Game Journalists Shouldn’t Be Public-Relations Shills

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I work a nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday job. I commute to the city every day for 90 minutes before I finally sit down at my desk. On the return, I travel another 90 minutes until I can see my wife and son again. His smile as I walk through the door is the only thing that keeps the bloodcurdling rage from this soul-crushing routine at bay.

I do this because I have bills to pay. My real passion lies here, though, with Bitmob. I write for this website not only because it’s a creative outlet for me — one in which I can partake in two activities I enjoy greatly: writing and video games — but also because of the high journalistic standards upheld by the staff and community alike.

And, like many of you here, I hope to eventually get paid for this one day.

So when I read an article like “MS: Halo 3 Outsells Major PS3 Exclusives Combined” from an outlet like Destructoid, who claims 1.8 million unique, monthly visitors, I’m annoyed. Jim Sterling merely regurgitates information first reported by Hot Blooded Gaming, who cites Director of Product Management for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Aaron Greenberg.

The money quote:

Just in from research team (NPD): Halo 3 has outsold Resistance 1 + 2, Uncharted 1 + 2, Killzone 2 and God of War 3 COMBINED…wow.

What does Sterling have to say about this tweet? “Wow is the right word.” Hot Blooded Gaming’s Tyler calls Greenberg’s statement “a pretty amazing fact.” What the fuck just happened?

I’m particularly peeved because not an ounce of skepticism comes through in either article, nor do I feel that a second of fact-checking took place. At the very least, I’d expect a little digging in order to gauge just how close Greenberg is to the truth.

Are we not journalists?


While I — and probably these journalists, too — don't have access to NPD numbers, we have other sources at our disposal. I checked VGChartz and collected all the available sales data for the titles mentioned. I also decided to be a little generous to Greenberg and included Halo 3: ODST in the numbers. (All numbers are in millions.)

Game Americas Japan EMEAA Worldwide
Halo 3 7.94 0.13 2.94 11.01
Halo 3: ODST 3.82 0.06 1.36 5.24
Total 11.76 0.19 4.30 16.25
Game Americas Japan EMEAA Worldwide
Resistance: Fall of Man 1.47 0.14 2.08 3.69
Resistance 2 0.93 0.10 0.85 1.88
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune 1.39 0.12 1.67 3.18
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 1.58 0.12 1.59 3.29
Killzone 2 1.08 0.08 1.14 2.30
God of War 3 1.94 0.04 1.43 3.41
Total 8.39 0.60 8.76 17.75

Well, well, well. If we just count Halo 3 numbers, which is exactly what Greenberg said, the combined Sony exclusives likely sold more in every single region. Even if I’m generous and count ODST as well, he’s likely only right about North America. As I said, NPD numbers may be different, but this at least provides some context so that we can intelligently assess Greenberg’s tweet.

A quick and dirty Google search for “aaron greenberg halo” reveals that pretty much everyone else lent their mouths to public-relations spin. A few also report that Sony doesn’t care, but that only provides the reader with a "he said, she said" frame for the topic. A journalist’s job is to discover and reveal the truth — not simply print each side of a debate.

Readers don't have time to research every claim their eyes scan over — that's what journalists are for!

Community member Dennis Scimeca touched on this subject just this week, too. He described an incident in which Xbox 360 World Magazine misquoted Epic Games' Cliff Bleszinski by erroneously attributing part of a question to the game designer. The enthusiast press then paraded the false quote around, quietly assuming its truth without bothering to check out the facts.

And both — the Greenberg tweet and Xbox 360 World's screwup — are examples of sensationalist stories. The Bleszinski quote merely served to rile up an East versus West debate over game development, while reporting Greenberg's statement only fueled the console flame war. What substantive discussion can result from a exercise in dick measuring?

It may seen inconsequential, but these things matter. Journalists need to verify whether an industry professional's statement is the truth precisely because he has a vested interest in framing facts in an advantageous manner. Simply reporting what one company says and the other's response is lazy journalism, and readers are left in the dark.

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