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#1 Posted by Dryker (1007 posts) -

All right. The guys brought up Influencer cash-compensation from the new Epic store on this week's Bombcast. I'm chiming in on this one. Giant Bomb is where I find out about pretty much every game I ever buy and/or play, and have for about 12 years (I seem to increasingly buy games I never get around to playing, but that's okay because I get a lot from their existence, and that's my way of giving back for that enjoyment). Since that's the case, Giant Bomb is responsible for my buying so many games, that I wouldn't otherwise be aware of, and they should be compensated for promoting those games (far more than any ad agency developing commercials, billboards, or the like). I trust Jeff, and Giant Bomb et al. (I used the term!), to keep doing things the way they do things. I strongly suspect that Giant Bomb's control over such things was in the deal when they were bought by CBSi. That said, if I could, I would buy all my video game goods in a way that would give them credit.

What do you guys think?

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#2 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4115 posts) -

Do i want this possibility out there for GB? Sure. They have earned my trust. At least, the people that i watch right now at GB. Do i want this possibility to exist for a wide range of people? No. Because it will lead to a situation where there's always a doubt whether games get big because they offer the most money to the influencers or if it's any good. And with so many games being multiplayer social spaces, the idea that a game is 'hot ' and everybody is playing it is just as important for a game to be successful as the quality of the actual game is. After all, you want to be part of the conversation, you want to share the gifs, you want to interact with the same games as the people that you talk with. People want to be there where the people are.

It might also lead to developers to keep offering higher & higher percentages to streamers just to get their game out there. Will a game like The Eternal Castle Remastered get any exposure if no streamer / outlet is going to agree on a 5% cut on a fairly niche title? Will they have to keep upping the price until it's not feasible to create the game at all? Will a 50% cut on a niche title be enough to get streamers away from their 1% cut on huge games like GTA5 or Fortnite? Probably not. So no one is going to find this game. It's not attractive to make games that won't be found neither. Especially not when any exposure directly impacts their revenue in a negative way.

So yeah, in a perfect world i want the ones that actively drive people to buy games to get rewarded for that. Because the world is not perfect, i don't want this option to be there. I feel like the small creators will suffer from it. I rather have the option to give the people i appreciate an amount of money without it being tied to gamesales directly. I don't watch Jeff play garfield games and wonder if Jim Davis has a big check waiting for him afterwards. If this system was implemented, i would certainly have my doubts why ShadowDarknessXXX suddenly plays a lot of Call of Duty X-2 instead of Exapunks 5.

Honestly, there are already moments when i feel like games like Conan Exiles blow up for a day or 2 on Twitch, making it seem like the biggest game out there , and then suddenly all the streams are gone again. Clearly a marketing move where streamers get extra money for streaming all at the same time to create a false impression that this game is the biggest thing out there. But if you just tune in on that day and you are not in tune with how Twitch works, you might think that everyone is crazy about this game and enjoying themselves with their crew. I feel like such moments already showcase that there are enough streamers out there that will always go where the money can be made. Especially because it's already a longshot to be financially stable as a streamer. Or as a human being in general.

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#3 Edited by deckard (332 posts) -

The reason you trust the GB crew's opinions is BECAUSE they are independent of incentives to promote a certain game, not despite of it. That's the whole point of journalistic integrity. What would you rather have: Giant Bomb be compensated for hyping a game they think is good, or their freedom to speak honestly about a game they think is bad?

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#4 Posted by Quipido (1538 posts) -

They are compensated by pageviews/subscription money.

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#5 Posted by mellotronrules (2527 posts) -

i'm on mobile so i'll have to curtail my thoughts for now- but the short version of my take is- i don't want there to be a financial incentive for giant bomb to drive their audience to game. it's not that it would instantly destroy my 'trust,' rather i think it would erode their identity and distinguishing feature. why do they need to be in business with devs?

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#6 Posted by The_Greg (534 posts) -

It would be nice, but there are problems.

1) Where do you draw the line? Lots of people/groups make things look good. Food, movies, clothing, furniture.

2) Giant Bomb would inevitably start making games look like fun just to get money. This is what a lot of influencers do on YouTube. It stands out like a sore thumb and it's kind of gross. I like the honesty splattered across this site and wouldn't want that to shift.

Avatar image for superharman
#7 Posted by Superharman (284 posts) -

Yeah, I'm already a premium member which seems like the best way to support them. Something about them giving out promo codes for games feels a little off.

