Duke Nukem’s Awkward PR Fallout

No kissing and making up here, eh? Oh god, hang on - those are sisters. EW

Come the first breaking of news that the Redner Group, a US PR firm representing 2K Games, had publicly announced that “Too many went too far with their [Duke Nukem Forever] reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom”, the glacial RPS hivemind elected not to post about it. An unfortunate spat involving a PR firm and sites from another country: no need to seek drama from such a thing. But now it’s rolling on – despite a public apology, 2K dropped Redner and announced as such on Twitter, adding that “We maintain a mutually respectful relationship with the press and will continue to do so. We don’t condone The Redner Group’s actions at all.” This then led to Eurogamer revealing that they’d been “blacklisted” by 2K themselves (EG chose not to say why), something that “seems to be standard practice.” Blimey.

Then, after a few days of silence, Redner boss Jim Redner last night cropped up on Wired defending and clarifying his outburst – plus claiming that a journalist who went ‘too far’ should “have to pay for his actions.”

While it’s still not clear which particular review triggered his all-too-public, career-damaging outburst, he does claim this:

“Hardworking people, including myself, spent thousands of hours away from family and friends working on Duke Nukem Forever. The game is what it is, but we poured our hearts into bringing the game back from video game purgatory. That single story hurt and I acted rashly, vented my frustration and I am paying for my actions, more so than you know. Shouldn’t the journalist have to pay for his? Should I continue to support him?”

And a whole lot more. It’s hard not to feel that his defense is a rather contradictory piece, as he says the above in one breath and “I do not support the McCarthy era notion of blacklisting” in another. Crucially, he tries to draw a distinction between “reviews, when backed by fact” and “a scathing diatribe masked as a review“, which apparently the mystery writer was guilty of.

For me, his argument is primarily undone by the fact that this wasn’t a private dispute with one writer/site, whether or not that writer/site had gone what others might agree was “too far”, but instead a public shot across the bow to, essentially, any and all journalists Redner worked with. Maybe he believes that he didn’t mean that, but my reading of that initial, since-deleted tweet that cost him the 2K contract was an inference of ‘play my marketing game or you won’t get to play my videogames’. That’s just what my mind conjectured after reading it, not what it actually said, of course. I have no doubt that any amount of nuance wasn’t conveyed by the tweet, however – because let’s face it, 140 characters is never enough to tackle a controversial issue.

Here’s more: “Publishers are under no obligation to send out copies of their game for review. They reserve the right to pick and choose who they want to send their game too, just like writers have the right to publish a review in any manner they choose. It’s call selection. It’s a choice. Hopefully all PR professionals make their selections based on any and all data available. They should weigh past coverage, personal information gathered from conversations and past dealings. I personally have sent first person shooter games to one editor knowing that he likes FPS games, but then not sent him a copy of a game based on our national pastime because I know he finds baseball boring. That’s not blacklisting. It’s a selection process.”

That’s true. They’re under no obligation. Any journalist can simply go buy their own copy of the game after all (I know I’ve often had to). But publishers are not sending out review code as a favour, from the kindness of their philanthropic hearts. They’re doing it because, in theory, the more coverage their game gets, the more copies it might sell. Historically, code is sent ahead of release so oodles of hopefully positive coverage can seep into consumer’s minds before they head money-in-hand to a game store. (That’s happening less than it used to, however: withholding code until release day is a very good way of delaying bad word of mouth so that launch-week marketing can result in maximum sales). Clearly, there will be and are situations where they don’t want a particular game to be reviewed, or feel a particular site is likely to be cruel. Disputes happen. But giving out code is not in and of itself an act of big-hearted sympathy – it’s part of a huge, ongoing barter system where both parties profit.

Then there’s this: “Why would I send out a product for review to someone who has previously shown that they unfairly write over-the-top stories? Let’s look at this in a different context. If I walked up to you today, and you hit me in the face as a form of greeting, do you think that I should I approach you again tomorrow? Would you?”

This or any PR who worked on Duke Nukem Forever was not, to the best of my knowledge, physically assaulted by a journalist. Rather more to the point (and without my being pseudo-naively literal), he also wasn’t personally singled-out and insulted in a Duke Nukem Forever review. That or any other PR is not Duke Nukem Forever, much as they might quite rightfully feel they’re very closely involved with it. Duke Nukem Forever is a videogame that journalists played and wrote their opinions of, in order to tell their readers whether or not they thought they should buy it. It’s important to maintain distance: but that very rarely happens.

Quietly, behind the scenes, this kind of conflict happens a whole bunch more than you might suspect, between any number of firms and any number of sites. Both sides of the fence have screwed up as often as the other, and burned bridges usually do get fixed after a time – but what does seem sure is that public pillorying of the opposing camp is unlikely to turn out well.

I do strongly believe that a games journalist should only ever criticise a product or decision, not the people behind the product or decision, and feel deeply uncomfortable about any write-up that does become personal – but I’m not sure it’s healthy or accurate for specific people who worked on a game’s marketing to equate themselves with the game.

Partly, that’s because marketing is often essentially independent from the quality (to use a probably unhelpful abstraction, but there you go) of the game itself – it’s passion primarily about the game’s success, rather than about what the game does or doesn’t achieve creatively.

There are few better examples of this than Duke Nukem Forever, which is very much about the brand standing apart from (and arguably selling far more copies than) the contents of the game itself. The marketing line from the various firms involved in DNF’s surprise comeback has, at times, seemed to have a certain implication that the fact this game has the Duke Nukem character in it is reason enough to love it, regardless of other flaws. Quite a few people feel rather differently – myself included.

Did I go too far? I don’t think so – and I certainly promise you that I never once thought of any person or persons behind the game as I wrote what I thought of it. I thought only of what was in front of me, and how I didn’t think it overall worked too well. Had most critics felt that the game was generally as creative a success as the hype had suggested – well, then this whole mess would never have happened, would it?

(I’ve seen ‘those cynical, fun-hating critics just don’t understand the common man’ used as a defensive marketing line any number of times – Michael Bay said it about his dreadful second Transformers movie, for instance, even though he’s now claiming that film was cock-up as part of a promise that the upcoming third one is the best one yet. I shall be very, very interested to hear what the various firms involved in DNF have to say about that game once they’re out on the promotional trail for the inevitable next Duke game.)

