News Article

Talking Point: The Challenges When Writing About Games

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Harder than it sounds

Various members of the Nintendo Life writing team will have seen one major issue clogging up their Twitter timelines in the past 24 hours, and it revolved around questions at the forefront of what we do: writing about video games. Video game writers often debate the whole practice of what you see on this site and many others, though some noticeable and high profile scenarios combined to cause a genuine controversy that was fairly big news, amongst writers, particularly in the UK but also in North America.

It's not our intention to recount or give specific views on what's occurred, but it may be of interest to you. It began with a widely circulated image of Geoff Keighley, a prominent and well-known figure in the games industry, sitting glum faced alongside a Halo 4 banner and a table loaded with endorsed products. The source of the biggest controversy wasn't that image, but an article that was written partly in reaction to it, as well as another issue doing the rounds on the Twittersphere. Rob Florence, a regular writer on, wrote an article raising a number of issues that surround commercial video game writing, though events then progressed quickly and ended with him leaving the website. If you want a full summary of these events, we recommend this article on

It represents a rather tough reality at the heart of video games journalism or writing, whatever you want to call it. Plenty of websites, including Nintendo Life, provide coverage of games and profess to tackle issues of the industry and game reviews in a critical, fair way, all while relying on advertising money and access from the industry they cover. In addition, gaming websites and their writers have to balance between giving their audience content they want, without pandering to expectations and avoiding blunt opinions that need to be shared: game sites arguably have the most committed and supportive readers, but also a readership not shy of vocalising demands or slamming a review score that isn't as expected.

To tackle one example of impartiality versus advertising directly, this website has been adorned with an extensive advert for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask for a number of days, and our review awarded the title 9/10. It's a good example, as the review was written before the advert appeared and without knowledge that it was even in the works. Even if the advert was evident as the review was being written, the demand is that our writers do not allow this to influence their review writing process. It's an example of our advertising policy in action.

Of course, it's all about whether you believe the publisher. At the centre of every website and its readership, surely, is trust. We say that we take this approach, and we do, but it's up to individuals to decide whether they believe that to be the case. It's entirely possible that someone will read our review, look at the advertising and say that the review has been "bought", or that the text was influenced by a reliance on advertising money. Some will wonder about the relationship between writers, PR agencies and publishers.

We're not exempt from these suspicions due to the advertising that we run, even if that advertising is needed for server hosting, game/hardware purchases, travel costs when visiting developers/trade shows, and so on. This is an industry where journalists and writers receive advance, free review copies of games, as well as invitations to press events, hands-on sessions, and more benefits directly from developers and publishers; they then write about those games. Many sites including this one ensure that writing maintains a critical distance and looks at games and more without inappropriate favour, but once again there's a perception that writers may speak favourably about a game because they enjoyed an event with some free food and drinks. Ultimately, work should be judged on the content produced.

As suggested earlier, there's also the challenge of giving readers the content they want to see. While posting a preview trailer for an upcoming game, for example, may be seen as providing free marketing, it's also footage that we all, as gamers, want to see. Gaming is our hobby and passion. In the case of Nintendo Life we want to share that enthusiasm and excitement with you, while also striving for a balanced view, while also running adverts for major releases on Nintendo systems; it's all one big balancing act.

These challenges aren't even unique to websites, as print magazines in gaming and other entertainment industries also have the same considerations. Nintendo Power is one infamous example, as in its early days it was actually published by Nintendo, while even today print magazines often include full page adverts for major games. It can't be escaped, as money is needed to bring magazines and websites to their readers.

The explosion of debate in recent days, prompting extensive musings on these issues and others, has once again led to video game writers at all levels, from the biggest websites to the smallest blogs, to debate the values, strengths and weaknesses of video game journalism. For our part, we'll continue to strive to deliver a brand of enthusiastic Nintendo coverage, editorial content that questions and challenges all things Nintendo, and reviews that represent nothing but the considered opinion of the reviewer.

Do you feel that advertising, freebies, launch parties and the relationship between game publications and the gaming industry often affects their content, or do you generally trust game writers to maintain impartiality? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

From the web

User Comments (97)



Wonder_Ideal said:

I haven't been on Nintendo Life long, but it has not given me a reason to believe it is being "bought." The same goes for the now ending magazine, Nintendo Power.



