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"Write About This Game We're Promoting And We'll Let You Play It Early"

Well here's an interesting e-mail...

I'm not too sure if this sort of thing happens too often, since we're usually not on the kinds of mailing lists that get hit with this sort of offer, but hey, let's not beat around the bush: Giant Bomb isn't the largest site for video games on the Internet... yet. Maybe we just need to get a little more "word of mouth" going, right? Maybe we need to "take it viral." Or maybe we just need to keep doing our thing and, as we become more entrenched in your hearts and in your minds, we'll become a more frequent part of the daily lives of game players around the world. OK, I'm getting off topic before I've even told you what the topic actually is... sorry.

As I understand it, there are a lot of non-commercial game sites out there that don't typically receive too much attention from the game publishers of the world. The concept of receiving review copies ahead of retail release is something of a rarity for these outlets. But since they provide a useful, community-like voice, sometimes publishers hire smaller marketing firms to reach out to these outlets, either overtly with direct contact, or covertly by posting HEY MAN YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT THIS GAME on the site's message boards or comments.

It's the overt contact that proves to be a dangerous test for the folks that run these community sites. Will they pass the test and get ahold of a reviewable disc or other asset without bending over backwards and doing something they wouldn't normally do? Or does the lure of free games become so enticing that they're say anything to keep them coming in? It reminds me of a story from a few years back, where a PC game publisher provided a few of these sites with brand new video cards "just to make sure the game was reviewed on proper hardware." It's a fine line, but as a rule of thumb, if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

We received this e-mail today from an external promotions firm (meaning not THQ directly) that effectively says "if you write about this trailer we posted, we will let you into a closed beta for the game." This is, for starters, poor bait. Considering the main idea is to get people excited about the release of said game, shouldn't you be letting in as many credible journalist-types as possible?

Before I get too much further ahead of myself, here's the e-mail:

Hey Jeff,

[REDACTED] here with a great exclusive for your site! We’re working with THQ on the FPS Red Faction: Guerilla (PS3, X360, PC). As a valued member of our network, we would like to invite you to an exclusive closed multiplayer beta tourney and share your initial thoughts. Red Faction releases on June 9th.

To get in to the closed multiplayer beta, all you have to do is write up a post and feature the teaser spot below on your site and send me the link. The closed beta tourney will occur on May 1st.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCrfNArzx68

Looking forward to seeing what you think of the game!

So here's the proposed timeline of events:

1. Outlet writes about trailer (which I'm sort of bummed to be doing here in the first place, I feel like I've already lost this battle)
2. Outlet gets download code for multiplayer Red Faction beta (which, unless they're releasing a newer version, I'm pretty sure I've had since late last year)
3. Outlet participates in tournament, writes about game again.

Kind of funky. We often get e-mails and PMs from people looking for advice on how to get into our line of work. So here's my advice: if the lure of getting to play something before someone else or perhaps getting something for free is the sole reason you want to write about games, you've already lost, and you're destined to be swayed by the possibility of getting something for free. This means that the first time you give a game a negative review, the company will threaten to cut you off from the games, and you'll probably cave and retract the review.

But, really, the big loser here is THQ. Why? Because Red Faction: Guerrilla is a game that deserves better than this trailer that this external promotion company is trying to get us to... promote. Seriously, check out this totally busted trailer with audio that's around 12 seconds out of sync.

  


I know, right? On top of that it's got a description of "red faction guerilla ps3 rocks just like fallout mi rite or mi rite" on YouTube. Quality material, all you people at the promotion company! Corner offices for all.

[UPDATE] THQ got in touch with us about this story. While THQ does work with the promotions company involved with this stuff, a company spokesperson for THQ stated that it never approved this specific campaign. Considering the game's multiplayer beta launched on Xbox 360 last year and the awful quality of that trailer, I'm inclined to believe them.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+