Redner also added that “Life is too short to surround ourselves in such baseless hatred. We should focus on the hundreds of other writers who are capable of being fair, even when writing a poor or low scoring review. Reviews are subjective but fairness should always be a constant.” So: who’s objective enough to decide which writers are “capable of being fair”?

It’s certainly a good thing that passions about games run high, on both sides of the fence. But let’s not forget that it’s a business fence, and one that business products are regularly passed across for mutual benefit.


  1. President Weasel says:

    I’m not sure whether the policy of blacklisting sites based on perceived bias or perceived excessive venom can be justified.

    I am, however, sure that the announcement was a massive PR own goal which made 2K look bad, and had exactly the opposite effect to that which was intended. I think you’d pretty much have to sack a PR firm who proved themselves to be so inept at PR.

    • LionsPhil says:


      More to the point, blacklisting is itself questionable PR. Some of the most (entertainingly) negative PC GAMER reviews I remember reading were ones that started with a variation of “well, they wouldn’t send us a review copy, and that’s never a good sign”, before confirming that, yup, the publisher was hoping people would day-one buy it while they could still keep critical opinion under wraps.

      If your game is genuinely good you will be eagerly pushing into the hands of anyone who owns a decent-sized soapbox to proclaim its virtues from.

    • KikiJiki says:

      Equally though there is a lot of LOL DIS GAME IS GUD PLZ SPEND UR MONIES ON IT when in actual fact it’s only worth a look in the bargain bucket.

      There’s a lot to be said about the quality of reviews when the reviewer has actually had to pay for the product, compared to when they get sent everything for free and ignore the price tag imo.

    • P7uen says:

      A PR firm that needs a PR firm?
      Not a PR firm for me,

    • Bhazor says:

      Oh god I hope this is the start of the PR industry eating itself into a single engorged ass hole. It’s frankly remarkable how many global issues you can link to PR.

      Starvation in Africa <– Rising grain prices< —- Increase in farm land used for cattle fodder<—- Rise of cheap meat< — Expanse of McDonalds and fast food <— Award winning PR campaigns downplaying ecological effects and health dangers

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      This is one of those things where it really depends on your side of the fence. The industry are gonna be sad if they’re criticized, and journos are gonna be sad if they don’t get free stuff.

      Personally, that’s why I enjoy RPS. They’re beholden to no one, and they deliver fair and quality writings at their own pace.

    • shizamon says:

      Hear hear!

    • Mutak says:

      Disagree. This really isn’t an industry vs press dispute because both sides share the same ultimate goals. A strong industry is good for both the industry and the press. A strong, independent press is good for both the industry and the press. Only bad games benefit from a weak press.
      PR firms can create hype and get fresh consumers excited about a game, but if that excitement is rewarded with an ultimately shitty experience, the consumer becomes cynical and even hostile to the company and the industry as a whole. A strong press that is free to call bullshit can kill a bad game, but it builds trust and sets reasonable expectations so that consumers don’t turn against the industry as a whole.
      In the age of metacritic, consumers aren’t going to be fooled by one reviewer with an axe to grind. That guy is ultimately only hurting his own reputation. Using him as a straw man argument in favor of your scorched-earth policy towards negative reviews only betrays the truth about your shitty game.

    • V. Profane says:

      The amusing thing about the this inept PR is that it’s SO unnecessary. They clearly had lots of cash to blow on TV adverts which is a relative luxury, and seem to be doing well with sales at least for the short-term. They also had a stunningly obvious ready-made ‘defence’ against the negative reviews which is the same one employed by the countless want-witted apologists for the game (and Transformers, Sarah Palin etc.) which goes like “you’re just a politically correct liberal media elitist and you don’t know what us REAL people like”. It fits perfectly with the game.

    • d34thly says:

      I actually think that reviewers should have to purchase the games they review with their own out of pocket money so that they might give a more honest review. I think that ALL sites (yes every single one of them including RPS) gave a way too positive, candy coated, review to Duke Nukem Forever. We all might have seen at least one honest review had all the reviewers been out $60 of their own money. I preordered the game on Steam and for the first time really wish I had pirated the game first and cancelled my preorder. This game was such a flaming pile of dogshit that I actually filled out a support ticket @ 2K games requesting a refund or an exchange for literally ANY other game in their library. I doubt a company willing to ask $60 for this game is actually going to look at support tickets or care about keeping any customers happy. Just my 2cents (er $60 as it were).

    • Bhazor says:

      No commentary on PR bullshit reviews would be complete without mentioning the COD spa resort.
      link to arstechnica.com

      “Two weeks before the game’s launch, I was flown from San Francisco to LAX; from there, I was driven to Santa Monica airport where I was given a flight helmet customized with my gamertag,” Tae Kim wrote about his experience reviewing the game. “I was then put into a helicopter and flown to Ojai, California, a small town about two hours north of Los Angeles. After landing in a field, I was driven to the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, where I was given a posh suite to stay in for three days.” The suite had a 360, a copy of the game, and a nice 3D television hooked up to a surround-sound system.
      There was a separate area with 30 stations set up so reviewers could try the multiplayer portion of the game. “I was also given a Mad Catz Call of Duty Black Ops branded headset,” Kim wrote. “At the end of the trip, I was allowed to keep the flight helmet and the Mad Catz headset. All travel and accommodations, including food, were covered by Activision.”

      Gamepro who wrote this disclosure gave it 5 stars, a perfect score. Go figure.

      A short time later they wrote up an article detailing some pretty major flaws in this perfect game and referred to the single player campaign as unhinged with terrible AI.
      link to gamepro.com

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      At the end of the trip, I was allowed to keep the flight helmet and the Mad Catz headset.

      Jesus effing Christ, that would make even tech/gadget journalists blush. Most of them will go on the junkets (which is bad enough), but to accept gifts like that? Disclosure is nice, but it doesn’t make you any less…let’s be nice and say “influenced”.

    • Bhazor says:

      It does make it hard to dismiss the “bought out reviewer” comments doesn’t it?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      (You know, I’m never sure why someone thinks being forced to go to a hotel for 3 days to do something is in any way something you’d want to do. I avoided any review trips for the vast majority of my career. That’s 3 days of my life stolen. I’ve got better things to do.)


