Negative Duke Reviews Could Lead To PR Shitlist

Negative Duke Reviews Could Lead To PR Shitlist

A third-party public relations firm tweeted last night that they would be “reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t” based on the bad reviews pouring in about Duke Nukem Forever.

“Too many went too far with their reviews… we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom.” Jim Redner, of The Redner Group, tweeted out.

Redner later backtracked in an email sent out to an undisclosed group of publications. In that longer email (see below) Redner asked for forgiveness and called the initial email an error in judgement.

2K games told Kotaku that they don’t endorse the comments made by Redner and confirmed that “The Redner Group no longer represents our products”.

“We have always maintained a mutually respectful working relationship with the press and do not condone his actions in any way,” a spokesman said.

While it’s unusual for a public relations company, publisher or developer to so publicly call out game critics for reviews, what isn’t that unusual is the pushback and internal blacklisting.

Kotaku made quite a splash years ago when we made public Sony’s decision, delivered in an email, to blacklist us from all of their events, their games, their interviews in retaliation for publishing a reported-out rumour about the PS3 Home that turned out to be accurate. But the only thing unusual about that particular blackballing was that it was official and on the record.

We’ve since heard, and suspect we’ve been subjected to, plenty of unofficial, easily denied blackballings. It’s the ugliest part of this business. And while news reporting can sometimes spur it (I once had a executive of a company spend 10 minutes shouting in my face and calling me names at a public venue because he was upset we reported on news, not rumours, but news that put his company in a bad light) it is game reviews that seem most contentious.

That’s because with many companies, reviews can be directly connected to things like retailer orders and costumer purchases. Sometimes they’re used to determine whether a game should get a sequel or a developer or PR firm a bonus. So enough bad reviews can lead to money out of someone’s pocket and that’s when things get contentious.

No matter how passionate a team of developers are, no matter how mindful of their art form, their creation, at some point any big game is going to also have a person who sees the production of that game and its success as a matter purely of business, of counting beans and making money.

Should a game that does well get raked over the coals of sloppy criticism and rushed reviews? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that games should get a pass when a reviewer has played through the entirety of the title and found it lacking. That’s the whole point of reviews, they are an expression of critical opinion.

Our job, as game critics, is not to help promote a game or make sure that it sells well. Our job, as critics, is to offer up opinion based on full knowledge of the entire game. That’s pretty straight forward. If a critic plays an entire game and hates it, he or she should say so. If he or she loves it, write that. End of story.

I haven’t had a chance to play beyond the initial levels of Duke Nukem Forever. But when I did play those levels I wrote up a preview saying that I suspect Duke will be entirely fan service, nothing meant to expand the game’s reach or satisfy those new to the experience.

We’ll be running our review next week (our policy is to wait a week after a game hits to review it). I’m not writing it, but my discussions with the reviewer lead me to believe that our reviewer won’t make Redner happy either. But he’s not our audience for this review, so we’re OK with that.

Here’s the full apology email:


I would like a quick moment of your time to humbly ask for your forgiveness. I made a major error in judgment. I acted out of pure emotion without any thought to what I was saying. It is with a sad heart that I come to you now asking that you forgive me. I posted a Tweet this evening saying that I was reviewing The Redner Group’s policy for future reviews of video games based on today’s Duke Nukem Forever scores. I must state for the record I was acting on my behalf. 2K and all other clients had nothing to do with my comment. I want to be very clear that this came through me and was in no way affiliated with any of my clients especially my former client 2K.

Though I didn’t name names, I did say that I thought some reviews had gone too far in tone. Meaning, that the tone of some of the reviews was poor. I respect the scores, it had to deal with the tone. I was unable to properly convey that in 140 characters. But that it beside the point. We are all entitled to our opinions regardless of score, tone or meaning. My response was a juvenile act on my part. I know better and my emotion got the best of me. I have worked very hard on this project. I want it to succeed. I just got upset and acted out.

I believe we are all allowed to voice our opinions and that opinions by their very nature are correct. Many of you quickly pointed out my error in judgment. For that I thank you and apologise.

I truly respect what you do. You have helped me achieve a little bit of success in this industry. I depend upon you. Your coverage is of the utmost importance to me. You have helped me secure coverage for all of the projects that I have touched. I have tried to treat you all with respect, dignity and honesty. Tonight I threw that all away, and I am extremely sorry.

The video game industry is an industry that I love. I have tried to dedicate myself to this industry. Tonight I failed the industry.

With much respect, I hope that when we meet again you will be able greet me with a smile and without malice. I will gladly do the same.

I am truly sorry for what I did. I know better than that. If I have caused you any issues, now or in the past, I apologise.

Best of luck,

Jim Redner


    • But that requires more time, money and effort! They spent 11 years and gave us DNF! Imagine how long a good game would take…

    • I think you may have missed the point. It appears the publisher respects the (vastly shared) opinion of the critics – but the public relations firm* acted on emotion and potentially damaged the reputation of everyone involved in DNF.

      * yes, one person, but one person represents the company

  • Probably just a PR stunt. It IS Duke. I would expect the ad campaign to be much more outrageous than this to begin with.

  • “Your coverage is of the utmost importance to me.”

    … except when it’s critical?

    “I have tried to treat you all with respect, dignity and honesty.”

    … except when he didn’t.

  • This is bullshit. If stuff like this actually happens then… well… it’s no wounder people don’t take games journalists seriously.

