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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.