We never know for sure if the commentards are who they claim to be. But one prodigious poster with the new account "gamespot" is telling what reads like a credible insider story — it's written in editor-speak — of what happened to ex-CNET GameSpot reviewer Jeff Gerstmann, supposedly fired for low-scoring an advertiser's new game. "Gamespot"'s posts are in need of a 100-word-versioning, but it's Friday so forgettabout it here's the whole thing pasted in. I've bolded the newsy parts.
We're very clear in our review policies that all reviews are vetted by the entire team before they go live - everything that goes up is the product of an entire team's output. Our freelancers are especially guilty of making snide comments, but those are always yanked before the review goes live, because everyone in the office reads these reviews and makes sure they're up to our standards before they get put up.
If there was a problem with his reviews, then it would've been a problem with the entire team. Firing him without telling anyone implies that anyone else on this team can be fired at the drop of a hat as well, because none of us are writing any differently or meaner or less professionally than we were two years ago before the management changed. I'm sure management wants to spin this as the G-Man being unprofessional to take away from the egg on their face that results after a ten-year employee gets locked out of his office and told to leave the premises and then no one communicates anything to us about it until the next day.
This management team has shown what they're willing to do. Jeff had ten years in and was fucking locked out of his office and told to leave the building.
What you might not be aware of is that GS is well known for appealing mostly to hardcore gamers. The mucky-mucks have been doing a lot of "brand research" over the last year or so and indicating that they want to reach out to more casual gamers. Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we've started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up. Other publishers have started giving us notes involving when our reviews can go up; if a game's getting a 9 or above, it can go up early; if not, it'll have to wait until after the game is on the shelves.
I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were "multiple instances of tone" in the reviews that he hadn't been happy about, but that wasn't Jeff's problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that "AAA" titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site.
I know that it's all about the money, and hey, I like money. I like advertising because it pays my salary. Unfortunately after Kasavin left the church-and-state separation between the sales teams and the editorial team has cracked, and with Jeff's firing I think it's clear that the management now has no interest at all in integrity and are instead looking for an editorial team that will be nicer to the advertisors.
When companies make games as downright contemptible as Kane and Lynch, they deserve to be called on it. I guess you'll have to go to Onion or a smaller site for objective reviews now, because everyone at GS now thinks that if they give a low score to a high-profile game, they'll be shitcanned. Everyone's fucking scared and we're all hoping to get Josh Larson removed from his position because no one trusts him anymore. If that doesn't happen then look for every game to be Game of the Year material at GameSpot.