President of Gearbox, Randy Pitchford, is well-known for speaking his mind. In a world of censoring, political correctness and carefully worded “journalism” it’s a refreshing change from the normal to encounter someone in the business who is willing to speak his mind and let his thoughts be known.
And yet, it seems that Mr. Pitchford doesn’t believe that others should be allowed the same freedom to declare what they wish.
Just a few days ago I posted up the news that Eurogamer had received word that Borderlands 2 was in developement. The entire article dealt with a “source” who had told Eurogamer that Borderlands 2 was in developement and that it would be officially announced soon.
The news blazed a trail across the internet, with websites all over the world jumping up and down in excitement at the prospect of the game’s existence. It was a text-book case of journalism from the Eurogamer team; after all, that’s what journalism is all about.
” Journalism” states Wikipedia ” is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience.”
“I have long maintained that we will do more with Borderlands,” Pitchford tweeted. “Shoddy journalism is not an announcement.”
A denial of Borderlands 2 existence was utterly expected, after all the game’s marketing clearly didn’t feel it was time to announce the game. But Pitchford describes it as “shoddy journalism”, a rather unfair accusation.
A day later, Borderlands 2 was officially announced, thus proving that Eurogamer’s journalism was spot on and far from shoddy. Regardless of whether their report had been proven true or not, the fact remains that they investigate a story and reported it to their readers.
But it’s not so much Pitchfords declaration of “shoddy journalism” that is the problem here. No, it’s that this throws into light a large problem among our gaming world, and of journalism in general; journalism is no longer honest.
You see, in today’s gaming world, websites and magazines like IGN or Game Informer are part of the marketing plan for a game. They are given exclusive rights to reveal a title, or get the first hands on time with it, while the others must sign Non-Disclosure Agreements regarding the game until a pre-determined time has elapsed, at which point they are free to publish the information. This is all perfectly fair and fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. But what happens when a site, like Eurogamer, gets a scoop on a game without ever having had to sign such agreements? Well, surely that’s just damn good investigative skills? Nope. it’s “shoddy journalism”.
Had Eurogamer themselves broken the agreement, then yes, Mr. Pitchford would have had grounds to declare it shoddy journalism. But they didn’t; somebody else did.
Should a magazine or website step out-of-bounds of the marketing plan, it’s quick to hear about it as http://arstechnica.com recalls:
“We experienced this firsthand when we broke the news of Rock Band 3‘s keytar peripheral. After we ran the story we were contacted by the PR company handling the Harmonix account, and threatened with all sorts of nastiness if the story wasn’t removed.
We held firm, because we knew the story was accurate, but what I was unprepared for was the anger from other writers who had signed nondisclosure agreements that prevented them from writing about the peripheral until the NDA expired. From their point of view I hadn’t played fair, and in many cases outlets which had signed the NDA didn’t pick up our story for fear of angering Harmonix. We had stepped out of the marketing plan for the game by running a scoop we had dug up ourselves, and boy, did we ever hear about it”
The early scoop on Borderlands 2 has not, in any way, damaged the official announcement. In fact, many gamers became ever more excited and news of the game spread like wildfire across the net with gamers eagerly chatting about the upcoming announcement.
But, in fairness, we must consider the point of Gearbox and Mr. Pitchford; a journalist, under a Non-Disclosure Agreement or member of Gearbox themselves, must have leaked the news somewhere along the line. And, if you’ve agreed not to do such a thing then this is a betrayal of trust. But then it’s that person at fault, not the journalists that cover the story.
Am I condemning Pitchford for his actions? No. He has a right to feel betrayed by whomever leaked the initial information. But that doesn’t make Eurogamers report “shoddy journalism”. They got the scoop and they ran the story, which is what journalism is all about. And in an industry where many are afraid to give a game a bad review, or publish a piece of news that could shed bad light on a company in case they get “Black-Listed”, I applaud Eurogamer for doing their job.
So, was Randy Pitchfords declaration of “shoddy journalism” correct? Or do you believe that Eurogamer were simply doing their job by reporting the story?