Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

September 29, 2008 -

The owner of public relations firm which represents video game publishers also runs a video game website at which games are reviewed.

Credit Joystick Division with bringing the situation to light.

The game review site in question is GameCyte, while the P.R. firm is TriplePoint (formerly Kohnke Communications). Richard Kain (left) runs both. From Joystick Division's lengthy expose:

Richard Kain, TriplePoint PR’s General Manager and Founder, in fact formed a new company – Pantheon Labs – under TriplePoint’s roof to create GameCyte, as a way to bring “quality journalism” to the gaming media – and then deliberately concealed his ownership of Pantheon and GameCyte.com using domain privacy services like Domains By Proxy, a Joystick Division investigation indicates.

 

Then, when it came time to put together the GameCyte team, he staffed the site exclusively with TriplePoint PR employees – his former account executive the site’s most prolific reviewer. And by Mr. Kain’s own admission, some of the highest-reviewed games on GameCyte are from Telltale Games – a company he just so happens to be invested in.

Venture Beat's Dean Takahashi offers additional info:

In a phone call with me today, Kain said, “I f***ed up in terms of the degree of disclosure.” He noted that he had links to both firms on his Facebook page but neglected to disclose the ownership in the “about” page for GameCyte. Now the “about” page has been changed to include the disclosure...

 

 You can put this one down in the “major whoops” column. It’s going to be hard for people to give the PR firm the benefit of the doubt and to trust GameCyte’s reviews, given how the relationship was unearthed. But so far, it doesn’t look like anything worse than bad judgement.

GP: We linked to GameCyte twice last week on stories which added follow-up information to the Activision piracy lawsuits revealed recently on GamePolitics. Activision is not listed among Triple Point's clients.


Comments

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

While we're on the subject of user reviews and a three-point review system, you all might want to check out my site, www.gamemagi.com.  It is that very thing, except even better (in some ways, at least).  It's based on a specialized voting system (where you can vote "Buy", "Try", or "Trash" for any given game) that takes into account your preferences along with the preferences of everyone who's voted before you to help you decide whether or not you'd like a particular game.  If you're really curious about the mechanics, make sure you read my FAQ.  

Oh, by the way, it's still getting off the ground, so forgive the lack of data that's on there -- I don't have enough users actually using the site yet. 

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I'm suprised noone has taken Game Informer magazine/website to task for being owned by Gamestop.  The dubious credibility is very similar to this review site in question.

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

Yeah, but I don't think that Gamestop has ever tried to hide that fact. I think they are pretty open about their ownership of the site/mag.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
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Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

sounds like a good idea im think it better then what most of the other sites even ign and gametrailers.

oh idea do it where the editor can review but it like a player review that way you can have all points and who ever is the highest rated will be top score like ^^ said above me

Thanks Zaruka

Thanks Zaruka

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I am half tempted to create my own review site that ONLY has user reviews, who is interested in that idea?  If I get enough people to agree with it, I'm going for it.  The highest rated review will become the main review, then that is that.

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Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I think that's actually a really good idea. 

The only problem I'd see with it would be the rating scale that'd abe in place.  If it'd be a number or grade system, different people will rate in different ways, thus giving a myriad of biased results.  Plus I think those rating systems are just dumb and insubstantial.  I mean, what really seperates a 9.5 from a 10, or even a 9 from a 10 for that matter when you don't know the way that number is even chosen?  Did they have a team average it out, or did some guy just pick a number to the way he felt about the game?

I'd suggest that the rating a person could give a game would be a choice of three options: if they liked it, if they were impartial, or if they didn't like it.  Then, there'd be some program that'd tally the points, average it all out, and that would be the score that's displayed.  For example, a game with 6 thumbs up (+6), 3 impartials (+.5), and 1 thumbs down (+0) would be a 75%.  This would then be displayed up on top where it'd say something like, "The average rating for this game by our users is 75%."  Below it'd then show that 60% liked the game, 30% thought it was ok, and 10% didn't like the game.  This satisfies most people's need for some sort of number or rating to something that's mostly unratable, and it does it in a transparent, unbiased (from the hosting site, at least) manner.

