I’m Too Much Of A Wild Card To Receive Review Copies

Yesterday I explained why I do not yet have a Titanfall 2 review while other outlets (some with considerably smaller audiences) got theirs up no problem.

I talked about my inability to receive review copies of Electronic Arts and select Square Enix games, with the PR firm 47 Communications being the common brick wall. After multiple failed attempts to learn the reason from 47, I decided to be the squeaky wheel and write about it in an article.

The squeaky wheel didn’t get grease, but it did get answers from sources who read the article in question. The good news is, 47 Communications does not apparently have any quarrel with me. The bad news is, some publishers think I’m just too much of a wild card to be trusted.

Wait… that’s not really bad news. That makes me sound awesome!

01

From what I’ve been able to find out, publishers are indeed the ones making the final call. PR firms get requests from reviewers, PR firms forward these requests to the publishers, publishers start crossing names off the list and determining who is allowed to touch the game before launch.

Fairly standard stuff, but things have been changing this generation.

Over the last year or so, it would appear that at least Electronic Arts is not secure and confident enough to believe I’m a “safe” reviewer. From what I’ve learned, “wild cards” such as myself are no longer considered the worthy gamble they used to be, with game releases and critical receptions more tightly controlled by publishers than ever.

Electronic Arts has a documented history of attempting to manipulate the critical reception of its games. It quite famously pressured outlets over Battlefield 3 reviews, doing what it could to mitigate the possibility of any unfavorable criticism.

In a world where pre-orders are only becoming more important and launch-day microtransactions remain controversial, it’s hardly surprising EA is still attempting to dictate public perception of its games. Best to hide all the shitty business practices from customers for as long as possible, right?

This is not just limited to myself. Any critic deemed too “unpredictable” makes certain publishers nervous, and they’ve steadily grown more eager to cut out any variables that could rock the boat too much.

If you are a critic and you have been receiving code for high profile games from publishers such as EA, it may very well be because they think you’re easy to please and will give the positive coverage they expect. Frankly, I’d find that rather insulting.

Quite why I can still get western Square Enix games but not Japanese Square Enix games remains a mystery, though it may have something to do with different companies receiving different amounts of code, or perhaps Square Enix’s Eastern side just being more controlling than its Western counterpart. I’m only going off what I’ve been able to learn about the situation, which hasn’t been a huge deal.

What I do know is that things have changed over the last few years. Review codes used to be more liberally doled out, with PR firms having a ton of codes to give to outlets of every description. These days, companies have gotten stingier with the codes, and PR firms are left with a fraction of what they used to be able to provide – when they say they’ve run out of codes, even digital ones, they’re not lying.

As I stated yesterday, this is an inconvenience to me from a scheduling standpoint, but it’s not going to stop me doing my job. Thanks to my Patreon support, I have the budget to purchase and review high profile games, even if I won’t get such reviews up before a game’s launch. I remain on Metacritic, and I continue to have an audience I’ve no intention of letting down.

It’s an expensive way to do business, but unlike even many established media outlets, it’s a way of doing business I can actually afford.

02

In the past, I’ve praised Electronic Arts for having the guts to continue providing me with code despite my harsh criticism of its business practices. It’s a shame that is no longer the case, but I guess I can understand it even if I think it showcases a severe lack of confidence.

I’m glad I know the deal now, even if nobody at EA actually had the nerve to reach out and tell me. From now on, I shall make sure any EA game I care to review is purchased personally – not really different from how I’ve been doing things of late.

This is the cost of not being predictable, of not being somebody a corporation can expect praise from simply for producing another “Triple-A” game that is “expected” to get the usual 9/10 scores.

Ironic, considering how much I actually loved Battlefield 1. Wild card, bitches!

As irritating as it is to no longer be able to provide certain high profile reviews alongside the “safer” outlets, I at least feel like I must be doing something right if I’m making certain publishers “nervous.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, this wild card has work to do.

And he will for quite some time to come.

