|The Washington Post has published an article and video on game journalism with regards to accepting things like free airfare, hotels, drinks, etc. from game companies. They use Bethesda as an example.
A little validation from Masson, a writer for
the French game magazine PC Jeux, and others like him can help tip the
scales in the competitive game industry, where a cutting-edge title
takes many years and millions of dollars to develop. That's why game
designers, like movie studios, have learned to lavishly court such
tastemakers, the guys who write for the major blogs and magazines and
play a key role in today's big-bucks video game industry.
The company flew Masson and about 60 other writers in from as far
away as Australia and Japan to give them an early look at the company's
Fallout 3, scheduled for release late next year.
In addition to an hour-long demo and chats with the game's
designers, the trip included a two-night stay in downtown's swank Helix
Hotel, dinner at Logan Tavern and a private party at a nightclub in
Adams Morgan. Airfare, hotel, food, drinks and shuttle bus were
provided, courtesy of Bethesda Softworks. Although a few attendees paid
their own way, most did not.
"What we're trying to accomplish with an event like this is to have
the undivided attention of the important people in our industry, that
cover the industry," said Pete Hines, vice president of marketing at
Bethesda Softworks, whose Fallout 3 will be set in a version of
Washington that's been scorched by war. "There are a lot of titles out
there competing for attention."
It looks like Bethesda Softworks is getting that attention: Fallout
3 is scheduled to soon grace the covers of 20 gamer magazines, largely
as a result of the event.
Bethesda Softworks' parent company, ZeniMax, is privately held and
won't disclose the game's budget, but it's not uncommon for the budgets
of cutting-edge titles like Fallout 3 to exceed $20 million, including
Kotaku and Ars Technica respond:
Firstly, many of the sites represented at the affair, including
Kotaku, refuse to accept free air fare and hotel accommodations from
gaming companies. We pay our own way to these events to help make sure
our readers always have the best information we can provide on our
And while yes, I believe that no legitimate press outlet should
accept travel and hotel rooms, I also recognize that for some smaller
outlets it is the only way they can afford to cover major events. Does
this mean they end up being swayed by the money lavished upon them?
Game Revolution's Mike Reilly, whom you should never mention World of
Warcraft around, said it best.
I had a knot in my stomach after reading this; while I knew this went
on, it's still not fun to hear about it laid out like this.
Of course, I'm jealous of things like trips to Vegas and Russia to
promote a game, who wouldn't be? But editorial policy at Ars Technica
restricts us from accepting free airfare or accommodations though; it
makes everyone involved look bad. Even if readers agree with what you
say, it's hard to argue how you say it isn't affected by a nice flight,
a good hotel, drinks, and food...none of which you paid for. There are
lines of course. Everyone accepts review code for games, and I'm not
going to turn down the occasional free drink at E3, but what's
described in the Washington Post article is excessive.
Here is what I would like to see from my fellow game journalists: if
you feel like it's ethical to accept these junkets, or if you think
they honestly help your readers, great; but in order to make sure your
readers have all the information, if your airfare or room was provided
to you, simply say so in the article. That way it's all above board,
and everyone has the information about how the coverage was attained.
If any game companies want to wine and dine me, they most certainly are welcome to . You can read the whole Post article here.