AftEr3: Wood, Nintendo, and the G4 Marketing Machine

I’m back, and ready to blaze through all my notes and thoughts from E3.

First on the docket is G4’s Tina Wood appearing at Nintendo’s press conference. If you didn’t witness this spectacle yourself, you can watch it on Gamespot. Tina is introduced about 23 minutes in by everyone’s favorite cult of personality, Nintendo Chief Marketing Officer Reggie Fils-Aime. I’ll let him speak for himself

“We thought maybe an outside perspective would help illustrate [Nintendogs], so we’ve given an advance copy of the U.S. version to Tina Wood, host of G[4]TV.com, the hit interactive show on G4 video game TV, and she joins us here today to put her puppy through its paces.”

I’m pretty sure I made an audible gasp when I heard this announcement (this was drowned out by the Nintendo employees behind me whooping and hollering, but that’s for another post). Wood proceeded to show off a dog she had made in the days before the conference and had the dog interact wirelessly with a Mario-hatted dog controlled by game creator Shigeru Miyamato.

Tina’s appearance at the conference was probably attacked most vociferously by Brian Crecente of Kotaku, who wrote “it was sort of appropriate that the little affair wrapped up with Shigeru Miyamoto’s dog fucking Tina Wood’s.” Wood defended the appearance on her own blog, writing “I did not do this to kiss the rears of Nintendo. I did it for the company I work for and am passionate about and the opportunity to work with a man I absolutely admire.” Wood also mentioned that she did not get paid for her appearance.

Getting paid is not the issue here, though. The real question here is whether Wood herself, and G4 in general, want to be considered independent, journalistic entities or simply a part of the video game marketing behemoth. If it’s the former, I think that letting Wood on this press conference is a mistake. Most of the gaming press was in the audience of this conference, reporting on the events instead of taking part in them. Generally, it is not the media’s job to help a company make its pitch, and putting a major TV personality in that position doesn’t help one’s credibility. Even if Wood’s participation didn’t affect her opinions about Nintendo and its products, the mere appearance of a conflict to her audience should have been enough to give her pause if G4 wants to maintain a reputation of fair, balanced coverage of the video game race.

But that is a major assumption. I’m not sure that maintaining any sort of independence is G4’s goal at all. I’m more inclined to believe that G4 is simply part of the game marketing machine, and anything they or any of their talent does should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Need evidence? Check out G4’s press release section where they trumpet programming like “Nintendo DS Day,” “Halo 2 Day” and “GTA TV,” and programming promotions with GameFly and America’s Army. Look at shows like Video Game Vixens and CinemaTech that show off game videos and characters with little to no intelligent commentary. Look at an interview with G4 founder/CEO Charles Hirschorn in the latest Game Informer in which he talks about G4 branching out to provide gaming services in addition to television programming. All of it points to an entity that wants to use its content mainly to help sell games rather than to analyze them.

This is not to say there’s nothing worthwhile on G4, or that all of G4’s content is totally controlled by advertisers. But moves like Wood’s appearance at the Nintendo conference reinforce the impression I get that G4 as an entity is more interested in selling a lifestyle than in covering the business and art of gaming; more interested in providing entertainment than unbiased analysis; more interested in becoming Entertainment Tonight than the Hollywood Reporter.

17 thoughts on “AftEr3: Wood, Nintendo, and the G4 Marketing Machine

  1. The mistake you’re making is the assumption that G4 is an independent editorial entity. That pretense was stretched to the limit when Comcast first completed the acquisition thereof, and was officially put to rest after the absoprtion of TechTV. G4 is a division of Comcast, and as such Comcast’s first and really only goal is to use G4 to market digital cable to reluctant and/or frugal customers who have not yet made the upgrade. As such, visibility and glamour are really what they’re after. It doesn’t surprise me then that G4 doesn’t dictate the X-Play reviews – they’re not after advertisier butt kissing, they’re after eyeballs, because then they can charge more for ads, pure and simple. X-Play will work better for that purpose if it’s perceived as “pure” among the target audience.Rich Pizor, former GamePro reviewer

  2. G4? Eh… can’t say I really care. On my cable service you have to subscribe to some digital cable package I have no interest in (I think it may well be the sports package) just to get it. I’ve seen a few shows on it, but it’s never really done much for me. It basically feels like the sort of stuff I’m more used to seeing done as in-store “programming”/advertising at retail locations.