Wheels2050 said:

It's an important issue, and certainly not endemic to video game reviewing.

As a reader, one can never be entirely certain that a review is free from behind-the-scenes agreements, influence or other dealings. You really need to look at the reviewing/editorial history of a given site to make any sort of judgement.

Personally, I feel that any sort of personal contact with a video game company (whether that be through interviews, attending parties/functions etc.) will influence a journalist. Whether that influence is enough to significantly bias that person's articles and reviews is another question.

It's a tough thing to navigate through review sites, I find. I tend to think that smaller sites with fewer ties to industry reps will be more balanced with their reviews, but at the same time that generally means that the reviewers may not be as experienced at reviewing games - it's really hard to tell. As I said, if I stick with a site for a while I get some idea of where they're coming from.

I generally think (and it might be an idea for NL) that some sort of disclosure at the end of an article is a good idea. It doesn't have to be detailed, but just a simple statement such as "Review copy was provided by X" or "Review copy purchased by reviewer" is in the interests of readers. At the end of the day, people will make up their own minds about the validity of a given review, but in the spirit of quality journalism I think transparency is a good thing for any media source.



TeeJay said:

NintendoLife has always done an amazing job of bringing us news, trailers, talking points, etc. Every piece of news I've seen has been worded very carefully to be opinion-free (except for reviews of course, because those are all about opinions), so I don't believe any companies are influencing this site. I hope it stays this way too, because I very much appreciate the hard work you guys pour into this site.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Wheels2050 We do actually have a note at the end of the review if a copy has been provided by a publisher. The Layton review linked in this article has it, for example, it has "Review copy provided by Nintendo" under the score. The fact you haven't noticed it is maybe something for us to think about in future.



Bankai said:

I'm more concerned with journalist learning how to report accurately and without sensationalism in this industry. It's one area where games journalism lags very far behind.

But then again I know how 99% of professional journalists work and I know what goes on behind the scenes so I know how much of a non-event the armchair experts are turning into an event.

Incitently the Eurogamer article, which so many kids are worshipping as shedding light on the 'behind the scenes' evils I. This industry is itself entirely unethical. No one seems to report that (going back to my point about accurate reporting in this industry). That's why it was edited. It broke media law.



LittleIrves said:

The Forbes piece is the article to read here. Nice job bringing this to our attention and explaining how a site like NL fits in (or doesn't).



SuperKMx said:

@WhiteKnight With respect, the Eurogamer article in no way broke "media law." The complainant didn't have a case as libel laws in the UK stand.



Bankai said:

According to who, Ken, an why not? To the best of my understanding, anyway, there would be a case in Australia, and obviously that is my point of reference for media ethics anyway, but I would like to understand why it is not a problem in the UK



ogo79 said:

nl is solid with the reviews, when there happens to be a review im interested in, i take it serious. corbs im still waiting on bk!!! the sequel is coming very soon



Wheels2050 said:

@ThomasBW84: My apologies - now you've pointed it out, and I went back and had a look, I realised that I had in fact noticed that before. I might suggest making it a little more obvious though, as the light grey shade is easy to miss

As for the Eurogamer situation, I was completely oblivious to it until now. I'll have a read into it over the weekend.



bofis said:

I trust Nintendo Life, but do feel that the issue is tough with sites like IGN, who very rarely rat on a game unless it is HORRENDOUSLY awful and then they get to write a funny, negative review. Are review sites ever scared of being really negative because then maybe that developer or publisher won't keep sending free games to you?



SuperKMx said:

@WhiteKnight To be honest - and as with many things - interpretation is the key. Arguments on either side, but the unedited article featured unedited quotes taken directly from the Twitter feeds of the complainants, and didn't explicitly say "So this proves that this person is very very dodgy."

It isn't libelous to say that some people may interpret something someone says in a bad way, or that something they've said may influence other people's views of them in the future - and that's all the author was saying.

In my opinion, they edited the article because our stupid "guilty until proven innocent" libel laws mean that it would have cost a boatload of money just to clear their name, even if the complainant's case was very weak - which (again, in my opinion) it would have been.



