The Syndication of GameSpot

Thanks to quite a few people for pointing me to this Sports Gamer post which, in turn, points to this CNet Press Release. Amid much talk of CNet’s financial results, the release lists out Gamespot’s “content relationship” partners, including one that might surprise you:

In addition, GameSpot continued to extend content relationships during the quarter, adding Walmart, MTV and Target as licensing partners. These build on GameSpot’s existing partnerships with Yahoo! Games, AOL Games, and EBGames.com, and Sony Playstation, among others. [emphasis added]

Most of these are pretty straightforward. It’s hard to miss the Gamespot-provided content when you browse around MTV.com, AOL’s Games Channel, EBGames.com or Target’s GetIntotheGame.com. But Sony Playstation? Out of context, that’s the kind of “content relationship” that some people might imply constitutes a conflict of interest?

By way of clarification, GameSpot Editor-in-Chief Greg Kasavin said the release refers to “a licensing deal with PlayStation.com, which feeds in some of GameSpot’s product data as well as some of its articles.” Indeed, a bit of searching finds Gamespot-provided news stories in Playstation.com’s archives. Kasavin also pointed out that “this isn’t an exclusive relationship, as you can see other publications’ information on PlayStation.com as well.” That’s also true: IGN.com seems to be the one providing most of Playstation.com’s news now. (IGN/GameSpy didn’t immediately return a request for comment).

Kasavin also made it clear that “this relationship has no effect on GameSpot’s editorial in any way, shape, or form. CNET Networks, parent company of GameSpot, prides itself on the integrity of the content of its properties. As such, it wouldn’t make much sense for CNET to engage in (much less to publicly tout) a compromising relationship like the one that’s being implicated here.”

I don’t doubt Kasavin when he says this. Considering the number of places that same GameSpot content is licensed, it seems kind of silly to think that they would specifically slant their coverage to keep just one licensee happy. Besides hurting the quality of their work, it would likely lead to a lot of resentment among the writers and editors if they were told to be nice to be extra-nice to Sony from now on.

What’s less certain, as evidenced by the reaction to this press release, is whether licensing content to sites like Playstation.com is a good move from a public relations standpoint. No one’s really going to worry about GameSpot giving preferential treatment to Target, but readers who see the Gamespot name on the official corporate site for Playstation might easily jump to the wrong conclusions. Is the extra publicity and/or money from these relationships worth the potential hit to credibility? It’s something each site has to decide for itself, I guess.

In other press-release-transcribed news: GameSpot offered 2 million downloads of the Battlefield 2 demo in 24 hours through its new GameCenter service, and offered 6 million video streams in one day during E3. Numbers like these are sure to make any small to mid-sized gaming site quietly weep through the night.

10 thoughts on “The Syndication of GameSpot

  1. Even though this has a “eek” factor to it i seem to think they wouldnt let it effect any thing when it comes to reviewing. I’ve followed ‘spot for a few years now and they seem to be pretty fair when it comes to reviewing things the right way. so this is unsubstantial in my opinion. Besides its like saying G4 (not that i stand up for them cause i dont) are biased towards Nintendo and X-box as well as Rockstar games due to the fact they had full days or even weekends in the case of The DS devoted to their good. Although thats not the case, they still rate games (although, in my opinion, narrowly) on what seems to be completely equal standing. So again not really a problem.Its all a money game. since i bet G4 got oodles of advertising money from forementioned companies for putting huge amounts of time aside for what they were looking to push its got to be looked at as the exact same thing for gamespot. Both Sony and Gamespot stand to make bundles because of it.

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  3. “I don’t doubt Kasavin when he says this.”What kind of line is this? Isn’t this the kind of thing you crticize?And why didn’t you mention your own involvement with Gamespot in this piece?

  4. Does GameSpot pay you or something? Reiterating their press release bullshit (“GameSpot offered 2 million downloads of the Battlefield 2 demo in 24 hours through its new GameCenter service”) in this article detracts from your argument and shows that other than following up on GA Forum threads you’re not much of an ombudsman.GameSpot measures ATTEMPTED downloads. I was one of the many trying to download that damn BF2 demo from DLX (what a disaster!) and must have contributed about 100 attemps alone trying to get to the file. It’s a dishonest metric. I’m surprised you’re actually highlighting it in an article defending GameSpot’s integrity!

  5. There’s one more interesting thing here..the fact that Sony just doesn’t release that many games themselves. Generally speaking, they rely on third-party manafacturers for the majority of the games. Some good, some bad. And in this way, there’s not the direct need for top reviews for every game. So I don’t think this is an issue. If this were Nintendo, it would be a much much bigger issue (mind you, Nintendo writes their own reviews internally, sooooo. But to be honest, they’re actually pretty good for their perspective audience. They’ll actually tell someone if you wouldn’t like a game, and to give it a pass.)

  6. There’s an important difference here between actual conflicts of interest and perceived conflicts of interest. I think business relationships _actually_ affecting the editorial of gaming publications is a very rare occurence — much rarer than most message board posters would have you believe. But the _perception_ of such a bias among readers can be just as bad. Once that perception gets out there, it can be very hard to quash.Given that, a publication has to weigh whether the possibility of _perceived_ conflict of interest is worth any benefits, even if there is no _actual_ effect on editorial content.

  7. Why should anyone read GameSpot-Reviews? Man, we now have THOUSANDS of Blogs in this world – I don’t care for the IGN/GameSpy/GameSpot/Sony/Whatever-Syndicate 😉

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