Exclusive Reviews?


Recently we pointed to IGN’s perfect 10 review of GTA4. I couldn’t be more excited about the game, however, some critics have a point: Isn’t the concept of exclusive reviews suspicious? Obviously, such an early exclusive review drives web traffic for the news site and creates influential early impressions among consumers.

Do exclusive reviews represent a clear conflict of interest?

A few points:

  • Any pre-release review released with exclusive publishing rights, while other media outlets are under embargo restrictions, is obviously pre-screened. Even if all reviews were genuine and pure, the publisher is going to cherry pick among them and only grant exclusive-coverage deals to the more positive ones.
  • Since game scores and media coverage is so influential, especially among the “inner circle” of influential media outlets, some corruption should be expected. There’s a clear conflict of interests. Publishers pour time/money into shifting media converage to a favorable light, and why wouldn’t they?
  • IGN’s scores are widely respected for a good reason. They have earned a strong reputation among many over years of review scores. (Clearly, many disagree, but in general, they have earned high credibility). I still haven’t played GTA4, but I lean to believe that the review is justified. I’m sure that plenty of reviewers engage in corrupt coverage practices, however I’d suspect IGN is less guilty of this given their record.

Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Mike on April 28th, 2008

    I’m not a fan of exclusive print previews either – it leads to magazines putting games on the cover not because they are going to be good, but because they will hype it in return for the exclusive coverage.

  2. #2 by John on April 28th, 2008

    IGN being one of the top sites, it’s a prime candidate for corruption, and this possibility shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because of reputation or whatever.
    Even if most of those caught are at the bottom, one should never forget that corruption is a disease that spreads from the top.

  3. #3 by matt on April 28th, 2008

    I would agree with you if IGN was a point higher than the rest of the respected sites. Here are some things to think about.

    What if Rockstar chose IGN because they are arguably the most respected? Rockstar would benefit from getting a high rating from them. Early review status would make sure the IGN article was read first. It benefits both parties equally.

    IGN giving such a high rating could also sway the other sites like Kotaku, Gamespot, 1up, Gamespy, Gamepro to go all out and give it a 10. They may have been on the fence about 9.5 – 10. Seeing one of the big boys go 10 makes them doing it much easier.

    There is no conspiracy!

    I honestly believe GTA IV is so much more “Next Gen” than anything else, that it deserves all of the praise. This is why I spent $2000 on an HDTV, $900 my game systems, and $1000’s more on Audio.

    No game will ever be perfect. The overall experience is what is graded and the consensus is GTA IV is one of the greatest games of all time. I hope all of you get your copy and are blown away!

  4. #4 by Sporty on April 29th, 2008 [ 95 Points ]

    As crazy as it sounds, I have to agree with matt on something…

    Driv3r was one example of shady exclusive reviews, however when games get relativity the same marks from non-exclusive reviewers then I don’t see the problem.

    The link to the blog site complaining about it sounds like a bitter writer that is upset he didn’t get the same chance as an established relatively respected site. That article even stated he would throw the wishes of the developers out the window just to avoid getting beat to the punch in a review. Not the best way to get up higher of the list for reviews.

    Some exclusive reviews are based off personal relationships with writers and developers/publishers. Or completely fair non-spoiler review history. Doesn’t have to be guaranteed results.

    You don’t want to spend 100m on development only to have someones first impression be from a second rate blogger who spends most of the time complaining about something.

    Besides, today’s gaming scene you can’t base your buying decision on one review.

  5. #5 by John on April 29th, 2008

    The forums are starting to fill up with bugs, issues and crash reports… sounds like things ain’t rosy as all the reviewers made it sound like.

  6. #6 by Sporty on April 29th, 2008 [ 95 Points ]

    The freezing problems are probably just a small fraction. When you sell 4-6m copies a small percentage is still a lot of people though.

    For what it’s worth I’m 6 hours into it on my 360 (probably going to pick it up for PS3 for multiplayer soon) and have only had one problem. Playing QUB3D I entered the tutorial and when I tried to back out of it to get to the main game I was stuck with only start button working, I could get into the main GTAIV menu but not out of QUB3D until I loaded my last save. I went back to the club to try QUB3D again after and went straight into the game without a problem though.

  7. #7 by MPZ on April 29th, 2008

    I’m surprised IGN reviews are considered with any level of respect to be honest. They are childish and often use inappropriate reviewers/attitudes when reviewing titles. e.g. reviewing a game clearly targeted at a younger demographic and saying it is boring and repetitive. They also like to let their own perception of influence colour their prose e.g. we can screw a games sales and we’re proud of it.

    At least that was the perception I gained when I used to read their site – I haven’t looked at a game review on IGN for some time.

    I’d put much more weight in a review from a fan site like this than any one of the commercial ones, and IGN is pretty middling on any list.


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