SuperKMx said:

@bofis Yes, they are - and that's something I've dealt with previously when running my own sites. Gave a game a bad review, got told I couldn't get a review copy of their next game. I told the publisher to go ride a bike - then rented the game they refused to send me - but I'm sure that not everyone does that.



C-Olimar said:

@ThomasBW84 I always notice when that is written underneath, and I'm glad it isn't obtrusive and in the way. I don't want THIS REVIEW WAS PRODUCED BASED ON A REVIEW COPY SENT TO US BY UBISOFT THANKS TO UBISOFT FOR SENDING US THAT REVIEW COPY before every review.



Portista said:

This never crossed my mind before. I believe that NL is completely trustworthy (if not always super clean). I visit this website over 15 times a day, so keep'em clean!



Squashie said:

I do agree, myself, I am also Video Games Journalist. Another major problem I have is, when a developer sends you a game and it is no good. It feels very harsh awarding it a low score.

In the past, I have also written Sponsored Articles. In this type, you tend to just point out the good points!

I think the most important factor here is, if you started this to make money. I know for certain, my intention was never to make money! That just games as a bonus!



Bankai said:

@Ken surely it is libellous to say 'this person is dodgy' without a single shred of quantifiable evidence?

Libel law (in Aus anyway) is really simple: it has to be true and in the public interest or it is libel. While this is certainly in the public interest, a journalist's interpretation of a couple of quotes (which may have been said with implicit knowledge that they were not for public discourse) does not qualify as proof of being true.



Auracle said:

I trust Nintendo Life. I also know to look at the facts presented and consider how they would affect my personal gaming experience. I know that no one can be 100% objective, but I believe you guys do a great job of keeping things fair.



Squashie said:

I also do trust Nintendo Life 100%, I know that they are very fair in their articles.



Wheels2050 said:

@WhiteKnight: With regards to the quality of reporting in games journalism, I agree to a large extent. I don't know if it's due to the fact that games reporters go online, where much of there market spends time, which in turn makes it so easy to publish articles that there is a glut of writers that leads to a lot of rubbish, or for some other reason. I certainly don't know of a "Roger Ebert" equivalent in the games world, whose opinions are considered to be very high quality and carry a lot of weight.

Having said that, it's not all bad. I think the majority of NL articles are great, and the reviews seem to be quite fair.

Do you read Kotaku AU at all? A lot of the cross-posted stuff from the US is terrible, but Mark Serrels and co. do some excellent articles on various aspects of Australian gaming. They actually do research, seek out interviews and the like (for example, regarding the price of video games in Australia) which is refreshing when compared to the amount of regurgitated news stories that seem to happen across the video game sites.



SuperKMx said:

@WhiteKnight You're absolutely right. It is entirely libelous to say "this person is dodgy." To say "Some people may trust this person a little less based on this thing they said" is not. VERY fine line, I admit, but the article falls on the "fair" side of that line for me.

And I don't think they'd get the "not for public discourse" allowance, given that the quotes were posted on public, unprotected Twitter accounts. Public domain as soon as they hit the enter key, unfortunately.



Bankai said:

@Wheels - I know Mark well. Great bloke.

@Ken - I think that's my problem - this is a very fine line, but to read people's opinions, it's overwhelmingly one-sided, and I am less than empressed by the way the Blogger community has behaved.

This is a good piece though. Well done Nintendolife.



IsawYoshi said:

Nintendolife is one of the only ones that I really "trust" when it comes to video games journalism. It is not that I think that IGN or gamespot and so on and so forth is "bought," but many of them still tend to lean towards either sony, microsoft or nintendo (I am now talking about multicompany-sites like the previously mentioned, not like nl or mynintendonews). I find this very frustrating, because this can mean a lot to me as a customer when I see reviews, but I think more about the developers/publishers. When those reviews come into metacritic and such, it really can mean a lot for the sales.



FluffyNinja said:

It's always hard because everyone's opinions will be different. But as long as writers don't become too biased and they write in a professional manner, then most people will respect their articles. Nintendo Life has become the place to go for Nintendo news for me now, since it seems most gaming sites seem to have this negative view on Nintendo.



