By KensterFox 21 Comments
Let me throw this out here first: Giant Bomb is not hurting for money. Or, at the very least, parent company Whiskey Media is not hurting for money. I don't know this for certain, but I'll surmise that it's the case based on the fact that they just moved into a new office because of constant expansion, and they just launched their fifth site (sixth, actually, but does PoliticalBase really even count?) in May. Since they are continuing to expand, one has to assume that their initial sites, at the very least Comic Vine and probably Giant Bomb, are profitable. Otherwise, they'd be taking a dramatic risk that could turn a bad situation into a catastrophic one. So, until I'm given any reason to think differently, I'm going to continue to assume that Giant Bomb is doing all right (as Jeff, Ryan, Brad, and Vinny have always insisted they are) and this was more of an experiment than necessary deal for desperately needed cash.
With that understood, I don't have much of a problem with this quest set, or future sponsored quests like it. It was a little jarring to see the Best Buy color scheme used for the quest graphics, and it's not ideal to be seeing their logosplashed up everywhere, but I want Giant Bomb to have money, whether they need it or not, and this isn't a horribly intrusive way to get that added income.
Except for the quest where they wanted me to view an advertisement to get experience points.
Now, you can look at my quest list and see that, when presented with the option to view an advertisement to complete the quest set, I did it. I confess. I did it mostly out of reflex, without really thinking about what I was doing. Now that I've had some time to think about it, though, it rather seems like something of a betrayal of the principles that the site was founded on two and a half years ago. Now, I'm not calling anyone a hypocrite - people make mistakes, and I think quests of this type are indeed a mistake. And we don't know exactly how, and by whom, this decision was made.
But Jeff and Ryan especially have always been stalwart opponents of Marketing interfering with Editorial. Now, strictly speaking, that's not what's going on here - Giant Bomb isn't rendering an opinion on the products Best Buy is advertising. But this is a clear example of Marketing interfering with, or at least influencing, Content. Giant Bomb is more than just an Editorial site, a portal for Jeff and Ryan and Vinny and Brad to spit game about games. There's the Wiki. There are the Forums. And there are the Quests. All of which should be driven by the creative minds at Whiskey Media, and not anyone who has a fat enough stack of cash.
On the April 15, 2008 Giant Bombcast, Jeff blew up at the idea of an achievement in a Call of Duty game for watching a trailer for the next Call of Duty game. He said that it was bad enough that sponsored achievements existed, but this was an example of marketing teams co-opting everything that's good about games and ruining it. This feels like the same thing to me, and I would hope that Jeff would feel an even greater sense of outrage that this is happening on the site he helped found.