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Reader Comments (24)

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 8:10AM Joystiq Login Bugs SUCK said

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Weird, I could have sworn you guys got Sony graft. i guess though, as long as the author of the post doesn't get the brown paper bag it's ok.

1. Sony hands the Editor a brown paper bag
2. Editor cuts the reporter a bonus cheque if he writes a favourable review
3. Writer posts some drivel about the latest Sony game
4. ...
5. Profit

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 8:21AM (Unverified) said

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As an aside, I can't wait to see what editorial content (for lack of a more appropriate term) fills the pages of magazines such as 'Official Xbox 360 Magazine' etc post this ruling.

Closer to home, however; EA and Activision - your numbers are up huh? Now what are you going to do given you are unable to pay for advertising *cough reviews cough* moving forward?

Even closer to home, yes I would like to believe that Massively's integrity policy is real and adhered to (and I do), however given that you don't actually review MMO's, it's a moot point.

As for sites that publish reviews, I guess it's going to either:
a) further cement their honest reputation, or
b) promote a whole new realm of backhanders

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 8:52AM GRT said

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What's annoying about this FTC ruling is that The Official XBox 360 Magazine" isn't covered by it. It specifically targets *bloggers*. Print mags and other publications (though how they'll draw the line is beyond me) are exempt.
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Posted: Oct 6th 2009 9:07AM (Unverified) said

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Should be interesting. I pretty much grew up with IGN, relying on them in my earlier days to give me the heads up on games I might want to play.

Now, it seems like every time I go to look for a game on their site, review or preview, they don't have it. If it's not high-production and hyped up, they tend not to bother. Either that, or they spin incredible bias towards non-mainstream games, either subtly or obvious.

Risen for example. I hadn't known much about it so I went to check out their take. Their headline title was "Is it worth your money or not?". ... I mean, really? Could they display their conflicts-of-interest anymore.. ?

So, IGN being a huge-hitter in the review department, I think it would be extremely interesting to see what games they are "gifted" and ones they are not, and see if there is any slanderous bias or not.

Either way, it won't stop me from reading countless sites for my gaming habit. Just using IGN as a clear example.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 9:14AM (Unverified) said

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"What's annoying about this FTC ruling is that The Official XBox 360 Magazine" isn't covered by it. It specifically targets *bloggers*. Print mags and other publications (though how they'll draw the line is beyond me) are exempt."

You mind citing a source or two for this? The article mentions any publications "including" blogs, not blogs exclusively with major publications getting a pardon.

Though I wouldn't be surprised. The government is pretty much on attack-mode with bloggers and "free-thinking" online individuals. If you're not a mega-corporation or "reputable publication", just forget it...

It's easy for them to count on the NY Times, Washington Post, Google, Yahoo.. etc, to display information and material they would like to be seen, or rather.. easier to "nudge" them in the right direction. Bloggers, not so much.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 10:17AM GRT said

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I don't have my original source (was researching this at home, now I'm at work) but it's also mentioned in this post:

http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/10/05/ftc-regulates-our-speech/

I think it was Wired or Ars that first alerted me to this 'exception' to the guidelines.

HTH
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Posted: Oct 6th 2009 10:19AM GRT said

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Ah, found it:
http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/10/ftc-bloggers/

"Under the new rules, a hiking enthusiast with a personal blog who got a free backpack would have to tell her readers about the gift and also disclose it in any online review. By contrast, established review sites such as Consumer Reports or Wired.com’s Gadget Lab do not need to disclose whether or not they get freebies or what they do with them."
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Posted: Oct 6th 2009 11:30PM Xii said

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FWIW, Consumer Reports does not accept free samples, and purchases every item it reviews through anonymous shoppers.

Its also run by a non-profit organization.
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Posted: Oct 6th 2009 9:58AM archipelagos said

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Good change, I'm all for it. There's a lot of money to be made from positive reviews however, so as someone suggested we could see the nature of the "backhanders" change somewhat.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 11:12AM (Unverified) said

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I'm a blogger and I blog not only about gaming but also about politics. I've reviewed products in the past, but always as a paid customer talking about my personal experience. While I think it's an excellent policy for media companies to implement themselves, I'm not sure it should have the force of law.

In the marketplace of ideas, the buyer should always beware. Do we really need the government legally holding our hands and filtering free discourse? Personally, I don't think so.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 12:06PM Tanek said

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While you are correct that the buyer should always be aware of what they are purchasing (and understand that any review is likely to have some lack of objectivity, be it the reviewer's personal preferences, influence of a free item, or something else), in today's litigious society maybe this can be seen as a protection for the blogger as well.

If you follow these guidelines it may help avoid being dragged into unpleasantness down the line if a consumer claims you misled them. I don't know what the law would say in such a case, but even having to defend yourself can be damaging.

The negative side of this is that some readers may assume that because you got something for free you are not to be trusted at all. Which can lead to a) the reader ignoring a good review that can provide some solid information about a product or b) some bloggers swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction and writing reviews that are not as glowing as they'd like in order to remove some of the assumption of bias.

