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.

Doctor Madness
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Doctor Madness

I find the biggest irony of this situation, is that by excluding some journalists, the ones that aren’t “safe” and have passionate followers, publishers are building distrust among consumers. Take myself for instance, with multiple reviewers I follow being locked out by review embargoes or just not being allowed a copy of the game to review, I am left with nothing but opinion and hearsay to inform myself on new games. In such a case that publishers are silencing review of their latest title, I can only assume that said title was rushed, doesn’t work, and/or carries anti-consumer practices that… Read more »

Austin_sj
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Austin_sj

Are you going to do a Titanfall 2 review? I’m thinking of picking up one of the big three shooters and your critically thoughts would be appreciated.

David Gil
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David Gil

No big deal, I don’t buy anything day one from big companies anymore. And I haven’t trusted a big sites review since I saw them giving COD’s ridiculously high scores. Best case scenario for me with triple a companies is I buy their game on sale and patched on PC and it ends up a slightly above average experience that fades from memory shortly after. Your taste seems to be in line with mine in most cases and that’s whats important, I know if you like it I’ll probably like it. I know that probably sounds odd but that’s how… Read more »

Maniate
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Maniate

Jim, you actually published an accusation that a PR firm could be freezing you out on the slim grounds that they serve two companies that didn’t give you review copies of their games. That’s all it took for you to write that. Come on now.

Moisa Mircea
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Moisa Mircea

Reviews are pointless these days Jim. Talking about reviews is even more pointless. I find that even you can make mistakes( i know, i know). So i don’t bother reading. If a game is well loved on Steam and Metacritic i buy it. Its not that i don’t trust reviews. Its just i have been burned to many times by every single outlet (including you) to conclude that NOBODY is being professional about this. Reviews have been a mess for years now. And every time people like me criticized the critic for being to subjective, we got the: “But reviews… Read more »

HisDivineOrder
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HisDivineOrder

I don’t know why every reviewer, especially of larger sites, doesn’t have to buy their games. Purchase price is as much a component of how good a game is as any other element. No Man’s Sky is a ridiculous game at $60. At $20, it might be alright.

Price is important and unless the reviewer is experiencing that part of the game as much as every other part, well… they’re not experiencing the game the way the rest of us do.

Anduinel
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Anduinel

So what would be the best way to let EA know they’ve just killed any chance they had of me ever pre-ordering their games, given that they’re apparently scared shitless of getting honest reviews? Granted, I wasn’t exactly likely to do so given their bullshit with the last DA game, but at least there was a non-zero chance. Now, not so much.

adampoole
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adampoole

wild card jim… we need a t-shirt of that

Nidioqueen
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Nidioqueen

Hey Jim – You gonna review Paper Mario?

Chapomon
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Chapomon

Is anyone else wondering that the top image is? It looks like a bootleg Jim Sterling next to a bootleg Brad Jones on a bootleg version of Midnight Screenings.

Danger Beans
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Danger Beans

He plays ’em fast and plays ’em hard. . . he’s JIM FUCKING STERLING SON!

RifleAvenger Sashiro
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RifleAvenger Sashiro

“He’s a loose canon games journalist, who doesn’t PLAY by the RULES.”

ChaostheDude
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ChaostheDude

XD So… You’re a ‘Wild Card’ for being an honest critic? XD Just because I trust you more than Game Informer… Stupid publishers, when will they learn?

Milestone_RP
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Milestone_RP

“The fuck daya MEAN ‘some of these reviewers think for themselves’?! Since when?!”
— Some EA Marketing Higher-Up, 2016

Imp Emissary
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Imp Emissary

So, does this mean you’d still get the review copies if they could be 100% sure you’d give the game a low score? ;p

Ah well. I’ve been waiting to see reviews from specific people before getting games anyway.

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