Playing Telephone: Gerstmann “Lynched” by his own petard

30 11 2007

Disclaimer: I’ve never been one to report rumor as fact or support that act in anyway. What is being presented here is a series of facts and ideas about a very important, and probably very complicated, series of events. Whether they are causational or coincidental is up for interpretation, but nothing more.

[UPDATE] So, CNet finally talked to Joystiq about what went down on their end with Gerstmann. While they denied the accusation that Gerstmann was fired due to external pressures from Eidos, CNet Spokesperson Sarah Cain didn’t comment on whether or not that pressure was put on. Eidos is still quiet.

The more this unravels, the more it seems that it was all indeed a series of coincidences. Then again, Cain could be hiding the truth, but we’ll never know that. I have a lot more I want to say on this issue in general, but it’ll have to wait for a separate post, probably till tomorrow.

[UPDATE] Despite CNet’s “response” to the hottest button issue in gaming right now, the dudes over at Penny Arcade may have the most reasonable-sounding story for all of this.

How they heard it was that Gerstamann’s review wasn’t the problem so much as the “tone” of it. Apparently this has been a problem CNet has had with him for a while, and since his apparently scathing (although if that’s considered harsh, no one’s heard a Yahtzee review) commentary about K&L sent Eidos in a frenzy, pulling thousands of space bucks from future advertising revenue, Jeff was–as PA put it–sacrificed.

Not all the info on this matter is entirely external speculation, however. Wired‘s gaming blog Game|Life brought up a now-removed forum post by an anonymous CNet Employee stating–in short–that the timing of the Eidos pull out and Gerstmann firing was far more coincidental than people are giving it credit for.
[UPDATE] Well, at least one part of this story has been confirmed. Jeff’s been fired, but no one’s talking about why yet. Well, to be correct, everyone is talking except for the parties directly involved. This story is going to be huge, and I’ll reserve any judgment or commentary until full details are revealed. All I can say is, I wish Gerstmann the best of luck.

Ok, so I’m not a huge fan of rumor mongering, but this story is a) way too huge and b) making way too many rounds for me to ignore. If it’s to be believed—and I by no means suggest that it is—Gamespot would be the second video game site to be accused of such an act in recent months. While part of me finds it a little far fetched, a larger, more cynical part finds it hard to disbelieve.

There are a lot of problems with stories like this, namely that many of the pieces seem clear on their own that it’s hard to be objective about the big picture. Kane & Lynch had insane marketing, and not just on Gamespot. That poor excuse for mishandled software was promoted up so hard my ass was bleeding the “F” word. Then there’s the often refuted but incredibly infectious notion that, with the right money, a game critic will sell out his score to the highest bidder. IGN is often accused of this—one only has to look at the shock they caused when they gave the “accurate and responsive” Lair a 4.9.

Then the objectivity kicks in, though. For one, Gamespot may have had some questionable reviews in their lifetime, but that’s always been more due to a subjective response by players rather than a marketing beef. Not to mention Gerstmann’s never really been one to pander his reviews to anyone, and I don’t see why they’d pick now of all times, and for a game as benign as Kane & Lynch, to can his perhaps jubbly ass.

In either case, I’m going to be really interest to see where this goes. I’ll be watching.






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