I think nearly everyone on the planet (or at least in the gaming community) has heard about 1UP’s Neverwinter Nights 2 disaster. If not, it went something like this: 1UP decided that their recently completed Neverwinter Nights 2 review did, and I quote: “a disservice to fans of the RPG genre.”
Both you and I know that that’s a bit vague, so I’ve decided to get to the bottom of the fiasco and find out what the real reason was for the pulling. Seeing as though I’m neither a super spy nor a private detective though, it’ll probably be speculation.
Possibility 1 — The review was actually a bit shit
Allegedly, the first time the review was submitted by Matt Peckham (who is a freelancer) he was asked to toddle away and make it a little bit more polished. This apparently happened a couple of times until 1UP’s editorial team were happy with the finished product. It was then that the article went live, amidst a sea of complaints and bitching.
From a purely technical standpoint, the review isn’t great. It doesn’t equally balance bad points against the good and it’s a full on negative barrage from the start. This could have simply meant that the game didn’t have enough redeeming points for Matt to feel the need to include them or through his eyes he could have just seen the negatives. Other than that, though, the review isn’t crap enough to be pulled.
Yeah, it isn’t the best, but I’ve seen a lot worse reviews from major sites stay up in all their glory, wryly smiling (metaphorically, of course) back at all the people who think the review was poorly written. I think the issue with the review wasn’t actually the review itself, rather the score at the bottom.
Possibility 2 — The PR people didn’t like the review
Behind every low scoring review is a PR team sharpening the knives. It’s a side to games journalism that isn’t often seen by the general public, but obviously when a PR company gives away a free game for review purposes they tend to become a bit pissed off if you throw it back in their faces and slap a low score on it. Some PR companies would even withdraw any future dealings with the offending site, which is something that the site really doesn’t want. It’s an unlikely scenario for a site with as much clout as 1UP, but it’s still a possibility.
With everywhere else giving NWN2 such favourable reviews, did the PR people just blow their lids and make lots of threats? Maybe they merely expressed their unhappiness at such a score, and asked for it to be pulled until more favourable reviews have been written.
Ironically, this “bad” review being pulled has caused even more publicity than if it would have been left there. And it’s of the kind that the PR guys didn’t want.
Possibility 3 — 1UP bowed down to the pressure of the fans
Negative publicity isn’t good for anybody. Especially not a site as large as 1UP. When a few fans start saying that one of their reviews is a bit rubbish and unfair, then they probably wouldn’t notice. But when a lot of fans start saying it’s unfair and rubbish then it would probably be time to sit up and take notice. They also know, however, that their fans see them as gods. So if they were to pull it, it would be forgotten about the week after. It would have been a good decision to pull it, and it would have shown the integrity of the editorial team. Right?
Wrong. It shows a lack of trust in their writing team. Surely, if the review was that bad it should have been picked up by the editors at the editing stage rather than after it had gone live? It should have been, but it wasn’t. The main reason it didn’t get noticed by the editors (before they posted it) is because it wasn’t that bad a review. It was merely a writer expressing his true opinion about a game, and seeing as though he didn’t like it he expressed so.
Unfortunately, the fans couldn’t handle his opinion and caused a ruckus. This in turn caused 1UP to get a bit scared and pull the review.
Which has now — in one final turn — opened the floodgates to the rest of the gaming community. People will now be thinking “hey, if we don’t like a review we can request to have it pulled down and they should, because that’s what a good site like 1UP does.”
A good site would have backed the reviewer all the way, and the original untainted version would still be up there for people to see. It’s a sad day for a journalist’s right to speak his mind.