Gamespot Fire Gerstmann

By John Walker on November 30th, 2007 at 12:29 pm.

Gamespot may have fired their veteran writer, Jeff Gerstmann, over his Kane & Lynch review.

EDIT: See below the cut for more details, and the pulled Gamespot video.

such ps skills

Many sources have posted the rumour that Gerstmann was fired from Gamespot in response to his 6/10 review of Kane & Lynch, which coindicided with some big-budget advertising from publishers Eidos.

We have a reliable source who tells us that while Gerstmann wasn’t the most popular man with the CNET owners, it was his Kane & Lynch review alone that allegedly saw him lose his job. We’d like to stress for reasons of balance, clarity, and fear, that this may be completely wrong. Certainly neither Gamespot nor Gerstmann have said either way, while Gerstmann has confirmed to Joystiq that the firing did happen. Eidos had secured massive advertising across the site, skinning the entire front page with K&L commercials, along with running gimmick adverts allowing readers to cut their own K&L trailers. This can make a below-average review a little awkward.

While the latter advert remains, the front page skinning has disappeared, along with Gerstmann, but not his (accurate) review, which can be read here. Gerstmann, meanwhile, can probably be found staring blankly at his computer screen in bemused confusion.

The story is spreading fast, with Penny Arcade even posting a special extra cartoon about it last night. (Sadly they forgot to include a joke, but there we go).

Any gaming magazine or website is going to carry gaming advertising. And that’s always likely to lead to conflicts. Fortunately, most of the time this ends with publications acting with integrity, taking a hit in the advertising budget, and standing by their man. Who knows what happened here.

Gerstmann’s review is for some reason only applied to the 360 and PS3 versions, but we can assure you that the same applies for the PC.

Here’s the closing paragraph of Gerstmann’s review:

“Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is a premise with promise, and if you’ve been waiting patiently for a game to really dive into the whole “crew-based heist tale” concept, you might be able to look past some of the story flaws. But when you consider the nearly ridiculous number of extremely high-quality shooters available recently, there’s not much room for something like Kane & Lynch, even taking into account the somewhat unique nature of its story. That said, the multiplayer is a smart idea that’s worth seeing, even if playing it makes you wish that it was used in another, better game.”

EDIT: We are hearing rumours that what might have gotten Gerstmann in trouble was not so much his text review, but the video review now missing from Gamespot. So here it is below:

Also, the Eidos forums just happen to be shut today, presenting the message “We are currently making a change to the forums. They will be up shortly. Please check back later.” Reportedly that’s a result of them being visited by a crowd of angry internet gentlemen, though that’s unconfirmed. MORE EDIT: They’re back up now.

We’ve edited down the above post for reasons of common sense. And because, discussed amongst ourselves, we can’t see a logic for why firing him over this would ever have seemed a good idea to anyone. There must be more to it. Or indeed, it must be to do with something else. It’s an interesting muddle. Whatever’s the case, the throngs of the internet seemed to have picked a side. If CNET or Gamespot comment, perhaps it will be to explain. At this point we certainly don’t know the full story.

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138 Comments »

  1. Del Boy says:

    I despair.

  2. AbyssUK says:

    Yay for free speech!

  3. Scotty 3vil says:

    Classic,the fact that review scores mean nothing has never been so true as this.His honesty has caused him srtrife,and annoyed the corporation.
    Truth means nothing in a Capitalistic games world, with large budgets spent on advertising this sort of nonsense, realistic reviews do not bode well,i bet site owners recieve alot of squeezing from CEOs of UBi Eidos Ea etc to make sure reviews are false and inaccuratley scored high.
    This is the very reason i play demos and read user forums for real opinions on games and there quality.

    Look at Halo3,the box (UK) has recommendations from the Sun newspaper. Says it all really.

  4. Phil says:

    Another site I’m never visiting again…

  5. Alan Dexter says:

    Shocking if indeed true.
    Have a video review while you’re at it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBD0cUeeEQc

  6. vasagi says:

    penny arcade did a comic on it

  7. Evo says:

    Wow….really is a crap move by both EA and GameSpot on this =/

    Seems being honest gets you nowhere in this world

  8. vasagi says:

    ignore my post

    really should read before commenting

  9. John Walker says:

    Evo: We should probably point out that for once, EA aren’t the focus of the ire.

