EA Games under fire for ‘blacklisting’ critical Anthem reviewers Explosive allegations by Australian video game reviewer shines a light on open games industry secrets. #AnthemGame
“Destiny killer” Anthem is facing scathing criticism and it seems that instead of making promises to improve the game, EA Games has decided to hit its critics where it hurts. Their wallets.
Youtuber Gggmanlives, whose game reviews have garnered an impressive 212k subscribers, earlier today alleged that his negative review of the game prompted the entertainment giant to blacklist his channel from future cooperation.
While most youtubers who review games care little about any company’s feelings, those who do it as a career depend on early previews to draw an audience and stay relevant. This early access — as well as other benefits like exposure and giveaways — is often part of exclusive programs like EA’s Game Changers (of which Gggmanlives is a member), and being blacklisted can be a crippling blow.
The allegation was first made after fans of the popular youtuber noticed his Anthem review had been removed from YouTube.
“I finally managed to get my #AnthemGame video done and sadly I don’t have many positive things to say about it,” tweeted the Aussie youtuber when promoting that video. “I hope they can fix the game over time by listening to player feedback, but right now it’s a hard sell. And it’s a damn shame.”
When comments about the video being unavailable started coming in, the youtuber tweeted that he is now blacklisted by EA and had to delete it.
I'm blacklisted by EA now and had to delete it.
— Gggmanlives (@Ggdograa) February 22, 2019
He then released a new edit of the video where he reveals that EA had deemed his review “too negative.” “And I guess on top of that I’ve been added to the long list of blacklisted youtubers.”
“Re-editing this video though has allowed me to go over what a lot of people have been saying about the game and given me the comfort in knowing that I don’t think I was really alone in my sentiment about how I felt about the game, because after having played the full version of the game I can still say confidently that this might be the most disappointing game I’ve played in 2019,” he added. “And at times it feels rushed, poorly thought out, or, in some cases, unfinished.”
A day prior to uploading the review that apparently got him EA blackballed, Gggmanlives was provided several promotional codes of the game by EA Australia — presumably in the company’s anticipation of a positive review.
Fans have pointed out that EA Games used Gggmanlives’ legal disclosure in stating he is a member of Game Changers as a tool to attack his video for being too negative.
In the original Anthem video, the youtuber stated that he received a copy of the game from EA. This was never a problem in the past, but just as anyone familiar with the program can attest to, a clause in the Game Changers agreement prohibits reviewers who receive free copies from casting an overly negative light on the game — thus prompting the takedown.
Given Anthem’s broadly negative reception, Australian content creators who conspicuously have had nothing but positive feedback for the game are now facing accusations of “shilling” for EA Games. The theory is backed up by their open partnership with the studio through free giveaways for their audience.
EA Games’ alleged tactic of coercing good reviews is far from a new phenomenon to the games industry. The most well-known instance of review manipulation happened over a decade ago, when GameSpot unceremoniously fired its editorial director, Jeff Gerstmann, following external pressure from Eidos Interactive over a poor review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. Much like EA, Eidos Interactive had dumped heavy loads of advertising money into promoting its less-than-stellar product — even going so far as transforming GameSpot’s entire website layout into a giant ad for the game.
In the case of EA Games, the publishing giant has been promoting Anthem as a game to rival Activision’s Destiny and BioWare’s greatest creation yet — replete with a “10-year plan” of its own to turn Anthem into a long-running franchise akin to World of Warcraft.
And despite the publisher’s success with Apex Legends, there’s a lot at stake for EA and daughter company BioWare. It’s an open secret that Anthem is the “make-or-break” title for the Canadian studio following the collapse of the Mass Effect franchise, so it’s no surprise that EA Games is pulling all the stops to make sure the middling title gets good press.
EA Games disputes allegations that it has blacklisted Gggmanlives. In a response to another Australian content creator, SkillUpYT, EA’s International Manager of Community Engagement wrote: “Hey both, just want to clear something up. Nobody has been blacklisted by us, our team in Australia asked the video be taken down because some of our conditions on disclosure on sponsored weren’t met. Nothing to do with the content of the video.”
The response prompted SkillUpYT to request direct clarification from the EA spokesperson.
Can I ask what conditions weren't met? The disclosure seemed identical to his preview video, and identical to all other Game Changer disclosures I've seen.
Regardless, I think it would have been perfectly fine to leave the video up and avoid this Streisand effect.
— Skill Up reviewing #Anthem (@SkillUpYT) February 22, 2019
As of the time of publication, the question remains unanswered, prompting even more questions from an audience that’s already out of patience with EA Games. So much for damage control.
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