Eidos just wants people to buy the next Tomb Raider game. Is that so wrong?
With what is now officially an annual tradition, Eidos has found itself caught in the middle of another ridiculous, review-related controversy. The title this time around is Tomb Raider: Underworld, and the tactic apparently being employed over in the UK is nothing new.
GameSpot's Guy Cocker managed to set this one off with a Twitter update that hit like a trash can crashing through the window of Sal's Pizzeria... provided that the trash can in question took two days to be seen or heard by anyone wanting to report on something controversial-sounding:
call from Eidos--if you're planning on reviewing Tomb Raider Underworld at less than an 8.0, we need you to hold your review till Monday.
After people finally saw this two-day old message this morning, things started moving quickly. The UK-based site videogaming247 put in some calls Barrington Harvey, the public relations firm responsible for handling Eidos' affairs in the UK. What they got in response was a surprising blast of honesty--not something people are used to seeing from PR firms, to be sure.
Said a Barrington Harvey rep on the phone this afternoon: “That’s right. We’re trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos.”
When asked why, the spokesperson said: “Just that we’re trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that’s handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don’t put people off buying the game, basically.”
If I were some sort of message massager, I'd find the guy that said all that and boot him into the street. Then again, he's not exactly saying anything that shocking... some publishers, for whatever reason, still seem to think that PR people are able to have some sort of actual impact on review scores. Personally, I think that's just so there's one more person to blame when review scores come in lower than expectations. Obviously, the game couldn't be at fault, right?
(While we're on the topic, MTV Knows Best's Stephen Totilo wrote a solid series of articles about game reviewing that covers similar cases, like the good ol' Red Steel "give this a 9 and you can run it early" message. You might want to give that series a read if you're interested in this sort of thing.)
For its part, the PR firm for Eidos' UK efforts issued a longer statement essentially contradicting the previous statement. Here's a bit from what VG247 received:
Barrington Harvey is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say. We love Tomb Raider and believe it merits a score of at least 8/10, but if someone disagrees that’s entirely their prerogative. No problem at all. Seriously: no problem.
Our original NDA stated that in order to receive an advance copy of the game, reviewers agreed not to post reviews ahead of 5:00pm, Wednesday 19th November 2008. Nothing else. No further obligations whatsoever.
So... was the other guy lying? Or has the story changed now that it's become "a story?"
One last pretty funny bit on this topic before I leave you to draw your own conclusions. The UK version of GamesRadar is currently skinned up with a takeover ad that rebrands the site as "TombRadar." That's pretty clever, I'll admit, but this bit from a press release about the ad deal that surfaced on The Escapist is the actual funny part...
"Tomb Raider: Underworld is a great game, well worth the 9/10 scores it is picking up across gaming websites and magazines," said James Binns, publishing director at GamesRadar owner Future. "Getting the message out there on launch day is essential in the games market and this takeover gives Eidos unprecedented cut through."
The game is currently sitting around 77 on Metacritic with only one score sitting at or above the 90 line.