Report: Atari sues game site for publishing review without permission

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Atari is reportedly suing game review website 4player after it published a review of its latest Alone in the Dark game without permission.

As the site did not receive a copy of the game from the publisher, Atari believes 4player obtained it illegally and seeks undisclosed restitution. 4players says the game was legally leaked to it from a retailer. It awarded AiTD 68 percent, a grim total on the industry standard “7 to 9″ rating scale used by gaming journalists.

There is a pinch of salt element at hand: 4player‘s denunciation of Atari has all the accouterments of a standard-issue internet drama play. Fidgit‘s Tom Chick describes it as “a website with a sense of entitlement instead of an early review copy.”

If its version of events is true, however, it’s the latest example of publishers’ increasingly aggressive attempts to determine how the gaming press covers its products. In the run up to the release of its latest blockbuster, Konami presented reviewers with early-access contracts that told them not to report certain aspects of the game – after they’d already given them access. Late last year, Gamespot fired longtime staffer Jeff Gerstmann after he panned Kane and Lynch, whose publisher had paid for a site-wide advertising campaign at the site.

It’s not limited to gaming, either: Websites covering rock mainstays Metallica were ordered to pull reviews of their latest songs. Wired asked one editor why they comply, and the answer was direct and to the point: because his writers were in danger of losing access.

Atari versus press freedom (Machine Trans) [4players.de via Wired: Game|Life]

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9 Responses to Report: Atari sues game site for publishing review without permission

  1. Scuba SM says:

    Really, so what if a magazine loses access? I say report what you think, and if the company/band/whatever decides they don’t want you to review anything else of theirs, it’s their loss. It’s one more audience that isn’t going to hear about the product. If it ends up being something popular, print a short article describing the arm-twisting tactics of the company. I’d much rather read an honest paragraph about the draconian company policy than a two page spread of sugar coated B.S.

    If you’re going to release a product, you should be ready to stand behind it. If the only way you can get people to buy your stuff is by keeping them in the dark or misinforming them then you’re doing something very very wrong. If you put out a decent product, the reviewers are going to do more for you than most multi-million ad campaigns. If you put out a piece of junk, no amount of black listing or journalistic extortion is going to save you.

  2. Daneel says:

    Sounds like more of the rubbish that helped to kill the late, great Amiga Power; honest reviewing and using all of the 0-100% scale doesn’t endear you to publishers, apparently.

  3. Enochrewt says:

    The Jeff Gerstmann thing still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In fact even though I’m a gamer, all of the gaming media does. I used to be glued to gaming websites for the bleeding edge latest leaked screenshots of Game A, rumored new features of Game B, in-depth reviews of game C to help me decide what to buy etc. but in this day in age a gamer can usually just not pay attention to all of that, and play the demo/beta. I know TF2 is near and dear to many hearts here, would you not have purchased it if you had heard it wasn’t good from some gaming site/magazine? Maybe even after you played the beta before release?

    It’s silly that I know more details about Battlefield:Bad Company than anything GamePro, IGN or any of the others wrote about it, because I’ve been playing it for months. There’s no point in having software reviewers when the consumer can just try the product themselves.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about “the freedom of the press”? People don’t always “get permission” to say things about something. So what if a magazine or a webzine gives your product a bad review? You have to be able to take criticism if you want to make it, no matter how big your company or band is. Games, movies and albums get leaked onto the internet all of the time and they are played, watched and listened to. I happen to write music reviews and it’s absurd to think that if I write a bad review of a band, they might try and make me lose my job. Sometimes you recieve a copy of an album from a band and sometimes you might go buy it and then review it so the band might not always know beforehand. Some negative reviews won’t hurt, in fact, it’ll do just as good as a positive one, because I have checked out bands that recieved negative reviews just to see if they really are bad and not all have been so to me. The same can go for a game. Someone might play a demo or rent it to see for themselves and then they might be prompted to write a good review to defend it if they actually liked it. Atari, Metallica, think things over a bit more carefully next time. At least these people bothered to review you, so they must have expected something good from you. Don’t ruin the situation even more by whining.

  5. MacBastard says:

    Wow! Who knew that these game publishers would take a page directly from the White House press strategy!

    Wired asked one editor why they comply, and the answer was direct and to the point: because his writers were in danger of losing access.

  6. themindfantastic says:

    A post from Wired ( http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/317063549/pasture-of-mupp.html ) mentions the Metallica bungle and that it really wasn’t the band itself. Not to say Metallica has always been great when it comes to the 21st century, but we all know about their stance on Napster. However with the events regarding reviews of anything as of late, this adds to trend. Soon to say anything against a product at any time is going to potentially involve a lawsuit.

  7. Halloween Jack says:

    I think that when things get to the point that some PR flack expects you to fly across the ocean just so that you can interview Rob Halford on the phone in a hotel room next to his–and, seriously, I love the Priest, but they’re not exactly the hottest act out there–then something’s got to give.

  8. Rich Shupe says:

    I sincerely do not think I am being idealistic when I say you should not let companies dictate what you can and cannot write (within the bounds of obviously applicable restrictions such as libel laws)–advertising or no.

    I used to publish a magazine. A major label record company promo president once said I could only have an interview with an artist if I promised to put that artist on the cover–even before I heard the artist’s album or did the interview. I politely told him no and then stopped taking his calls. It simply didn’t matter to me if no longer received access to their artists (which didn’t happen). My first thought was to never feature that label’s artists again, but I realized that such an action would hurt the artists as much as the label*, and perhaps even the latter was unfair based on one employee’s stupidity.

    If your business model relies solely on access to one publisher’s material, and you intend to cave to their whims, you need another business model.

    I don’t like the idea that anyone prizes their own vehicle more than their readers (no more needs to be said about that) or more than the material/parties they cover. But it’s not crazy to think that a publisher values the exposure your vehicle can contribute.

    * (To the degree that restricting coverage in my magazine could hurt anyone.)

  9. OM says:

    …Some of the comic book news sites have fallen prey to an advertiser holding their ad bucks overhead like a “sword of damocles”. The one who catches the most flack is Matty Brady over on Newsarama, where most seriously heated criticism of either Marvel or DC gets deleted on occasion – mostly due to either Dan Didio or Joe Quesada whining about how bad the truth hurts.

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