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.

Collymilad
Guest
Collymilad

You’re absolutely on the right track mate – shameful that publishers won’t provide codes to anyone they think won’t give them a standard biased review. I would take that as a huge point of pride (which I’m sure you do)

Unbelievable – just shows that EA want to shovel their crap along with their good games (they do have them) and get 9/10’s anyway. Like I said, shameful.

Perry Martin
Guest

So apparently speaking the honest truth makes you a “wildcard” and not to be trusted.

I’m starting to wonder if some publishers just get hard-ons for treating everyone not them like shit. Thank God for You, Jim, for actually giving us some honest bloody journalism.

Michael Alexander Seiler
Guest
Michael Alexander Seiler

So… when they´re not sending out review copies to you they must have some spares lying around. Can we get them then? =D

George
Guest
George

I’ve said before and I will say it again. I am very glad for the “pay what I want services” like Patreon and I’m glad that I took the plunge and became one.

I think that all of this is a testament to how much trust Jim has built with his audience and how much he has built a reputation for giving his honest opinion, especially when it’s unpopular.

drez
Guest
drez

Your audience appreciates your integrity Jim, they might not like what you have to say sometimes, but a harsh truth is better than a lie to butter the shite.

Stormbringer
Guest

“Triple-A” translates roughly to: all brains, no brawn, or: “might makes right.” I don’t understand why they believe they are entitled to positive reviews, just for making an effort? (A participation trophy?) It’s fucking in the label they use to describe themself.

Merlin the Tuna
Guest
Merlin the Tuna

For examination, the last 10 reviews here compared against the games’ metacritic scores, out of a possible 10 points. Zenith: 1 Jim, 4.6 Metacritic Gears of War 4: 7 Jim, 8.4 Metacritic. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood: 8.5 Jim, 7.2 Metacritic Playstation VR Worlds: 2 Jim, 5.7 Metacritic RIGS Mechanized Combat League: 8.5 Jim, 7.8 Metacritic Here They Lie: 1 Jim, 6.3 Metacritic Battlezone: 2.5 Jim, 6.4 Metacritic Mafia III: 6.5 Jim, 6.9 Metacritic Dragon Quest Builders: 8 Jim, 8.3 Metacritic Battlefield 1: 9 Jim, 9.0 Metacritic Admittedly a smallish sample size, but the general trend seems to be that… Read more »

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

Just goes to show how bad an idea this surviving on ad revenue is for journalists that want to maintain integrity and respect. The system favours the rich with many fingers in many pies. Damn, am hungry now.

altdoom
Guest
altdoom

You the man Jim. Is there a Shadow Warrior 2 review in the works?

Jordane Finfe
Guest
Jordane Finfe

I’m gonna get hated for this, but IDC. the guy is probably on a black list, maybe because he has some flaws, maybe he is being over negative? I mean, seing how he is trying to expose EA in this little vendetta attempts kidna makes me understand why he didnt get one in the first place. I feel like i’ve read a rant of a spoiled child that was penalized. EA doesn’t HAVE to give away review copies to anyone. And, seriously, read about the guy. He often takes position against acclaimed games, probably only to get famous. Seriously, “jimquisition”… Read more »

Daavpuke
Guest

Ha, I see that link, nice apropos!

Luckily, the dollar or two that myself and dozens of others here can give, makes up for a lacking publisher. It’s not like the critical content from this site is bound to the same need for immediacy as a general review would be. Plenty of ways to dissect a game, as we’ve seen before. I wonder if those extra few days (hours, maybe?) of buffer are enough for a publisher to want this kind of mistrusting image.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

You is one of the Big Bad Bois now, Jim. Don’t take no shit. When it comes to Ma main Badda Boi Jim, ain’t no ad revenue holding dis gui down. Y’all top ties n suits dont know where to begin, when it comes to ma main Badda Boi jim, you see him coming yo pants gonna turn brown. He gonna give y’all 1 outta 10 and that sweet fascist frown. Ma main Badda Boi jim, he gonna tear the top man back to us onna ground! *Phew* that seemed a better idea in my head, sorry. Cheers for the… Read more »

Appretaur
Guest
Appretaur

Are you sure being considered a “Wild Card” makes you sounds awesome? Some might think it makes you sound more like you’d be someone that announces paid extension content for upcoming Jimquisition episodes while those episodes are still being produced.

Fallen Prime
Guest
Fallen Prime

That’s what you get for not shilling, you dirty non-conformist. Get out of here with your stable and respectable job and let the rest of the media get their review copies like good little peons.

Bashtarle
Guest
Bashtarle

But they need safe predictable reviews to push as many copies out at launch as possible…… so they can sell as much microtransaction tat as fast as they can…. because they know their online multiplayer will be ghost town dead in 6mo 😛

Pocket Nerd
Guest
Pocket Nerd

This is beautiful. Jim, you have become the awesome protagonist of every cop movie ever.

“You’re a DISGRACE to video game reviews, Sterling! Turn in your camera and your gaming rig, NOW!”
“My way gets RESULTS, Chief. And that’s what scares you, ISN’T IT?”

Jim Sterling stars in: WILD CARD. Coming this Christmas to theatres everywhere.

Allan Weallans
Guest
Allan Weallans

Oddly enough, this reminds me of a thing you (I think it was you) retweeted today about Performance Matters: that game publishers think they’re in the software industry when they’re actually in the entertainment industry. Certainly the kind of critique games should get is closer to the kind of critique other entertainment media get than to the kind of critique other software gets. With software, you score it high if it does what it’s supposed to, and I imagine that would be a closer-to-ideal situation for game publishers, since their risk-aversion pushes them precisely towards making games that “do what… Read more »

CommanderKyubey
Guest
CommanderKyubey

Does this mean that you’re the Bernie Sanders of games media? ;D

Bryan Hinson
Guest
Bryan Hinson

Thank God for you Jim, it just goes to show that you are more than willing to give your honest opinion. I don’t preorder games anymore, so waiting for the opinion of someone i trust isn’t that hard. There’s always a price drop after the release anyway.

Joshua Chap
Guest
Joshua Chap

As you said you know you’re doing something right if you’d pissing someone off and disrupting the status quo of what is expected of reviews.

Lewis w
Guest
Lewis w

If publishers only send out review codes to people who are dead certs for positive reviews, how will customers know if the games are any good before the real reviews come out, I.E after the pre-orders have come through? This supposed second gaming crash can’t come soon enough, in my opinion. The whole AAA market is getting more and more rotten by the day.

Nemrex
Guest
Nemrex
Chip Self
Guest
Chip Self

*thunk*

That’s the sound of Jim dropping his Union Jack (haha penis) onto the table.

Agent9
Guest
Agent9
Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000

You’re a liability Jim! You’re off the chain, and a disgrace to the force!

Turn in your badge, your gun, your other gun, your gun-badge, and your badge-gun!