Eidos UK's PR firm has confirmed that British sites planning on posting Tomb Raider: Underworld reviews with less than an 8.0 score are being asked to hold off posting them until Monday. The news originally game from a twitter post from Gamespot UK journalist Guy Cocker, relaying a call he received voicing that very request. A representative from the PR firm Barrington Harvey spoke to Videogaming247 this morning.
"That's right. We're trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos."
When asked why, the spokesperson said: "Just that we're trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that's handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don't put people off buying the game, basically."
Well that certainly makes sense. We wouldn't want low review scores putting people off.
What the holy hell? A request like this is not only insulting, it's downright unethical. Basically they are asking review sites to withhold information from the public in order to fool them into buying a game with an artificially inflated Metacritic score...and they are doing it without batting an eyelid, as if this were just everyday business.
As Videogaming247 writes, British site Eurogamer has already gone live with their 7 out of 10 review, which the representative said had caused "problems", and the Official Xbox Magazine in the UK has also posted a 7.0. Checking Metacritic now, I can see IGN and 1UP with scores of 75, with GamePro adding to the 70 set, for a combined average of 78, which is still considered generally favourable.
In this day and age, where everything eventually winds up on the internet, it really makes you wonder how they figured they could get away with something like this without being ratted out by the more ethical gaming press. Extremely bad form, Eidos.
We've contacted an Eidos to see if the same reviewing rules apply in the US.
UK Tomb Raider: Underworld reviews under 8/10 silenced until Monday [Videogaming247]
UPDATE: Videogaming247 has posted a follow up to the original story, having received the following statement from Simon Byron, one of the directors of the PR firm Barrington Harvey:
Barrington Harvey is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say. We love Tomb Raider and believe it merits a score of at least 8/10, but if someone disagrees that's entirely their prerogative. No problem at all. Seriously: no problem.
Our original NDA stated that in order to receive an advance copy of the game, reviewers agreed not to post reviews ahead of 5:00pm, Wednesday 19th November 2008. Nothing else. No further obligations whatsoever.
As you can clearly see from the scores posted so far, Barrington Harvey has no issue with scores of below eight out of 10 being posted online. The Eurogamer review in questions caused "problems" in so much as it originally contained a couple of minor factual inaccuracies which, to its credit, the site has quickly rectified and addressed (without, quite rightly, changing the context of the review).
Any site, be it Gamespot or whoever, is entirely within their rights to post whatever score they want and no-one is under any sort of obligation to delay any review.
As an ex-journalist myself, I firmly believe in editorial integrity and the right to express an individual opinion. As an agency, we never - ever - make demands of the press in terms of awarding scores; at the end of the day, they are free to score as they wish.
Barrington Harvey has been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend - but to suggest that we can in some way "silence" reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence.
If there is one thing PR firms know, it's damage control.
Eidos UK PR firm: We are "not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say" [VG247]