On average, though, I believe this will be a good thing. As noted by the FTC, it is often the advertisers who are trying to use the system (and the bloggers) to their advantage.
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Posted: Oct 6th 2009 12:35PM (Unverified) said

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I really don't see this changing things much. First of all, tracing such connections in thousands of personal blogs (potentially) is absurdly difficult, and a waste of money if they try. Prosecute against Joe Normal who has five readers for not saying his Acme Footwasher was a gift? That's not going to make anyone happy. Besides, if it's a personal blog, by what definition is it a media outlet? I realize this doesn't have punitive law attached to it yet, but it seems a bit heavy-handed for a marketplace where there's no clear distinction between "publishers" and "hobbyists."

Most of the graft comes from advertisement money anyhow. The value of having some big name advertise on your site is far more than the value of any given product gift - and that's not part of the ruling. It's perfectly legal for a company to insinuate they'll withdraw their advertisements if they don't get a good review. Indirect pressure for positive reviews is better anyway - it's harder to prove and harder to articulate.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 1:16PM (Unverified) said

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While I do think that this site is a great site, and probably one of the more (if not THE) unbiased game sites, I still think suck disclosure should be enforced. I mean let's be honest, $20 might no sound like a lot on its own, but depending on how it's done it can still, even unintentionally, impact a reviewer.

Here's a few examples:

If someone mainly plays MMO A and they're given a free month of play as a reviewer (which would probably be under $20) they might have a short term bias in the form of good will for getting to play their favorite game for free. But that could lead to a long term bias if the game company did this every month and told the writer 'This is a one time thing'. Sure it'd be a 'one time thing' that woudd happen every month, thus possibly getting around the $20 rule since every time would be a different under $20 gift.

Another possibility would be if a reviewer played a MMO that had a lot of micro transactions. The games developers could in theory make a lot of small gifts of things from those microtransactions, each one would be under $20, and each one would probably happen at a different time, thus possibly skirting the rules again since if all of these gifts were bundled together they'd potentially be well over $20.

Again, while I'm not saying that these would actually happen, nor that anyone from this site would do anything like this, the transparency would help back up any and all claims a writer would have of not being biased for or against a game simply because of any 'gifts' that a game company may have given them.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 1:20PM myr said

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People still read game reviews?

I follow blogs like this to keep up to date on older MMOs and for the perks (beta chances, etc). Not to mention commenting can sometimes be fun, or otherwise a good waste of time at school or work. :p

Reviews from anyone but the people that know me best aren't worth more than a grain of salt.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 1:31PM (Unverified) said

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We get gifts?

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 1:38PM (Unverified) said

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Most definitely, I'm for full disclosure. All blogs, websites, magazines, newspapers, television, anything that can influence others, should be required by law to disclose any perks or benefits received from those companies they are discussing.

If you get a free iPod, a review copy of a game, or a company flies you out to a place and takes you out to dinner, I think it should be reported.

This should go ten fold for lobbying, which is destroying the government of many countries and has for decades controlled American politics. Again, full disclosure to the public, announcing it every time they open their damn mouths.

Too much secrecy, too much corporate and lobbyist interest, too much corruption.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 1:52PM esarphie said

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I don't see much wrong with the concept. The fact that someone gets to keep the latest $5,000 digital camera after reviewing it certainly might tint your perception of impartiality towards that review, and rightfully so. Ultimately, I'd like to think that the reviewers I regularly read are professional enough that this policy will make no difference.

However, and this is a huge issue, I cannot see how they are going to enforce this at all. Are investigators going to be spying on every blogger who writes a review of something to see if they got a free t-shirt from the marketing department? Perhaps there's some justification for this in the realm of political opinion sites, disclosing some of the astro-turf money floating around, and with a ready opposition to any side there's will and enthusiasm for enforcement. However, in the realm of tech product, and gaming reviews, I just don't see that it's worth the expense of investigation and enforcement.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 4:18PM (Unverified) said

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Reviewing anything when given it for free has unforeseen consequences. First the reviewer is thankful for the gift, its just human nature to get a good feeling when you receive something from another person (or company in this case). Secondly the cost associated with the item is no longer a deterring factor. Reviewers may claim that things are worth the price, but when the price to them is zero they have zero stake in what they say. They have no investment associated with the product, which puts them in a different mindset than Joe Jones that has to go to the store and put up a portion of his weekly check.

Posted: Oct 6th 2009 6:29PM (Unverified) said

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Any intelligent reviewer would consider and record any costs involved before giving a review. When I get comped, I am required to keep track of the cost and money I would have spent if the item/virtual currency was not given to me.

Really - "This game is great but I failed to mention I spent $125 in the item shop just to be able to get to level 10"?
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Posted: Oct 6th 2009 6:27PM (Unverified) said

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And yet those that read the game press often support the big "established press" for "objectivity," even though most bloggers receive far less comps + ad money.

I'm not entirely satisfied with the ruling, though I'll comply for CYA purposes.

The issue I have isn't about having to disclose it; it's about dividing bloggers from established press, and putting more rules on the former.

The law casts unnecessary doubt on bloggers who - though they may have been comped - are professional in nature. Meanwhile, established press - who are supposed to be professional in nature - can get away with less professional behavior because they don't want to lose their comps and ad revenue.

It's the equivalent of a stupid warning label on a product you should have common sense about.

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