After GamePro gave the game a score of two out of five, Trip Hawkins
sent an angry e-mail to the editor-in chief John Rousseau
. In it, he complains about the poor quality of the review, threatens with stopping to advertise in the magazine, and clearly implies that the real customer of a magazine are the advertisers and not the readers.
The mail in its entirety:
We at 3DO were very discouraged by the slam-job...on Portal Runner. I would hope you can recognize that I do not love all my children equally and can be objective about both good and bad features in a game as well as games that are of quality and those that are not. I do not send messages like this to you after every review. But this happens to be a game that I have played all the way through and beaten on all difficulty levels and I know the game intimately. I also have seen the profound positive effect this game has had on my children.
This sort of thing is really tragic because your online review excerpt was the first public review of Portal Runner, and it set the tone by telling the hardcore what to think. It closed minds that it could have opened. And even though your reviewer is hardly an authority on either games in general or Portal Runner specifically, his voice will be heard louder and taken more seriously than others. It's not right and it's not fair.
In any case, your reviewer blew it on this one. And we are re-evaluating our relationship with GamePro as a result.
I think it is unprofessional of a reviewer to assume he represents all his readers and all market segments and can therefore dismiss a game based purely on his personal experience of a game, particularly when he has no context about the goals and target audience of the game publisher.
The audience for games no longer consists of one iconic block of angry young men who cannot get a date on Saturday night. Reviewers who don't consult with the game publisher about the intended audience, and don't attempt to position a game in terms of who might like it and who might not like it, are unprofessional. I furthermore propose as a solution the idea that you assign a journalist during the preview stage of a game, and provide professional follow thru by having that same journalist write the review. In the case of Portal Runner, we had some ambition to reach a wider audience. We wanted to include boys, girls, women, and casual gaming men. I know from firsthand experience that Portal Runner is a hit with all of those market segments. Many of your readers are in those segments. But your reviewers are not. Meanwhile, I personally think we made a game that hard-core adult male gamers would enjoy. But I can understand that some of them would reject it the same way some adults reject Shrek or Beethoven. But personally, I think that really means there is something wrong with a man like that, not with Portal Runner.
If you disagree with me, you do so at your own peril. The industry is in a malaise. As you know, most game publishers are losing money and have cut back on advertising. Many magazines and webzines have perished. What seems needless to me is the often overly negative tone that gaming editorial takes.
Most of you have editorial staffs that are dominated by angry young men that are poorly trained and represent a narrow and anarchistic element of the world's population. They have a negative attitude and are looking for what is wrong with something, instead of looking for what is right and who might like it.
It reminds me of boys at junior high school dance. With their fragile egos, they stay on the sideline and say the band sucks, the girls are ugly, and that those brave enough to dance are lousy dancers. Your reviewers have no idea how to make a great game. None of them have ever made one. But they sure have fun telling us in a nasty tone how inferior we are to them.
I truly find it astonishing that magazines like yours seem willing to slit your own throats on occasions like this. You have so much more to gain if you are enthusiasts for gaming, and try to find the audience for a new game. You are so much better off if you do not bite the hand that feeds you. And do not patronize me by telling me the reader is the customer--your real customer is the one that pays you your revenue. And it is game industry advertisers. If you need to be able to be constantly negative you need to accept that you are like a parasite that is killing its host. In God's millions of years he has not created nor evolved a creature that would have such a stupid strategy for survival. But it is a common attitude among game magazines, despite the evidence all around them that it drives many of them into bankruptcy. You have been around long enough to know that this is true, but you have not adapted your publication.
I should mention in passing that 3DO has been one of your largest advertisers. Effective immediately, we are going to have to cut that back. If a consumer sees a bad editorial, and a positive ad, they are going to assume the ad is biased (what is frustrating is that often it is the other way around). But to make matters worse, they will think the advertiser is stupid, and it will reinforce their confidence that the editorial must be accurate, because it is also saying the game publisher is stupid. So, I don't go for that. In addition, it makes far more sense to give financial support to publications that are more professional and more fair. There are only so many bucks to go around.
In conclusion, I think you owe us one because you took us by surprise and threw our review to a wolf. And you accepted his word as God without even checking in with a major advertiser or wondering about how it makes you look to rip a game you chose to put on a recent cover.
I think we share a common vision--which is to get more people to play games and appreciate what a great thing it is to be at play. I know you are proud of the circulation increases of GamePro. We both are doing things to try to expand the audience for gaming. Unfortunately, our efforts to expand beyond the angry young hardcore are being counteracted by your angry young reviewers who don't share either my vision or yours.