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#8 Posted by dudeglove (13662 posts) -

EGS proposal of streamer share revenue with devs covering that cost seems extremely iffy. Sure, it worked and works for fortnite but, uhh, it only applies to certain types of games that streamers have a habit of playing. As odd as this may sound, not every game is streamer-/influencer-friendly.

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#9 Posted by Ares42 (4241 posts) -

I'm having a hard time expressing how bad of an idea I think this is. I get the idea behind "influencer" pay-outs, but we already know those are just mouthpieces for the industry. Unless GB actually wants to become yet another mouthpiece this is just wrong.

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#10 Posted by Jetlag (503 posts) -

That's a huge conflict of interest. All it takes is one business guy saying "why aren't we maximizing this revenue stream" and everything gets fucked.

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#11 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1222 posts) -

I don't get a cut of revenue when I recommend a game or book or movie to a friend and they go buy it.

I've certainly purchased games because of the coverage they've received here that made them look fun or interesting. That doesn't mean GB should be compensated for that.

Avatar image for icemael
#12 Posted by Icemael (6875 posts) -

A game critic's job is critical evaluation of games. An ad agency's job is uncritical promotion. The two are in no way compatible. Do you also want your doctor to receive commission payments from the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs he prescribes for you?

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#13 Posted by Superharman (284 posts) -

@bladeofcreation: Just envisioned a dark future where recommendation compensation is a regular thing and encouraged by companies...I mean, this already happens with some businesses as it is. The company I order meals from will often note that if I recommend them to a friend, I can get a 30% discount off my next order.

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#14 Posted by konig_kei (1025 posts) -

They probably won't have a choice and CBS will force it on them anyway.

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#15 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1222 posts) -

@superharman: Yep, it's already a huge thing at the consumer level with subscriptions. Online services, weekly meal boxes, stuff like that, many of them offer discounts if people use your referral codes.

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#16 Edited by soulcake (2581 posts) -

There's a to big conflict of interest. I appreciate GB for there "neutral" point of view. If i want some dude hyping up the Division 2 i watch some you tube video. And i would have troubles with CBS doing a buy games reward GB thing as there a Media Moghul and not a You Tuber living in his bedroom.

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#17 Edited by Yesiamaduck (2508 posts) -

This is what the premium button is for duder.

Dont want confloct of interest tainting me game journalist

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#18 Posted by avantegardener (2361 posts) -

@icemael said:

A game critic's job is critical evaluation of games. An ad agency's job is uncritical promotion. The two are in no way compatible. Do you also want your doctor to receive commission payments from the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs he prescribes for you?

Euuugh, Doctors DO get paid to recruit patients for clinical trials by pharmaceutical companies. Your point about separation of church and state (reviews/Ads) is now less valid though.

As Others have said, if you want to support GB, premium is a good way to do it, but never forget that giant bomb is a CBS property and they are employees of that organisation, don't worry they're ok!

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#19 Posted by mellotronrules (2527 posts) -

@icemael said:

A game critic's job is critical evaluation of games. An ad agency's job is uncritical promotion. The two are in no way compatible. Do you also want your doctor to receive commission payments from the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs he prescribes for you?

Euuugh, Doctors DO get paid to recruit patients for clinical trials by pharmaceutical companies. Your point about separation of church and state (reviews/Ads) is now less valid though.

it's true- but at least at my hospital in nyc they are getting pretty hardcore about COIs. doesn't mean it won't continue to happen- but we'll see how some of the pending lawsuits re: opioid over-prescription go.

also, speaking as an american, big pharma influencing providers is a particularly american problem. yay privatized healthcare! /s

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#20 Posted by avantegardener (2361 posts) -

@avantegardener said:
@icemael said:

A game critic's job is critical evaluation of games. An ad agency's job is uncritical promotion. The two are in no way compatible. Do you also want your doctor to receive commission payments from the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs he prescribes for you?

Euuugh, Doctors DO get paid to recruit patients for clinical trials by pharmaceutical companies. Your point about separation of church and state (reviews/Ads) is now less valid though.

it's true- but at least at my hospital in nyc they are getting pretty hardcore about COIs. doesn't mean it won't continue to happen- but we'll see how some of the pending lawsuits re: opioid over-prescription go.

also, speaking as an american, big pharma influencing providers is a particularly american problem. yay privatized healthcare! /s

Sorry slight typo my post should have been 'no less valid' not 'now less valid', apologies!

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#21 Posted by Newfangled (301 posts) -

Yep, Jeff would never allow this, ever. It's a sweet thought, but bitter in execution.

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#22 Posted by Justin258 (15548 posts) -

It would suddenly give Giantbomb an incentive to speak positively about every game they're paid for.