  2. Daniel Rivas says:

    I more-or-less don’t mind the idea of blacklisting, insofar as it’s up to a developer to whom they give pre-release copies. They can’t stop anyone buying and reviewing the game; you might lose money because the review is going up later than others, but I don’t think that’s their problem, especially.

    It was interesting to see big sites like Kotaku start to throw their weight around in the opposite direction a few weeks ago. Fight!

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Given the situation, I’ve started treating all release-date/pre-release reviews as disinformation spread by my enemies, and any game-journalistic entity that accepts free review copies with suspicion.

  3. poop says:

    film companies don’t stop sending movies to roger ebert despite the fact that he is a human with opinions and might dislike anything and give it a poor review, why should publishers stop giving games to reviewers who dislike things? oh right, games journalism is shit

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      They don’t send him bad films. Car crashes don’t get pre-viewings.

    • Danorz says:

      they don’t stop sending him good ones though if he gives one a bad review either. if videogames want to be seen as mature and valid, then they need to learn to take their lumps instead of taking their ball home.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      That one’s on the critics though, not the publishers. Film studios don’t dick Ebert about because they couldn’t get away with it, not because they’re more mature than 2K. His bitching about it would hurt them more than him (as Eurogamer’s announcing the blacklist has in this Duke Nukem case, I would think).

      Video games writing seems far more dependent on getting reviews earlier than anybody else, though, and therefore more dependent on early review copies. The power-relationship is different.

    • poop says:

      as i said, games journalism is shit

    • Dexton says:

      Lots of awful films are “not screened for critics”, which means film critics have to pay to watch them just like games journalists might have to pay for the games they review.

      It’s the same and for the same reasons.

    • Bhazor says:

      He did get a pre-release viewing of Nutcracker 3D. That is all.

    • V. Profane says:

      Movies are far less sensitive to reviews from even famous (and dreadful) critics like Ebert. Only a relatively small percentage of movies are more or less successful depending on how they are critically received and they’re typically mid-to-low budget movies with out much advertising and without an obvious selling point (no apparent ‘high concept’, nobody really famous in it). I’ve certainly never heard of movie distributors caring about their Metacritic score.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      That’s true. I don’t remember the last time I bothered reading a review for a film. Though I don’t watch many films, either.

    • Carra says:

      Transformers 2 got dreadful reviews. It still raked in hundreds of millions of dollars.

      I’m sure Duke will sell even with these shitty reviews.

  4. Balobam says:

    The name ‘Redner Group’ just makes me think of a bunch of rednecks sat screaming at the computer about this dangblasted wizardry known as technology, as a result this outburst was their learning of how keyboards work and that the internet is an unforgiving place.

    Probably thought he was updating some sort of diary.

    • Zelius says:

      Apparently it’s just one guy. So that would be just one redneck.

    • ucfalumknight says:

      I found it completely funny that the PR firm was the Redner Group. Here in the sunniest of states, we have a gentleman that hails from Tampa whose name is Joe Redner. He owns many Gentleman’s Clubs and generally operates on the darker side of the law. I honestly thought it was the Strip Club Guy handling the PR for Duke, simply because he was the “Strip Club Guy with the Strip Club Game”.

  5. Sheng-ji says:

    Just another nail in the coffin for the printed media, they rely on advance code to stay competitive with the web. So do we trust them or are they too fearful be too hard on games?

    Not sure if I’m that bothered, I turned away from it a long time ago.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Actually I’m finding that most of the more canny, quality gaming print monthlies – see EDGE, Gamer – have long given up on the first review race in favour of emphasising the slow-burn benefits of their far longer production process. When it really works, it feels like finding the quiet truths in the eye of the minute-to-minute internet review storm.

    • zeekthegeek says:

      The guy he was mad about isn’t in the print media at all. It’s Jim Sterling from Destructoid who set this off (surprise surprise)

  6. Matt says:

    “I do strongly believe that a games journalist should only ever criticise a product or decision, not the people behind the product or decision, and feel deeply uncomfortable about any write-up that does become personal”

    If only more people felt that way.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      What if that person or company always makes the same decision, it helps the consumers understand the game better to highlight it

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      So, Matt, I’m not allowed to criticize Bobby Kotick?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Enh. Some people form patterns. If we can praise “the touch of Sid Meier” when a strategy game of his is full of well-crafted, interesting decisions, why is it any less valid to point a finger at Molyneaux when one of his games fails to deliver the hype he gave it? Is it now verboten to refer to, say, White Gold as feeling broken-but-ambitious in a distinctly Deep Shadows kind of way?

      DNF’s really interesting. From some reports—and I’m really hoping we can get some investigative games journalism digging into a decent post-mortem at some point—it seems a lot of its woes are on Broussard’s mismanagement causing them to keep starting over to chase the latest trend, like an indecisive dog on Spaghetti Junction, never able to stick to one car long enough to catch it.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      It’s not so much as seeking pattern as Kotick literally telling us about his plans for shameless IP-milking and only publishing games that sell on a yearly basis. Or telling us he wished FPS MP was subscription based. Or that he wished he could charge us for cutscenes.

      Okay, the last bit was pattern-seeking. But you get my point.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I was replying to Matt; this comment system just hates trees.

    • V. Profane says:

      I feel strongly that it’s dishonest to make public condemnations of what is apparently one or two individuals without naming them. Having said that, I think it’s generally good practise for critics not to attribute blame to an individual working in a collaborative medium without the proof to back it up.

    • Baines says:

      LionsPhil said: “From some reports—and I’m really hoping we can get some investigative games journalism digging into a decent post-mortem at some point—it seems a lot of its woes are on Broussard’s mismanagement causing them to keep starting over to chase the latest trend, like an indecisive dog on Spaghetti Junction, never able to stick to one car long enough to catch it.”

      Wired already did it, at least on the state of the game before Gearbox came into the picture. The article says that Broussard refused to speak for legal reasons (as he was being sued at the time) and warned his former employees to not talk either, but some were willing to speak anonymously. The story told is pretty much that Broussard kept having them start over to catch the latest trend, and had no plan for judging what a complete game was.

      link to wired.com

  7. mcwizardry says:

    Does anyone know the reason why a company that generates close to a billion dollars in revenue hires one man in his bedroom to handle a crucial component of their PR?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      If that one man in his bedroom is to an acceptable quality (Or you believe that he is) at the best price, why not?

