Eidos Wants Negative Tomb Raider Reviews Delayed, Seeking High Metacritic Score

By Chris Faylor, Nov 21, 2008 8:52am PST As Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider Underworld heads out to store shelves this week, publisher Eidos has tasked UK PR firm Barrington Harvey with managing the review scores, resulting in journalists being asked to hold off on negative reviews.

The story emerged after games journalist Guy Cocker reported, via Twitter, that Eidos informed him "if you're planning on reviewing Tomb Raider Underworld at less than an 8.0, we need you to hold your review till Monday."

Barrington Harvey confirmed the policy with videogaming247, explaining:

We're trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos.

We're trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that's handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don't put people off buying the game, basically.

It's the second review-related controversy for Eidos in the past year, following rumors that it pressured GameSpot into firing journalist Jeff Gerstmann for a negative review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, which was edited following his departure.

At the time, Eidos was heavily advertising on GameSpot. The site later claimed Gerstmann was let go "purely for internal reasons" that were "unrelated to any publisher or advertiser," though it noted Eidos' displeasure with the original review.

In a formal statement, Barrington Harvey director Simon Byron admitted the firm has "been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend - but to suggest that we can in some way 'silence' reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence."

He added that the the PR company "is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say" and noted there are already several sub-8 reviews already on the web, as evidenced by Eurogamer and OXM UK.

Byron's complete letter follows:

Barrington Harvey is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say. We love Tomb Raider and believe it merits a score of at least 8/10, but if someone disagrees that's entirely their prerogative. No problem at all. Seriously: no problem.

Our original NDA stated that in order to receive an advance copy of the game, reviewers agreed not to post reviews ahead of 5:00pm, Wednesday 19th November 2008. Nothing else. No further obligations whatsoever.

As you can clearly see from the scores posted so far, Barrington Harvey has no issue with scores of below eight out of 10 being posted online. The Eurogamer review in questions caused "problems" in so much as it originally contained a couple of minor factual inaccuracies which, to its credit, the site has quickly rectified and addressed (without, quite rightly, changing the context of the review).

Any site, be it Gamespot or whoever, is entirely within their rights to post whatever score they want and no-one is under any sort of obligation to delay any review.

As an ex-journalist myself, I firmly believe in editorial integrity and the right to express an individual opinion. As an agency, we never - ever - make demands of the press in terms of awarding scores; at the end of the day, they are free to score as they wish.

Barrington Harvey has been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend - but to suggest that we can in some way "silence" reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence.

Tomb Raider Underworld is currently available for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Wii and Nintendo DS, with a PlayStation 2 edition due next year.

A free demo of the Xbox 360 version can be downloaded from the Xbox Live Marketplace, with a PC demo available for download from FileShack.

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