This is essentially saying that Giantbomb should do paid reviews. You know, EA gives Giantbomb a fat wad of cash to put a five star review of Anthem up, that kind of thing. I don't believe Giantbomb would ever stoop that low, but I don't think it should be an opportunity in the first place, for anyone.

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#23 Edited by Vortextk (915 posts) -

They do have a positive incentive by how they talk about games; we enjoy their candor and come back and see their ads, occasionally use their non gaming referral links from their podcast or pay them money for a premium subscription. As long as that is enough to fund them, and hopefully it always is, that seems like the best way to do it.

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#24 Posted by Dryker (1007 posts) -

@icemael said:

A game critic's job is critical evaluation of games. An ad agency's job is uncritical promotion. The two are in no way compatible. Do you also want your doctor to receive commission payments from the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs he prescribes for you?

Uhh... doctors do. That's why so many doctors are constantly prescribing pain killers to people who don't need them. I turn them down all the time because I don't take pharmaceuticals of any kind, not even the common stuff, but doctors will repeatedly push me to take the prescriptions because they make a boat load of money off of them. I get your argument, but your example is just plain wrong. Why do you think the legalization of marijuana is so heavily lobbied against? It's because makers of pain relievers know it is a healthier, and cheaper, alternative, and doctors don't make any money from marijuana (I don't care for marijuana myself, but still recognize the value in it). (Someone may have already pointed this out. I haven't read all the comments yet. Just found this citation outrageous, and more than a bit ignorant. But not surprising, and completely understandable.)

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#25 Edited by Dryker (1007 posts) -

Perhaps I misunderstood what Giant Bomb were saying this influencer-compensation program entails, because what I understood is that it isn't a program that pays an influencer to represent a certain game (and so incentivizing them to pretend to like something in order to promote it), but rather a program that asks the purchaser for the reason they're buying the game, and then compensating the source of that reason (if they're a part of the program) for leading to a sale. This is not the same thing as paying someone to promote a specific product. Although, It could be a slippery slope. But it doesn't need to be. It is entirely up to the influencer. If they want to be dishonest about a product, that's their prerogative. They can also choose to be honest; they're not beholden to the potential compensation. It's merely a bonus to their content, honest or dishonest. Giving them more money to potentially produce more honest or dishonest content. If an audience can't tell the difference between an honest and dishonest take, that's on them. If Giant Bomb were being compensated from such a program, it would still be their choice whether to be honest or not. Do you think news reporters are always honest? Of course, they're supposed to be. But are they always? It's up to them. And those that aren't, and get caught, lose credibility. Do you think Giant Bomb would ever choose to lose their credibility? I don't think so. You can choose to believe they're liars right now. Any one of them could be on the take without anyone ever knowing it. Why do you think they joke about it so much with fake disclaimers about Monster drinks and what not? It is a very real possibility. Do I think any of them are? Of course not. Again, I get the slippery slope concern, but what if Giant Bomb just continued doing what they do, the way they do it, and got more money for it. It's entirely up to them whether they're honest about it or not. And it is entirely up to us whether we believe them or not. The same as it's always been.

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#26 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4115 posts) -

@dryker: The problem with this hypothetical situation is that i can trust Jeff , Brad , Vinny et al. based on their past. But if there's significant money to be made from referring people to GTA 6 and Witcher 4, stakeholders outside their team are not just going to ignore the money that is left on the table by GB being brutally honest about these games and thereby turning people off if these games dissapoint. Especially when GB has already made the controversial step to use the system. Crossing that line is harder than crossing the line from 'we use the system' to 'we use the system in a way that is greatly beneficial for us'.

Upper management might start to wonder why GB is not getting a good amount of referral kickback on these megablockbuster games for an audience of their size. It might start innocent with a ' hey.. why don't you have 4 video's up for these huge games at launch?' Then it becomes 'Just let the footage do the work, don't go out of your way to mention what you don't like about how the game looks & performs. Everyone has different standards for bugs & graphical quality and they'll get to see from the video if it's manageable for them'. It doesn't have to turn to lies. An omission of a problem a quicklooker has with a game doesn't have to mean that those problems don't exist. They might just not be there for the quick looker. Just how Brad loves things about Red Dead that makes Jeff not even want to play it any further.