    • chokoladenudlen says:

      “one man in his bedroom can do good things” > Sounds like the title of the best amateur porn movie of all time…

    • mcwizardry says:

      I assume they have a PR department for media relations, which would be even cheaper. It just seems odd that they would outsource that aspect.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      We live in a world where the talent tend to want to charge higher prices and after a few years in their chosen industry set up their own company to earn more. Often it is prohibitively expensive for a company to attempt to do everything themselves and achieve their desired quality.

      Sure 2k could put a bunch of graduates in suits in an office, but can they get the required results or will they have to spend more on training them up, maternity leave, sickness, providing a happy office environment etc

    • mcwizardry says:

      You’re right, that seems to be the case here.

  8. Danorz says:

    there’s one thing i got taught while doing art at college and it’s definitely something everyone needs to take to heart

    “you are not your work”

    • MuscleHorse says:

      I was going to say something along these lines. I’ve been on a couple of creative writing courses and the amount of people who would fly off the handle at the slightest constructive criticism is ridiculous.

    • danly says:


    • Grygus says:

      @Danorz And yet, when you meet a new person an early question is invariably, “so what do you do,” and when you’re unemployed you become a nobody in the eyes of society. I think that’s too simplistic. Perhaps you are not only your work, but to deny that your work defines you at all seems naive.

    • JackShandy says:

      You know, I’ve heard that Game Devs are actually the best people at taking criticism. Something about the fact that making a game involves hiring reams and reams of people to bitch about it to you, I expect.

    • steviesteveo says:

      At parties you still say “I’m a game developer” but you’re not Duke Nukem Forever. You are your job but you are not the work and if you think someone who doesn’t like your work doesn’t like you you’re going to drive yourself crazy (and that’s especially so in today’s world where random Internet people are going to call you a fag no matter what you do).

    • Danorz says:

      @grygus “your work” in the sense of specifically the things you make, not as in what your job generally is.

    • costyka says:

      Unless it’s any good I’d think. Otherwise sure!

  9. KikiJiki says:

    Perhaps if reviewers are blacklisted they can finally give an objective review of whether the game is worth the cost or not.

    I feel it’s too easy to be over generous when you don’t have to pay for the product – see latter day PCG reviews.

    • Deadend says:


      That is a really dumb idea right there.

      So you want a professional, whom is paid to review games to spend their money on the game.. so you either mean they should be paid $60 less a review.. or they should be paid $60 more to cover the cost.

    • steviesteveo says:

      It’s not dumb at all. The main thing standing in the way of consumers buying all games in the shops right now is the price. The critical test for regular people is not if the game is any fun whatsoever if you got it for free and are being paid to play it; it’s if it’s worth the price of admission. I think you quite want reviewers sitting there resenting the fact that they paid money for a bad game, especially if they paid $60.

      How exactly you should get making reviewers take sticker price into account to work in action is a separate issue to if they should.

  10. pipman3000 says:

    lol step aside blondie and let sam show you how it’s done

  11. Nick Ahlhelm says:

    Wouldn’t the smarter move had been just to silently not send them the next few games from 2K? Instead of becoming the story by throwing it out there themselves? Just a thought.

    If you’re going to not send out a copy because you feel that the reviewers weren’t objective, that’s fine. But it’s not your place to go out and talk about it over and over again as to why you aren’t doing it.

    • starclaws says:

      Ya its turning into more promotion for those journalists more than anything. I enjoyed the game but I know a lot of others who didn’t. Granted I still don’t think its worth the full amount. When gamers have been blessed with such open world games or $10 time/life wasting indies lately. It is hard to impress with the linear action shooters anymore. Even if they are longer and more iconic than the rest of the linear action shooters, they still fall short of a game that just has ‘more’. Because we want MORE! … Atleast DNF is not another red bloody screen with SCAR red-dot sighted gun in hand. Added with fake shitty movie cinematic to make it feel epic. Even tough all you are doing is following a single path because there’s no other path in the game. Fuck Call of Duty, Killzone 3, etc.

  12. The Tupper says:

    This is timely, considering RPS’s straw poll of a coupla weeks ago asking if day-one reviews were always desired by its readership. The unseemly spat developing here has served to put me even further into the “screw-’em and do the reviews in your own time” camp, if that’s what is required to produce free journalism.

  13. Faceless says:

    Hardworking people, including myself, spent thousands of hours […] on Duke Nukem Forever.

    Then clearly the game deserves an even lower Metacritic score.

    It doesn’t really matter how many virgins you sacrificed to bring your intellectual property into being. Critics review results, not effort.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      That particular whine really annoys me. Partly because it often isn’t true, mostly because who fucking cares?

      It was an idiotic, pathetic plea when George W. Bush repeatedly insisted he was workin’ hard, that bein’ Preznit was hard work (2004 debates with Kerry, I think?), it’s equally pointless when a schoolkid who hands in a crap project insists against all evidence that he worked hard on it. Why the hell should I care? Produce good results.

    • briktal says:

      People tend to forget about this when it’s a free/indie game as well.

    • PFlute says:

      @briktal: So long as we clarify that just dropping “It’s shit” in the comments for a freeware game qualifies as being an ass, and not an actual review.

    • Gadriel says:

      This bothered me too. He asks for ‘fair’ reviews. What’s fairer than reviewing a game based solely on its merits as presented by the final product? That’s sort of the point. A fair and honest review shouldn’t consider the budget, staff size, length of production or names involved. It should simply review the product as it stands on its own. As far as I can tell, that’s what most of the negative reviews of DNF were doing (though I can’t speak for all of them, I haven’t read the entire Internet).

  14. Ginger Yellow says:

    This then led to Eurogamer revealing that they’d been “blacklisted” by 2K themselves (EG chose not to say why), something that “seems to be standard practice.” Blimey

    Sounds like 2K dropped Redner because he talked about the blacklisting, not because of the blacklisting.