LamontRaymond
Guest
LamontRaymond

Jim Sterling, Tom Chick, … can’t think of any other wild cards out there. Though Jim rarely acts like a wild card, if we’re honest with each other. How often does he give a AAA game south of 4/10? Rarely. Chick is the wild card to end all wild cards. It is hilarious that these publishers still try this crap.

Savletto Polvere
Guest
Savletto Polvere

Read “wild” as “honest”, and add TB to the list.

LamontRaymond
Guest
LamontRaymond

Nah, honest without a willingness to score low when a game is truly bad doesn’t count.

Bombiz
Guest
Bombiz

What do you mean “without a willingness to score low when a game is truly bad “? I would think that wouldn’t apply to TB since he doesn’t score games at all. Also isn’t a reviewer.

FieldMedic
Guest
FieldMedic

So what you’re saying is, Jim Sterling is too honest to be a reliable marketing tool of the big publishers? 😀

Fortyseven
Guest

As a fellow, yet unrelated Fortyseven, I send my apologies during this stressful time. You wildcard son of a bitch.

Jinx 01
Guest
Jinx 01

“launch-day microtransactions remain controversial”
^ which is why they are adding them after launch, and after reviews are out. Utterly despicable.

Basura Nephilim
Guest
Basura Nephilim

Even then…if people stopped doing them…
It wouldn’t even be an issue, or viable to put them in.

Not saying the practice of the publishers isn’t disgusting…but the pure sheepishness of consumers is at least half if not more responsible for certain things existing.

Anton
Guest
Anton

This result tells me less about Jim, and more about all the mainstream reviewers. It just shows how little respect publishers have for them, as they are just considered to be predictable and “safe”.

Savletto Polvere
Guest
Savletto Polvere

Just like condoms.

Anton
Guest
Anton

Goddamn, that is an unflattering comparison.

Savletto Polvere
Guest
Savletto Polvere

And accurate. Hence it’s perfect.

Anton
Guest
Anton

It also gives me an idea for an exciting new product:

“Wild Card” brand condoms – one in six has a hole in it! YEEEE HAWWW

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

This has the making of a new game show. One of these condoms has a hole in it and one of these six prostitutes has HIV. Who’s going to be the lucky winner kids?

Tylericous
Guest
Tylericous

I think most of Destructoid and Gameinformer are good though. Granted, I have been reading Gameinformer since I was young (probably for almost a decade now) and am attached to it, so I might have some bias.

Chris Carter from Destructoid is probably the best reviewer out there. I don’t always agree with him (in face I almost always give a slightly different score or response than him), but him along with Jim are my favorite individual reviewers.

Anton
Guest
Anton

GI is owned by Gamestop. I trust them less than IGN.

Savletto Polvere
Guest
Savletto Polvere

I used to like GI, they produced some really good material, but sometimes it feels like most of what they do is just… insincere? Probably because it is, since most of their articles appear to be your typical paid-for crap.

George
Guest
George

Yeah…I hope more of the “mainstream” reviewers read this piece and question their integrity as artists.

Jonoridge
Guest

I’m assuming this is why you received no codes from Digital Homicide? Too much of a wild card?

Jonathan Belina
Guest
Jonathan Belina

You do have a habit to attacking stuff “on principle” regardless of whether or not it actually has a negative impact on the game.

Alex Wheatley
Guest
Alex Wheatley

I’ve generally thought that the things Jim attacks on principle he does so because in his opinion they *always* have a negative impact on the game.

MJC
Guest
MJC

Because they do. If anyone thinks they don’t, then they have lost and the industry has won. But not all of us are willing to roll over and abide by their bullshit.

Jonathan Belina
Guest
Jonathan Belina

I have to disagree. It should come down to implementation and judged on a case-by-case basis.
Something like microtransactions: does their mere existence really damage a game? I don’t think so unless they’re implemented so as to punish the players who don’t buy them.

Anton
Guest
Anton

Like when?

Jonathan Belina
Guest
Jonathan Belina

like microtransactions and product tie-ins. I’m not saying they’re good- but I feel like they should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Anton
Guest
Anton

Microtransactions have made a product worse in literally every scenario I’ve seen them used in. So I’m with Jim on this one.

