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Should we take publishers money?

7 min read

I wish we had a cash cowVG247 is one of the largest videogame sites on the planet and the head cheese over there has posted an article this morning claiming that as from today they will no longer accept any paid trips by publishers or hospitality packages including food.

The article which can be read here has the following end points

  • No flights or hotels. We’ll no longer accept flights and payment for hotels from third-parties.
  • No hospitality. No more free bars. I mean, I’m sure there’ll be free bars. But our employees won’t be drinking at them. This rule also includes food. As of now, VG247 staff will buy their own vittles when they’re “in the field” wherever possible. If, for whatever reason, a VG247 staffer eats or drinks at the expense of a publisher, it’ll be disclosed.
  • Any gift over £50 disclosed. We regularly get sent promotional materials by games publishers. From now on, all “swag” will be either given away on the site or through social media, or donated to charity. This doesn’t include games, or at least it doesn’t include all of them. We need to play games a lot, and the only way we can keep up is through promos.
  • No engagement in publisher-held competitions. VG247 staff will never again enter a competition hosted by a publisher or platform-holder.
  • Any coverage resulting from press trips to be disclosed. Self-explanatory. If we do decide that we’re going to pay our own way to attend a publisher promo event, we’ll clearly say so in any resulting copy.
  • Writers will never report on companies or products in which they have financial interest, or on companies which employ family members or close friends. Most games journalists have friendly relationships with some publisher PR. As of now, those friendships will prevent staff members from writing about any related company’s products. Similarly, our staff will now not write about products and companies in which they have a vested interest: this includes any crowd-sourced projects they may have backed.
  • We will always protect the identity of our sources. VG247?s sources will never be disclosed it they speak to us under condition of anonymity. It’s normal that VG247 journalists’ sources aren’t even divulged internally.
  • A note on advertising. VG247 is always likely to be primarily funded by video games advertising, for reasons I hope are blatantly obvious. We will never carry advertorial. Our ads our sold by Eurogamer Network’s sales team, which is based in Brighton, UK, and is independent to VG247?s editorial staff.

I think all of those are very noble, honest and completely impossible for smaller sites to adhere to causing a very distinct split between the have’s and have not’s.

I’ll take them point by point and explain why we can’t do the same

No Flights or Hospitality

Next week I’m flying to London to attend a review session for an upcoming game, that is still under embargo so I can’t say what it is.

My choice here is simple, I either accept the flights and hotel or not post a review. We don’t have 13 million impressions a month so we can’t turn around to the publisher and state that we need the code delivered to us. We also simply cannot afford to pay for these flights out of our own budget.

Unfortunately we’re not rolling in the cash, in fact on many an occasion I need to dip into my personal income to keep us afloat so while refusing free flights sounds fantastic it just isn’t feasible for us.

What I will say is that we will continue to be clear about when we are covering something that has been paid for. You will see in the upcoming review that we will clearly state that we were flown to London to review the title. It’s not ideal but we don’t live in a perfect world and we need to do the best we can in making sure we can bring you the most up to date coverage and punch above our countries weight.

Any gift over R500 disclosed

I got an awesome gift pack last Christmas with some goodies and cool things from 2 publishers, that most probably came in at over R500. I think that’s all I’ve got that is worth more than R500 in the 5 years I’ve been doing this. Granted I have a megaton of free games, a billion shirts that don’t fit and a draw overflowing with flash drives full of PR stuff… but actual gifts that I would call expensive. I can’t think of one.

[Update: I forgot we got a free Xbox 360 from the E3 2010 Microsoft press conference… that was cool. We told you all about it]

No publisher competitions

I hate competitions, they are free marketing for publishers and a real pain in the ass for us. In fact we actually charge non-advertisers to run competitions which has put many a nose out of joint as some people feel they are doing us a favour letting us run competitions.

I’d throw all competitions out the window if it was up to me, but you our readers love competitions so it’s just one of the bad parts of the job for me. I seriously don’t see how this could affect our judgement when it comes to covering a publishers title?

Any coverage from press trips to be clarified

Always have and always will

No journalist will cover a company they have a family or friendly connection with

South Africa has 4 large distributors which are Ster-Kinekor, Megarom, EA Games and Apex Interactive. We are friendly, at times, with each and every one of them. The only one that makes games themselves is EA and really do you think anyone in the EA South Africa office actually makes the games themselves?

Protect our sources

You’ve never heard who are sources are, there are many of you out there who know that we don’t reveal our sources so there isn’t much more to say around this topic. We’ve been threatened by most local distributors to tell them where we got our news from and we never have. We now have a solid understanding with everyone we work with.. don’t ask because we won’t tell and it just makes you feel uncomfortable.

A note on advertising

We don’t have an advertising sales team, I truly wish we did as they would likely do a far better job than I do on selling ad space and then maybe we could look at paying for flights ourselves. We don’t do advertorials and when we raise money for trips it is always done on a supportive and not sponsorship basis. The big difference being that people pay for advertising space around the event and receive nothing else other than that.

We don’t give their games extra coverage nor do they expect us to be kinder about their titles. This year the Gamescom coverage was supported by Black Ops 2, an Activision title, and the worst game of the show was 007 Legends which is also an Activision title.

The End

So in summary while I think what Patrick Garrat is doing at VG247 is great it isn’t realistic for the vast majority of gaming media on this planet and it reminds me of a moment at E3 2010 that I’ll never forget.

Activision hosted the mother of all parties at the Staples Centre where we were treated to an awesome concert, free food and drinks and in between songs we were shown trailers of games. That was it. Joystiqs journalists refused to attend the event as they felt it was pressuring the
media. I think that’s BS.. of the games I remember seeing Black Ops turned out well, Tony Hawks was an abysmal failure and the rest were middle of the road games.

The event had no affect on our reviews or made us feel we should review them with kinder eyes.

My wife often says I live in a world ruled by “The morals of Gavin” and I admit that I do… so you’ve heard my side now. Do you think we’re wrong in any way? I am very open to listening to any comments as maybe we are too close to the epicentre to notice that what we are doing is wrong.

Last Updated: November 1, 2012

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