  3. Kyle, I agree with you 100%. G4Tv is nothing but one large marketing machine and it bothers me too. It’s heartbreaking to see the first videogame network fall to such a low level. The entire network just lacks substance – they’re like any EGM, GI, or GamePro. I mean, when’s the last time you saw something on G4Tv that didn’t make you go, “Did they just do that?” Video Vixens? WTF is that? Does their audience really care about digital women? BAH! That’s a converstaion for another day.Gah! I’ll continue – THE WHIPSET! Has anyone seen this? THeir slogan is, “The cars you can’t afford,” their next line MAKES ME EXPLODE, “and the girls you can’t have,” with a close-up on some womans clevage…. Bah! Just thinking about g4tv gets me angry. I mean, the channel has the chance to CHANGE PEOPLES OPINIONS OF GAMERS and instead they help reinforce the gaming sterotypes. Damn.Anyway, if they ever become big, Viacom will just start a new channel using their leverage with MTV and G4TV will no longer exist. Instead, we’ll Sway telling us how “dope” SPore is and how “sick” Prey is going to be. Jesus, we’re all screwed. Why can’t we have a RESPECTED representation of games displayed to the public? lasjfl;kajs f;lajw p;wa ue < ---- angerBah! – coggy

  4. Considering that G4 is a small time network right now, they probably sent Tina Wood to the press conference just for publicity. You thought that Puppy-on-puppy action was unplanned, huh? She also interviewed Miyamoto on her show G4TV.Com.As for G4, I don’t not consider them to be “independant journalistic entity” but a lifestyle network. I think G4 would be a better network if the producers competely took over programming. X-Play, G4TV.com, and AOTS are pretty good IMO, but you know Video Game Vixens and The Whip Set is junk that came from the execs. For the record, the crew of X-Play say that G4 doesn’t really meddle with their reviews.

  5. In related news, John Tesh says that movies are fun in general, and Jeff Probst thinks the new CBS fall lineup should be pretty cool. A thorough investigation about their impartiality will follow. Kyle…wake up. Tina is a TV show host. She’s not a journalist. Your high-and-mighty rules do not apply.

  6. “Would an Entertainment Tonight host speak at a big premiere for a new movie? Would he or she speak at a press conference for a major TV network about how excited they are about that network’s fall lineup? Would Siskel and Ebert do anything approaching either of these examples?”ET is a (soft) news show. Ebert is a movie critic. Siskel is dead. Tina Wood does not report news, she doesn’t review games, and she isn’t dead. You’re singling out one host of G4 with a bad analogy and using it to condemn the whole network.

  7. “entertainment journalism”…Tina’s appearance at Nintendo’s press conference is a good example of why G4 is generally failing at these goals. They’re obviously fine with that, but I’m not.”Their goal is not entertainment journalism. Their goal is entertainment. G4 is not designed to achieve the goals you have personally set for it. Paraphrasing another of your posts, if you don’t like it, start your own network.