You might think that the crew would never buckle to this pressure, but when you really need new broadcast equipment or a new studio and upper management keeps pushing you to hit certain targets to be able to do your job competently you have to pick your battles. After all, viewers keep wondering why they have to put up with 1080P video's when all the competitors are broadcasting 4k live to our VR headsets. Just politely hold back a bit and let the positive person do the bulk of the talking and you might be able to give your viewerbase an improved GB experience in the future. Your producer might get the gear that he requires to feel satisfied about the job. Let's do 4 GTA6 videos on launchday and we'll see if that indie quicklook fits in somewhere else later. All we want is the best experience for our viewers. And not having to constantly fight for every little thing with CBS because they know we are intentionally not hitting the numbers we could get. And avoiding being cut off from CBS while we have these families to support.

With all the Red Dead Redemption 2 content on launchday, there's precedent for having a lot of content up around those bigger games, so it wouldn't be super obvious that this time there's an extra monetary reason behind the abundance of GTA6 content. Suddenly the crew is untrustworthy to the audience. Are they putting up 4 GTA6 videos for the amount of referrals such a huge game can generate for them or because they're all stoked for it? Was that a sigh when he died? Why didn't he say why he sighed? No one else heard it? Will we still get a The Eternal Castle 2 quicklook now that they spent 6 hours on GTA 6 videos or is that not the kind of game they want to cover? Maybe they never heard of it? Or is it not profitable enough? How would it be if these games were released before they started to accept referrals? Have their game tastes changed? Well i guess Jeff liked bloodborne instead of the dark souls games. And Alex started to like strategy games at some point. Maybe it's real? Maybe it's that system they're part of that makes them want to cover these games more extensively?

Dystopia: it's 10 years later and GB consists of John, Debrah, Karl & Susie. We don't know them from before this referral system was introduced. We have no insight in their ethics. We buy the big games because they like the big games. We don't buy The Eternal Castle 3. The Eternal Castle 3 doesn't exist because hardly any streamer / outlet is going to waste it's time on a game that might get 0,5% of it's viewerbase to buy it when they can get 33% of the viewers to buy GTA6 instead. And besides, they clearly love these bigger games more. After all, they keep making content based around those games. Right? It's just way more fun to play these popular games with your friends! They are popular for a reason!

TLDR: It leads to a situation where it's impossible to ignore the fact that they're receiving more money if they base their content around the more popular games (or games with a higher referral %). Right now we can look back at their ethical behavior in the past and make an educated guess that they are in fact able to be honest to us due to the current subscription system. Once the waters are muddied by directly extracting revenue from the games they cover, the trust we used to have lacks a solid foundation. We don't get to act like the subscriber money is good enough, otherwise they would have stayed clear from this new referral system to preserve the trust they've built. The question whether they get to spend their time in the way that they want is also in question by this system. The lack of outlets that don't tie their revenue to the games they cover, might also hurt smaller games due to a lack of exposure.

Bonus Thought Experience:

Would you trust GB's word on Fallout 99 when they're all wearing a metaphorical pipboy on their arms?

Bonus Bonus Thought Experience:

If an audience can't tell the difference between an honest and dishonest take, that's on them.

If the total Nier Automata coverage consisted out of 1 GB quicklook with the complaints that it's graphically not impressive, has too many obtuse systems, feels bad to play, doesn't respect time, has a very limited color palette, is a bad PC port, requires multiple retreads through the same content to piece the whole story together and is the sequel to a game they couldn't care less about, would you be able to figure out that they were being dishonest ?

I would think that's a fairly typical GB response to JRPG's and not register it as them being dishonest. We only know that it would have been dishonest, because we have this current reality where we can say with 99% certainty that GB's success is not related to Nier's success whatsoever and that therefore the praise it received came from a genuine place. When GB has a vested financial interest in a game doing well, we know with 99% certainty that there are all kinds of internal and/or external forces at play that might lead to dishonest coverage. Why not avoid all these complications and just enjoy that GB is seen as an outlet with integrity. An outlet that people want to support on a monthly / yearly basis based on this reputation. Why make a dent in that reputation when it's the nr 1 reason they are so successful right now? If they were really hurting for the extra money, it would be less damaging to GB's reputation to just stop offering 35$ sale prices for yearly subs.

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#27 Posted by Rigas (782 posts) -

The last thing Jeff and the guys would want is to take money from Video Games companies. That's why the podcast ads are never about video games. Whether it's there or not it would add an inherent seed of mistrust to their opinions. Did Jeff really like Wind Jammers or is he just in the pocket of Data East?

GiantBomb was founded because of some nasty business where a website was taking money from a game and wanted a higher score.

So while it's admirable that you want to give back to Giantbomb, there are ways to support them. Premium memberships, merchandise, buying the non-video game products and services they advertise, or browsing the site without an ad blocker.

