Variety's Ben Fritz opined in his column The Cut Scene last week that the concept of an "exclusive" review, specifically the case of IGN's Grand Theft Auto IV review, was something he found troublesome. His entry on the matter read that Fritz seemed less concerned with the 10 out of 10 score, but that IGN securing an exclusive review—as it often does with game announcements, media and interviews—was the thing ethically troubling. (We suggest you read Fritz's original post, lest we misinterpret it in some sort of telephone game.)
The reviewer in question, Hilary Goldstein, editor-in-chief at IGN's Xbox 360 channel, talked to GameDaily about the GTA IV review mini-hubbub, chalking up Fritz's concerns to a possible grudge.
Goldstein theorises that "if Variety didn't get the game early then you're looking at somebody, I don't know, who had a grudge on his shoulder because he didn't even have the game yet and we'd already put out the review." He thinks that to break an agreed upon embargo, similar to the one we agreed to with Rockstar for our own GTA IV review, would be a bigger ethics violation.
While I don't think that sums up Variety's particular concern and IGN editors swear everything's kosher, that no money or promises were exchanged, I think it's simply a matter of frustration with how coverage in the video game media industry is handled, how it's doled out to established video game outlets like IGN and not to those not known for their video game coverage. What may be simply a sign of an immature, capitulating industry, one populated with zealous fans, may not be as ethically troubling as it is indicative of one that needs to grow.