Kotaku writes an editorial about being blacklisted by Bethesda and Ubisoft

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jd_delgado

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So Kotaku's editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo wrote this: http://kotaku.com/a-price-of-games-journalism-1743526293. It's a pretty heartfelt Editorial mentioning that above else he stands by his reporters who received and wrote about leaked information related to then in development Fallout 4 and Assassin's Creed Syndicated that he would happily do it again. It's quite the respectable decision, and I'm glad to see the journalism part of video game journalism being taken seriously to the point where "access" becomes obsolete as a concept, and that serving your audience as honestly and as forthcoming (just like one Giantbomb.com) is ultimately the only thing that ought to matter.

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Milkman

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Good stuff. I'm sure much of the response will be "herp derp kotaku sucks" but in an industry where big AAA companies have way, way, way too much influence on what's written about, it's nice to see a publication like this take a stand.

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TheHT

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#3  Edited By TheHT

Yikes.

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Slang_N_Bang

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It's funny because some "people" still laughably think indie developers have the real power and sway.

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GERALTITUDE

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Maybe it's because I've been so focused on all the nightmarish things happening in the world right now but this is a pretty deadly serious article that ultimately amounts to "we leaked a game coming out early and the publisher got mad", so yeah, I mean, good on Kotaku etc but er, you know... we're still talking about games journalism as articles about games being made. It's not like either Bethesda or Ubisoft got mad because Kotaku outed them on some horrible business practices, or employee mistreatment or anything like that. It's just "we didn't want you to announce that, so no more access for you". Ahhhh ok sorry. Maybe I'm not giving them enough credit! Just when I followed the link I kind of expected some "GASP" moment as to why they were "blacklisted". I mean in that very same article Totilo says "you know those stories were basically just whatever for us, we have more important news we'd like to share with you". Anyways I actually do like some Kotaku stuff for the record, and am one of the "millions" who visits pretty often.

@slang_n_bang: are you... replying to the right thread/article? Was there an indie dev/Kotaku feud recently and is it related to this story? also LOL at "people" in brackets. So what are they, animals?

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Humanity

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Good for Kotaku on attempting actual journalism in this industry, but that article reads a lot like a guy ranting on facebook about how his ex isn't picking up his phone calls.

You either get the scoops and post potentially business-relationship damaging material to get the clicks, or you play by the book. You can't have your cake and eat it too. I'm not sure how they thought they can pen articles based around NDA breaking leaks and then expect these companies to be like "ahh you got us haha oops, cat is out of the bag now haha oh man you guys are good, anyway Fallout 4 is in the mail!"

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conmulligan

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#7  Edited By conmulligan

Ha! Not only does this make Bethesda and Ubisoft look supremely childish, it makes them look utterly incompetent too. It's not like their blacklist has hurt Kotaku in any meaningful way since they haven't missed a step covering those companies and their games. If anything, it gives their original reporting much more credibility. Press sneak fucks, indeed.

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Gaff

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#8  Edited By Gaff

@slang_n_bang: @geraltitude: I'm quite sure Slang is referring to a certain movement last year that was convinced that a certain indie dev "convinced" a certain reporter to give his or her game a good, but non-existent, review.

@humanity said:

Good for Kotaku on attempting actual journalism in this industry, but that article reads a lot like a guy ranting on facebook about how his ex isn't picking up his phone calls.

You either get the scoops and post potentially business-relationship damaging material to get the clicks, or you play by the book. You can't have your cake and eat it too. I'm not sure how they thought they can pen articles based around NDA breaking leaks and then expect these companies to be like "ahh you got us haha oops, cat is out of the bag now haha oh man you guys are good, anyway Fallout 4 is in the mail!"

I think it is less about strong-arming certain publishers in giving them advance copies, and more about not "shooting the messenger". Kotaku itself never dug up the leaks, their sources did. Punishing the reporters who report on those leaks that "serve the public good" while "protecting their sources" (both major tenets of journalism) just seems petty and mean.

By no means am I discounting the PR move here on Kotaku's part, but considering how many people are accepting the "game journalists are in the publishers' pocket" narrative, these kind of stories need to be told.