    • poop says:

      this is probably the saddest part of this. this kind of shit happens all the time and this is just the first time someone has been stupid enough to tweet about it

  15. ITSSEXYTIME says:

    Way I see it, I don’t see why gaming press has any right to expect review copies anyway.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      If some review sites are getting them and others aren’t, the ones that aren’t are being disadvantaged in the battle for readers, which leads to reduced income and financial troubles.
      It’s not that they aren’t sending out advance copies, its that they are trying to manipulate the market, and in the eyes of the consumer, they are trying to manipulate it away from honest reviews and more towards sycophantic sites who will do them a bit of free marketing. Which leads to you buying a game which you thought you’d enjoy because your favorite site said it was brilliant, but you hate it. Your money gets wasted.

  16. johnpeat says:

    In a world where more and more games are competing for less and less attention, blacklisting people is only going to hurt publishers/developers.

    End of the day, DNF has a crap Metascore across all 3 platforms (although it started well on PC – oddly) so it’s not like 1 person decided to kick an otherwise popular product…

    A PR company managing to bring negative attention to something they’re supposed to be promoting is a massive fail tho – when will people learn that you cannot attack your critics without looking worse than they can possibly make you…

    • Wisq says:

      I don’t think I would say “less and less attention”. That would imply that the games journalism field is actually in decline, yet it seems to be getting larger all the time — if perhaps more online than in print these days.

      But yes, everyone does tend to get a smaller piece of the attention-pie, and sites will also tend to be more generous in their serving portions for the games that look promising ahead of time.

    • Baines says:

      PC reviews were higher than Xbox 360 reviews in large part because the game didn’t even run properly on the 360, which had random framerate issues that interfered with combat as well as inexplicably bad load times. The PS3 version received special optimization, but the 360 version didn’t.

      The 360 version was what was sent to console reviewers, and the technical issues difference was apparently enough to push console reviewers over the edge on their judgement.

  17. FleabagF7 says:

    In giving somebody a copy of your game to review, you’re asking that person to inform everyone who reads the review of their opinion. If they’re brutally honest in giving the game a bad review is it unfounded for you to decide against having that person review your games in the future? Not at all; it simply makes you appear to be only seeking somebody that will put your game in a positive light, regardless of it’s flaws. Reviews are meant to be a collaberative effort in judging a game. No sane person reads one review and then decides “yep this game is good/bad” and reviews that are on the fence are less likely to be taken into consideration, as they should be.

    • Wisq says:

      Actually, a lot of people do judge games based on a single review. Maybe not so much any more with metacritic and the like, but I do recall recent RPS comments from several people saying they skipped some critically acclaimed game (like Deus Ex) or played it many years late due to a single negative review they saw at the time.

      And of course it also drags the metacritic score down. But that’s neither here nor there. If your title is good, one bad review isn’t going to drag down your score too much. If it’s bad, one fewer bad review isn’t going to save you

      The only situation where you might consider not sending them a review copy (based on metacritic) is if that particular reviewer / publication has a long (and ongoing) history of rating most titles _well_ below the metacritic average. And I don’t know any reviewers like that offhand.

      (At least, not on metacritic. You wouldn’t send a review copy to Yahtzee, say. On the other hand, he’d probably consider you pretty special if you did, considering how long it takes him to get most titles.)

    • steviesteveo says:

      Fundamentally most people just want to see if the game’s good or not. They’re not writing a report on it, so the idea that they go out and cross reference lots of reviews is a bit unrealistic.

      I certainly tend to do a google search for [game title] review and see what ends up near the top. If the reviewer says sensible stuff that I agree with then I tend to agree with their conclusions. it’s not as if there’s not other games out there.

  18. MajorManiac says:

    Minor rant;

    I do think this guy needs to get a little perspective when saying things like – “Hardworking people, including myself, spent thousands of hours away from family and friends working on Duke Nukem Forever.”

    Seriously! What does he think the rest of the world does for money. We all make great sacrifices for work. Most of us don’t get to make games, but something far more soul-destroyingly dull.

    Phew! I’m calming down now.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I get to make structures out of steel, and inhale metal particles and various chemicals :D Hooray for being a tradie.. I should have stayed in school :/

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s even more amusing that as a PR drone off to the side he tries to lump himself in with the people who actually did the creative work being torn apart.

      Nobody is reviewing the banner ads and big Steam promo.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      LionPhil, I award you 10 internet points, to add to your already substantial total.

    • Bhazor says:

      Thousands of hours? Let’s assume a workday consists of 8 hours and he worked 2000 hours, that would mean he worked on nothing but Duke Nukem for almost a year and *this* was the best he could come up with?

    • Erd says:

      Hell of a game to have a massive public psychotic breakdown over.

  19. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Good read, although I am sad that DNF turned out the way it did, he deserved better :'(.
    Hopefully modders can patch/fix it up to something that it was more supposed to be.

    Also, I agree, Serious Sam will show them the error of their ways, I think.

  20. WJonathan says:

    I think a review only backed by fact is called a plot synopsis. I personally enjoy reading the reviews of very bad games. Much more entertaining than positive reviews. Then again I think Don Rickles is funny.

  21. MrTambourineMan says:

    Well, truth is that many reviewers were too harsh on DNF, I mean Gamespot “praised” COD1,2,3,4,5,6,7 SP campaigns which are exactly the same (bad) shooting galleries year after year after year and they bashed DNF completely, giving it a 3.0 out of 10.0. while they gave a truly terrible “Necrovision” game 7.0, I mean is DNF really half the fun of Dark Void (6.5), does Godfather deserve 8.0 (???). Don’t get me wrong, response from PR group was just terrible (more terrible than Necrovision) but the fact remains that Gamespot set out to bash the shit out of Duke for the sole reason that more people will come watch their review conducted by their – let’s be honest – subpar Reviewers.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      One of the reasons I love RPS is the lack of numeric scores. You have to read the information to decide whether the game is good or not.

    • KaL_YoshiKa says:

      You think Necrovision is a terrible game?

      It’s one the most amusing over the top single player shooters this side of Serious Sam…made by drunk Russians.

    • Thermal Ions says:


    • magnus says:

      ‘Off the raiiilllsss!’,’ You may be bad but I’m the guy with the guns!’,’That makes me angry!’

