Publisher Defends Negative IGN Review Of Their Game, Shoots Down ‘Supposed Conspiracy’

Publisher Defends Negative IGN Review Of Their Game, Shoots Down ‘Supposed Conspiracy’

Game publisher Paradox issued an unusual statement this morning, defending a negative IGN review of their newest game while shooting down conspiracy nuts who believed that IGN’s criticism was influenced by outside factors.

The conspiracy, which originated in Gamergate circles because of course it did, alleged that IGN freelancer Rowan Kaiser (who has written for Kotaku) trashed Paradox’s new game Stellaris because he’d once heard the publisher support video-maker John ‘Totalbiscuit’ Bain.

“Totalbiscuit is not a popular, adorably controversial figure in gaming,” Kaiser had said on Twitter in July of 2015. “He is a serial harasser who made GG mainstream. No game company, no PR people, nobody should talk to or about him other than on those terms. When I was at ParadoxCon this year his name was said as someone who can sell games with mentions. I instantly felt worse about being there.”

(At the time, Totalbiscuit responded on his Soundcloud, denying those allegations. “Rowan Kaisers allegations against me are entirely false and we consider them libel,” he said.)

Kaiser’s review of Stellaris, which gives the game a 6.3/10, criticises the new space strategy game for becoming “a largely uneventful slog” after a promising start. (Kotaku‘s Luke Plunkett had similar complaints.) For the past two days conspiracy theorists have attacked the review on Reddit, YouTube and social media, to the point where IGN’s review editor Dan Stapleton felt compelled to defend Kaiser on Twitter.

This is all very stupid, of course — as is often the case with Gamergate conspiracy theories, the link between Paradox and Kaiser’s distaste for Totalbiscuit is very tenuous — but Paradox sent out a statement this morning nonetheless. In it, the publisher stands by IGN and Kaiser, despite the negativity.

“Contrary to a lot of opinions we’ve seen posted, Rowan is a very logical choice by IGN,” Paradox said. “Although, yes, we would disagree with the lower-than-liked score that he eventually awarded us, he does have experience of our previous titles and has over the years provided his professional opinion on those, too. It would make sense that IGN would make use of his experience to review Stellaris.”

Paradox also made it clear that they want nothing to do with the conspiracy junkies. (In case you’re wondering: Totalbiscuit has not commented publicly on any of this.)

“The second and perhaps the most important topic is a supposed conspiracy suggesting that Rowan would have a personal vendetta against us or our games due to his/our relationship with other game critics,” they said. “This is categorically NOT the case. Those named in said conspiracy (including Rowan) are professionals in their field and we are absolutely confident that such feelings would never colour review content.”

The full response is classy, and it’s a credit to Paradox that they addressed it so well. Yet, considering the actual facts at hand, it’s unbelievable that they needed to respond at all. Such is the internet in 2016.


  • Ah yes, going for the low hanging fruit insults at TB. Personally always found him to be entertaining and eloquent myself. These guys seem to be having a bit of an upper-class tanty…

    • Don’t forget that messaging TB about wishing his cancer would kill him while he is in hospital getting treatment is not considered harassment.

    • Where was the “low hanging insult”? What has that got to do with “upper-class”?

  • This is compelling me to once again give Paradox my money. They’re not afraid of negative criticism and they won’t jump on the conspiracy train to try and ignore issues with their game.

  • I’m pretty sure, if you listen quietly, you can hear the collective Kotaku (US) office thank God that it’s IGN copping a GGer blast this time and not them.

    • My favourite part of the Anti-GG sentiment expressed by a number of Kotaku writers, with their subtle and not so subtle shots here or there, has to be how it pretty much always come off just as petty and childish as some of the shit GGers do.

      Because fuck professionalism, right?

      • Yeah, I’m not that connected with or interested in the whole GG thing, and I really agree. You can phrase criticism without sounding petty, but this article didn’t do that.

        • Sure, it could come across as petty and childish to some, but I’d sooner read it as an uninhibited response to something that is actually so damn ridiculous; enough that it’s no longer possible to treat seriously.
          Because fuck professionalism, right? (No sarcasm intended).

          • You may be right, however, that sounds very subjective. Like I said, I don’t know shit about them, so that’s not how I come at it. I tend to just default against snark and smugness. For example from the article “This is all very stupid, of course — as is often the case with Gamergate conspiracy theories,”. If this was phrased “Gamergate has a poor history of ill-informed theories”, it still carries the same meaning, but doesn’t sound so eye-rollingly smug.

            The overall point was I find writing like this alienating even when I agree with the the meat of the matter.

