A commenter on sister site Valleywag, who claims to be a current Gamespot employee, wrote anonymously about the current situation surrounding rumours of former editorial director Jeff Gerstmann's termination. The new user, known as "gamespot", who does a fairly solid impression of a bitter employee of CNET, if nothing else, provides possible insight into the emotional state at Gamespot's editorial staff. In response to a Valleywag post that quoted another supposed CNET employee, one whose "gut" had informed them that Gerstmann was fired for unspecified "larger" reasons, "gamespot" chimed in. Many had questioned the timing of the termination, wondering why, if the Kane & Lynch: Dead Men review had been published over two weeks ago, was Jeff fired just two days ago?
Commenter "gamespot" responded.
The main problem here is that no one in the entire editorial team was aware that this was about to occur, least of all Gerstmann. We're very clear in our review policies that all reviews are vetted by the entire team before they go live - everything that goes up is the product of an entire team's output. Our freelancers are especially guilty of making snide comments, but those are always yanked before the review goes live, because everyone in the office reads these reviews and makes sure they're up to our standards before they get put up.
If there was a problem with his reviews, then it would've been a problem with the entire team. Firing him without telling anyone implies that anyone else on this team can be fired at the drop of a hat as well, because none of us are writing any differently or meaner or less professionally than we were two years ago before the management changed. I'm sure management wants to spin this as the G-Man being unprofessional to take away from the egg on their face that results after a ten-year employee gets locked out of his office and told to leave the premises and then no one communicates anything to us about it until the next day.
Addressing the timing, "gamespot" weighs in again.
Also, despite the fact that this occured two weeks ago, there was no way they were going to fire him then; the last big games didn't come out until just before Thanksgiving, and there was no doubt that management knew that the rest of the reviewers would refuse to write any reviews after his termination, which is indeed what is happening. After thanksgiving nothing major comes out in games; everything is either before thanksgiving or comes out in January. They waited to fire him until they knew that any strike or walkout by the rest of the staff wouldn't have much of an effect.
Also, keep in mind that these salespeople do have axes to grind with editorial. I know a lot of people busted their asses to get not only this large deal with Eidos done, but also other huge ad deals. The salespeople and the marketers are the ones who have to deal with the publishers when a heavily-advertised game gets a bad review, so obviously they like it if every game that comes out is peachy keen and gets a 9.0 or above. If a salesperson knows anything about unprofessional review practices, then that says a lot about the management team that we have in place because not a single other member of the editorial team had heard word one about this until Jeff was fired. Surely site management would want to let us know about their concerns before firing the most senior staff member and one of the most respected game critics in the industry? If they're sharing their concerns with the salespeople and not with us then that says a lot about their priorities.
In response to Valleywag write Paul Boutin's opinion that he doesn't believe the rumour that Gerstmann was solely fired for his Kane & Lynch review, partially based on the fact that no named sources have weighed in on the topic, "gamespot" responded again.
No one wants to be named because no one wants to get fucking fired! This management team has shown what they're willing to do. Jeff had ten years in and was fucking locked out of his office and told to leave the building.
What you might not be aware of is that GS is well known for appealing mostly to hardcore gamers. The mucky-mucks have been doing a lot of "brand research" over the last year or so and indicating that they want to reach out to more casual gamers. Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we've started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up. Other publishers have started giving us notes involving when our reviews can go up; if a game's getting a 9 or above, it can go up early; if not, it'll have to wait until after the game is on the shelves.
I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were "multiple instances of tone" in the reviews that he hadn't been happy about, but that wasn't Jeff's problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that "AAA" titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site.
I know that it's all about the money, and hey, I like money. I like advertising because it pays my salary. Unfortunately after Kasavin left the church-and-state separation between the sales teams and the editorial team has cracked, and with Jeff's firing I think it's clear that the management now has no interest at all in integrity and are instead looking for an editorial team that will be nicer to the advertisors.
When companies make games as downright contemptible as Kane and Lynch, they deserve to be called on it. I guess you'll have to go to Onion or a smaller site for objective reviews now, because everyone at GS now thinks that if they give a low score to a high-profile game, they'll be shitcanned. Everyone's fucking scared and we're all hoping to get Josh Larson removed from his position because no one trusts him anymore. If that doesn't happen then look for every game to be Game of the Year material at GameSpot.
Please note that this post is tagged "rumour" for a reason. We have no way to confirm that commenter "gamespot" is actually employed at Gamespot or CNET or has access to information about the current situation.
GameSpot editor (?) on fired reviewer [Valleywag]