    • MrTambourineMan says:

      @KaL_YoshiKa – Actually it’s made by drunk Poles :)

    • Bhazor says:

      COD 2 is still one of the finest corridor shooters ever made. It’s just that since then it they have become interactive Michael Bay films.

  22. MythArcana says:

    The sad truth of the matter is that there is more action and drama behind the scenes than in the actual game in question. And it’s becoming quite routine these days.

  23. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I always read lots of review before buying something, and am not a day one purchaser on the whole. For me, I am willing to wait for reviews to come out and I tend to put weight on PC Gamer and RPS reviews the most. Doesnt matter to me if a week elapses between release and review, so even if you get blacklisted, as far as I am concerned just go buy a copy on expenses (plus your coffee and sammich of choice) and then have at it :)

  24. Sunjammer says:

    “You are not your work” is a nice theory. In practice, you are your work.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      That’s a trap that people seriously need to break free from, it’s sad when people define themselves by their job – Define yourself by your hobbies, or your state of mind, or your favorite character in a film or whatever, but to define yourself by your work i’m sure leads to mental illness, especially if you hate it, or get fired.

      Imagine if you define yourself by your work and you lose your job, does that mean you’ve lost yourself? What if you get sacked, does that mean you aren’t worthy to have a life anymore. Is your boss also your god, in control of you and everything you stand for? Are people who get paid more to do the same work better than you, as people.

      The more you think about it, the more awful a thought it is.

    • Sunjammer says:

      If you were a grocery clerk, maybe it’d be something you could break away from. Unfortunately, programming is an art, and any artist is personally, deeply integrated in his work. Even the coldest most professional architect leaves a sliver of heart in his work.

      I don’t stop coding when i leave the office. It’s something I do, and it’s part of me. It’s very warm and comforting, i’m sure, for a journalist to disconnect the product from the people, because after all they are protecting the consumer, not the developer, but at the end of the day your angry indignant review is going to make someone sad.

      It’s easy to pander and be entertaining by spewing venom, but it’s something else altogether to tear a game a part in a respectful way. In the interest of karma, you can chant “you are not your work” as much as you want, but try to maintain a modicum of respect for effort, even though the result was a tremendous crap.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Depends where its coming from internally. Go read some Abraham Maslow or Carl Rogers / Jung, and the difference between compensatory achievement and self-actualised striving. Big, big difference, with one being full of angst and the other being fun. Hint: The first one is believing that when you are a success, people will love you. If they dont recognise your talent, you throw a “Do you know who I am” strop and write something like Redner did. With the second one you’re basically comfortable with who you are, but when setbacks cause disappointment you resolve to change tactics next time, e.g make a better game.

    • Sunjammer says:

      But that’s too complex a problem to solve for the vast majority of developers out there. People are different. Let’s say there’s a 50/50 split between people who are okay with failure for the sake of the next job (and so on and so forth until they are in the grave; Let’s hope they have other things to occupy themselves with, no?), and people who feel like their spirit and reason for existence is on the line.

      That’s fairly optimistic, I think, and it still leaves 50% of developers in a vulnerable position when their product is on the shelves.

      Personally, and this is very personal, I’m in the latter category because I actually am not all that comfortable with who I am and my weaknesses. And there is a lot dudes like me in the industry. What you’re saying is “oh, it sucks for you guys that you are not confident and relaxed about failure, maybe you should reiterate on your entire philosophy of life“, which is an easy thing to say.

      All I am saying is that there is always a face and a fate attached to everything, and it’s good karma to realize that individuals exist, even though it’s more comfortable to not give a shit about them.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Lol sorry to make you angry. It wasnt a criticism, just a response to you saying “you are your work”. No – you happen to feel like you are your work, and as you say, you arent comfy in who you are. But thats you, not the general truth of the world. Im not saying its bad to not be comfy – I can relate to that only too well. I am just saying there’s another way to be, that its possible. Nothing is set. I used to feel EXACTLY like you, then things changed. Not easily though – some serious shit went down first that I wouldnt really wish on anyone. I am happy it did though.

      I am not talking about the demands of a company or commerce or whats economically effective, I am talking about the deeper stuff. So not saying you are ‘wrong’, just maybe that there’s other ways of seeing things that you might even prefer. Anyways, back to talking about games, bums and cake now.

    • Sunjammer says:

      Oh I wasn’t offended :-) I think it’s an interesting subject though. I think if I do have a point at all it’s that it’s easy to think of ways people SHOULD behave and think, but it’s more “right” to consider how they MAY behave and think.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I would agree with that, for sure. Its good to be accepting of people, though that doesnt also preclude sometimes also getting peed off by someone who is behaving ‘badly’. Thats just about manners and boundaries. Redner might have good reason to feel angry, but he’s expressed it in the worst way imaginable. Now its biting him on the bum, as these things will.

    • Berzee says:

      So you would agree with Meg Ryan’s “You’ve Got Mail” quote wherein she says, “Whatever else anything is it ought to start by being personal” or something like that.

      Meg Ryan, man. Philosopher for our time.

  25. Vexing Vision says:

    Blacklisting or not blacklisting, but when I send out review copies to game sites, I would expect a certain quality of the website.

    There’s countless of review sites out there, some with as many as two readers at the same time.

    If any site would review one of our games with “Fuck, it’s shitty shit shit shit fuck shit” as a headline, as I believe was the case with that particular Duke Nukem review that triggered the whole scene, I wouldn’t send another review copy either – what’s the point?

    Even a negative review, as long as it is well written and informative and not “a piece of venom” is helpful from a PR perspective. Zero Punctuation reviews have a slashdot-like effect on games, no matter how ranting they get – because they are of a relatively high quality.

    I can wholeheartedly and absolutely understand that PR person’s sentiments. However, I also think that he kind of failed his calling as a PR person, who should know better.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Isn’t it more right to let the consumers make that decision though. Awful gaming sites disappear from the internet every day and every day someone in their bedroom starts up a new one. Let the market decide who is worth reading, not the game publicists, who have a biased point of view.

    • steviesteveo says:

      I can understand completely the desire of game makers to only send their game to people who will say nice things about them.

      I would sort of expect everyone reading it to know that, though, and I’m not sure it’s ever going to be defensible from a consumer perspective. It’s screwing the consumer by planting reviews you pre-arranged to be favourable to you.

