This one makes me feel grubby just typing it. It seems Eidos UK’s PR firm are attempting to control the Metacritic score of Tomb Raider: Underworld. The news originated when Gamespot UK journalist Guy Cocker revealed (via twitter) that Eidos was requesting reviews of less than 8.0 for the game to be held back until Monday. The story was followed up by Videogaming247 this morning, who placed a call to the PR agency Barrington Harvey. A representative from the firm confirmed, “That’s right. We’re trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos.”
The conversation continued, “[W]e’re trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that’s handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don’t put people off buying the game, basically.” According to the representative, the 7/10 score given to the game by Eurogamer had caused “problems”.
As the story swooshed around the net, Barrington Harvey jumped into damage limitation mode, releasing a formal statement from company director Simon Byron. “Barrington Harvey is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say. We love Tomb Raider and believe it merits a score of at least 8/10, but if someone disagrees that’s entirely their prerogative. No problem at all. Seriously: no problem.
“As you can clearly see from the scores posted so far, Barrington Harvey has no issue with scores of below eight out of 10 being posted online. The Eurogamer review in questions caused “problems” in so much as it originally contained a couple of minor factual inaccuracies which, to its credit, the site has quickly rectified and addressed (without, quite rightly, changing the context of the review). Any site, be it Gamespot or whoever, is entirely within their rights to post whatever score they want and no-one is under any sort of obligation to delay any review. As an ex-journalist myself, I firmly believe in editorial integrity and the right to express an individual opinion. As an agency, we never — ever — make demands of the press in terms of awarding scores; at the end of the day, they are free to score as they wish.”
The statement goes on to say that, “Barrington Harvey has been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend – but to suggest that we can in some way “silence” reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence.”
Worryingly, even this raises questions. Quite what a PR agency — who had nothing to do with making the game — can do to legitimately ensure reviews are in line with their “predictions”, we don’t know. But perhaps we’re being naive. Either way, the whole thing leaves a sour taste in our mouths. Let’s not forget that Eidos was involved last year in the sacking of Jeff Gerstmann, after he gave Kane and Lynch a 6/10.