  10. fluffy bunny says:

    “Wow….really is a crap move by both EA and GameSpot on this =/”

    EA? Though fair enough, I know for a fact that EA have done exactly the same thing at least once.

  11. AbyssUK says:

    Destructoid also says that Tim Tracy (editor) has left too ?? Might just be a rumour though..

  12. kuddles says:

    No, Tim Tracy leaving is true. Came out of the blue yesterday, too, so it’s hard to believe the two are not interlinked.

  13. Evo says:

    John – lol yeh, meant to put in Eidos, guess I get so used to this kinda stuff from them at times it becomes natural!

    The video review seems pretty fair really, but to get fired for reviewing something honestly just shows that publishers are too insecure to accept criticism

  14. kuddles says:

    The review does come off as much harsher. It’s also less polished than the other ones, including the fact that his mic isn’t on or something? I might just be over-analyzing at this point though.

    Also, they defintely shut down the forums due to angry internet gentlemen, here’s what it looked like late last night before it was shut down.

    http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a263/kevlarcardhouse/eidos.jpg

  15. Feet says:

    Behold! The wrath of the internet!

  16. kuddles says:

    Whoops! That picture is way too small. Here’s the original forum post I got it from:

    http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2699063&pagenumber=3#post336487733

    Sorry about that, wish I could edit my posts on this thing.

  17. LaKriz says:

    WOW! What were the EIDOS guys thinking what this will get them?

    This is not only a blow against the free speech and journalism in general but also against their potential customers.

    Delivering a bad game and then so obviously trying to deceive their customers is not only cheap but dump.

    I will never again buy a game from this publisher and hope other people will avoid EIDOS in the future too.

  18. Alec Meer says:

    Have to say I’m not convinced Penny-Arcade are the right people to be weighing in on this matter, given their ungoing unpleasantness towards reviewers who don’t think Assassin’s Creed is as good as they say it is.

  19. Jonathan Burroughs says:

    To be fair, LaKriz, when was the last time Eidos released a truly highly acclaimed title (lets say 85%+ Metacritic) that wasn’t a Tomb Raider reimagining or Deus Ex? What are they releasing that the general public consider worth buying?

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    So, fighting through my hangover, I’ve been thinking about this. Something just doesn’t sit right with it. The “they were looking for an excuse to sack him” doesn’t hold, because they didn’t need an excuse to sack him where he’s based – especially using an excuse which they knew was controversial. Especially when a review wasn’t actually out of line with what the rest of the reviews (It’s got a mid-sixty average on Metacritics).

    In terms of wild speculation, this is how my mag-experience would suspect it went down.

    Review appears.
    PR or someone similar phones up and go apeshit. Really apeshit. This is par for course. A major game getting sub average reviews is something which PR *have* to phone up about. It’s what their bosses expect. Better PRs and Editors all know that it’s part of the game they play with each other, and roll with it.
    Problem in this case, is whoever above Greg isn’t a good editor or manager. They’re someone who actually takes the threats seriously instead of something that’ll blow over by the next game. The panic, cave and sack the guy.
    Now, this is the last thing any experienced PR would expect. I dare say Eidos are as surprised as everyone else at the sacking – and horrified, as a sacking over a review score is the worst publicity they could ever recieve if it got out (And, of course, being the internet it WOULD get out).
    Internet chaos.

    I suspect the next sacking we’ll see is the whoever made the sacking decision.

    (The second possibility is someone upstairs from the editorial team felt threatened by the noise Eidos were making at the publisher level, and dictated something to the editorial team. Who then caved, instead of explaining why this just won’t work to the bosses).

    This is, as far as I can make out, just a spectacular failure of nerve.

    KG

  21. Kieron Gillen says:

    Jonathan: The latest Hitman games have been superlative, apparently.

    KG

  22. Butler says:

    This will inevitably have knock-on effects to games journalism (particularly web-based) as a whole.

    Consumer confidence is a delicate thing.

  23. Evo says:

    My blog on this situation – here

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    Butler: Yeah, exactly.