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konig_kei

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#9  Edited By konig_kei

This is pretty dumb in my opinion. He makes it out to be some noble sacrifice they're making for the TRUTH to give their readers but it's video games. Oh Fallout 4 is in the works, a story that will change the world. Kotaku coming at you with the truth no matter how many synth assassins Bethesda send. Just all sounds dumb to me.

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GERALTITUDE

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#10  Edited By GERALTITUDE

@gaff:ohhhhhhhhh yeaaaaah. Right. I remember now.

@gaff said:

Punishing the reporters who report on those leaks that "serve the public good".

And yeah this where it just gets too serious for me. But your last line does put it into context. With so many people seemingly believing journalists are in the pocket, maybe a declaration like this does help.

@konig_kei said:

Oh Fallout 4 is in the works, a story that will change the world. Kotaku coming at you with the truth no matter how many synth assassins Bethesda send.

:D

@conmulligan said:

If anything, it gives their original reporting much more credibility. Press sneak fucks, indeed.

:D

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Retris

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Thus is not unique to gaming but I've never understood the news value of leaks like these. I don't really feel like I gain anything from knowing Apple is working on a new iPhone.

The worst are the ones who try to spoil movies, those hurt my enjoyment of the movie so their effect is completely negative.

Not that I side with the game companies on this. This just seems so childish from both sides.

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villainy

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Eh. On one hand it's Ubi's/Bethesda's pool, they're the rightful gatekeepers when it comes to sending out review copies and providing official info to the press. On the other hand it's pretty dumb for Kotaku to be punished for doing their jobs.

Whatever though. Publishers have decided it makes good business sense to "blacklist" press outlets in this way. Outlets should notify their readership when they believe this has happened so they can manage expectations when it comes to content regarding those publishers' releases.

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SpaceInsomniac

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#13  Edited By SpaceInsomniac

@humanity said:

Good for Kotaku on attempting actual journalism in this industry, but that article reads a lot like a guy ranting on facebook about how his ex isn't picking up his phone calls.

You either get the scoops and post potentially business-relationship damaging material to get the clicks, or you play by the book. You can't have your cake and eat it too. I'm not sure how they thought they can pen articles based around NDA breaking leaks and then expect these companies to be like "ahh you got us haha oops, cat is out of the bag now haha oh man you guys are good, anyway Fallout 4 is in the mail!"

Yep, I think you nailed it right there. Also, Kotaku has done enough shit articles and displayed enough hypocrisy for me that they sound kind of stupid claiming some sort of moral or ethical high ground here. I'm pretty sure they're still owned by Gawker media, and I'm pretty sure that makes them highly worthy of a blacklisting to me.

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mikemcn

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#14  Edited By mikemcn

Why is the videogame industry obliged to tell journalists everything they want to know?

When a journalists writes about how fantasy sports betting is a problem, does fanduel respond to the emails they send?

The cooperation between game companys and journalists has always been too easy. Good reporting creates some amount of friction between who is reported on and who does the reporting.

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SSully

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Yeah I think this article is a complete piece of shit.

Good on them for having established values and sticking to them; they believe putting out leaked info is a benefit to this industry and their readers. Great, go for it.

But them getting blacklisted is not surprising, in fact it's kind of a logical reaction. Them bitching about it really adds nothing except make them look silly.

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newmoneytrash

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#16  Edited By newmoneytrash

i totally understand bethesda and ubisoft's point of view, though. like you have a group of people who are releasing things that have been unannounced and in development, and then those same people expect you to work with them and provide them with resources. that's not really a good relationship

that's not to say that kotaku should not have published those things, but it shouldn't really be seen as some noble sacrifice

bethesda and ubisoft not sending advanced copies of games isn't petty. it's just them no longer engaging in a business relationship that hasn't been beneficial for them

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456nto

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#17  Edited By 456nto

If you are going out of your way to "upend" (as the article states it) the plans of the marketing/PR team and they decide not to play ball with you, tough shit - and what the fuck did you expect? No, Bethesda and Ubisoft do not have "contempt for the whole of the gaming press" - Giant Bomb has casually talked about their rumours and leaks on a regular basis, the difference is that you don't see a massive clickbait article on the front page presenting the rumours and leaks as fact. Clearly the publishers don't view Kotaku as a trustworthy business partner, and after this guy just aired his dirty laundry, I wouldn't either. What an unnecessary, whiny article.

