my new bluetooth keyboard.
For the record, I kind of hate my touchpad.
 
-------------
Music for the discerning:
http://www.deathwishinc.com
http://www.hydrahead.com
http://www.painkillerrecords.com
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36. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 08:34 InBlack
 
Im confident that true game journalists "critics" or whatever you want to call them will eventualy emerge once gaming becomes even more mainstream.

Unfortunately thats a bit of a paradox, since most publishers believe (mistakenly) that for a game to go mainstream or to be popular automatically means that very same game has to be simplified to the extreme. Something that doesnt exactly excite that many of us.

The key I think is to publish reviews in newspapers or magazines or websites that are only tangentaly related to gaming and dont depend on publishing money for revenue.
 
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35. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 08:19 Spaced Ranger
 
entr0py wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 21:16:
As an ordinary customer I've noticed how review scores start at their absolute highest point and only level out after the game has been out for a week. Even if I didn't know the details, it is obvious that publishers are pulling shenanigans to make sure only the most favorable reviewers get it first.

As someone who works in the gaming press, I can attest that big publishers, EA included, do exactly that. It is usually something like, "We will give you the review code for [Insert AAA title here], but only if you feel right now that this game deserves a 90+ score. No, no, no, we're not trying to influence your opinion, we simply want to be sure..."

Oh, and there are also the so-called "review events" in a tightly controlled environment (hi EA!), the usual habit of pulling ads due to a low score (howdy Bethesda!) or barring a publication from attending a presentation of new products (hello, Activision!).

It's sad this crap happens way too often. It's even more depressing that I know that quite a few magazines and websites from my country caved in to this kind of pressure and agreed to these terms on numerous occasions.

So, yes, #26, higher scores in advance reviews of AAA games can be, and quite often are a result of tinkering on a publisher's behalf. So why does no one report this? Firstly, because not everyone has the guts. Secondly, because the gaming industry is a small ecosystem, and you'll have to work with these people tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. Finally, it's exactly that - tinkering, there is no giant smoking gun to speak of. It's just a lot of small stuff, but if you put all these nuggets of information together, you'll get the picture.
 
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34. Re: Out of Eight Shoutout! Oct 19, 2011, 07:18 JaguarUSF
 
Beamer wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 22:54:
These are the ones they are large enough to get advanced copies (no offense to something like Out of Eight, but it's not really on the advance copy list for most publishers.)
I get early stuff from one publisher consistently, Paradox, but that's because everyone does when the review copies appear on the press Gamer's Gate accounts
I will say that there are clearly sites that get games early, usually based on readership but sometimes based on favorability, and the PR companies control who gets what when. I can't review a game early that I won't get until the release date like everyone else. I ask, of course, but 99% of the time I get Steam codes the same time everyone else does. There are some games that have embargoes for two reasons: (a) one site has exclusiveness, or (b) they don't want any site to have exclusiveness. What's the penalty? Potentially not getting free games from them anymore. Personally, I'm less worried about giving a bad review score, because as long as your reasons are justified, the publisher doesn't care too much (and especially if the game copy came from an outside PR firm that has less vested interest). I've only had one instance of a publisher not liking a review of mine, and that's because they released a crap expansion that added nothing but charged $30 for it.
 
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33. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 07:10 Dades
 
Sepharo wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 23:22:
Did you write this novel on a phone?

I was thinking the same thing. No one is going to read all that anyway.
 
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32. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 06:35 Viranth
 
I liked the BF3 beta. Very similar to Bad Company 2, but the animations, graphics and gameplay was good. So I don't care if it gets 1% or 100%, I'll buy this for the multiplayer experience together with my friends.

Everything today is marketing and manipulation of the readers.

"If you're not seen, you don't exist."
 
