It's one of the biggest nights in the gaming calendar, and BAFTA has insisted that the "quality" of the 2011 GAME British Academy Video Games Awards is not affected by Rockstar's surprise decision not to enter Red Dead Redemption.
Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz sister publication Eurogamer TV ahead of this evening's ceremony, BAFTA COO Kevin Price said: "We don't have the right to automatically enter a videogame. We encourage the publishers and developers to enter. We're not happy that Rockstar game isn't in the longlist this year, but the simple answer is it wasn't entered."
And Price rejected suggestions that the game's absence damaged the credibility of the Awards, stating: "The Awards are a mechanism to draw public attention to the industry and, from BAFTA's point of view, the artform.
We're not happy that Rockstar game isn't in the longlist this year, but the simple answer is it wasn't entered
BAFTA COO Kevin Price.
"I think one of the positive aspects of this, if there is a positive, is people are talking about it. When we make a decision on Best Game or the winner of a category, we're not saying there's only one good piece of work. It's all about getting the public thinking about what makes a good videogame."
He added: "So no, in short I don't think it affects the overall purpose and the quality of the Awards. We would rather that game was in the longlist and we'll continue to encourage Rockstar to enter in the future".
A Rockstar spokesman declined to comment on its decision when approached. However, sources familiar with the matter have revealed to GameIndustry.biz that relations between the publisher and organisation cooled in the aftermath of the 2009 Awards, when Grand Theft Auto IV failed to win a single prize.
While Red Dead is not up for any of the main BAFTA gongs this year, it does feature on the shortlist for the separate public vote category, the winner of which will also be revealed tonight.
Explaining the entry process for the Awards, Price said: "If we entered everything you would end up with a huge pool of content, many of which wouldn't be in the running. So we deliberately don't go down that route - we adopt a process where you have to physically enter to be considered".
Meanwhile, Price revealed that increasing the number of videogames members of the Academy was a "priority in the next five years", to bring it in line with film and TV membership in accordance with the equal weight the charity now gives to gaming as a creative form.
"Specifically [with] videogames we have about 300 members," he said. "There are others from film and television that have experience in the field, but in the UK we currently have 5000 members so that gives you an indication of how far we are on the journey.
"In the next five years this is actually a priority for the Academy. We would like to get that 300 up to a much more significant number, certainly into four figures".
Held at London's Park Lane Hilton, this year's British Academy Games Awards will be streamed live via www.bafta.org.
Eurogamer TV today published a video special on the Games BAFTAs, asking how important the Awards are the industry, including exclusive interviews with BAFTA, its games committee and the recipient of this year's Academy Fellowship Peter Molyneux.