By the way, if an article tells you "our readers deserve the truth", your bullshit geiger counter should be crackling off the charts. That sounds like something a parody of a journalist would say.

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newmoneytrash

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@456nto: especially when their "truth" in regards to their blacklisting was all based around leaks and speculation

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hassun

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The fact that Totilo waited so long to write that makes me wonder if Kotaku is actually hurting from their lack of Bethesda/Ubisoft access.

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ProfessorEss

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#20  Edited By ProfessorEss

@spaceinsomniac said:
@humanity said:

Good for Kotaku on attempting actual journalism in this industry, but that article reads a lot like a guy ranting on facebook about how his ex isn't picking up his phone calls.

You either get the scoops and post potentially business-relationship damaging material to get the clicks, or you play by the book. You can't have your cake and eat it too. I'm not sure how they thought they can pen articles based around NDA breaking leaks and then expect these companies to be like "ahh you got us haha oops, cat is out of the bag now haha oh man you guys are good, anyway Fallout 4 is in the mail!"

Yep, I think you nailed it right there. Also, Kotaku has done enough shit articles and displayed enough hypocrisy for me that they sound kind of stupid claiming some sort of moral or ethical high ground here. I'm pretty sure they're still owned by Gawker media, and I'm pretty sure that makes them highly worthy of a blacklisting to me.

I'm also with humanity on this. Tried to think of something to add but this sums up my opinion pretty well. The over-the-top disgust and righteousness in this article is hilarious to me.

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paulmako

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It's a weird thing because I don't imagine most of their readers would really have noticed either way? So their review is a week later than everyone else, they can just add a note saying that they didn't get a copy from Bethesda/Ubisoft whoever. For all their other writing about it they can just link to other news websites or whatever marketing detail it is.

I don't know, it seems kinda old fashioned? Like if Kotaku was your only source of news on these things then yeah, you'll be a bit behind with knowing about it. But anyone can see a game for themselves on YouTube now. And people were streaming Fallout ahead of the press embargo. So it's not like readers in general are losing out of this.

And I imagine the marketing team have to draw the line somewhere. They can't be like 'you messed up our announcement roll out but we forgive you know, just promise not to do it again!'

Kotaku can't be a place that prides itself in talking about leaks getting devs to talk anonymously and still expect typical treatment from marketing. It's like Robin Hood expecting the Sheriff of Nottingham to offer some free bread at feast time.

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excast

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I see both sides of this.

Kotaku feels as if they have a responsibility to report on stories regardless of if said stories fit into the long term brand management wishes of larger publishers.

And at the same time, if a company feels as if an outlet like Kotaku has gone out of their way to undermine them, why should they feel any real responsibility to provide early access to games or help direct traffic to the site?

I look at the Fallout 4 controversy in a similar way to how Gizmodo, another Gawker site, acted when they seemed to be involved in the shady acquisition of a prototype IPhone back in 2010. Gizmodo acquired something in a way they shouldn't have and it strained their relationship with Apple for years. And why wouldn't it?

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Sergio

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This is so stupid, and I'm actually not talking about Ubisoft or Bethesda. What did Kotaku think would happen if they reported on games either company was still working on and weren't ready to discuss, let alone announce publicly? Unfettered access? Of course not, it's easier to just start ignoring any of Kotaku's requests.

Totilo is a bit childish here trying to seem like the big man with great journalistic ethics delivering important news that gamers need to know, but those big nasty game publishers don't want you to know. And you should know they don't want you to know. What a bunch of idiotic grandstanding.

Honestly, I'm surprised Kotaku hadn't been blacklisted by other companies for some of the unprofessional articles they've written in the past. Perhaps it's because Ubisoft and Bethesda are big enough that they don't have to put up with Kotaku's shit. They'll still sell their games to readers of other gaming sites, and Kotaku will still cover their games because their readers would go elsewhere if they didn't.