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31. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 05:58 Dr. D. Schreber
 
Prez wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 21:59:
I just don't know who to trust anymore. I mean, I could be cynical and assume every media outlet review is bought and paid for (when in truth I think only about half are - the other half is just unabashed fanboyism/'haterism' ) and rely solely on word of mouth from my peers. But then take me an nin - we seem to have similar tastes, and I agree with most of his comments on most games, but he absolutely HATED Borderlands while I thought it was a blast from start to finish. I get the feeling if I just listen to my peers I'd end up missing out on a lot of games simply due to differing tastes.

Then people wonder why I own like 1000 games - I live in fear that I will miss a game I would love if I don't buy them all! I certainly can't trust the gaming media...

Or, you could just do your own research. Type the name of a game into Youtube; if you see something you don't like in one out of ten gameplay videos, it's probably a fluke or at least not a deal breaker. If you see it everywhere, it'll probably piss you off. Instead of trusting single reviews, compare multiple reviews; if one of them says some aspect of a game is BS, it's probably the reviewer's bias. If many reviews all criticize the exact same thing, chances are it's a legitimate problem. Since you know how reviews work, you should be able to filter out the smoke and get to the useful information. If you know the system is broken, don't trust it.


Beamer wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 22:54:
Lots of Stuff

I'm guessing the tl;dr version of this is "there is no conspiracy, there doesn't need to be a conspiracy, a conspiracy would be more effort than simply running a business because businesses do shit to make money."

That's all well and good, but as the end consumer, I don't feel (nor do I think I should feel) any less violated for being the victim of consumer-unfriendly business practices just because it doesn't involve a conspiracy. Whether or not it's a dude twirling an evil mustache in a smokey room filled with high-level players deciding how to screw over the little people, or a normal dude in a normal office just conducting business as usual shouldn't really matter.

 
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NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES THEY'RE IN MY EYES AARRGRHGHGGAFHGHFGHFG!
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30. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 04:13 InBlack
 
So why are the reviews from these guys higher? In part because they are less their own industry, like film critics employed by newspapers, and more parts of the game industry. They get flown out to events to do previews, netting the people they are then asked to rip apart. Their budgets are paid for almost Exclusively by these reviews. And, importantly, many of them have dreams of transitioning from reviewing to producing, something that has happened quite commonly, and there's zero chance EA will offer you job if you call Bobby Notice a child touched in every review

QFT. Which is funny in a way, really. I mean you started out proving that its NOT some evil publishing plot...
 
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29. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 19, 2011, 00:17 Bhruic
 
Hasn't it moved out of the realm of "alleged" when an EA manager has admitted that it took place?  
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28. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 18, 2011, 23:49 [VG]Reagle
 
The whole "review" thing is a huge con be it hardware or software. Hey you can keep that lap top your reviewing and a bunch more for a nice review...  
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I am much better now.
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27. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 18, 2011, 23:22 Sepharo
 
Beamer wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 22:54:
This one't some kind of twisted plot against you.

[...] there's zero chance EA will offer you job if you call Bobby Notice a child touched in every review.

Did you write this novel on a phone?

 
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26. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 18, 2011, 22:54 Beamer
 
entr0py wrote on Oct 18, 2011, 21:16:
As an ordinary customer I've noticed how review scores start at their absolute highest point and only level out after the game has been out for a week. Even if I didn't know the details, it is obvious that publishers are pulling shenanigans to make sure only the most favorable reviewers get it first.

What irritates me more is that it can only be done with the collusion of gaming sites and magazines, and they are supposed to be on the customer's side.

They don't need to give in to the Pavlovian treatment of publishers. If the sites that got early copies put off their reviews, and replaced them with articles educating customers about quid pro quo early reviews, it would completely foil the practice.

Dude, no. This one't some kind of twisted plot against you. The PR agents at publishers aren't sitting there twisting their mustaches giggling as they get higher ratings because they weaseled out a deal.In some cases yes, they'll lift the embargo a few days earlier for certain review scores, which is dirty, but there's nothing dirtier than that.

