Friday, October 21st 2011

Battlefield 3: EA Allegedly Tried Filtering Reviewers

When a blockbuster game is about to be released, there's always a certain amount of pressure placed on reviewers to give it a good review, which is considered a hazard of the business. Reviewers can also be filtered, sometimes subtly, so that only potentially the most favourable get to review the product. However, it appears like Electronic Arts went the extra mile to filter out potential bad reviews of Battlefield 3. Some reviewers in Norway, including gamer.no and gamereactor.no were asked to complete a questionnaire before they were given access to early review copies of the game. It appears that EA planned for reviewers that didn't answer the right way to be unceremoniously dumped. However, it didn't exactly turn out as they planned.

This is the questionnaire that was emailed to reviewers:

- Did the reviewer personally review BFBC2 or Black Ops?
- What score did he give it?
- What is his past experience with Battlefield?
- Is he a fan of Battlefield?
- Is he a fan of Call of Duty?
- Has he been playing BF Franchise? BFBC2? 1943? BF2?
- Has he expressed enthusiasm or concern for BF3? What are they?
- Did he play the beta? Did he enjoy it / get frustrated with it?
- What is his present view on the game?

Seems a little iffy, doesn't it? EA quite obviously want to gauge a reviewer's preference between BF3 & CoD and use that to decide whether to give the game to them or not. However, there was a bit of a storm about this and the issue was even reported on Norway's top news site NRK. This has since forced EA to withdraw the questionnaire, explaining the reason it went out as "human error". EA Norway marketing manager Oliver Sween made the following statement:
It is a human error that was sent out. We have made a mistake and we apologize. It is not something that should have happened earlier or [that] we intend to continue.
It's a real stretch to think how this could have been anything but a deliberate attempt at reviewer manipulation. Human error is making a typo, not writing a whole piece designed to gauge a reviewer's product preferences! Given the high stakes involved aka millions of dollars, it's not really surprising that they might try it on. At least they knew to back down and save face in this instance.

If this practice is allowed to continue, then it threatens the integrity of independent journalism, potentially, leading to biased and untrue reviews. These would then gloss over or outright lie about things such as serious game bugs, poor graphics, poor gameplay and any number of other nasties sure to ruin the gaming experience. They would end up reading like a PR puff piece and damage the reputation of gaming review sites significantly. Of course, these dodgy reviews would make gamers very unhappy customers when they realized they'd been duped, likely resulting in the eventual reduction of future game sales as gamers lost confidence in them. But no matter, the games publishers would have that reliable old scapegoat "piracy" to fall back on and blame for their hard times (or less good ones) wouldn't they? However, it looks like the checks and balances in the system are working, so we are fine for now, for the most part. It would be naive to think that no corruption was taking place anywhere.Sources: Kotaku, PC Gamer, gameranx & bf3blog
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115 Comments on Battlefield 3: EA Allegedly Tried Filtering Reviewers

#1
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
Thanks to BumbleBee for the lead. :toast:
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#2
Red_Machine
Wow, and EA were supposed to be on the straight and narrow these days...
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#3
KieranD
Qubit is this another editorial?

Bah companies always do things like this, i remember some sites where allowed to release GTA IV reviews early because they advertised the game.
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#4
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
All companies try to contain bad press to some extent. This isn't very surprising.
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#5
Red_Machine
by: KieranD
Qubit is this another editorial?
Are people ever going to let that go?
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#6
Damn_Smooth
Right or wrong, I can kind of understand why they did it. BF3 shouldn't receive a lower score because the reviewer has a loyalty to COD. Hopefully they wouldn't let fanboys review games though, I'm thinking that's the only reason that I haven't been asked by anybody to review Intel and Nvidia products. :D
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#7
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: KieranD
Qubit is this another editorial?