  8. I agree with Kyle on this, there is something eaither not being said or something we are totaly missing here. Wood while not being a journalist, hosts a show that mimics a journalistic open forum show (and thats at it’s best, otherwise i find it horrible on so many levels)in the likeness of ET mixed with Hardball or Hanity and Combs and its the only one of it’s type on the channel. She should be looked at with a critical eye on this because if she’s just a host then why listen to her at all if she doesnt know what she is doing,or a thing about what telling people.. on the note of her reviewing games, she certianly does review games, if you ever watch the show they constantly bash games like Doom 3 for not being innovative and tell you to go out and buy Half-life 2 instead and go as far to tell you that a game isnt worth playing if it has no multiplayer function to it.Now getting away from her sorry self. The real point to Kyles post in my eyes was wether or not G4 is to be looked at as a respectible source of information and real hard facts about gaming. It’s one thing to say “Hey we reviewed this game and we liked this but dont like this and that” but it’s another thing to say “Go buy this totally unrealated game instead of the one i’m reviewing because i say so”.. the second one way to many times on G4 to make me think that they dont get money for hyping a game outside the realm of advertising. And their all day romps with the launches of not only the DS but Halo 2 and GTA have to garner some thought to their integraty. I mean the DS launch was a whole day or so of the same demo reel over and over, it was sticking our heads in a box and letting nintendo beat us with a club. and where were they when the PSP launched? I guess sony wasnt paying for hype.(keeping the Halo thing out of this cause we know Microsoft thinks nothing of shelling out a bundle of money to ensure there is some kind of hype about what they do, just look at that horrible “360 unveiling” they did on MTV”Interesting to note the words integraty and Nintendo in the same thought.. didnt that come up in the gamespy insident however long ago that was?

  9. I think you have a poor understanding of what G4 is trying to do. Look at Tina’s show. It’s a call-in program where they interact with G4 forumites. You’re expecting journalistic integrity from that? I agree that G4 has more in common with ET and E! than anything else. You’re expecting too much. A network dedicated to serious games journalism would die from a lack of advertising. It’s really not viable.

  10. Moving along though… Nintendo really had plants in the audience? I feel really disillusioned all of a sudden. I’ve heard that Microsoft does this at their conferences, but for some reason I thought they’d be above something like that.

  11. Actually, I do understand what G4 is trying to do. I think I outlined it in my post. But I guess I’m saying some level of integrity, even given G4’s status, isn’t too much to ask. Would an Entertainment Tonight host speak at a big premiere for a new movie? Possibly. Would he or she speak at a press conference for a major TV network about how excited they are about that network’s fall lineup? Less likely. Would Siskel and Ebert do anything approaching either of these examples? Even more doubtful. It’s possible to do stuff that isn’t “serious games journalism” and still maintain some small level of independence from the industry you’re covering, and G4 isn’t doing that.

  12. That’s my whole point… G4 in general isn’t doing real game journalism… they are just part of the marketing machine. Personally, this is not the way I would have it. I think entertainment journalism can be entertaining without being pandering; thought-provoking without being full of marketing-hype and good publicity without seeming outright paid-for. Tina’s appearance at Nintendo’s press conference is a good example of why G4 is generally failing at these goals. They’re obviously fine with that, but I’m not.

  13. Well, her show sort of is like Entertainment Tonight, isn’t it? I don’t think her show was ever supposed to bring about any real debate or incite on the industry.

  14. You suggest that G4 isn’t living up to the journalistic integrity of video game magazines, websites and the such. What have you been reading and watching? A multibillion dollar business who’s watchdogs are as aggressive as a sleepy Bassett hound with hard hitting interviews that wouldn’t stump a grade schooler. Pick your source, EGM, Gamespot, it doesn’t matter. “Sony, you made huge unmet promises with the ’emotion engine’ and the PS2, why should we believe everything you promise with the PS3?”“Nintendo, you haven’t been able to get any 3rd party support for years, why should we believe you’ll fix that?”“Microsoft, you claim you’ll have diversity in titles plus get some Eastern development support, when?” Answer: Because we said so!

  15. What “Insident” Mike? And they probably didn’t do a PSP equivalent because they only did it briefly in November, in which they covered two days for PS2 games (GTA and MGS3), Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and the DS. And considering that unlike with the other programs where they set aside unique programming for them, I’d say the DS was underrepresented on it’s special marketing day actually.

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