Let me start off this breaking news report by mentioning that IGN is not the only review site or publication that does this, and it’s actually a rather sad, but common, occurrence across the industry. IGN is mentioned specifically so as to make clear how deep this runs, and how serious of an issue this really is. This is not an indictment against IGN, nor are we any less trust worthy of them for doing this. However, this is a harsh reality of the industry and something we have been fortunate enough to have not run into for ourselves yet.

The story goes as this: IGN, among several other publications, alter review scores, alter editorial pieces, based on who is paying the bills. Essentially in order to continue to get review copies of games, to get certain publishers to advertise on your site, things get altered to appear more favorable for certain games. This is not true of every game reviewed or talked about, and it’s hard to point to any specific examples, but ZI just received exclusive confirmation that this happens all the time.

According to a former IGN employee, who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons:

The truth is that marketing and PR and readers have a major influence on reviews. I can tell you that just about every preview and review you read spouts out a lot of marketing’s message. Journalists don’t get it, see it, realize it, or accept it. But that is the truth

Fact remains that this is something we have all suspected for some time. In fact, we know some sites have literally taken money directly for writing a positive review. In IGN, and other similar site’s defense, they are rarely paid directly for the review itself. Rather, the money, one can assume, is all related to marketing and public relations. The big money makers for any website that posts news. All of our income is produced off of similar methods, where companies come to our ad agency and offer certain amounts of money to display advertising. Naturally, if we talk negatively over and over again about a product it will make them less likely to advertise it to our fan base thus hurting income.

Setting aside our inside source, which even if you have a hard time believing us let me just say that if this was false I would sell this site to any fan for 1$ (that’s how confident I am), this entire story starting initially making rounds today off the words of Rich Stanton on twitter. Rich Stanton is a freelance writer who is known for his work with Future Publishing/PC Gamer. While he is hardly the elite of the elite, it simply adds a lot of weight to the ongoing problem in the industry that many Journalists, and fans, are just afraid to admit to.

I warn that there are some vulgar words used in these direct quotes off twitter:

Edge gave GTA IV [10] but the review didn’t “@CiaranMac90: @RichStanton Just give us the worst story on Future you have and get some rest!” I’m genuinely amazed that nobody has picked up on the fact that GTA4 got a 9 which became Rockstar’s much sought-after [10] in Edge.

They control everything “@theubermod: @RichStanton Do publishers/platform holders ‘pay’ for covers? In either ad spend or access.”

Yes “@helloimandrew: @RichStanton do review scores in future publications sometimes magically change before it hits the self”

Homefront, less obviously. Most is Driv3rgate “@Tim__Lane: @RichStanton game that got most obviously dodgy reviews?”

Rockstar, without question. “@LittleJuiceBox1: @RichStanton Who were the dodgiest PRs for doing deals (review scores etc)?”

Yes. Future will do anything to accommodate advertisers. “@LewieP: @RichStanton have you witnessed any dodgy deals?”

PC Gamer asked me to take some photos of something very specific. A wall of concept art. I asked permission, and did so. Valve went nuts. This wasn’t approved! Do you know what PC Gamer’s editor, Tim Edwards, did? He denied I had ever been asked to do it. Said PCG were merely the innocent recipient. Lied, in other words. Cunt.

In short, this is an industry-wide concern. Speaking from some of my own experiences, sometimes negative remarks about games are requested to be completely eliminated from an article, rather than directly lying, because the game developer is the one “paying for that article to exist” – and usually the freelance writer has no idea that is the case at the time they take the job. They are just offered a sum of money to create an honest review, only to have to alter it before sending it live so as not to “piss off” the people who paid for it.

It makes you really question the integrity of the internet, and really question every review you see anywhere. Is the site popular? Yes? Does that mean the reviews are skewed? Possibly. It’s hard to tell in today’s day and age what’s honest and whats not, and since the consumers are none the wiser it’s hard to know if this trend will ever change. All we can do at ZI is inform all of you as to whats really going on and then leave the debate and decisions up to you. This isn’t just IGN. It’s not just Future publishing… it’s… who even knows. This runs deep folks.

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