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

Sounds a lot like amazon but on a 3 star basis.

Personally, that is how I would do it myself but with 5 stars.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I write reviews on my LJ, but I use a completely different scale.

Not stars, not x/10, not A/B/C/D/F but "how much would I pay for this?"

 

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

That makes a nice scale. Goes from 'Not worth the disk it is pressed on' all the way to 'You are only asking $x for this?!?!'

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

The monetary scale will definitely be an improvement on the scale of things, let uses decide on how they review and rate the games in their own unique way giving on the review page with a max of 2000 or so letters/words.Themonetary scale is the score that is shown and tracked by the site by.

How how would the monetary scale work in increments of 1.00? 5.00? max of 200? 0-200?

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Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I use the POOMA source for numbers. I usually limit to common prices ($19.95, $29.95, etc). $0.00 is one option that I've used a few times.

http://sqlrob.livejournal.com/tag/game.review

 

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

Ya but some would pay 20-40$ more than retail price, so realistically you need 0-150 as the collectors and limited editions are 80-120/130, but its not to far fetched to have a 0-200 scale its just something that would be needed for a fully configurable user review site.

You could also go in increments 0.00, 0.99,10.99,20.99,30.99,40.99,50.99,60.99,80.99,99.99 up to 159.99 but frankly with shipping prices and various work rates leaving it 0-200 will be good enough even more so if you put in place a lil currency calculator that will show the price in different currencies. Make it very user friendly give people the ability to vote up/down the review and finish it off with the currency calculator that can be set to where ever the review is from or if you plan on running multi country pages.

And I am saying you as in anyone crazy enough to make a site based on user reviews.


Frankly I would let Publishers advertise on the site but on a 5 year contract they can not get out of where they pay even if something is reviewed or not, and I would have the contract stipulate that the publishers has no control over what the site says in the reviews the only power they have is to give a interview, propaganda packages and demos we just have to review the stuff as its given and I say this knowing they wont touch the site until its become a fad and then they will clamor to it begging to be let on and then they will be forced to some open rules first off the contract is listed on the site stating the words of the deal of coarse NDA is not a problem because the site wont sign away rights to be fully open about a demo or project its real simple you do not want "us" to talk about it don't show it to "us" in the first place thats how a real review site should be run. The minute information protected is the minute its caned spam.

Mmmm altho I could go with a NDA for plots and story's and possibly characters and of coarse inter workings of  of a dev house but beyond that nothing else needs "protecting"....

I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/
(in need of a bad overhaul)


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

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Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I am all for that. Another thing to do is to not have any ads for games or game systems. If you need ads, only do ads for products and services that appeal to gamers but are not the above. This could be food, drinks, computer parts, etc.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

"It’s going to be hard for people to give the PR firm the benefit of the doubt and to trust GameCyte’s reviews, given how the relationship was unearthed. But so far, it doesn’t look like anything worse than bad judgement."

It's going to be hard for people to trust a gaming website's review when it's owned by a PR company, period.

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

Heh. Never trust the ratings. Best to just rent a game and test it out yourself.

 

-Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! Jack Thompson is gone, but we are not done... Not yet.

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Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

 I dont see a huge problem with them having a review site. They should disclose information like that however. All of the major reviewers appear to have some bias though. I've noticed that G4 is in love with Bungie, IGN with Rockstar Games, and Yahtzee with Valve. Whenever they review games from their favorite developer, I have to take those reviews with a grain of salt. Who knows, this site may prove to be the most objective review site on the web.

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

 The controversy about gaming review sites and the companies they invest in is nothing new. Many gaming sites (cough gamespot cough) and mags have been accused of biased reviews because they need the advertising. This however, seems the other way around. 

Kain's the one investing in the companies, and while he needs them to do good, he's the one giving them money. Technically, investors are the ones calling the shots; any Wall Streeter will tell you that.

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

Yet one more reason to avoid the official reviews of gaming review sites. Just read the reader reviews. Don't bother with any other ones.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

I give this article 5/5. :P

Seriously though, this doesn't help the controversy (See also, Kane & Lynch)

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