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#28 Posted by cikame (2654 posts) -

Similar to how Youtube Red supposedly gives money to the people you watch, i give money to GB through the subscription and occasional merch purchase.
As far as other Youtubers go with regards to video game reviews, i tend to follow people who arn't afraid to give their real opinions, life Jeff, if people are going to be mislead it won't be me.

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#29 Posted by Icemael (6875 posts) -
@dryker said:
@icemael said:

A game critic's job is critical evaluation of games. An ad agency's job is uncritical promotion. The two are in no way compatible. Do you also want your doctor to receive commission payments from the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs he prescribes for you?

Uhh... doctors do. That's why so many doctors are constantly prescribing pain killers to people who don't need them. I turn them down all the time because I don't take pharmaceuticals of any kind, not even the common stuff, but doctors will repeatedly push me to take the prescriptions because they make a boat load of money off of them. I get your argument, but your example is just plain wrong. Why do you think the legalization of marijuana is so heavily lobbied against? It's because makers of pain relievers know it is a healthier, and cheaper, alternative, and doctors don't make any money from marijuana (I don't care for marijuana myself, but still recognize the value in it). (Someone may have already pointed this out. I haven't read all the comments yet. Just found this citation outrageous, and more than a bit ignorant. But not surprising, and completely understandable.)

The question was whether you want your doctor to receive commission payments, not whether it happens. Commission payments for prescriptions are illegal, by the way, so it probably doesn't happen except in very rare cases. Doctors may certainly receive payments for other things (consulting, speaking, research etc. etc.) that may cause bias, but as soon as the compensation is directly tied to prescriptions it immediately becomes a criminal offense. Also, only a small fraction of physicians receive payments of any kind from drug companies, at least in Europe (though I understand it's a way bigger issue in the US).

Avatar image for dryker
#30 Edited by Dryker (1007 posts) -

@onemanarmyy said:

@dryker: The problem with this hypothetical situation is that i can trust Jeff , Brad , Vinny et al. based on their past. But if there's significant money to be made from referring people to GTA 6 and Witcher 4, stakeholders outside their team are not just going to ignore the money that is left on the table by GB being brutally honest about these games and thereby turning people off if these games dissapoint. Especially when GB has already made the controversial step to use the system. Crossing that line is harder than crossing the line from 'we use the system' to 'we use the system in a way that is greatly beneficial for us'.

Upper management might start to wonder why GB is not getting a good amount of referral kickback on these megablockbuster games for an audience of their size. It might start innocent with a ' hey.. why don't you have 4 video's up for these huge games at launch?' Then it becomes 'Just let the footage do the work, don't go out of your way to mention what you don't like about how the game looks & performs. Everyone has different standards for bugs & graphical quality and they'll get to see from the video if it's manageable for them'. It doesn't have to turn to lies. An omission of a problem a quicklooker has with a game doesn't have to mean that those problems don't exist. They might just not be there for the quick looker. Just how Brad loves things about Red Dead that makes Jeff not even want to play it any further.

You might think that the crew would never buckle to this pressure, but when you really need new broadcast equipment or a new studio and upper management keeps pushing you to hit certain targets to be able to do your job competently you have to pick your battles. After all, viewers keep wondering why they have to put up with 1080P video's when all the competitors are broadcasting 4k live to our VR headsets. Just politely hold back a bit and let the positive person do the bulk of the talking and you might be able to give your viewerbase an improved GB experience in the future. Your producer might get the gear that he requires to feel satisfied about the job. Let's do 4 GTA6 videos on launchday and we'll see if that indie quicklook fits in somewhere else later. All we want is the best experience for our viewers. And not having to constantly fight for every little thing with CBS because they know we are intentionally not hitting the numbers we could get. And avoiding being cut off from CBS while we have these families to support.

With all the Red Dead Redemption 2 content on launchday, there's precedent for having a lot of content up around those bigger games, so it wouldn't be super obvious that this time there's an extra monetary reason behind the abundance of GTA6 content. Suddenly the crew is untrustworthy to the audience. Are they putting up 4 GTA6 videos for the amount of referrals such a huge game can generate for them or because they're all stoked for it? Was that a sigh when he died? Why didn't he say why he sighed? No one else heard it? Will we still get a The Eternal Castle 2 quicklook now that they spent 6 hours on GTA 6 videos or is that not the kind of game they want to cover? Maybe they never heard of it? Or is it not profitable enough? How would it be if these games were released before they started to accept referrals? Have their game tastes changed? Well i guess Jeff liked bloodborne instead of the dark souls games. And Alex started to like strategy games at some point. Maybe it's real? Maybe it's that system they're part of that makes them want to cover these games more extensively?

