Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 12, 2014
Selling out

In the interest of full disclosure I'd like to report that I received a code for a free copy of Destiny yesterday. Given recent events, that of course made me think: Will I get death threats from Woody or other people who consider free games for bloggers to be corruption? I thought it might be time to repeat a previous message of mine on the subject of selling out.

I believe that everybody has a price. Mojang is currently selling out, but for $2 billion, who can blame him? Me, I have a standing offer that you can buy my complete blog for just $100,000. I never even adjusted that for inflation or the Euro/Dollar exchange rate. If you pay me $100,000, I'll sign over the blog and the Tobold identity to you, and you can market your game with fake reviews and recommendations under that name as much as you like.

Having stated my price, I would also like to point out that I am not corruptible for less. And I very much assume that this also the case for most game writers, whether blogger or professional journalists. Yeah sure, we will take your free game, we will take your swag bag, and if you want to give us a tablet, we will take that too. Just don't expect us to change our opinion because of that.

A free copy of Destiny means that I will play that game, which I might not have done if I hadn't received it for free. This *will* increase the chance that I write about the game. It will *not* change what I write about the game. My review of a hypothetical bought copy of a game and a free copy of the same game would always be identical. Now there are small indie games where me mentioning or reviewing a game could possibly make a difference, as exposure is more important for an indie game than what exactly the review says. But for an AAA game like Destiny there is already a huge exposure, and the handful of readers of my blog won't make any difference. I received the free copy with no obligation attached or mentioned, just "Hey, I like your blog, do you want a free copy of my latest game?" from a game developer.

Everybody has a price, but most people aren't cheap. It is not as easy to buy a favorable opinion as you might think. Unless, of course, if you are prepared to pay those $100,000.

Tobold - far from giving you (or anyone) death threats I actually praised you in one post and said that I trust your opinion over journalists because you disclose and are open about everything.

Although getting a review copy is not something I expect journalists to disclose as it is just a tool for doing their job. Other people on my trust list like Total biscuit and Jim Sterling have discussed that before.

Not the same as a Nexus tablet which I'd call a "sweetener".

Sadly I have been offered some rather nice gifts but as you know I'm forbidden from accepting everything over a certain value and have to list everything else on a register.

I don't think the press would allow me to get away with accepting VIP tickets to a high profile sporting event with the excuse "yeah I took the freebie but it didn't alter any decisions I made because frankly it costs at least 100k to buy me"!

But then I could go to jail (probably just fired at my level) if found to be taking bribes as opposed to just getting a few nasty tweets.

In truth I think all of us know when something "feels wrong". Getting your free copy probably wouldn't have made you think twice were it not for recent events.

I bet if you had been given a tablet with the free copy or a roll of bank notes then I'm sure it would have "felt wrong" to you even if the publisher hadn't so much as winked when handing it over.

The fact that the tablet journalists conspired to keep it quiet and when one was challenged they claimed to have given it to charity suggests that it "felt wrong" to them too. Else why give it to charity? They obviously "felt" something wasn't right.

My theory is that publishers wouldn't spend so much money on gifts if there were no advantage to doing so.

Giving out free games to commentators is a positive practise in my eyes and shows confidence in their product.

As you mentioned death threats.... Real journalists contacted SFPD yesterday who confirmed that they had not received a call from a certain individual contrary to the statements that individual made on Twitter - which led to the mass smearing of all of us by a niche press that did no fact checking.

The only evidence we have is a police statement confirming that a certain individual lied.

I unequivocally condemn all threats and harassment by the way.
Enjoy the game. It's pretty. I'm having fun with it even completely solo. Will probably last at least a couple dozen hours, so that's good value for me.

Never quite understand why people make such a big fuss about things. I know that in my office, the policies on giving/receiving gifts to/from clients is crazy strict. Everything has to be run through our legal team. I know a couple years ago there was a big fuss over an amazon gift card and we ended up having to do attend these presentations about ethics and legal liabilities and all that. Shrug.
It will *not* change what I write about the game.

Actually, it probably will, and you won't even realize it. I don't remember the name of the effect and I'm sure some psychologist can chime in and answer, but I'm quite positive that there's an effect where unconsciously you automatically behave in a more positive way towards someone who gave you a gift, even if it's insignificant.

I remember some study on a trick used by sects: if you ask someone for money and you have X% chance of getting it, you can increase the chance simply by offering him something of little value (say, a flower), so the member of the sect approaches you, offers you a gift, and *after* you have accepted, asks for a donation. Saying 'no' is much harder, and the increased donations cover easily the cost of the "gifts".

BTW when a journalist is accepting a tablet, it's also sending a message "I like receiving gifts", so the total value of the stuff he'll get in exchange of a shift in his "opinions" can be much more than a single item.

Overall I think that your approach is the best one: accept as gift the game to review (and nothing else), and then openly state that it was a gift.
Actually I very much understand the issue at work. Even low-level employees can sometimes have a huge influence on purchasing decisions of a company. And a company making a purchase decision often involves large amounts of money.

As a blogger I can only possibly influence the purchase decisions of my readers. And as I blog about games, being "misled" by me can't cost you much more than $60. Even if I multiply my number of readers by $60 and the small probability that what I say influenced their purchase decision, the amounts of money in question are still tiny compared to the damage I could do at work.
New Gamergate revelations: Disgraced blogger Tobold admits to accepting free stuff in exchange for game reviews and a detailed analysis of his writing PROVES he is sleeping with someone of the same sex as SJW Anita Sarkeesian.
@Helistar: the name is "norm of reciprocity"

However it (along with most social tricks) doesn't work if the target has time to think his behavior over instead of acting "from the gut".

Tobold will think his review over and already started it by writing this post.
When I first saw this pop up on TAGN's blog, I thought to myself: Maybe someone watched that video about how to add microtransactions to Minecraft?
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