Published on October 8th, 2014 | by gareth0
Why We Will No Longer Cover Nintendo: The Other Side Of The Gaming Journalism Issue
There has been much made of late of so called pay for play journalism and the ethics involved with game reviews. While I have heard of and have some insight into the issue having done reviews since High School, I can say that the issue is a complicated one.
I have always said it can be a slippery slope to give an honest review of a game when you are seeking to get big ad dollars from the publisher of the game for your site and publication. A negative review of their multi-million dollar game might make them rethink their full page or banner ads going forward.
For me we have always had one simple rule at Skewed and Reviewed, be fair, honest, and impartial and base ball reviews accordingly as we do not do paid reviews or fluff pieces.
There are companies that wish to take advantage of the review process and as such, we have had to cut off companies from coverage from time to time as we recently did with Nintendo. Now I do not want to sound like an entitled elitist, so let me explain how the system works and my stance on it.
Companies send reviewers numerous releases before the launch of a game asking us to write stories, post videos, images, previews, and so on. We are often asked to travel to locales for live events promoting said games as well as make time at conventions to cover the games. In turn when a game is released, a review copy of code is made available so you or your staff can do a review of the game.
For us, we have a website, a magazine, a syndicated radio show, a weekly newspaper article, and syndication, so the reach can be very large with the radio show alone helping push a combined million plus reaches.
Nintendo has not sent us review materials in over 5 years despite magazine coverers, radio segments, newspaper articles, convention coverage, and numerous other promotions over the years.
I mentioned to a rep for the company recently at Comic Con, that we will not be able to continue to offer this without review materials as it comes down to free advertizing otherwise. There is a limited amount of time on the radio show, limited amounts of space in the magazine, paper, and such so we cannot justify the continued coverage without something coming now and then. The p.r. firm covering the company constantly pleads poverty in terms of review units available yet we know of blogs without even a 1/3rd of our reach who get units and at one event recently where a staff member was given incorrect information about an event coverage that cost them parking, gas, and their time, codes mysteriously were sent to them in compensation so they did not write about the experience.
With the pending release of Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Bros, I contacted our rep from Comic Con and said we have interest in coverage as we talked about but the radio show will require a hands on review in order to be scheduled.
I was handed off to another rep that offered to put us on the press list for press releases and claimed that they do not get any review materials at all but should they, we will be considered. I know this is not accurate as conversations I had with them, prior reps, and other publications tell me otherwise, and we are already on the lists so we get the releases already.
I told them as such we cannot justify coverage as we get materials from all companies big and small and as such we have to give them the coverage. This to me is not a pay for play deal, this is a matter of good business sense and professional courtesy. We have extended coverage to a company for years with no compensation of any type in return. The time to write, post, publish air and cover the games and hardware took time, time that could have been used for other games and products. As such, when a company continues to expect coverage without providing review materials how is it not essentially asking for free advertisement?
I had told the reps that this would happen and was told that the appropriate people who be spoken to and we would be taken care of and to contact them with any needs as well as our coverage, we did our part as promised, Nintendo once again reverted to form.
So my response is not one of being entitled, spoiled, or demanding, to me it is making the best use of time and resources as if a company is not willing to offer you and your publication any support for all the coverage done for them, it only makes sense to focus the effort on the review materials that are sent to you as they should be the priority. I am not saying that we will not cover Nintendo in the future but simply they are a low priority for us now, especially in light of the numerous review opportunities that are presented to us by other companies who wish us to cover them, and provide review products. To me it does seem odd to ask us to tell people how great something is and encourage them to buy it, when we cannot verify the content ourselves with a hands on review, even when we have said we can return said games after the review if needed.
While I do not agree with the pay for play approach, publishers need to understand that there is a cost for coverage and you cannot expect publications to simply roll out the red carpet and get excited because company A or B sent them an e mail and knows who they are.
We cover movies and travel as well as hardware and games, and the former industries make sure you have seen or experienced a product before you do your review. Some hardware companies have offered HD images for articles and as I tell them, we cannot review a HD image.
There is no promise of a good review, no request for payment or other considerations, and no long term requirements, it is a simple transaction. If you want a review send us a copy, if not, we will cover on a case by case basis, but companies who have provided support in the past with review material are given priority over those who do not. That is good business, not entitlement and from a company who has struggled to find the audience that they want, Nintendo needs to rethink the way it does business with the media in my opinion.