Jack_Package said:

Before the Internet existed, and discounting Digitiser, you had to actually buy magazines to get reviews...publisher sponsorship was a much bigger problem. There are too many reviews available nowadays for this to be an issue.



idork99 said:

Interesting topic. Personally, I read gaming websites for three reasons: for news on upcoming releases, the camaraderie with my fellow gamers and the points they bring up in the comment sections, and for review scores. I used to only read IGN in the past because the staff they had there was talented and their gaming preferences would align with mine. Therefore, the scores given to many games would coincide with the score I think it deserved. The reason their review scores were like gold to me was because I had a long history of reading many of their articles and so it was like I knew their gaming taste personally. After many years and after a new staff, it became obvious that the new writers tastes did not relate to that of mine and naturally became bored with their opinions. I really can't say how I came across Nintendo Life but I'm sure glad that I did. I've never seen a gaming website with such passionate gamers and you can tell through the consistency of the writing and reviews. Which is probably the reason that this site has become my new go to for all Nintendo news. And with this article, it has brought a new faith as I know the writing is genuine and truthful. As far as the advertising, hey, it pays the bills. I'm just glad that you have shed light to the issue and brought forth an interesting point to your readers. As long as you have an enthusiastic and dedicated staff, I'll continue reading! That is, unless, my points no longer coincide with the staff. Then, I'll have to search for a new site. But I don't see that happening so keep up the great work!



WesCash said:

Good article. When browsing other game sites, I see so many people comment on reviews accusing the reviewer of being payed or bribed to give the score they did. I've always wondered if that is something that happens. Maybe I just like to give people (or sites) the benefit of the doubt. I like to think that ethics will inevitably triumph over greed, but there's no question that a lot of the time this isn't the case.



Void said:

@Waltz impressed? Or do they just spell it differently in Australia?

Meh about the scores, just show'em a the review of a game that you were advertising at the time, I think I remember that Battleship game on PushSquare being reviewed, and there were ads for it on the side of the page, but it still got, a 2 or a 3 I think?
I'll look it up later.



Wheels2050 said:

@Waltz: Ah cool, he seems like he'd be a good bloke to have a beer with.

I think just the fact that NL has raised this issue is excellent. Some self awareness when it comes to complicated issues like this is a great quality to show!



Neram said:

There is a reason I now exclusively visit Nintendo Life, and have for the past two years now, it's because I trust you guys. I completely left IGN behind, as I felt that on many occasions their "journalism" had been bought, among other things. As long as Nintendo Life keeps doing what they're doing, it will be my #1 site.



DreamyViridi said:

I'm against making an account for forums or facebook or anything like that in almost all cases. Yet here I am.

Needless to say, I trust you guys and gals. Nintendo Life is like the only place now where I see good game reviews get good and bad ratings for justified reasons even if I disagree with the score. Plus, unlike other sites, most of the other users here are reasonable and respectable and don't start fights for no reason. (Those who do get what's coming to them!)



Jeremyx7 said:

I wouldn't have made an account here unless I believed Nintendo Life to be non objectionable in their reviews. Out of all the video game review/news out there I can only stand Nintendo Life and maybe Gamespy as well as 1 other. To many critics and so called 'gamer experts' exaggerate their own personal feelings of preference instead of being completely objectionable in seeing the pros/cons of a video game's design.

From the reviews and articles I've read so far on this website I have to say this is the most objectionable well rounded written staff I've seen thus far in all my life reading/viewing video game coverage. Although I don't always agree with some reviews 100% I would agree with how they're handled almost always. Have to give you all credit at Nintendo Life for an overall excellent website.



Kyloctopus said:

I go on Nintendo Life more than any other site, mostly because they are relyable entertaining, accurate, and it is the so called birthplace of the legendary James Newton.



Lobster said:

This is an interesting article, and exactly why I go on NintendoLife. Well, one of the two reasons. I know I can trust your reviews and the commenters below them, who are generally fairly intelligent here. The other reason is that if it's on a Nintendo system, you guys have reviewed it! I have yet to look up a title, however obscure, to find it hasn't been reviewed here.

Basically, I feel like I can trust you guys far more than, say, IGN and you have such a breadth that what you do here is absolutely a Godsend to people needing information on a game they want to buy.