    • Crysis 2. look at metacritic.

      Kayne and lynch

      donkey kong drama scandal

      all major game review sites are on the take. Kotaku thankfully isn’t so bad. They’re up the arse of their business associates such as (the absolutely horrible) GoodGame program (which has one slightly competent guy + a vapid teleprompted slag who you can tell has never played a real video game in her life).

      But I digress, go on what your friends say, all the major sites sell good reviews to game companies these days.

    • I didn’t laugh per-say, but it took the second comment containing ‘DNF’ for me to register they were referring to duke. The first comment ‘did not finish’ is still in context.

  • I do think Duke has been getting an unfair bashing from game reviewers too. I played a few minutes of Black Ops and went “meh, who cares.” Yet I am loving playing DNF because it is different.

    IMHO, game reviewers take what they are doing too seriously sometimes. FFS! You aren’t sitting there sipping a new shiraz, reviewing it and trying to come up with new words that are analogous to “fruity”.

    • Me too, could only stand 10 mins of Black Ops before uninstalling it. I am enjoying DNF, will play it to the end. It’s got a brand of “newness” even though it’s 11yrs old.

      “Power armour is for sissies”

  • Don’t give a shit what game reviewers say.
    I’ve loved the “best” games and hated the “worts”. I’ve loved the “worst” and hated the “best”.
    As Duke would say : “Different strokes motherf#cker”

  • Freedom of the press includes the freedom to be entirely unreasonable, when it comes to reviews. There’s no point trying to censor what comes down to personal opinion. 2K needs to suck it up.

  • I’m enjoying Duke Nukem Forever, but SOME of the reviews I’ve read online make me wonder how SOME of these reviewers have their jobs.

    I would encourage developers (not publishers, I still think they’re all evil haha) to shun reviewers and websites who they think have been overly and unjustly critical of their game. Especially if the fanbase they made the game for, are in fact enjoying the game.

    Gaming websites like IGN need their features on upcoming video games to survive, especially if the game is well anticipated by the community.

    IMO, Gearbox is definitely in a position to state internally “you know what, for Borderlands 2 and Aliens:CM lets give IGN nothing. No features, interviews, inside news. Nothing. Let them be the last to know anything about the game and let them have to buy their review copy from a store.”

    These guys have to learn; you write a lop-sided one-eyed review, you have to deal with the consequences.

  • I think the highly Duke reviews are definitely a product of the age of cynicism. I used to throw games in and I try to enjoy the experience of what it was offering, not JUST the mechanics. L.A. Noire is also a victim of this, it provided such an interesting and refreshing slice of time and place rarely seen in games yet it’s been almost universally lambasted (despite good scores) for a number of technical problems. Now, these problems pissed me off as well but I never put the game down because I enjoyed the enveloping journey. “Fun” has changed. What we find fun now are plot twists, headshots, response-times, leaderboards and the tightest of tight controls.

    I watched my brother play The Witcher 2 the other day and instead of going through the journey and meeting all the characters, he would pause the game every few seconds to adjust the mouse sensitivity and the v-sync. This went on for several hours. There’s just no place for an average game anymore, especially not one that purely exists to please the waiting Duke fans that spent 12-14 years wanting to play what should have been released ages ago.

    That being siad, I’m not even sure Gearbox expected good reviews from DNF. All through their pre-release interviews they were stating how they weren’t “updating” the game for todays market, that it was for the waiting fans and it’d be released how it was supposed to be all those years ago.

    But like I said, it does bring up the question of why we can’t enjoy these games anymore, why MUST a game like Duke be criticized for not being something it never intended to be in the first place?

    • That depends what you’re saying it was never intended to be. If it was never intended to be a good, well-polished game, they sure got it right!

      • I’ve been playing it for a few days and I wouldn’t call it ‘not good’ and I haven’t seen anything that seemed particularly ‘un-polished’ myself… It’s definately not the best game in any respect and it’s not going to win any tech awards… in fact it seems to be pretty equal to what games were about 5 years ago, and that’s really all anyone *should* have expected.

  • What’s worse about their statements is that it tars the publications who gave the game a good review. A cynic might come to the comclusion the positive review was given just to appease the PR people so they don’t get blacklisted, when maybe they just happened to like the game.

  • Reviewers shouldn’t even get free games to review. They should have to buy them like everybody else. Seriously, how objectively can you review something, if you have to worry about getting cut off from the free review copy gravy-train?

  • Now call me old but i remember when Team17 (the people behind alien breed and worms) took exception to a review in Amiga Power and refused to send them any more games to review (such as their Alien Breed 3D game which actually turned out quite good at the time).

    Just shows you how petty some people can be. Well AP went out and bought their own copy of the game and gave it an honest review.

    I also remember they always gave away the ‘review bribes’ as prizes. Ahh i miss a good british game magazine..

  • I think the biggest problem has been that most the reviewers probably got sent the xbox version of the game, which it has to be said really is a rather bad port of the PC version. And tbh I can understand where the PR guy is coming from. Bad scores and negative reviews are one thing. Deliberately beating the game down without an objective criticism is another thing entirely and that’s what I’ve seen in a lot of reviews so far (not here, thankfully, tho judging the game based on its performance on an outdated console architecture is always going to be a little unfair)

    The PC version feels a lot cleaner than the xbox version, tho still a little lacking. But at the end of the day, we don’t really care whether it’s a stunner of a game.

    It’s the Duke. That trumps all

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