Staff Editorial: Yes, Of Course Publishers “Bribe” Critics

It’s a common topic among gamers today:

Do video game critics take bribes from publishers?

That’s  a tough one. As the members of our staff will tell you, it’s an even grayer area than you might think…

Here’s the thing: It really depends on your definition of “bribe” and furthermore, does it even qualify as a bribe if it doesn’t work? Hey, game reviewers have been receiving all sorts of goodies from publishers for years. These extras come in the form of novelty toys, collectible items, little gadgets and do-dads; just about anything silly that’s associated with the publisher’s new game. Examples of bonus items received on the part of our staff: Golf balls for a Hot Shots Golf game, a mini survival kit for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, fake adrenaline boosting pills (just candy) for nail’d, and a bunch of insane cheerleader-like props for Lollipop Chainsaw.


Yeah, we got those. Do you call them “bribes?” You could, I suppose. But here’s the truth of the matter:

If anything, such goodies only cause critics to give the game a lower review score. This is because, despite popular belief, professional critics aren’t braindead morons. Of course they know what these goodies are for, and they’re not about to give a bad game a break just because they got some fuzzy dice or some such crap. One could argue: “Oh, but it’s in their subconscious!” We reply: “No, it isn’t. It’s very much in our full-blown conscious and we get it.”

Again, are these little gifts “bribes” if they don’t work? And what promotional material can be considered “bribes?” For example, money would be a bribe but in our many years of experience, none of us have ever been offered a cash bribe for a high review score. None of us have ever really been offered anything of any great value, in fact. Sure, there are a few valuable pieces of hardware and accessories tossed in, but those are perks of the job. They don’t mean we’re going to fail in our task to serve the public and tell them whether or not a game blows.


Here’s a way to test the ridiculous theory that game critics are “bought off:” Check the highest-rated video games of all time on Metacritic, Gamerankings, or wherever. Look at those titles and see if you agree with most of them. If you do, critics are doing their jobs, and they’ve been doing their jobs properly for years. Could it happen that a critic will receive a little bonus from a publisher, and that critic puts up an unrealistic and misleading review? Of course. Does it or will it happen often? No. Not in the realm of pro critics, at any rate.

Publishers exist to sell a product, PR people exist to promote that product, and marketing is marketing. Critics have to fit in there somewhere because let’s face it, that review score is a big part of the marketing plan. It’s just a matter of understanding how it all works.

One thought on “Staff Editorial: Yes, Of Course Publishers “Bribe” Critics”

Like I said in another topic, a professional critic should and can remain uninfluenced.

I’m not saying “SWAG” can’t influence a review score from someone somewhere. I’m sure it happens. But that’s all the more reason to rely on sources you know you can trust.

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