CerealKiller062 said:

Nintendo Life has never come on as partison to the Nintendo company. From what I read here on daily basis it is a great site. I have always loved this site as it doesnt't compare to other consoles but rather to the experience to be had with a Nintendo game. Thank you for your great journalism, although reviews rarely infuence my buys, much like that recent review of Kirby's Air Ride, I didn't agree with it, but this shows you guys can review without partisan.



Capt_N said:

(I) Started coming to NL(ife) (back in 2008, then joined January 2009), to read reviews on WW(WiiWare), & Wii VC (Virtual Console). The first review I read here was for Mega Man 9. (Edit: I liked the review, & found it seemed to me to be trustworthy.) I d/led the game, as I was leaning towards doing so, anyway, but wasn't completely sure. I continued to read the reviews here, & I found most seemed to be fair, w/ a mix of pros/cons about/any given titles. In other words, a pretty fairly objectionable view on, & about most reviews.

I used to be a GameFaqs/GameSpot fellow, until 1. an incident where I accidentally came off as forcing my faith on others, that all came about by my poor wording in an article's comment section, & GS marked my comment. I don't remember if regulars(commentors) really ever continued treating me, as they had prior. 2. That whole Kane/Lynch business where GS gave the score they did, & was accused of giving a bad review.

I tried GameTrailers, & I didn't really like either. I still frequent GameFaqs both for faqs, & their forums(though vary rarely their forums anymore), & occasionally GameSpot. However, NLife seems to me, to be fair, & relatively unbiased.

Sure, there will always be questions about site skins, & advertising leading to tainted reviews/news, no matter the site. Do I feel NL can fall from their respectable position? Yes. Do I think they will (fall from such a position)? I think (that) as long as (the) NL (staff, & website) has @ the forefront of any, & all of their writings/reviews/news/etc. associated w/ this site, & such that unbiased, & non-favoring writings are the all-important key to the life of this site, & all that goes w/ it, then I believe NL staff writings, & website will be fine.

Temptation is always there, to give in to having bias writings, but the key is to constantly be on guard against it, by continuing/continually remembering what the goal of an unbiased site/article is: Complete Unbias

I currently see that in NL, & that is why they are my main source for Nintendo-related anything.



timp29 said:

I've been using Nintendo life probably since 2008/2009. I've always felt that reviews 'may' be subject to slight bias... lets face it, we are pretty much all nintendo fans here, which means we probably love all the Nintendo IPs. Occasionally there have been review scores with which I disagreed, but never have I felt or even entertained the thought that reviews on this website may have been bought or influenced. A review is a personal opinion, and long as a score is reasonably justified, then there is no issue.

The reason I feel that way is because the way nintendolife and its staff conduct themselves is in a transparent way, with a mixture between fun and professionalism. Please keep putting in the occasional cake photo and coming up with amusing photo captions. I love the work done on this site, find it incredibly insightful and informative. Perhaps my only gripe would be that some of the taglines for reviews are a bit formulaic...

Otherwise, keep up the good work, I've never ever felt or even contemplated the fact the NL could possibly compromise its integrity for a few $$.

EDIT: readability+spelling



sr388survivor said:

This is a big reason I come to this site more than any other. It seems like NintendoLife is much more fair in it's reporting and not just giving big games great reviews (see Twilight Princess review). I used to go to IGN but they have more ads then articles anymore.



CM30 said:

Yes, there's definitely a worry of advertising dollars affecting review scores and what not, it was bad enough that I remember one writer getting fired from Gamespot due to giving a heavily advertised game a bad review.

But I don't think it's generally as much of a problem outside of the big gaming news sites and print magazines to be honest. I mean, I don't trust Gamespot, IGN and others like them at all, because they're fairly likely to be paid off in at least some way. But for a site like Nintendo Life, I doubt they're being told what to write or influenced too much by Nintendo's marketing team.

And hey, any bias a site like this has is normal, it's a fan site about Nintendo. Of course they're going to be all positive about Nintendo franchises, the writers likely grew up playing them up and are fans of the games.



CoffeeWithGames said:

I do have a question, when it is said in one instance, "We're not exempt from these suspicions due to the advertising that we run, even if that advertising is needed purchases....", specifically the "game/hardware purchases" part.

