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.