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Activision: We don't blacklist journalists

Mon 20 Feb 2012 9:35am GMT / 4:35am EST / 1:35am PST
Media

Furore over Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 news story just a "misunderstanding"

Activision Blizzard

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Blizzard, Inc. is a worldwide pure-play online...

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Activision Publishing

Activision, Inc. is a leading international publisher of interactive entertainment software products....

activision.com

Activision has denied reports of blacklisting a European blog, and argued the situation was simply a misunderstanding.

"Activision doesn't blacklist journalists" a PR agency told GamesBeat on behalf of the company.

"We believe this was a misunderstanding and are working towards a resolution."

The Call Of Duty publisher faced the accusations of blacklisting last week, after French site Gameblog.fr reported on sightings of a Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 listing on Amazon.

The game, while hardly a surprise to anyone with even a basic knowledge of triple-A franchises, has not yet been formally announced, and the news story sent the Activision PR machine into a frenzy. A representative for the company contacted Gameblog editor Grégory Szriftgiser a number of times, asking him to pull the story. He refused, at which point the company uninvited the site from a press event they had been supposed to attend.

"They also made clear that the relationship was to be severed, all advertisement plans cancelled, games not sent, and invitations to later events cancelled as well," Szriftgiser told Kotaku.

"I explained that if this was their decision indeed, we had to inform our readers of it, and would do so later in the day."

The practice of public relations blacklisting by game publishers is one that is often suspected by media outlets, but rarely admitted to by the PR representatives themselves.

26 Comments

This probably appears to be a activision PR own goal. Well done to GameBlog for sticking it out so far!

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
If anything, surely they should blacklist Amazon for listing it in the first place?!

And it's not like Black Ops 2 this November isn't totally obvious, anyway. It's not like Treyarch or Activision are going to volunteer to drop this 25-million selling instalment in favour of coming up with a new one from scratch.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
Surely it's not news to anyone that publishers do this?

Posted:2 years ago

#3

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
This kind of thing has always happened, but it's nice to see someone speaking out about it. The stupid thing is, whoever was responsible blacklisted the site because it reported on a leak from another source (Amazon FR). It's not like they leaked priveleged information they'd been given themselves in confidence, they just reported on a mistake Amazon made (something that frequently happens with various retailers).

Meanwhile every other website, from GameSpot and EuroGamer to the Metro, have already picked up the story from GameBlog and are reporting on the leak and/or the heavy handed response to it. Are they going to blacklist all of them too, let alone Amazon? Of course not, they're too big and there's too many of them.

It just comes across as petulant. They're shooting the guy who told everyone the stable door was open long after the horses have bolted, to mix metaphors.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Bye on 20th February 2012 12:38pm

Posted:2 years ago

#4
the messenger always gets shot (in a disproportionate way). Think of it as the poor guy who gets shot by a singleshot shotgun, everyone else ducks for cover. What would SteveHilton guru do?

Posted:2 years ago

#5

James Wells
Gaming Contributor - digboston.com

72 30 0.4
I came here to say exactly what Terence already said- why don't they sever their relationship with Amazon instead of badgering independent journalists?
Bad move (again), Activision. In the end, you're the one with egg on your face.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Charlie Moritz
Studying Philosophy with Psychology

19 0 0.0
Typical PR by Activision - they are pretty childish at the best of times!

Posted:2 years ago

#7

James Verity

132 25 0.2
I suspect Activision dosnt want all those ELITE players to know what their upfront cash payment was really being spent, instead of the DLC they claim it was for... lol

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Arthur Rohart
Level Designer

1 0 0.0
why don't they sever their relationship with Amazon instead of badgering independent journalists

Because Amazon is selling their games and Gamesblog is just promoting it : publishers always shut up and accept what retails say or ask, just like journalists always shut up and accept what publishers say or ask them (many French websites accept to remove the article about Black Ops 2). Well, except Gamesblog obviously.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Neilie Johnson
Freelance Game Journalist

2 6 3.0
Well this kind of thing is at the heart of the fact that there IS no such thing as game journalism. Anyone who reports something that isn't PR-approved risks having their PR relationships permanently compromised.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Barrie Tingle
Live Producer

368 144 0.4
Normally I would have been on the blogs side but since they won't co-operate with Activision in their request then why should Activision co-operate with the owners of the blog.
It is a two way street and it wasn't an unreasonable request from Activision to have the article pulled.

Posted:2 years ago

#11
To be honest, with the exception of this site (and I genuinely mean that), I think most of the games sites out there are awful, especially the trade ones. Someone needs to tell them - as Matt M mentioned the other day in his comment - that republishing press releases isn't journalism. At least, I think it was him who said it - in any event, it's so true.

