How long as it been since Jeff Gertsmann was fired from GameSpot for giving Kane & Lynch a less-than-flattering review? I haven't a clue, but it looked like Eidos is throwing their weight around again.
The publisher has hired UK PR firm Barrington Harvey to Tomb Raider Underworld review scores, and journalists are now being asked to put their negative reviews on hold. GameSpot UK writer Guy Cocker first broke the news with a post on his Twitter this Wednesday, claiming he'd been told, “If you’re planning on reviewing Tomb Raider Underworld at less than an 8.0, we need you to hold your review till Monday.”
It sounded fishy enough and sparked others to delve into the issue. A Barrington Harvey representative later confirmed Cocker's story, saying, "That’s right. We’re trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos.”
Barrington Harvey director Simon Byron released this statement regarding Eidos' instructions to the company:
Barrington Harvey is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say. We love Tomb Raider and believe it merits a score of at least 8/10, but if someone disagrees that’s entirely their prerogative. No problem at all. Seriously: no problem.
Our original NDA stated that in order to receive an advance copy of the game, reviewers agreed not to post reviews ahead of 5:00pm, Wednesday 19th November 2008. Nothing else. No further obligations whatsoever.
As you can clearly see from the scores posted so far, Barrington Harvey has no issue with scores of below eight out of 10 being posted online. The Eurogamer review in questions caused “problems” in so much as it originally contained a couple of minor factual inaccuracies which, to its credit, the site has quickly rectified and addressed (without, quite rightly, changing the context of the review).
Any site, be it Gamespot or whoever, is entirely within their rights to post whatever score they want and no-one is under any sort of obligation to delay any review.
As an ex-journalist myself, I firmly believe in editorial integrity and the right to express an individual opinion. As an agency, we never - ever - make demands of the press in terms of awarding scores; at the end of the day, they are free to score as they wish.
Barrington Harvey has been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend - but to suggest that we can in some way “silence” reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence.
Tomb Raider Underworld was released on Tuesday, November 18, in North America, and is available in Europe as of today. The game is currently available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Wii, with a PS2 edition due some time in 2009.