          • Point taken, and by all means valid.
            I guess it comes down to the reader. I don’t disagree that, as a journalistic article, it really should have been written in the manner that you’ve stated. But with that said, a part of me, personally, is relieved when I read it as bluntly as it was presented in this article.
            To each their own, but you’re certainly not wrong. It works for me because I agree with Kotaku wholeheartedly, but that’s just me.

          • I have the same response when people start talking about Big Pharma or Loose Change. Their theories are just so far-fetched and utterly unfounded that you can’t help but talk about them with a hint of disdain.

      • Why should they treat gamergate with professionalism? That’s like when Fox News or someone invites completely uneducated climate change deniers on to debate actual real scientists, as if they were remotely equal and deserving the same respect. Just looking at the twitter hashtag for 20 seconds showed me a dozen “SJW” and “false flag” and nonsensical conspiracy nutters.

        • Because it’s about being above resorting to childish bullshit, especially if you want to claim you’re a professional journalist, etc.

          You are no better than those you’re trashing otherwise and in turn will most likely be taken about as seriously as you take those GGers.

        • Ooops. Didn’t even make that correlation!
          Rowan Kaiser is the man who reviewed Stellaris for IGN.

    • You can trade, but it’s not a trade system per se- it’s not like Europa Universalis where there’s a layer of trade beneath everything, or trade ships plying back and forth.

      Clunky sentence, but not really inaccurate

  • That is pretty darn classy. Good to see a publisher defend the independence of reviewers and critics after all the bribery tales of the past. As a former reviewer myself, I’m well acquainted with editors attempting to change scores at the behest of publishers and marketers.

  • Part of me thinks even responding to the conspiracy claims simply gives it more power. This won’t simply go away just because paradox said otherwise.

  • It’s really hard to constantly read Kotaku articles that claim reasonable approach to stories and issues but then read petty insults, generalisation and dismissal all through an article that reflects my position but in a way I find wholly immature, defensive and stifling. I just wish Kotaku would drop this team-mentality to the acknowledgement of issues. I just don’t understand why it’s so difficult for this site in particular to actually present something holistically without making excuses about not acknowledging make-believe, inherently evil positions without even stating why beyond a vague, passive aggressive insult.

  • Well this isnt what i though it was. I honestly though it was paradox comming to the defence of IGN against the normal “X company didnt pay IGN enough $$$$ for a good review” that normally gets thrown around when IGN gives a low score while other sites dont

  • And Paradox claim to be a game company! Shouldn’t they be trashing the reviewer’s reputation and threatening to pull all their advertising? Clearly they failed Game Company PR 101.

    Kudos to them. Next thing you know, ALL game companies will start acting like adults rather than spoiled children.

  • Much class, wow.

    I know Paradox doesn’t have much of a rep for being a top-tier, AAA publisher/sometimes-developer, but I really like a surprising high number of their published/developed games.

    The Europa Universalis series in particular has been an entertainment/enjoyment goldmine for me, priming me to get into Crusader Kings, and Cities: Skylines beat (the gutted non-SIMs-reskinning remnants of) Maxis at their own game. King Arthur – despite my low play-time – is actually one of my favourite Total War clones ever. Warlock is my favourite Civ clone. Leviathan: Warships took an under-explored game mechanic and stuffed it to the brim with class and fun (plus, dat trailer, yo). Majesty 2 is an old favourite from my 00s days, I’ve heard only good things about Mount & Blade: Warband’s ambitious freedoms, and Magicka was novel, worked well, and was funny. Did Pillars of Eternity NEED a separate publisher when surely Obsidian could’ve tried their hand at it or used their other contacts? Whatever the reason, it was Paradox who picked it up. And I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve played of Stellaris so far.

    These guys have a good eye for excellent games, and publish for some really innovative, smaller dev studios. That, and their comportment regarding a poor review makes me really want to root for them.

  • Very Classy Paradox, ive been playing the game since it came out (set it too 1000 stars 44 AI) and don’t find it bland or boring at all. But my god I think ill be playing the same session for the next 10 years, its just too damn big.

  • Such is the internet in 2016.

    To be fair you’d be better of saying such is humanity since we learned how to carry pitchforks and pass judgement.

    • Their method of operation would kinda turn me off accepting their ‘support’, even for a good cause.

  • No it’s a good choice for the Publisher to defend on. Even a spark can start a wild fire, even if it’s from your own campfire to begin with. Best to put potential conspiracy theories out before they get ahold. If anything, they might take a point or two from the review, or any & make the game better! : D

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