  26. Thermal Ions says:

    Sounds like Jim Redner would be better off taking a holiday and let another story distract everyone rather than feeding this any more with his public comments. Until he jumped on twitter Jim Redner was probably on quite a sweet ride. I imagine despite the previews and reviews DNF will still sell reasonably well; better than it’s quality would warrant. I’d have though it could ultimately have been listed as a positive on his PR resume. Now I’d imagine his resume is getting re-targeted for an industry other than gaming considering how well known he’s become in it over the past week or so.

    And if I’d worked (as generally understood) on DNF I’d be a bit miffed if some upstart 3rd party PR Firm / Individual started equating their “working on Duke Nukem Forever” with my own efforts. Maybe that’s just my own subjective view based on personal experience with Marketing/PR types at work though.

  27. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    That wired piece by the Redner fellow is one of the most sorry examples of internet babbling I have read in a while.

  28. Donjonson says:

    I want to read this mystery review, where is it! I want hilarity and bile!

    • Dreamhacker says:


      If anyone can find the mystery review, post a link! You will be rewarded with a Guy Fawkes mask signed by Anon and LulzSec! (maybe)

    • V. Profane says:

      Somebody on Eurogamer suggested it might be Jim Sterling on Destructoid.

    • Baines says:

      Destructoid itself assumes it was their review.

      The main reason is that the Redner tweets mentions rating the game a 2, and Metacritic lists only two “20” reviews, one by MetroGame Central and one by Destructoid.

      Destructoid’s review:
      link to destructoid.com

      It should be noted that Destructoid has a review guide that associates a text description with numeric score. Under such a system, a “2” does have meaning beyond just being a really low number that the reviewer picked out of thin air. If you look at their review guide (which can sometimes be hard to find. I think they used to link to it at the end of reviews but for some reason don’t anymore), you can see that both a 3 and a 1 do carry different meaning than a 2.

    • Bhazor says:

      Here is the review guide
      link to destructoid.com

  29. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Name: Redner
    Reputation -15
    “You have left a poor impression on the webbernetz and may be shunned as a result”

    May as well blow up a granny with a rocket launcher and get the Vilified achievement

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I dunno – if he filmed it and put it on Youtube he’d be an internet hero within seconds…

  30. Bhazor says:

    Aww, let me get the Waaaaa-mbulance for you.

    Seriously, after seeing the Hive level any respect I had for anyone involved went out the window. Even Randy Pitchford who used to have a lot of respect from me has pissed all of it away thanks to DNF and Furious 4.

  31. Bhazor says:

    Double post because I am as a fool.

  32. Winged Nazgul says:

    I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Redner himself has even played Duke Nukem Forever?
    “OMG lying, backstabbing snake reviewer!”
    *plays DNF*
    “er…never mind…”

  33. Dreamhacker says:

    “Redner went too far with his [Duke Nukem Forever] defense…we are reviewing who gets ridiculed next time and who doesn’t based on last week’s venom”

  34. Ergates_Antius says:

    Hardworking people, including myself, spent thousands of hours away from family and friends working on Duke Nukem Forever.

    I’ll have to remember that one next time one of our users raises a trouble-ticket on one of our systems.

    “What do you mean the calculation is wrong? I spent hours writing it, it was really difficult, you heartless bastard”

  35. Chorltonwheelie says:

    So, he won’t send baseball games to somebody who dislikes baseball. He extends that logic to “I won’t send shit games to somebody who dislikes shit games”?


  36. zipdrive says:

    Alec, I don’t see how the fact that it’s mutually beneficial for publishers and websites to have review copies sent makes Redner’s point any less valid. If anything it’s *more* valid, since 2K may take a publication hit due to sending less copies of their next game, so they’re willing to “suffer” for this, as well.

    When an outlet can go and buy a copy of the game for review, what exactly is the issue here? The actual issue with blacklisting is not review copies- it’s preview access, hands-on opportunities, interviews and so on, which the media simply CAN’T get in any other way.

    • Wisq says:

      “You publications took our usual bribe and still didn’t give us a good review, so we’re not going to bother bribing you next time, and you can give us a bad score purely on the lacking merits of the game instead! Ha! That’ll show you!”

  37. Torgen says:

    This “PR” guy is a whiny little person who has extremely inflated views of his self-worth. This latest prancing about on Wired has to have destroyed his credibility and company. How did someone so unprofessional ever land the contract with 2K? Maybe no one better wanted the job?

    • Torgen says:

      Speaking of PR, who came up with the horrid Gods and Heroes ad now dominating RPS? It’s a bit disgusting, and totally misleading from what I remember of the beta. It’s changed my positive memories of the game into a negative connotation when I hear the title mentioned, and seems about the same style as the Duke ads.

  38. outoffeelinsobad says:

    If dude doesn’t like criticism, he should maybe never leave his house and never do anything, ever.

  39. Waste says:

    Where can one find a copy of the article that started all this?

  40. jonfitt says:

    Well here’s my resolution I shall aim to stick to from now on:
    I will not buy a game until I have read a review.

    That way it matters not a jot if the PR firm withholds pre-release copies.

    I rarely buy games pre-release at all (Portal 2 was the first in ages), but if I don’t see a pre-release review from a site I trust, I will not pre-order.

    There. Fixed.

    • Wisq says:

      You could even take it one step further — not buying a game until you’ve seen a review that came out _after_ the game’s release. That way you know they’re not biased by having received a review copy.

      Of course, that could eliminate some of the major publications. But hey, if more publishers throw Radner-tantrums and stop giving out review copies, it actually makes your life easier in this case.

  41. JohnnyMaverik says:

    To be fair while the game was undeniably sub par, some of the reviews had me raising an eyebrow. The F from 1up being fairly notable, did they get sent a faulty copy or something? I mean seriously… an F? It’s also notable that I don’t read 1up all that much, nor do my mates, but come the reviews and suddenly I was getting spammed with a bunch of “LOL 1up gave duke an F”, and “WTF, 1up are retarded” messages on skype and steam. Just seems a little bizzare considering it’s an annoyingly average game but certainly not broken or unplayable.

    Also worth note is that 1up’s review system is ridiculous, I mean what is an F? Fail? What’s that? B-? Is that good, average, what? If the writing was decent it’d be less of a problem but the few reviews I have read usually just provoke the reaction of, “uh… so you mostly liked it? Oh, a C+… is that good?”