    Weird thing, of course, is that the review is still up there. It’s still got a 60% score from Gamespot, but they’re also facing ridicule for being cowards. Literally, it’s the worst of both worlds – the readers hate them because they’ve sold out their writers and the Publisher hates them as they’ve still given the game 60%.

    What an enormous clusterfuck.

    KG

  25. Inglorion says:

    Disgraceful. I will cancel my GameSpot subscription, never visit a CNet website or buy an Eidos product again if this story turns out to be true.

  26. Alec Meer says:

    KG: One rumour I’ve heard in a few places is that the decision was made by Gamespot’s owners CNET, rather than anyone at Gamespot itself – who would be, as you say, well-used to angry PRs on the telling-bone.

  27. LaKriz says:

    @Jonathan Burroughs:

    I really liked Flatout 2 – remembering some insanely funny sessions with my mates. But apart from that (never liked Hitman or Tombraider), you are absolutely right: there was nothing worth the money.

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    Alec: Yeah, that’s what I meant with the “From upstairs” subnote. An editor still should have told the upstairs people why this just wouldn’t work to their bosses.

    KG

  29. Alec Meer says:

    Of course, it could have been Gertsmann arguing with said bosses about intregity versus ad money that cost him his job, rather than the review itself.

  30. Jonathan Burroughs says:

    Kieron: They seem to be relying very heavily on a narrow band of core franchises. I can’t think of any recent succesful titles that weren’t Tomb Raider or Hitman (which, in spite of the Io connection, I forgot somehow). Its been a fair while since Deus Ex and Thief.

    I don’t know what the issue is there though. Maybe they just lack the resource to provide developers with lengthier development cycles and are cautious over risky new IP. But who isn’t apart from EA or Microsoft?

    LaKriz: Gah. Flatout. I forgot that one too. Hurrah for my brain!

  31. Evo says:

    Doubt this is related (forgot to blog it) but a C&C Kane’s Wrath article didn’t go up on GameSpot last night due to ‘technical issues’ according to the C&C Community Manager. If Jeff had been scheduled to write that then that may be another issue

  32. Evo says:

    meant to say another issue resulting from this.

  33. Butler says:

    “What an enormous clusterfuck.”

    It really is a mess. Gotta say it’s going to be quite enjoyable to see how it pans out. But as i say, it really isn’t good for the already tenious reputation of games related e-publications.

    This whole thing does /seem/ to stem from some misinformed bureaucratic decision.

  34. kuddles says:

    @Alec Meer: I don’t think PA was actually saying the reviewers were wrong, simply that he disagreed with those giving it a bad mark. The comic and write-up on Wed. was actually mocking the IGN for misinterpreting that.

    @Kieron: I think taking down the entire review of K&L at this point would just be an admission on CNET’s part. But yes, I agree with you, Gamespot has nothing to gain on this outcome. I can imagine any positive review of any game advertised on the site from here on in isn’t going to be taken seriously, regardless of whether it’s deserved or not. Not to mention all the tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist claiming game publications are all paid off will have a field day , even though the attention on this incident really proves how rare of an occurance this kind of thing really is.

  35. terry says:

    He was right. Kane & Lynch is a poorman’s Hitman.

  36. Monkfish says:

    Maybe we can glean something from this comment made by a moderator on GameSpot’s forums:

    People, don’t direct your anger at Gamespot. This is CNet’s meddling. Gamespot consists just of the editorial, news, community, and development teams. It’s CNet’s marketing that puts the ads up. CNet’s marketing that complained. CNet is who can fire their EIC.

    Jeff was the editor, it seems. It’s the suits at CNet that appear to have made the call on this one, with Eidos allegedly threatening to pull advertising, potentially costing CNet a considerable income. Money’s more important than people, right?

    Hmm. Always nice to see marketing getting in the way of objectivity, isn’t it? I guess this is something that’s always been around, but this is really getting out of hand.

    Anyway, I wish Mr. Gerstmann well in his future endevours – I hope this hasn’t damaged his employment prospects (I doubt it, seeing as almost everyone in Internet land is rooting for him).

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah – the one actually winner here, hopefully, will be Gerstmann.

