Final Fantasy XV is finally out and breaking all kinds of records, but there seems to be a bit of a kerfluffle over on the European side of things. AreaJugones, a Spanish gaming website, is reporting that Square Enix is taking their toys and going home because they didn't get a good enough review.
AreaJugones was told by Koch Media that they would no longer be receiving review copies from Square Enix for the horrendous crime of not scoring their games high enough in reviews. Square Enix has several PR companies to handle the publishing and distribution of their games across the world. In Europe, and Spain where AreaJugones is, Koch Media handles all that.
After publishing their Final Fantasy XV review, AreaJugones editor Juan Alberto Linares received a call from Koch Media. He was told that AreaJugones gave Final Fantasy XV a score lower than the Metacritic average, by a single point, and that this hurt the interests of Koch Media and Square Enix. Linares, not satisfied with this excuse, pressed for more information, only to be told AreaJugones also routinely scored less for Koch Media games as a whole compared to other Spanish review sites. As a result, they would be removed from the media list and would no longer receive copies.
It's certainly questionable as to if this is the whole story, with Square Enix remaining mum on the matter and Koch Media only deigning to respond to Kotaku with a curt "We have no comment to make on that story." It's not entirely out of the realm of possibility, and we don't know what else went on behind the scenes, but media blacklists in the gaming community certainly aren't new.
Kotaku's struggle with Bethesda and Ubisoft was well publicized after they were blacklisted for reporting on unannounced games in development. While large sites can still operate even with blacklists in place, smaller gaming outlets like AreaJugones aren't so lucky and fall mercy to the publishers.
Sites who have reviews up first get the traffic and page views, so small sites rely on being able to play the game in order to give a thorough review in a timely manner. Review copies sent out ahead of time allow media outlets to take their time thoroughly reviewing the game and still publishing in time for the public launch.
The implications of review copies only to favorable media is concerning. Reviews are supposed to be something you can trust. Certainly they aren't gospel, as tastes are subjective and preferences can vary, but if the only reviews published when the game launches are favorable, that skews the perception and shapes purchasing decisions.
We've seen this happen already in the form of review embargoes. Assassin's Creed: Unity had one of the most memorable embargoes, and not at all for any positive reason. The game had a review embargo in place until 12 hours after launch, essentially hiding the fact that it was a broken game and deceiving customers until far too late. Most recently No Man's Sky also had a cluster of a review embargo, and we know how that turned out.
It's somewhat understandable if a publisher decides to blacklist in the event of repeated news leaks. Game companies obviously spend a lot of time and effort getting marketing right and it can be frustrating to see it all go down the drain when half information gets leaked and suddenly the surprise is ruined or there's an uproar over something not true. But blacklisting because of low scores? Maybe if there was evidence of a grudge or low scores simply out of spite.
Perhaps this is a fault with the game review system as a whole, where anything under 7/10 is considered a failure. But that won't be changing any time soon and publishers should focus on making a better game than forcing better reviews. It's not likely this will go over very well.
What do you think of blacklisting for low reviews?