    • Wisq says:

      If a game had good gameplay overall but the camera was such a horrible, awful mess that it ruined the entire game for you or even made it near-unplayable, would that classify as a “C+” (good game + unplayable camera = average) or an “F” (pretty much unplayable)?

      If Duke Nukem had average or below-average gameplay and a setting / storyline / moral repugnance (e.g. the hive level) that completely destroyed the experience and made playing through the game just as much of a chore as the aforementioned hypothetical unplayable camera control did, would that deserve a “C-” (below average) or an “F” (I don’t want to play this crap)?

      Not saying that’s what happened. Having followed this but not played it, it sounds like a lot of the reviews were of the emotional “what have they done to Duke?!” / “we waited ages for THIS?” / “we must punish this bad game!” sort

      But it does make you wonder — given that reviews are wholly subjective things, is it wrong to give something an “F” if it’s nigh-unplayable for reasons _other_ than technical ones?

    • BrainFromArous says:

      “The F from 1up being fairly notable, did they get sent a faulty copy or something?” (JohnnyM)
      I must disagree.
      A game company should get no credit – zilch, zero, zip – for shipping functioning code. That is their job. Do we praise publishers for their books having legible pages when we take delivery of them?
      Game reviews are not Consumer Reports product tests. They’re evaluations of other things altogether. Forget about “F” — a game that doesn’t work should be stamped “Incomplete” and returned to sender. Such a game can’t be reviewed properly any more than you can road test a car without wheels.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      Well the point I was trying to make was that an F on their scale seems to be the lowest possible score, as in nothing, a 0, complete and utter failure, which is why is made me wonder whether they got a faulty copy. I have no idea if they got a faulty copy as the review doesn’t specify that, but I doubt it or I imagine the review would talk about it being broken, not just poorly written and not what the reviewer was looking for in a duke game.

  42. Rob Lang says:

    I am interested in reading about the games industry. Not interested in hearing about Marketing vs Critics. I feel RPS and other sites are giving this story too much attention.

  43. Deano2099 says:

    Odd that Redner sees the reviews as some sort of personal affront because when you think about it, all those bad reviews, and the fact the game went to number one in the charts and sold really well, mean that the marketing was in fact brilliant. Good enough to make the game “critic-proof”. In an odd way, those bad review scores reflect extremely well on his PR talents.

  44. tenochtitlan says:

    Let me just go out on a limb and say that it was Destructoid’s review by the great Jim Sterling that prompted Redner to go nuts – quick reminder: “Duke Nukem Forever is a festering irrelevance with nothing to offer the world. It’s a game with an odious personality, one that could only endear itself to the sociopathic and mentally maladjusted.” (link to destructoid.com) And in my opinion he was right. Even if he was personal, even if he wrote this with the utmost disgust about the game’s “content” – the guys who made and tried to sell this game are grown-up men (I hope no women hates herself so much that she worked on DNF) and not kindergardeners presenting their first crude drawing to their parents. Maybe you don’t have to provide him with exklusive access in the future (that’s every company’s right), but going on record crying about how unfair people were is not something people would usually call professional.

    Have those PR guys never worked at a regular store where angry customers threaten your life over some bad-tasting cheese (only minor exaggeration here)? Grow some balls, maybe even some Balls of Steel™ ;-)

  45. danly says:

    Has anyone bothered to read the reviews?

  46. RP says:

    Redner digging himself into a bigger hole makes my skin crawl. I hope more sites flat-out say when they’ve been “blacklisted” now. Obviously it can’t get any worse for them when they’ve committed the egregious sin of writing a less than stellar review. Make a good game and you won’t get a scathing review, 9 times out of 10.

  47. BrainFromArous says:

    I have to agree with poop (lolz); the only thing uncommon about this is how “front page” it became.

  48. Vinraith says:

    Wow, I just lost a bit more confidence in the AAA gaming industry. This is surprising, because I didn’t know I had any confidence in it left to lose.

  49. Jimbo says:

    “That’s true. They’re under no obligation. Any journalist can simply go buy their own copy of the game after all (I know I’ve often had to).”

    That would be fine, except the difference between having a review up for launch day and having a review up a week after all of your competitors is huge. Maybe not quite so huge for a niche site like RPS, but for the more general gaming sites it is. I’d imagine the $60 price of a game is a non-issue to most sites which are run as a serious business; it’s the timeliness of the coverage that matters.

    This competition for timely coverage is what places so much pressure on the press to play by the industry’s rules. They know that good coverage guarantees continued access, but bad coverage puts it at risk. This is why review scores are now skewed so high.

    Maybe this guy is ok with how much influence the industry has over the press, but I’m not. And it may also be true that they are currently under no obligation not to play favourites with the press, but they absolutely should be, because the result of that not being the case is ultimately the consumer being lied to and ripped off. Collectively the press have the power to put a stop to this practice overnight, but they never will unless consumers pressure them into doing so.

  50. Lagwolf says:

    I have been a music & gave reviewer since the early 90s. Game companies & PR companies are far less forgiving for a bad review than music PR companies. I have savaged discs before and the music PR company sends me their next release.

    One particular game company got upset when I wondered in commentary whether they could manage two games at the same time. They couldn’t one was decent the other a buggy, horrible mess… anyone remember Oni? I was blacklisted after that and they trashed me to other people. Gaming PR people seem to act like spoiled teenagers who have to get their own way.

    Great reviews of AAA types that are rubbish and this sort of thing reflect poorly on the gaming industry.
    Then again only releasing the Demo to those who had pre-ordered was a bad sign for sure.

    • Bhazor says:

      But I thought Oni was really good.

      Like a souped up Urban Chaos.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Lagwolf: Yeah, my experiences doing music journalism always shine a different light on my games experiences.

      Actually reminds me of an odd crossover period, where I was doing music reviews for a games mag as well circa 2000. I kick some 2k game soundtrack, because it’s not very interesting. A few weeks later, I get a call from the games PR and it takes me forever to realise that they’re actually making it a real deal. They absolutely were threatening to – irony of ironies – take away the Duke Nukem Forever exclusive over it. Games PR is fucking mad sometimes.