Dystopia: it's 10 years later and GB consists of John, Debrah, Karl & Susie. We don't know them from before this referral system was introduced. We have no insight in their ethics. We buy the big games because they like the big games. We don't buy The Eternal Castle 3. The Eternal Castle 3 doesn't exist because hardly any streamer / outlet is going to waste it's time on a game that might get 0,5% of it's viewerbase to buy it when they can get 33% of the viewers to buy GTA6 instead. And besides, they clearly love these bigger games more. After all, they keep making content based around those games. Right? It's just way more fun to play these popular games with your friends! They are popular for a reason!

TLDR: It leads to a situation where it's impossible to ignore the fact that they're receiving more money if they base their content around the more popular games (or games with a higher referral %). Right now we can look back at their ethical behavior in the past and make an educated guess that they are in fact able to be honest to us due to the current subscription system. Once the waters are muddied by directly extracting revenue from the games they cover, the trust we used to have lacks a solid foundation. We don't get to act like the subscriber money is good enough, otherwise they would have stayed clear from this new referral system to preserve the trust they've built. The question whether they get to spend their time in the way that they want is also in question by this system. The lack of outlets that don't tie their revenue to the games they cover, might also hurt smaller games due to a lack of exposure.

Bonus Thought Experience:

Would you trust GB's word on Fallout 99 when they're all wearing a metaphorical pipboy on their arms?

Bonus Bonus Thought Experience:

If an audience can't tell the difference between an honest and dishonest take, that's on them.

If the total Nier Automata coverage consisted out of 1 GB quicklook with the complaints that it's graphically not impressive, has too many obtuse systems, feels bad to play, doesn't respect time, has a very limited color palette, is a bad PC port, requires multiple retreads through the same content to piece the whole story together and is the sequel to a game they couldn't care less about, would you be able to figure out that they were being dishonest ?

I would think that's a fairly typical GB response to JRPG's and not register it as them being dishonest. We only know that it would have been dishonest, because we have this current reality where we can say with 99% certainty that GB's success is not related to Nier's success whatsoever and that therefore the praise it received came from a genuine place. When GB has a vested financial interest in a game doing well, we know with 99% certainty that there are all kinds of internal and/or external forces at play that might lead to dishonest coverage. Why not avoid all these complications and just enjoy that GB is seen as an outlet with integrity. An outlet that people want to support on a monthly / yearly basis based on this reputation. Why make a dent in that reputation when it's the nr 1 reason they are so successful right now? If they were really hurting for the extra money, it would be less damaging to GB's reputation to just stop offering 35$ sale prices for yearly subs.

All of these thoughts occurred to me. These potential problems have been discussed ad nauseam since the advent of sponsorship. They are what I was alluding to with "slippery slope". All of these things are possible, but not GUARANTEED. They're not mutually exclusive. The guys could very well be on the take now. Not very likely. Nor do I think they are. But they COULD be. Perhaps it would be wiser to be secretly on the take, than publicly, if the public is just going to assume they're dishonest because they are compensated for their thoughts. And, yes, if this compensation got us 4k streams, that'd be awesome. If they started to seem overly ecstatic about things, suspiciously so, that would suck, and I, for one, would stop watching (in theory. It's hard to say for sure, since Giant Bomb has become such a large part of my life). But that potential reality is no different than what's possible now, except they're definitely not being publicly compensated for the sales they generate. I think the root of the dilemma stems from the fact that a lot of people still view them as a reviews and news outlet. They're not really that any more. Not really. They're an entertainment outlet that happens to discuss some news occasionally (as people do), and share impressions of games they're playing. That said, their integrity is more a personal choice than an industry mandate. True integrity is resisting temptation when it's right there in your hand; not when one refuses to even expose them-self to the temptation in the first place. Giant Bomb would show more integrity if they took the compensation AND stayed impartial to the products featured in their features. Perhaps honesty is hard to detect these days since so much media is just hyperbole and sensationalism, but I'd like to think I know it when I see it. I would like to think that's what drew me to Jeff, Ryan, Rich, and Brad's coverage of games at Gamespot, then eventually Giant Bomb in the first place. Their authenticity of reaction. Not just some over-excited talking head like so much other coverage is.

Avatar image for vortextk
#31 Posted by Vortextk (915 posts) -

As stated in this thread already, it’s not Jeff I would be worried about. It’s his boss and their boss. Jeff didn’t like the shit that happened at gamespot and refused to become that person. We've literally already been through this. I never have to think Jeff wants to bullshit me false opinions for money, but I can think the people above him would like him to if the money was enough and some bad people took over key positions. It’s not about the giantbomb staff, it’s about everyone else.

