Kotaku Editor in Chief Steven Totilo claimed Thursday that Ubisoft and Bethesda not responding to inquiries from the outlet and not sending the site’s writers review copies was because the publishers had blacklisted Kotaku.
Totilo claims the blacklisting is a result of Kotaku publishing leaked details about the publisher’s games. He insisted, “The news value to such leaks is often exceedingly obvious in what it says about the state of a game, a franchise, a console or a company.”
Much of the response to Totilo’s claims was less than sympathetic — and some observers suggested that might not be the whole story.
Having been a recipient of a blacklisting by the folks at Kotaku, it's amusing to hear them complain about being blacklisted. It hurts, eh?
— Steven Williams (@Boogie2988) November 19, 2015
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) November 19, 2015
Situation with Kotaku is what happens when you get too far up your own arse and forget that you need people.
— Angela Night (@Angelheartnight) November 19, 2015
Totilo says Bethesda, Ubisoft retaliating for “journalism.” Doesn’t for a moment consider Kotaku’s endless demonisation of their customers.
— Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) November 19, 2015
https://t.co/a9AYfXNQJG This is like TMZ whining when an A list celebrity has ordered them off the driveway. Nobody owes you shit.
— Fryda Wolff (@FrydaWolff) November 20, 2015
I've blacklisted Kotaku before I even joined Ubisoft!
— Mathieu Berube (@Mat_Stomp) November 19, 2015
@patrickklepek u have no idea how damaging it is to us devs when a game we're working on leaks. Don't feign integrity,u do it for the clicks
— Eric Kozlowsky (@vonkoz) November 19, 2015
— DDyack (@Denis_Dyack) November 19, 2015
It would be easier to take the claims that Kotaku is taking a stand for journalistic integrity seriously if they weren’t the gaming outlet that convicted developer Brad Wardell of sexual harassment in the court of public opinion before the claims against him were ultimately dismissed with prejudice; or published an article defaming developer Denis Dyack based entirely on anonymous sources and then told readers to “stay skeptical” of any work he may produce again; or had to be dragged kicking and screaming into disclosing the personal relationships their contributors had with the developers they were writing about.
Don’t take my word for it; Stephen Totilo highlighted a number of issues with Kotaku’s reporting himself.
Similarly, it seems strange that Bethesda and Ubisoft would blacklist Kotaku as they claim solely over leaking information about their games when the outlet has done the same to other major players in the industry without any such repercussions. In 2011 Kotaku revealed plot details, concept art, game modes, screenshots, and a release date for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 before Activision, the largest publisher in the industry, had even announced the game was in development. This year, the outlet published a story based on anonymous sources claiming to detail the chaos behind the scenes of the development of the Activision-published Destiny. It seems odd that the biggest publisher in the world, who Kotaku has accused of blacklisting sites for reporting rumors in the past, wouldn’t take similar action against Kotaku as they have accused Bethesda and Ubisoft of doing.
You have to wonder if the self-aggrandizing claim that Kotaku is being persecuted for standing up for journalistic ethics has anything to do with, say, the massive restructuring of their parent company, Gawker Media, or their sliding Alexa ranking. Being blacklisted over leaks certainly sounds more noble than publishers giving you the cold shoulder for constantly attacking game creators over politicized non-stories and gamers (you know, their customers).
Totilo’s positioning of Kotaku as some kind of industry outsider doesn’t fly either. He unironically claims Ubisoft and Bethesda seek to “hamper independent reporting in pursuit of a status quo in which video game journalists are little more than malleable, servile arms of a corporate sales apparatus.” That sounds like quite a heroic stand he’s taking, except Kotaku has been one of the leading forces pushing back against the Gamergate consumer revolt’s characterization of the gaming press as just that for over a year at this point.
Totilo running to the same gamers his publication has maligned in the hopes of whipping up a mob backlash against game companies that no longer want anything to do with his site’s antics isn’t just petty, it’s also the same behavior he’s accused Gamergate critics of employing against Kotaku. The difference being, that was people criticizing him in comments sections and on social media; Kotaku’s using the platform of a large gaming publication to shame companies that don’t want to, and have no responsibility to, send his writers free games.
But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the situation is exactly as Totilo claims it to be. Even so, the thing that stood out to me in his post was the suggestion that experiencing “some of the year’s biggest games from street level, at the same time and in the same way as our readers” was somehow a great burden to bear for Kotaku. Why have we accepted the notion that evaluating games should be done any other way?
With more and more games, even single-player experiences, requiring players to be online, reviews based on on pre-release code or playing games at review events become increasingly worthless for your audience. If there is one constant in the video game industry, it’s the inevitable issues that crop up once a game is in the hands of the public. If you’re not assessing how the game performs “in the wild,” the same way your readers will experience it, then what good is your evaluation? That 9/10 game that reviewers enjoyed in a controlled environment seems more like a 0/10 for consumers when they can’t even access major portions of the game.
Over the past two holiday seasons, we’ve seen two of the biggest franchises in gaming receive critical acclaim only to fall flat on their faces once they were in the hands of gamers. 2013’s Battlefield 4 suffered a disastrous launch, with multiplayer that was unplayable for many who bought the game until nearly a year after it was released. Last year, it was Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a compilation of games from Microsoft’s signature exclusive franchise, that saw gamers subjected to widespread failures of the game’s online modes for months. In both cases, few reviews warned consumers of these issues, leaving gamers with a nasty surprise after purchasing games where the multiplayer was lauded in reviews and a major focus of pre-release promotional materials.
Breitbart Tech’s team of writers and editors are committed to providing consumer-focused coverage of video games. The responsibility we have to you, our readers, is paramount, because we’re fans of gaming and know the investment that gamers are making in their purchases. It doesn’t make sense to us to review games under conditions that won’t parallel the experience our readers can expect when they invest their time and money in a game.
We’re well aware that stance means we will most likely never be the first outlet to publish a review of the latest highly anticipated release, but we’ll pick being the last word you read about a game and to have earned your trust over rushing to print in the quest for pageviews, every time. And not because we’ve been blacklisted.
Noah Dulis is the Deputy Managing Editor of Breitbart News and co-editor of Breitbart Tech. Follow him on Twitter @.