Jonathan Belina
Guest
Jonathan Belina

I have to disagree. It should come down to implementation and judged on a case-by-case basis.
I don’t think microtransactions are detrimental unless they’re implemented so as to punish the players who don’t buy them.

Bernhard
Guest
Bernhard

On most if not all of the “cases” it’s been with games that you BUY. If you pay full price for a game it shouldn’t have microtransactions.

InfamousDS
Guest
InfamousDS
“I don’t think microtransactions are detrimental unless they’re implemented so as to punish the players who don’t buy them.” AKA: Every appearance ever. Jim said it best, paraphrased: {People don’t add options for you to spend more money without fully intending for you to spend more money. Some fundamental part of the design is compromised to make that shiny gem look worthwhile, that lootbox sweeter, that friend’s costume cooler, or even just getting the damn wait over with.} There are no instances of MT’s being a good thing outside of free games, and even there the vast majority (99%+, which… Read more »
Gareth
Guest
Gareth

The problem is they shouldn’t exist at all.

Dante Attano
Guest
Dante Attano
Even though Jim obviously does not like micro-transactions in fully priced games at all, I think looking at his reviews of games with said micro-transactions you can see that he does treat it on a game by game basis. Looking at his review and reaction to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, he said that the micro-transactions really did feel, for once, like they did not have an effect on the games balancing (albeit because they were almost definitely forced on the dev very late in the development). Yeah, fully priced games with micro-transactions automatically are removed from the running for his… Read more »
Ryan Smith
Guest
Ryan Smith

Unless a game is operating on a f2p/p2w model, microtransactions are ALWAYS bullshit, and should be judged as such.

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

If you are referring to microtransactions, he only mentions them in the reviews beyond a footnote when they have tangible impact on the game.

Joao Oliveira
Guest
Joao Oliveira

This also happens with movies. The upcoming Doctor Strange had a screening for the more predictable critics first so they would release the reviews first and get that sweet 100% on Rotten Tomatoes that combined with an European release before an American one will surely help hype up the American and Chinese audiences so they have as much profit as they can out of it..

Fallen Prime
Guest
Fallen Prime

And Marvel has goodwill out the ASS at this point, so they shouldn’t even need to.

I just looked on RT when I read this comment, and Doctor Strange is sitting at 98%. I have NEVER seen an MCU movie break 95, so either they’re getting the safe press out of the way first or Doctor Strange is going to blow my fucking mind. I certainly HOPE for the latter, but I’m trying to temper my expectations.

Scaper
Guest
Scaper

And that is why we love Jim Fucking Sterling Son

Artemiy
Guest
Artemiy

Wow.
IMHO this is straight Jimquisition material. Needs expansion obviously, but the event itself is noteworthy.

Gabriel Macys
Guest
Gabriel Macys

“We won’t give review copies because his TRUTH is just TOO REAL, man! He might even, *gasp* GO BELOW A SEVEN!!”
– The Management

Cameron Ward
Guest
Cameron Ward

that sounds rather pathetic that they don’t trust you or a handful of critics due to being “we can’t please them easily”

well, if you make good games and let go of stuff like preorder hype and microtransactions, then maybe we could trust you publishers…

Edward Turvey
Guest
Edward Turvey

So because you don’t toe the line, they deem it the best course of action to withhold review copies until you get the opportunity to buy it yourself at launch and give your opinion anyway?

Alex Wheatley
Guest
Alex Wheatley

Absolutely – because the first day is critical. Every pre-order they can convert into someone actually plays the game for two hours (to remove the chance of a Steam return) is a sale in the bank. It doesn’t matter to them that Jim will get his review out *soon* as long as it doesn’t come out soon enough that people can read it before opening the game up.
It makes total sense, it’s just highly disappointing.