I'm always curious, how many games are reviewed on a monthly basis that are purchased as new releases (retail) compared to the number that is reviewed because they are given by companies for review?

I think there can be a balance, but I honestly think that when the industry (in general) has no/few review standards, it's going to become a race to the bottom, and it already has I think.

For example, when this site is at the bottom of review scores... and gives a game a 1 out of 10, I would expect that means the game is basically broken, not playable, terrible button responses, etc. BUT, then you read/see other reviews rate the exact same game around the 7s mark... there is clearly a disconnect somewhere.

Do editors not ask "reviewers" for clarification on reviews? Do the editors try and make sure that a Call of Duty fan that has hated 2D platforming games his entire life doesn't get the main review copy of the next big Mario game? There has to be a balance, and when I see a game get a 1 out of 10 here, versus 7-9 on other sites it makes me question the reviewer first, but shows me the entire industry has serious issues.



madgear said:

Whilst I think this site has a sickening bias at times, over zealous censorship of user posts, OCD thread locking and a general lack of humour, I do actually trust that your views arn't swayed by freebies and advertising money.

I think the problem is you're all Nintendo fans. That is generally a good thing as your readers are fans too and it shows enthusiasm. However sometimes Nintendo does something idiotic and I'll see defence in the article like they've just done the greatest thing ever. News should remain neutral so we can decide for ourselves if it's a good thing or not. I've not really had a problem with your reviews, though, and we can always catch you out in the comment section on those anyway.

Oh and that's another thing. You need to lighten up a bit here. Recently there was an article with a mistake in it. The mistake was pointed out in the comments section and when you noticed it you amended the article and deleted all comments associated with it. I went on to comment on how those comments had been deleted and that post disappeared too. It was a funny mistake and your over sensitivity to it and ruthless attempt to hide it annoyed the hell out of me. Just change the article and post a comment saying "oops, sorry, article fixed" in the comments section and leave it at that.

Other than that I do enjoy visiting this site. Just lighten up a little and tone down on the Nintendo love a bit.




Slapshot said:

Good for Rob Florence for having the manhood to say what so many others' think. He shouldn't have called out names, but good for him for bringing this underlying talk that so many of us that write for the industry have debated on social networks for so long now.



theblackdragon said:

@madgear: Not sure what happened there, but when we post an article, we'd rather the focus be on the article and not a typo or a missed link. If an entire thread has been derailed over it, I can see why they'd try to get things back on track via comment deletion. I'm sorry your awesome joke was mangled in the process, and I'm sure it was a funny one, but isn't it time to move on? Why hold a grudge?



Sean_Aaron said:

I seem to recall a majority of what I reviewed when writing for the site was purchased by the site rather than gifted by publishers. This was largely WiiWare and the fact is that trying to get that stuff for free often would involve trading friend codes with the developer/publisher which can be a pain and delay things so often we didn't bother.

If you interview a developer it can influence your perception of them. Certainly I have a more positive view of developers who seem to be in tune with their craft and are trying to do something quality and it shows through their work. In terms of reviewing however I've always tried to balance what is objectively broken or well-implemented against my own personal likes and dislikes. This is especially true if you're playing something in a genre you don't care for or which targets a different age group.

Doing a review of a bad game can seem harsh; I've done more than my share of 1/10 reviews at least one of which resulted in an attempt at bribery to change a score. There is definitely a balance required between being harsh for entertainment's sake and providing information to people.

I know that some of the stuff on Eurogamer left a bad taste in my mouth because it felt less like a review than some clever hyperbole for laughs. Nintendo Life seems to strike a good balance and that's what brought me to the site and kept me reading.

Keep up the good work guys!



madgear said:

@theblackdragon it wasn't a typo or missed link and it wasn't a joke of mine that was deleted. My comment that went missing was on the comments that went missing and they didn't derail the discussion.

