Duke Nukem Forever for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC from Gearbox Software and 2K Games hasn't been scoring so well in early reviews, and a public relations firm tasked with promoting the game decided not to take the low scores and criticism quietly. In an angry tweet last night, Jim Redner of PR firm The Redner Group lashed out at the Internet for not always betting on Duke. Ars Technica sums up the now-deleted tweets.
[T]he Redner Group's official Twitter account posted something you almost never see: an open threat stating that outlets who reviewed Duke Nukem Forever poorly may not receive review copies of games in the future. Anyone who has done this job for any amount of time has suffered through a dry spell after giving a publisher a bad review, but this is the first time the threat of a blacklist has been made public.
"Too many went too far with their reviews...we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom," the company tweeted. "Bad scores are fine. Venom filled reviews...that's completely different," another tweet read. Currently, Duke Nukem Forever has a Metacritic score of 49 on the Xbox 360, the format most commonly sent to the press. For a game with such a large marketing budget and name recognition, that's shockingly low.
And that's about where it would have stopped had the Internet not taken notice. See, when one shouts bile out into the online world, it shouldn't be a surprise that someone will see it and react accordingly. Redner's threat traveled far and wide around the gaming community this morning, and by the afternoon, 2K cut away from Redner completely. Kotaku has that update.
2K games told Kotaku that they don't endorse the comments made by Redner and confirmed that "The Redner Group no longer represents our products."
"We have always maintained a mutually-respectful working relationship with the press and do not condone his actions in any way," a spokesman said.
It's unusual that inside baseball talk makes its way into the community at large, but it does shine a light on what is usually a backroom elephant: low review scores resulting in withheld information and limited access. Everyone in the industry has had to deal with this problem in one way or another, and while it's a shame that Redner torched itself in this fashion, if there's any good to come out of this story (and, really, it's surprising to me that it's breaking so widely considering that it doesn't directly impact players in a way that most would care), it's that perhaps the publishers and developers who do engage in this kind of blacklisting behavior behind the scenes will remember that people will be watching for more examples of what Redner threatened as time goes on now that more are aware of the practice.
Full disclosure: I'm slated to receive a review copy of Duke Nukem Forever and another copy to give away as a contest prize, but not from The Redner Group.