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Mark Evans
Producer

3 0 0.0
I agree Barrie this is a two way street. If the Blog had played along they might have gotten an exclusive and done some real journalism later. C'est la vie

Posted:2 years ago

#13

James Berg
Games User Researcher

146 183 1.3
The news was already out by that point. Having the article pulled is going to generate more negative press (such as this piece). Very poor job on PR's behalf. If they wanted to 'punish' the blog for not doing what they wanted, at least rescind things in a week, when nobody's paying attention.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

David Mann
Artist

8 11 1.4
@Barrie & Mark: But it kind of was an unreasonable request-- Amazon slipped up, another blog caught it, Gameblog.fr followed up on the Amazon slip-up, end of story. The news was already out, and the journalist did his job: to report on the news, plain and simple. He also specifically noted in the article (and subsequent interview with Kotaku) that the entire time, none of this reveal was officially confirmed by Activision, that it was solely a slip-up by Amazon.

Further, the blog never complained that they were being blacklisted, only pointing out the fact. I'd say it's probably a very small bastion of some true journalism in a sea of publisher-pocketed games journalists-- good on Gameblog.fr for sticking to their integrity, however minor a report the whole ordeal is over.

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,246 2,228 1.0
Activision screwed up. They inadvertently created a news story where one didn't exist.

Instead of people talking about Black Ops 2 (as Activision didn't want yet), now we have more stories regarding the blacklisting issue.

The fact that BO2 is in development itself is hardly news given that Activision has publicly stated numerous time they have a tick tock yearly strategy with the CoD franchise. Activision made much ado about nothing and have created another PR nightmare for themselves.

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,516 1,302 0.9
@ Barrie and Mark

Would you accept this coralling of the press if it were "respectable" journalism? If the New York Times had printed this news, would you expect Activision to pressure them into retracting the article? Would that be "reasonable"? Just because it's a) a blog and b) a *games* blog, does not mean that Activision should come over heavy-handed. News is news, and it's not even *sensitive* news - It's as obvious as there being a new Fifa game. It's not investor related, and it's not going to affect their financial reports... It's "Oh, hey guys - this new game is coming out in 7 months... Cool huh?"

Moreover, why should the prospect of an "exclusive" be part of the motive for pulling a piece? Gaming media has long played a part as the mouth-piece of the industry, but to be so blatant... "Oh, sorry, we can't report on this tiny piece of news, because we've secured some time in the publisher's offices, with 2 PR guys behind us telling us what to think of the final game".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 20th February 2012 7:26pm

Posted:2 years ago

#17

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

734 430 0.6
I think it's reasonable for Activision to request that the blog take it down. I think it's equally reasonable for the blog to say no.


Activision were just childish in this instance. Their plans were messed up and they didn't think logically about the situation at all and so had unrealistic expectations.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Michael Murdoch
Financial Blogger/Tech segment

4 0 0.0
Doesn't surprise me. Good luck getting comments on anything that's not thinly veiled PR from the publicly listed gaming companies due to the industry stranglehold on "exclusives" aka PR pony shows.

Non-GAAP financials, no budgets, nothing of substance, SEC filings written in Engrish for Japanese ADRs. If you write on anything of substance, you will not get any response from these companies, even if your article is a "Buy" piece, which is hysterical.

Cronyism in this sector is ridiculous. The (non-trade) video gaming press will never be respectable until it's objective. We all know it's kind of tough when you get 6 jillion dollars in banner ads from the companies whose game you're reviewing that issue and an "Exclusive preview".

And as a practical matter, if you asked most people to take something down and weren't at least offering something that offered pageviews in return, you wouldn't get it.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Michael Murdoch on 20th February 2012 8:26pm

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Vincent Echelard
Program Coordinator / Teacher

1 0 0.0

@Morville

Thank you for having presented the facts in context. Journalists are not employees of Activision. They have a different roles to play.

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Jonah Falcon
Writer

27 17 0.6
Activision France put the hammer on THREE sites.

[link url=http://www.strategyinformer.com/news/16672/activision-claims-we-dont-blacklist-french-sites-disagree
]http://www.strategyinformer.com/news/166...[/link]

Only Xboxygen didn't cave.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Vincent GAULT
Art Technical Director

1 0 0.0
Really sad story... I Really hope the Activision headquarter is going to give some phone calls to their french office to fix the problem...

Please Kotaku, make a follow up on this story, just to see if Activision makes anything.

Posted:2 years ago

#22

Thomas Milne
Studying Computer Science with Games Tech

3 2 0.7
@Fran - so true!

Activision don't really have a leg to stand on here - how can you demand that a site pulls a factual story just because it doesn't fit in with your PR strategy? Ham fisted in the extreme.

Hopefully incidents like these will lead to a watershed moment (like the Team Bondi incident did for crunch), and lead to changes in games journalism.

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Graham Simpson
Tea boy

219 7 0.0
All PR is good... now people are thinking about their next CoD fix and ca . The MW3 leak never hurt ATVI at all... did they leak it themselves?

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Stephen Page
journalist

11 0 0.0
Blogs and their writers now get accreditation and are defined as 'journalists'?
There is far too much cross-over between the industry and those that report it. [shakes head]

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Alex Yuen

8 1 0.1
@Michael

well put.

@Stephen Page

Did you even check that game 'blog' website and the background of the editors? Layout of the site and background of the editors looks fairly professional & as 'journalistic' as Kotaku's.

Posted:2 years ago

#26

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