Bah companies always do things like this, i remember some sites where allowed to release GTA IV reviews early because they advertised the game.
No, but I'll do one if the right story comes along! :) Read the source stories, they all pretty much accuse EA of reviewer manipulation.
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#8
MT Alex
by: KieranD
Qubit is this another editorial?
Sounds like it to me. Might have to add "William Randolph Hearst" to the byline. Remember the Maine!!!
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#9
Bow
by: MT Alex
Sounds like it to me. Might have to add "William Randolph Hearst" to the byline. Remember the Maine!!!
Showing your age:laugh:
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#10
Damn_Smooth
So any news story that an author shows an opinion on is an editorial? Even if the opinion is shared by all of the authors of the source material? Whatever.
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#11
MT Alex
by: Damn_Smooth
So any news story that an author shows an opinion on is an editorial? Even if the opinion is shared by all of the authors of the source material? Whatever.
Absolutely. News articles are supposed to be neuter/neutral in both subject and person. Take a journalism class, learn the 5 W's.
Posted on Reply
#12
Damn_Smooth
by: MT Alex
Absolutely. News articles are supposed to be neuter/neutral in both subject and person. Take a journalism class, learn the 5 W's.
Find me a tech link that fits your criteria. I don't think I've ever read one that didn't show the author's opinion.

Edit: Besides a product announcement.
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#13
MatTheCat
Quite right they should filter who gets to do an early release review!

Year after year CoD is the same old pile of wank yet year after year the gaming media score it in its high 90's across the board. None of these reviewers who rate CoD should be trusted for whatever reasons and I for one think it is a good thing that EA make efforts to overlook them.

Nothing worse than reading a review written by a blatant fan boi of a competing franchise (especially when that franchise is a pile of soggy CoD wank).
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#14
Batou1986
Out of all the ppl buying BF3 im willing to bet 80% of them could care less about a review
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#15
PVTCaboose1337
Graphical Hacker
Qubit, most time you inject you opinion into a news story it should be relabeled an editorial.

Regarding the story, yeah all companies do this to some extent, nobody should be outraged. Same thing with hardware reviewers: If W1zzard was a tough reviewer he would never get to review things. This is not new.
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#16
BumbleBee
by: PVTCaboose1337
Qubit, most time you inject you opinion into a news story it should be relabeled an editorial.

Regarding the story, yeah all companies do this to some extent, nobody should be outraged. Same thing with hardware reviewers: If W1zzard was a tough reviewer he would never get to review things. This is not new.
not really.
Each question may seem harmless on its own, but together they make it clear the publisher was trying to filter the reviews so they'd be handled by people that would be pre-determined to give the game a positive score and/or slag off Modern Warfare 3 in the process.
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#17
DannibusX
I don't really care who EA allows to review their game. Or rather who EA doesn't allow to review the game.
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#19
TheLaughingMan
Or they could have just been using them as a sample to see how the game is received by people who love CoD games and Battlefield games alike. Could have just been a blind survey for research.

I don't honestly care one way of the other, but it would seem if they really wanted to control reviews, they would do it a market with viable sales figures. I am sure Norway is a good market, but would it not be 10 times better to control the US or EU market?

This just seems like over reaction to BS.
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#20
erocker
Ahmadinejad could of made this game and I'd still want to play it.
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#21
Damn_Smooth
by: erocker
Ahmadinejad could of made this game and I'd still want to play it.
I agree, but EA didn't even make the game. I'm not going to let corporate policy fuck up my enjoyment of DICE's hard work.
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#22
20mmrain
I still have faith in the game for sure.... But as far as this news release goes.... What did you expect it is EA. They are known for doing sketchy shit all the time. But in no way does this make me change my judgement on Dice. It might make me think twice about there judge in distributors and who they team up with. But I would like to still think DICE is respectable.
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#23
Volkszorn88
Who cares? Has nothing to do with the game it self. Still going to play the sh*t out of BF3. FFS, It's BattleFuckingField3!
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#24
Fx
by: Batou1986
Out of all the ppl buying BF3 im willing to bet 80% of them could care less about a review
I am in the 20% then. I am not saying that I take everything at face value though. I am willing to bet that if most reviews give a product/service 5/10 or 3/5 then the product is in fact just an average product/service
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#25
f22a4bandit
I don't think something like this would harm independent journalism. It's independent journalism that's brought about changes in society, not big news. Big news corporations like to publish things like "Spanish sink the U.S.S. Maine!" to grab readers' attention.

As for the questionnaire, I honestly don't see what the scruff is about. So EA wants to give early access to reviewers who prefer BF3 to MW3, who cares? Activision/Blizzard most likely does the exact same thing, just look at the rave reviews on COD: BO.

The only thing that should persuade you one way or another is how you personally enjoy a game, or who you trust doing reviews.
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