Victor Luna Coronado
Guest
Victor Luna Coronado
One can only question the shady practices and subpar products a major publisher is willing to push in the name of profit, if it comes down to them fearing individuals for their ability to uncover the truth behind them. In this case, it is noteworthy that a ‘wild card’ has managed to shape the media enough through hard work, fair critique and informed opinions that they can no longer ‘risk’ putting a dent in their profit reviews. It only goes to show how much they actually know about their own game, which isn’t -ironically- making games, but selling them. We’ve… Read more »
Raiden Landon Freeman
Guest
Raiden Landon Freeman
1) Why would they send a product for free, if they are not guaranteed good press? This is not an industry that cares about improving, only cashgrabs (for example the hardware industry sends products, even if they get bashed) 2) You have been a bit unfair with some reviews some times, (TW3 comes to mind), but not consistently enough to be crazy or something; you may just have a weird/rare opinion on some matters. That’s another reason for a publisher not wanting you to review their product, as you may be unrepresentative. (I think that’s BS, since you have an… Read more »
CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

1) More reviews = more visibility. Something worse for sales than having bad publicity is to have too little publicity.

2) 8.5 unfair? It may be low, but I would consider it unfair at 7 or below. But yeah. It’s difficult to predict Jim’s opinion. Sometimes his opinion doesn’t match the mainstream, and sometimes it coincides with it; but overall it’s independent to the IP, genre and even the publisher (he has given both positive and negative reviews to games from Ubisoft, Square Enix, EA, Konami, Activision, etc…)

Raiden Landon Freeman
Guest
Raiden Landon Freeman

1)That’s how reasonable people think. Have you ever met a high ranking executive in most companies, let alone game publishers?
Also, they are giving copies to everyone, just not him, so it doesn’t affect their visibility much, since this audience, can get a review elsewhere.

2)I don’t mind the score, they’re mostly inaccurate. He did nag about stuff that weren’t issues imo, and for some reason didn’t enjoy (or at least say so in the review) other parts, which I found admirable. It doesn’t really matter anyway.

SirRichard
Guest
SirRichard

You know you’ve made it big when the corporations start to fear you. They don’t consider you a thrall, so they shirk and flee.

Mike Wallace
Guest
Mike Wallace

So I was 100% right when I said the publishers are getting wary of your reactions to your shenanigans.

Bombiz
Guest
Bombiz

What. He has reactions to his shenanigans? And what shenanigans are we talking about here?

Matrim
Guest
Matrim

I swear to God, I’ll pistol whip the next guy that says ‘shenanigans!’

InfamousDS
Guest
InfamousDS

Hey, what’s your favorite restaurant again?

Michelle Mullins
Guest
Michelle Mullins

Finnegan’s?…….okay that was a really bad joke

Mike Wallace
Guest
Mike Wallace

Leave me alone I was typing on my phone on my lunch break.

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

Well why not go with a deck of cards based rating system? Jack, King, Queen, 2, 5, diamond, heart…

I mean we can all agree Mafia 3 is a 3 of Hearts, and Conkers Bad Fur Day is King of Spades.

Ciaran O'Brien
Guest
Ciaran O'Brien

You’re a loose cannon!

H.E.V.nix
Guest
H.E.V.nix

In essence, you are anti establishment in gaming industry.

Martijn Fiering
Guest
Martijn Fiering

Are any of us surprised?

Largo Coronet
Guest
Largo Coronet

“Wild Card” = Reviews that are more trustworthy and likely to be more accurate.

The more wild cards, the better!

Oskulock
Guest
Oskulock

Electronic Arts

More like Electronic FARTS

HAHA!

irfanf (IrfanF)
Guest
irfanf (IrfanF)

Damn, how many personas do you have for EA to regard you as a wild card, Jim?

Orosz József Ábel
Guest
Orosz József Ábel

Are you referencing what I think you’re referencing?

MrInsecure
Guest
MrInsecure

SOCIAL LINKS SOCIAL LINKS SOCIAL LINKS

Savletto Polvere
Guest
Savletto Polvere

Calm down, Spider.

Fairy Princess
Guest
Fairy Princess

Just one, Mara.

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

Jim you should be honored and proud that somebody like EA, fears that you might give it bad review and that might influence possible customers, you made it sir.

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