So why are earlier reviews higher scores? A few reasons that all kind of come back to the core problem.
For one, it's the bigger publications that put their reviews out first. These are the ones they are large enough to get advanced copies (no offense to something like Out of Eight, but it's not really on the advance copy list for most publishers.) These are the ones parte enough to have multiple reviewers and not just one guy. And these are the ones large enough that someone is dedicated to reviewing full time so that they have the game completed and don't have day jobs. So why are the reviews from these guys higher? In part because they are less their own industry, like film critics employed by newspapers, and more parts of the game industry. They get flown out to events to do previews, netting the people they are then asked to rip apart. Their budgets are paid for almost Exclusively by these reviews. And, importantly, many of them have dreams of transitioning from reviewing to producing, something that has happened quite commonly, and there's zero chance EA will offer you job if you call Bobby Notice a child touched in every review.
So major sites will ALWAYS give higher scores. They're closer to the action and feel note a part of the industry rather than part of the consumer.

The other early scores come from people so excited for the game they play it early. These are smaller review sites that may get advance copies or may buy it at midnight. The reviewer then drops what he's doing to finish because he's so excited. This guy is a bit of a fanboy and going to give high reviews. Ever notice that user scores for movies are always much, much higher opening weekend and drop over time? Is this because studios cheat? No, it's because the type of people to drop what they're doing for something are the type of people that will probably love it more than the rest of the population, anyway.

The final group of reviews to go up are from smaller sites with less of a connection. Some of these reviewers are hobbyists. Many have never spoken to anyone at the company they're reviewing. They feel a kind of integrity that sometimes forces themselves to be too harsh or too critical because they think they balance out the above (perfectly valid.) They may not be fans of that genre. There's far less chance that they bump into the producer at E3 and get asked about the review if they stand at an extreme. It's all around safer for them to be harsher, or to have a number system scaled lower, so they do so.


This isn't some evil plot by publishers. In fact, the publishers hardly have anything to do with it. No collusion. No decision to screw you over. No smoky back room deals (again, other than embargo issues, which aren't terrible as the embargo for other reviews usually lifts before launch, or worst case midnight the night before launch [still shimmy], or way early embargoes in exchange and a massive exclusive in exchange for ignoramus coverage.) It's just the way the industry is set up. It's a shame, but it's hard to fix. Movie critics are paid by newspapers that get very little revenues, if any, from the movies being reviewed, and which have a wide enough audience to be more important for movies than the movies for them. Game review companies rely almost exclusively on game advertisements because no one else wants to advertise with them. And people get into game reviewing more often to be in the gaming industry and less often because they love reviewing games. And the industry is so open that it's not uncommon for reviewers and developers to get to know each other well, unlike movies or music in which reviewers are often lucky to see the artists in person.

Bad, dumb shit does happen, but it's rare and tends to be well reported. Plus it's barely necessary given how blatantly previews suck up and ignore all the absolutely terrible stuff because there's a chance it'll be fixed (it rarely is.)
 
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http://www.painkillerrecords.com
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25. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 18, 2011, 22:54 eRe4s3r
 
Other few us are suspicious whether you need meds to get so grumpy or whether its all natural ;p  
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24. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 18, 2011, 22:27 Jivaro
 
EA Norway marketing manager Oliver Sveen saying: "this should not have been sent out. We have made &#8203;&#8203;a mistake and we apologize. This is not something that neither should have happened earlier or what we intend to continue."

Hand, meet cookie jar.
 
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23. Re: BF3 Norwegian Review Shenanigans Alleged Oct 18, 2011, 21:59 Prez
 
I just don't know who to trust anymore. I mean, I could be cynical and assume every media outlet review is bought and paid for (when in truth I think only about half are - the other half is just unabashed fanboyism/'haterism' ) and rely solely on word of mouth from my peers. But then take me an nin - we seem to have similar tastes, and I agree with most of his comments on most games, but he absolutely HATED Borderlands while I thought it was a blast from start to finish. I get the feeling if I just listen to my peers I'd end up missing out on a lot of games simply due to differing tastes.

Then people wonder why I own like 1000 games - I live in fear that I will miss a game I would love if I don't buy them all! I certainly can't trust the gaming media...
 
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