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Cagliostro88

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#25  Edited By Cagliostro88

The fact that this article came out after the release of both games makes me think that Bethesda and Ubisoft realized that blacklisting them has not actually hurt the coverage and ultimatly the sales of their games so they'll keep the ban up, making Kotaku go public with this because they have nothing to lose by damaging further their relationships and using the audience in trying to make these publishers backtrack.

Or maybe i'm just still a bit drunk and reading too much into things

Also lol at that title :D

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ArbitraryWater

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This comes off to me as a bit of a "Have your cake and eat it too" scenario. If you want to do the "serious journalism" thing, great! But it turns out that reporting on things that big companies don't like may eventually result in them cutting you off. It doesn't reflect well on Bethesda and Ubisoft that they did this, but you'll also have to excuse me if I think Kotaku's bottom line is in any way being seriously hurt by a lack of early review copies. I always got the impression that anything remotely journalistic on their site was being paid for by the endless torrent of clickbait and fluff regardless.

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Duhvinci

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I'm going to have to side with the pubs on this one. If I spent 10s of millions of dollars making a game and a website leaked my script, I'd probably not want to talk to them anymore, either. This is on top of the many many other questionable things Kotaku has written in the past

Also, them playing the "ethics" card is very amusing to me. Uncovering and leaking the Trans Pacific Partnership is journalism, leaking a video game script is just douchey

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deactivated-601df795ee52f

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I don't know, that whole article felt like Totillo is trying to act like a victim of the big bad game industry and trying to play off Kotaku as some kind of bastion of games journalism. They shared a bunch of content clearly not intended for the public, did they think Bethesda or Ubisoft is going to just shrug it off and hand them a Pipboy edition on a gold platter?

It's like if someone released a bunch of naked photos of their girlfriend/boyfriend and expecting them to call back.

This whole article just reeks of attention grabbing to me. They shame Bethesda and Ubisoft into potentially talking to them again, or nothing happens and they still get a shitload of clicks and people buzzing about how they're fighting for journalism or something. They win either way.

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wjb

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#29  Edited By wjb

Eh, I'm not going to get into it with anyone about Kotaku because a lot of people here don't like the site, but with the exception of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo keeping stuff close to their chest for competitive reasons, I never understood why the games industry still keeps projects so secretive. It's about as paranoid as the WWE.

Sure, surprises are nice, but it seems juvenile compared to other mediums. Movies just announce shit well in advance. We knew about a new Ghostbusters movie for months; we knew about the main cast for months; we saw a photo of the cast in uniform for months; and we still haven't seen an actual trailer yet. People are still excited.

They showed Fallout 4 at E3, and everyone was stoked, but everyone knew it was mostly going to happen anyway regardless of any news scoop. There might've been a slim chance Bethesda did something new, but Fallout seemed inevitable after the success of Skyrim. If they had announced it prior, I think everyone would've still been excited, because it's Fallout.

It seems like every publisher wants that Chris Jericho pop where everyone is crying in their seats because a new Kingdom Hearts was announced. Snore.

Games press can always come off a little entitled, but it's the nature of criticism. Roger Ebert gave a ton of bad reviews, but he still was given screenings for critics, unless there was no screenings for anyone because of the film was garbage.

If a publisher doesn't want to give out review copies or fly out people for events because a site did their job and revealed a project that could've been revealed anyway because oh my god who fucking cares if there's another Assassin's Creed (hot reveal, Ubi), then fine, even though it does come off a little childish. But giving the silent treatment for months/years kind of makes it seem like they are afraid they know how childish they come across.

I'm going to side with Kotaku. It's like Totilo said, it's all about ruining some dumb marketing plan that isn't with the times.

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Oldirtybearon

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Game companies tired of Kotaku's shit. More at 11.

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deactivated-58670791014d2

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That was like reading a Jim Sterling article with out profanity.

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DrDarkStryfe

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It is amazing how accepting the gaming community has become with the closeness of the press and publisher. I always felt it was scummy for people to get excited for articles on large sites with titles like "Large AAA game has gone Gold!" or "This game's director says their game is great!"

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None_Braver

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I think the game companies have too much power. You get little snippets of it from Jeff and the gang over the years. Companies shouldn't have a say in how the reporters do their jobs.

