Alone in The Dark, and the Controversy of Review Pressure
It seems that as of late we are running into more and more review controversies with publishers and game sites. This time around, the game is Alone in the Dark published by Atari, while the suspects in the case are Gamereactor, Gamer.no and 4Players.
It all started with Atari upset at the fact that the game had been leaked to Bit Torrent sites over the past week, and they seemed to be looking at review copies as the source of the problem. No proof was found to substantiate, but shortly after the mention of it, a review from Gamereactor went live, giving Alone in the Dark a 3 out of 10. Not exactly a stellar review when you consider the hype surrounding this game. Then things start to get weird. The review was pulled without any reason. Then it came back online several hours later, but the score had not been changed.
Enter both 4Players and Gamer.no, with their reviews, with 4Players scoring the game with a 68%, while Gamer.no was a little more harsh, giving Alone in the Dark another 3 out of 10. Atari at this point threatens both with legal action shortly after the reviews go up, alleging that the reviews from these two sites must of been from preview or pirated versions, because neither site had been sent a review copy.
4Players responded, stating that they had received a copy from a “trusted retail source”, which could either mean that a retailer broke a street date for someone, or that they are just covering up the possibility that they did download the game. Gamer.no stated that they bought a retail copy of the game at the store and reviewed from that copy, although there is no way to verify this fact.
Getting beyond whether the game is good or bad, a flop or a standout, the question remains over how these two sites got the game and reviewed it. We have received many games to review, and all stipulate when the review can go live and so forth, so to hear about a company getting a game through less that reputable means is a bit irritating to me. When a game is not sent out to review, we wait and if it is something of interest, one of us buys a copy to play and review. Sure our review may not come out the day a game is released, but it is better to get the game through legal means than download a cracked version that will lack stability.
It also troubles me that reviews have become such a commodity, with more and more rules surrounding their release and the ability to actually review them. Companies stipulate many items in regard to when you can review a game, and if you can release a review early. Score a game with an 8 or a 9, and the review goes up right away. Score a low review and you are told to hold the review until it is released. It has been alleged that companies will stop sending games out to companies that score games low. 1up has been blacklisted by a couple of developers because they have reviewed high profile games with a low score. It use to be that a review could come out a month or two after the game, and give you an informed decision to buy a game.
Now we are pressured at times into writing a review for a game within hours of a release window. I can say that I had this issue with Halo 3. We received a review copy on a Friday, and I had to play through the game and have a review up by Sunday at noon. I could of chosen to just wait and write a review on my own time, but the pressure of wanting to keep up with the other sites, it was a no-brainer. I had to get that review out by then, so I blazed through the game rarely letting up except for sleep, so I could give a well informed review.
So I am sure that we will hear more about this issue with Atari, and I hope that it was a retailer that broke the street date rather than a bootleg version of the game. We don’t need to give publishers any more reason to put restrictions on how we review games.Tags: alone in the dark, atari, controversy, eden games, review