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Published on November 18th, 2017 | by gareth

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Do Smaller Game Review Outlets Need Their Own Organization For Equal Treatment And Protection

The other day I had a rather unpleasant thing happen with a P.R. firm that was repeated by them for another title a day later. I will not go into extensive details but suffice it to say that things that were agreed to by them were not kept after we had already done the magazine, radio, online work and promotions we had promised.

They had a very flip and dismissive attitude which struck me as rude considering the amount of time, effort, and money needed to design custom art, write and layout a magazine cover story, as well as numerous other things that were done.

We deal with many companies and P.R. firms and you can pretty much accept that when someone gives you their word, they keep it as we are expected to keep our word on business dealings; it is how things are supposed to work.

In comparison, the L.A. times did a scathing story on The Disney Corporation which even the Orange County Register cited as being filled with inaccurate information and clearly biased work with an agenda. Disney attempted to resolve the issue but eventually banned the L.A. Times from their screenings. Interestingly enough, this created a huge backlash for the company where others in the media rallied to support the L.A. Times despite the issues with the validity of their story. They threatened to boycott Disney coverage, awards, etc. until Disney relented and restored full access to the L.A. Times.

I have talked to many smaller independent sites in the last few days and they have talked about how some firms like to play games with them by promising things for coverage like interviews, contest materials, and so on only to run and hide once they get their coverage,

We talked about how this would never happen to the larger sites as they buy ads from them so they can pretty much do what they want.

IN our case, the sites are the smaller part of what we do as we have a syndicated radio show and six newspapers that carry our work and their audience alone is upwards of six million a month. The funny thing is that the outlets like us have now refused any coverage of said companies clients until the situation changes.

My point is that most smaller sites do not have any recourse but to sit back and take it and hope this does not happen again. They do not have much of a voice nor protections in matters like this. Which brings me to my point, should game review outlets have their own unions/organizations like film critics do?

We also work with film reviews and there are numerous film organizations that not only do reviews but do year end awards and lists which are coveted by studios. They have a lot of clout as even smaller regional outlets get all sorts of perks by being a member such as advanced screeners that they can watch at home versus attending a press screener. They also get strength in numbers as we saw with the L.A. Times issue, members will rally to support their own even if the member may be in the wrong.

With more and more smaller outlets entering the world of online reviews, perhaps the time is now for a united voice.   The ESA represents the needs of gamers and perhaps the time for equal and fair treatment will fall on deaf ears as we all know that the larger outlets always get special attention. I spoke with a rep recently who used to work with one of the major publishers. He told me that when an outlet does coverage above and beyond posting releases and images they of course have a right to expect review materials as he often told his company that the smaller sites are the backbone of the industry as that is where the real passion and coverage is. The larger sites come and go and are often so concerned with monetization that the coverage is not the same as they would get from passionate smaller sites who network with one another and share information. The rep has since gone to work for P.R. for Indie games and has said he finds this much more appealing and less frustrating then corporate p.r. I asked him and a few other p.r. reps I know if I am wrong in this regard and they told me since it was all agreed to up front by the firms and since you had already done the work and spent money on a custom magazine graphic cover, you are right for being upset over things as it is not how business is supposed to be done. I will get over it as their behavior will not affect our traffic and has only resulted in a moratorium on their coverage, but for smaller sites without as many resources, perhaps the time is now for them to have a voice.


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