    KG

  38. Schadenfreude says:

    I’ve never even heard of him up until now. Go Gerstmann! :D

  39. Jonathan Burroughs says:

    Winners don’t do drugs.

  40. Evo says:

    Eidos forums are back up now by the by guys :P

  41. CrashT says:

    As always… Bill Hicks said it best:

  42. cullnean says:

    lol watch out Alec, Tycho and Gabe may come and get you.

    Also if a company wishes to kowtow to sponsors it’s their choice but the company should make this clear to their employee’s so that they can see if there integrity out weigh’s there pay check

  43. Dracko says:

    I’m reminded of something along these lines that happened on the then French television channel GameOne.

    There was a reviewer, known as Marcus. Quite warm character, very jokey, didn’t take games all that seriously. It was refreshing, honestly. There’s this program on the channel called Level One, wherein for about a quarter of an hour, a reviewer would play through the beginning of a game. Marcus was doing Metal Gear Solid 2 (This was years back), way before it’s actual release. Many people were watching, as you might expect. And then, halfway through, he just stopped. He stopped, turned to the camera and said “I’m about to leave soon”, and followed through giving some of his reasons, without ever going into too much detail. What it boiled down to was he was pressured by the channel, along with all the rest of the staff and by advertising, to write bogus reviews and other usual suspects. As I said, at the time, he didn’t say it in that many terms, but that was the end of him.

    Checking his website now, it seems he’s returning to the channel. I haven’t watched it in years, as I’ve found it turned dire and cliché, so I don’t know if it’s under new management. I hope this doesn’t mean he’s compromised his values, because that made for great television back at the time, especially when everyone else noticed how they racked up advertising and had progressively worse review writing.

  44. CrashT says:

    Maybe this explains why GameSpot gave Assassin’s Creed a 9.

  45. Evo says:

    And Halo 3 a 9.5?

  46. Kalle says:

    Sigh. I wish they would just have fired him for the crappy review. And I’m not talking about the score here, I’m talking about how Gerstmann gives the impression of never having played more than two levels of the game. The video review, which I had never seen before, looping footage from the tutorial level certainly doesn’t detract from this impression.

    And now he gets to be a freaking martyr. If he got fired because of publisher pressure then that’s wrong and says heaps about Gamespot’s lack of integrity. I’m certainly not going to trust their opinion in the future. I just wish we were all out defending someone who isn’t an incompetent ass.

  47. Evo says:

    I found it a good review (the video one) despite the actual gameplay video being looped near enough, he talked about the gameplay and storyline and how it wasn’t up to scratch for todays games, seemed decent enough

  48. Dracko says:

    I can’t say I’m fond of his lack of sympathy towards the characters either. I’m sick and tired of “good” anti-heroes anyway. More games should feature confused, amoral bastards who DON’T have their actions glorified.

  49. Robin says:

    I think it’s a bit early to jump to conclusions (we don’t even know if Gerstmann was sacked or walked, yet), but if this has played out as the rumours suggest, Kieron’s comments above are about right. Looks more like incompetence than malice, and doesn’t logically serve any of the parties’ interests.

    I’d also say that it’s pretty massively hypocritical that Ziff Davis (Games for Windows Magazine, 1UP, various other outlets stuffed with payola and drivel) employees and Penny Arcade (whose editorial content for the last few years has consisted almost exclusively of starstruck reports of press junkets and pimping comics they’d been commissioned to do for games’ ad campaigns) are shaking their heads and tutting about this. Glass houses, etc.

  50. kuddles says:

    @Robin: Joystiq confirmed that he was indeed fired out of the blue.

    Also, I don’t see how you can call Ziff Davis and PA hypocrites. Part of the reason 1up is on the brink of bankruptcy is the fact that they’re no longer on good terms with a lot of publishers. I don’t know where you’re getting “payola” from. GFW is pretty much acknowledged as having a lot of integrity, the point where they refuse to even review a game unless it’s the final boxed copy, and to the point where everytime Microsoft talks about their GFW live service, they go straight to PC Gamer instead to avoid criticism. And PA flat out refuses to even allow a game to advertise on their site, unless they’ve played it and like it themselves.