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#32 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4115 posts) -

@dryker: I can see the argument that getting paid for something, inviting all these pressures, yet remaining completely honest is seen as the pinnacle of integrity. The problem is that you can be as honest as a human can be, integrity is not worth much if people are not buying it. Since we don't have brainscanners to check for dishonesty, if you want to be seen as an integer individual you have to be able to communicate this integrity to the audience in some way. Especially when the main source of income is the trust that these people put in you on providing honest entertainment. After all, that's how they have grown this business so far. Choosing to put a roadblock up for game ads in the podcast and not getting referral money from games are two ways in which they have signalled that. Being in the business for decades without any signs of payola is another. Getting fired for rejecting dishonesty, standing up for what you believe in & having a transparant business model that explains why the business can exist helps too.

Sure, they could just decide to ditch the honesty if they feel like it's more worthwhile to maximize referral money. It's not illegal. But that would undo all the work they have put in growing this subscriber-base based on that honest persona. It would make the current pillar of their business suffer. Especially when Jeff getting fired at Gamespot is still a story that rotates around the internet at large, whenever GB is mentioned. These signs of integrity are reasons why certain people have decided to subscribe and when these values are perceived to be damaged, it will be a reason to unsubscribe. And sure, we would probably be able to spot the extreme outliers of dishonesty if they veer wildly from their usual behavior. But there are more low-key ways to move the site to a direction where it makes more money for them.Take my Nier Automata thought exercise. 1 negative JRPG review that wouldn't attract much suspicion to the even the most die-hard GB viewer. Suddenly there's more room in the agenda to cover games that attract a wider amount of potential buyers or have set a higher % for referrals. Or they could've just not covered this JRPG at all. After all, they don't have a JRPG person on staff that would possibly care about it. Not all breaches of integrity have to take place in front of our eyes & ears. They could provide less content on smaller games and steer the content towards current games instead. That would be a completely explainable move ('Most of our audience just like this content better and we want to be entertaining as many of you as we can. Also, this game is rad as hell, i can't stop playing it!) , but when there's money involved a lot of people are going to add 1+1 together. When we talk about integrity, perception matters. And the perception of a subscriber powered business willing to damage that perceived integrity to partake in a referral program is just not very good. Suddenly every previous signal of integrity can be countered by 'yeah.. that was back in the day when it was still a viable pathway to run a business i guess. Nowadays they get kickback from the games they are positive about. They're as honest as a record label reviewing it's own artists.'

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#33 Posted by squigiliwams (94 posts) -

I think unless the money gets bad, they have to ride this line to keep from falling over to the twitch influencer side.

I'm 100 percent not on board with what Jason said during the bombcast about people understanding what an influencer is. I know a ton of em. They have no clue. I told them about that twitch bounty and one of them flat out thinks its a lie and that his favorite streamer would NEVER take money just to promote a game. This person is an early twenties software engineer. I struggle to think of what highschool is like right now. I imagine its kids buying things that ninja plays becuase ninja played it. I keep my premium on, and whatever money i was at one point using for twitch subs (i happen to like watching people like Gothalion play destiny, cuz i dont have the time to keep up with destiny anymore) i use for GB merch.

Premium + Merch. If it keeps us supporting them, i think thats the line we have to stay on. IF gb put a 'support us with this referral link' under a quick look, id' still use it in a heartbeat. I just dont know what the line between influencer and what GB is. They're not actually journalists anymore, and i don't mean that in a negative way. They're reviewers/ personalities. Maybe im just old and they should embrace the twitch life.

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#34 Posted by mellotronrules (2527 posts) -

i appreciate where you're coming from with this line of reasoning- but that's an approach that (for me) falls apart pretty quickly. by not taking the compensation, it takes a portion of the guesswork out of their motives. if they pulled the lever and the referral $$ suddenly flows in- yes they'd probably remain honest in their opinions, but trusting in their integrity would require a much greater leap of faith...and we don't know the bomb crew on that intimate level (even though it might feel like we do sometimes). integrity and reputation are things that are slowly, painstakingly built over time- yet quickly and easily sullied. i'd hope (and i'm confident they would) that they'd would think long and hard before they cross that rubicon.

further- things start to get really fucking weird when you consider what happens after they take the referral money. let's say hypothetically they flipped the switch last summer, and suddenly something like The Quiet Manwas on epic and giant bomb was collecting a portion of square/human head's cut from epic.

presuming they maintain their stated opinions on The Quiet Man (because of course they would)- and presuming also that you have giant bomb fans buying this bad game because it looks hilarious and they have to know (and they dutifully punch in their gb referral code at checkout)- you'd have giant bomb getting paid by square/human head to actively shit on the game they just put out.

and that seems bananas...it would seemingly incentivize square to put out bad games and incentivize giant bomb to give screen time to bad games, because both parties are getting paid regardless of quality. and that seems totally fucked IMHO.

