Site Stuff: We Won’t Be Bullied By Publishers Over Low Review Scores

Hello there, dear readers, it’s Pure PlayStation’s inept bossman, Chris Harding. Every now and again I break away from our usual format for important stuff surrounding the running of the site.

One of the big things for me and the rest of the Pure PlayStation team is transparency. I know that this industry is filled to the brim with negativity and toxic behaviour. I know what goes on with some sites, and I know the games the publishers play to keep things in their favour. Fortunately for you, we’re a decent site. We’re small (at the moment!) but we’re decent and we work bloody hard to keep it that way.

I was reading something online a little earlier this evening about another website, The Sixth Axis, removing its low review score for 2K’s NBA 2K18 for PS4. The review lambasted the over-the-top microtransactions and rightly so, and the reviewer felt compelled to score the game a 3/10. Fair enough. But now the review has had the score removed after the site was contacted by the game’s publisher, 2K Games, and the site released a statement explaining that it will be fixed soon. This is where I’m calling bollocks on both sides and I’m going to assure you, the readers, that we would never do this.

First of all, 2K getting in a pissy fit because its game got a low score is normal. Publishers hate seeing anything negative about their games. They make their money off of these games and if they’re given review scores that are low, it’s bound to lose them sales. Lost sales means lost revenue. So I can see why 2K would be throwing a tantrum, but I can’t understand why this site – or any other worth its sale – would comply with any demands.

We need to look at the bigger picture here: The Sixth Axis is a small website. It doesn’t demand an audience like, say, Polygon or Gamespot. The amount of people who would see the review on the site is probably lower than the amount who would see the score on Metacritic. This site has been provided a review code by 2K and will probably have future codes lined up. Fair enough.

However, with 2K nudging them over the low review score, it’s possible the site may lose access to precious work materials. That means no early review copies, no preview events, and no interview opportunities with developers. Do you know what this means? Bugger all for 2K, but it could ruin the smaller site that relies on getting access to valuable tools that brings in traffic.

If 2K is doing what I think it’s doing – threatening to blacklist the site – then that’s pretty shitty behaviour on the part of the publisher. What’s the point of criticism if you can’t take it? The reviewer didn’t like the microtransactions and the fact they make the game a pain in the arse to play, so he’s scored it accordingly. Take the hit and make a less greedy game next time.

My big concern here is what the site is doing. It’s caving in. It’s letting the corporate bastards play the game exactly how they want. It’s fucking disgusting. I know you’re thinking that I should be siding with the site in question, but I’m not, and this is where we, Pure PlayStation, come into it.

If we give a game score, that’s the score. We’ve got a fair range within our reviewing system and we trust in it, though we do much prefer people read the words before skimming down to the number at the bottom. As the site’s editor, it’s my job to look over reviews, edit them, and make sure they’re ready to go out on time. I’m basically the mum doing the morning routine in getting the kids to school. And I love it. 

Personally, I review many games each month. It comes with the job. But my colleagues do a fair bit, too, and I read each and every one of them. But guess what? I don’t actually agree with each and every one of them. Some of them I think are waaaaay off, but that’s because we have different opinions on games. So when Kyle gave Horizon: Zero Dawn a 10/10Must Buy, I almost shat my knickers. For me, the game is no more than a very good game, which would put it between 7.0 – 7.9/10. However, I respected his opinion and that was that. The review went out without the score being changed. Now, that’s an example where the score was really, really good. But what about a game that get’s a crap score? Well…

A former colleague of mine, Connor Hutton – actually one of the founding writers of Pure PlayStation – did a review back in July of 2016 for Saints Row IV: Gat Out of Hell. He deemed it not very good and scored it 4.5/10. Ouch. Personally, I really liked it! I’m a sucker for the silliness that comes with the Saints Row franchise and I lapped it all up like the greedy twat that I am. The game didn’t review amazingly elsewhere, and it currently sits with a 66% score on Metacritic, which is a little on the low side. Still, 4.5/10 is really low. Did I agree with it? Nope, not one bit, yet I was happy to publish it to the internet. Now, we didn’t receive any pressure from the publisher, but let’s say we did. What would we do?

In this hypothetical situation where a publisher threatens to block us off, what do you think we would do? Would we:

a) Cave to their demands and quickly change the score and tell readers that the original score was an error

b) Tell the publisher to sit and swivel

c) Tell the internet what the publisher is doing, then sit back and watch the backlash unfold

d) Re-review the game and score it even lower to further piss the publisher off

Of course we would b) and c) them until the cows came home! We’re not in the business of being bullied, nor are we going to lie to our readers. I think the reason people keep coming back to our humble little slice of the internet is because we’re quite frank and honest, whether it be in reviews, opinions, or just general news pieces. There’s no bullshit and there’s no spin. We work for nobody, and that includes publishers. If I or anyone else on the team reviews a product and gives it a score, we’ll stand by that score. We won’t buckle to threats, it’s as simple as that. Others may, but Pure PlayStation will not. Ever*.

*(Unless they bribe us with, like, a million of any currency, then we’ll do whatever they want. Even nasty naked things with gravy.)

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