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blackblade500

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I really enjoyed this and Kotaku has become a great place for some video game writing, with Jason Schreier, Patrick, and Stephen Totilo. They are really one of the only places that has actually investigative type reporting, and is something that I have really enjoyed. I feel like it is not the job of "game" journalists to act like the mouth of the PR and to follow their PR plan, if they get something about a new game in development and it is vetted and true, than post it.

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BoccKob

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Uh, why would game companies be okay with employees leaking what I suppose would technically be considered company secrets to some fifth rate rumor site? Why would reporting rumors of a video game being developed be some kind of achievement or in any way comparable with actual journalism? Is that guy completely insane?

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newmoneytrash

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#36  Edited By newmoneytrash

@wjb: the development of games and the development of movies shouldn't be compared

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mems1224

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I mean, good for Kotaku that they keep getting these scoops but the publishers have every right to cut off relations with Kotaku since they keep leaking internal information for their major upcoming games.

This just seems childish on Kotakus part since they're basically trying yo strong arm Bethesda and Ubisoft into dealing with them again by airing their dirty laundry in public.

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Mirado

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#39  Edited By Mirado

There's a real simple equation at work here: Will we make more money off of article X or review Y1,Y2...Y(n), if there's a chance Z that we get blackballed by whatever company is involved in X and Y?

That's it. They made their call, presumably got a bunch of hits for the leaks, and decided to roll the dice on getting cut off. They did, and now they're whining about it or something. I don't get it, really; Bethesda or Ubisoft (or anyone for that matter) has no obligation to provide anyone with review copies, they just do so because they figure they'd make more money through exposure. There's really no moral high-ground here; if they were reporting on some sort of industry abuses or shady business practices, I could see myself being more sympathetic to their plight, but it'd still be well within a company's rights to withhold review copies (and they've done so for far lesser reasons than this) from anyone they choose.

As @dudeglove pointed out above, Gawker's going through some real tumultuous shit right now so it's very hard to take anything at face value, and that goes double for this. There are/were some good people at Kotaku, so don't take this as a blanket statement, but they aren't in it because "you deserve to know the truth" and they never were. Any site that trumpets that with a straight face is probably not worthy of your trust; the ones that are actually doing good work will stand out without ever making an article like this.

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TheBadYetiMan

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#40  Edited By TheBadYetiMan

It uh... kinda seems like a lot of people have no idea what being "blacklisted" means, including Kotaku. No longer getting perks like early looks at games isn't "blacklisting". Kotaku seems to think it could have its cake (leak info and constantly post unverified rumours) and eat it too (still be buddy-buddy with the devs/pubs of the games who's info they leak and continue to get insider access to stuff), and that's frankly more than a little baffling to me. It's the same way for any other entertainment/niche reporting, really. Take celebrity news for example: People Magazine always plays nice and doesn't run unverified rumours, so they often get publicists coming to them first with news or photos or what-have-you. Something like TMZ will run any unverified rumour or meaningless trash that they get their hands on, so they also don't expect to be getting any favours done for them by publicists.

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Humanity

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#41  Edited By Humanity

@mirado: But how else will the 14-19 yr. old demographic know Kotaku is standing up for them unless you explicitly tell them so?

Most hilarious are the comments below in the vein of "this is why I've been coming to Kotaku for years, this is real journalism that isn't afraid to pull punches." If Kotaku is the realest of video games journalism then there is a whole lot of anime in games I simply wasn't aware of - anime and memes.

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mavs

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@mems1224 said:

I mean, good for Kotaku that they keep getting these scoops but the publishers have every right to cut off relations with Kotaku since they keep leaking internal information for their major upcoming games.

This just seems childish on Kotakus part since they're basically trying yo strong arm Bethesda and Ubisoft into dealing with them again by airing their dirty laundry in public.

Honestly, this is probably the only kind of information a site can receive directly from a publisher that might be worth reporting. Layoffs and studio closures might also qualify. If a site receives an ultimatum or a stonewall from a publisher I'd want to hear about that instead of a press event.

GB policy seems to be if they are offered conditional access and they don't like the conditions, they just don't report. That's fine, but as a reader you have to follow the site for a long time to figure out if that's really the case.