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#35 Posted by Vortextk (915 posts) -

I'm 100 percent not on board with what Jason said during the bombcast about people understanding what an influencer is.

All of the big sites are paid off!(I've heard arguments for good review scores, and bad review scores cause of competition dollars. Like nintendo is going to pay someone to shit on astrobot lol) But my twitch streamer is completely legit! *queue 5 sponsored pieces of gear they're using and 5 spoken ads during show*

I agree. I think Jason is having way too much faith in humanity.

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#36 Posted by someoneproud (448 posts) -

As I understand it, this site wouldn't even exist if Jeff wasn't willing to say his piece honestly and with integrity, despite the pressures of advertisers. It's why I ended up here and it's why these guys are the only ones I can trust to give genuine opinions on products. I trust that there's no conflict of interest here and that holds massive value to me, some of the "influencers" I've seen are nothing but shills for anyone who'll pay. If GB start getting paid by game companies that's a big problem for me.

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#37 Posted by FinalDasa (3163 posts) -

Premium subs is a nice payment structure because what GB is selling is content. Specialized videos in addition to the base stuff GB does. That means you aren't paying for buying advice but rather buying into the idea of GB and the people and content they put up.

Compensation for buying a game they recommend or play starts to slip into the area of advertising. Whereas Premium is just selling content, compensation would be direct sales of games. GB wouldn't be encouraged to create good, interesting, or fun content for our money but rather to encourage you to buy a game.

It's too close to directly advertising the games rather than giving a honest opinion. I trust GB to not tell me to buy a game unless they truly enjoyed it, but keeping the sales and advertising arm of running a website separate from editorial is vital to maintain a trusting relationship with the audience.

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#39 Posted by Dryker (1007 posts) -

i appreciate where you're coming from with this line of reasoning- but that's an approach that (for me) falls apart pretty quickly. by not taking the compensation, it takes a portion of the guesswork out of their motives. if they pulled the lever and the referral $$ suddenly flows in- yes they'd probably remain honest in their opinions, but trusting in their integrity would require a much greater leap of faith...and we don't know the bomb crew on that intimate level (even though it might feel like we do sometimes). integrity and reputation are things that are slowly, painstakingly built over time- yet quickly and easily sullied. i'd hope (and i'm confident they would) that they'd would think long and hard before they cross that rubicon.

further- things start to get really fucking weird when you consider what happens after they take the referral money. let's say hypothetically they flipped the switch last summer, and suddenly something like The Quiet Manwas on epic and giant bomb was collecting a portion of square/human head's cut from epic.

presuming they maintain their stated opinions on The Quiet Man (because of course they would)- and presuming also that you have giant bomb fans buying this bad game because it looks hilarious and they have to know (and they dutifully punch in their gb referral code at checkout)- you'd have giant bomb getting paid by square/human head to actively shit on the game they just put out.

and that seems bananas...it would seemingly incentivize square to put out bad games and incentivize giant bomb to give screen time to bad games, because both parties are getting paid regardless of quality. and that seems totally fucked IMHO.

This is all of our dystopian bizarro futures where everything good is bad, and everything bad is good.

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#40 Posted by FlashFlood_29 (4353 posts) -

My dude, the things shit like that leads is the exact cause of this website being made. That is to say, no, absolutely not.

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#41 Posted by saispag (133 posts) -

Maybe if there was a completely un-curated list of Amazon affiliate links on some back page somewhere that if you really wanted to you could go via to give them a few $ or or cents or however it works. Maybe. But still a bit shaky. I think they do fine on the sub money from the regulars in place of that and it doesn't compromise any morals

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#42 Posted by pappafost (208 posts) -

Never trust any YouTubers, influencers, etc., who are getting monetary compensation for a product, and claim to still be objective about that product. It's not possible. The sponsor is now the influencer's business associate/colleague. You can't throw your business associates under the bus. This is why Giant Bomb being subscription-based is so valuable. They can be beholden only to subscribers, instead of needing to interact with game publishers. It's a little like Consumer Reports in a way, that is subscription-based instead of being ad based to have 'pure editorial'.