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Mirado

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#43  Edited By Mirado

@thebadyetiman: "a list of people, organizations, etc., that are disapproved of or that are to be punished or avoided" or "a list of people or products viewed with suspicion or disapproval" or "a list of persons under suspicion, disfavor, censure, etc" depending on your dictionary of choice. It doesn't have to be industry-wide (Red Scare Hollywood style), and I think it fits quite well in this situation; of the various companies that make up the games press, Kotaku is on Bethesda's/Ubisoft's "Don't fucking deal with" list, and that sure as hell sounds like they've blacklisted them to me.

@humanity said:

@mirado: But how else will the 14-19 yr. old demographic know Kotaku is standing up for them unless you explicitly tell them they so?

Most hilarious are the comments below in the vein of "this is why I've been coming to Kotaku for years, this is real journalism that isn't afraid to pull punches." If Kotaku is the realest of video games journalism then there is a whole lot of anime in games I simply wasn't aware of - anime and memes.

Seriously, if anyone hasn't had a look at the comments on that article, head on over if you need a good laugh. I'll give Gawker credit, they've made a real business out of shoving any random post even tangentially related to the topic at hand together and calling it a website, shame they haven't been able to turn a profit from their new strategy of "let's get targeted by multiple lawsuits."

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TheBadYetiMan

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@mirado: If they were blacklisted, they'd be prevented from writing about any of Bethesda's or Ubisoft's releases at all though. This is just them no longer being privy to early bird insider perks. Kotaku is about as "blacklisted" from writing about Bethesda/Ubisoft as you or I are.

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Mirado

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@thebadyetiman said:

@mirado: If they were blacklisted, they'd be prevented from writing about any of Bethesda's or Ubisoft's releases at all though. This is just them no longer being privy to early bird insider perks. Kotaku is about as "blacklisted" from writing about Bethesda/Ubisoft as you or I are.

I don't think that's an enforceable sanction, though, and it certainly doesn't seem like a requirement from the definitions above. They can't stop them from writing about their games anymore than they can stop them from purchasing their games, but they've cut them off from every possible thing they can cut them off from. That's blacklisting in my eyes; they're being punished or avoided and considered to be censured or in disfavor by both companies. Much in the same way that actors who were thought to be Communists were blacklisted in Hollywood in the 50s, but nothing prevented them from writing about or discussing Hollywood studios with anyone who would listen.

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Humanity

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@mirado: If they were blacklisted, they'd be prevented from writing about any of Bethesda's or Ubisoft's releases at all though. This is just them no longer being privy to early bird insider perks. Kotaku is about as "blacklisted" from writing about Bethesda/Ubisoft as you or I are.

Isn't this just arguing semantics at this point? In this business, the video games coverage business that is, blacklisting basically stands for being cut off from the company in terms of advanced copies or news briefs. It may mean something more specific at large but thats what the nomenclature has become in these neck of the woods and it's easier to use the term rather than specify each and every time what they've been cut off from exactly.

Either way I read some more of the comments below that article and I didn't even realize Kotaku has to authorize every single comment before it's posted. Seems like a weird choice for a company that is so keen on "laissez-faire" journalism.

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Sergio

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#47  Edited By Sergio

@thebadyetiman: That's more like censoring than blacklisting, which they couldn't do. They can't stop Kotaku from writing about anything. They can stop making their games available to them before release or refuse granting them interviews, while doing both for other outlets. It's not the same as blacklisting in the old Hollywood system where an actor could be prevented from working with all the studios because they pissed off one. I do think you're right though; blacklisting would be getting other developers and publishers to stop dealing with Kotaku.

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TheBadYetiMan

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@mirado: What? This is nothing at all similar to the Hollywood blacklist of communists. You were literally blacklisted from Hollywood, as in it became almost impossible for actors/writers/directors to do their actual career. Kotaku is being cut off from perks. No longer getting invited to private vacation playtests or receiving exclusive first-look footage is not even slightly close to blacklisting, and to be honest it's a little bit insulting to all the men and women who had to unfairly suffer through McCarthyism that you'd compare it to a video game blog no longer receiving a free flight out to Montreal to stay at a nice hotel and check out the newest Assassin's Creed.

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Tennmuerti

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