The problem I have isn't the missing posts but the fact you resort to censorship of your readers to hide a mistake. A mistake that would just as easily be forgotten about if you simply amended the article and left the comments. Do you honestly think the discussion will be derailed once that mistake has been rectified? No one would care but it's quite petty to delete what your users have written too when it's not in any way offensive. This is a comments section for article and we've taken our time to write comments on the article. If you want to amend that, fine, but it doesn't mean you should delete what we've written too.



theblackdragon said:

@madgear: I'm sorry, but I still don't see the problem with clearing out an off-topic discussion that was focused on some small mistake made in an article. Again, I'm not sure what happened, but if whoever fixed it felt it took away from the issue at hand and chose to clear out the comments as well, then it is what it is. You say you've taken the time to write the comments, but you forget that we've taken the time to write the content in the first place, and apparently also to fix it so that it's correct.

If you're looking for complete and total freedom of speech, please keep in mind that this isn't a public arena, it's a privately run website on the internet.



madgear said:

@theblackdragon I'm aware of that but you're missing the point that I'm giving you advice as a reader of this site. You see I do enjoy coming here as it's a nice convenience to get up to date Nintendo news on one site, stuff that a lot of other sites miss. Based on this article, I've taken the time to point out problems I have with the way you do things here - it's not like I'm saying this in a Mario Kart review or anything.

You can either take this advice or ignore it. It's up to you. I'm just saying "I like the site BUT". Others may feel the same way, they may not. My point is simply to ask you to lighten up a bit and stop being so serious. Laugh at your mistakes if they're funny and don't be afraid of a little controversy (this article is a good start there).



Philip_J_Reed said:

I seem to recall a majority of what I reviewed when writing for the site was purchased by the site rather than gifted by publishers.

Speaking only for myself, it's still like that! Not that I'm complaining, but a game that I don't have to purchase myself is a relative rarity.

Do editors not ask "reviewers" for clarification on reviews?

They do! I've many times been asked for clarification in my reviews, and the admins care very much about maintaining a high standard of quality. (John Wahlgren actually had to ask me a few things about a review I wrote while suffering from flu symptoms, the poor guy!) But I've never, ever, had an admin say to me anything about advertising, or about relationships with developers. Nobody's ever said "This company is paying us a lot of money to advertise here so go easy on them," and honestly even the thought makes me laugh, because it's so far from what I'd ever expect of these guys. That's what I love about them, and this site. It's honest.

For example, when this site is at the bottom of review scores... and gives a game a 1 out of 10, I would expect that means the game is basically broken, not playable, terrible button responses, etc. BUT, then you read/see other reviews rate the exact same game around the 7s mark... there is clearly a disconnect somewhere.

I wouldn't say "clearly a disconnect." I'd say "clearly a difference of opinion." I certainly can't speak for other sites, but if we rate something a 1, it's because that's what our reviewer honestly felt it deserved. And I'm happy to assume that if someone else at another site gives it a 7, that that score reflects their opinion honestly. (Even if I wouldn't agree with it!)

Then again, if we say a game is broken and someone else says it's very good, maybe the disconnect is on their end!



Odnetnin said:

Sincere thanks to this article for linking me to a ton of info that I didn't have the slightest idea about before today. I clicked and read every link in this article and even clicked and read links from those articles; this is a truly fascinating subject. This article was well written and informative in its own right, as well! Great read.



MagicEmperor said:

It's not perfect. but Nintendo Life is my main source of Nintendo news. And for that reason alone, you have my respect, guys.



R-L-A-George said:

I know how hard it is, when doing game reviews... You have to deal with your own fan groans, you have to get over to able to not sound like a whiny, hateful fan and gamer that doesn't know what constructive criticism is.

Well I think it does at some point, there are more popular game publications like G4 that have obviously sold out for more money. The freebies and events do effect it a little. Though I trust game publications to be fair, most of them are gamers that still have to buy their games and console.



CoffeeWithGames said:

@Philip_J_Reed "Then again, if we say a game is broken and someone else says it's very good, maybe the disconnect is on their end!"

I would typically agree if it was only one other review, but even a comment in the review here called it out for being very odd. Again, I think a 1 out of 10 should = broken, not playable, freezes, screen doesn't move, buttons don't respond, etc.

There were at least 3 other reviews that were higher, one giving it a 9.0 out of 10 (4.5 out of 5). There is a disconnect. It's one reason I wish one standard on every single site for game reviews, was AMOUNT OF TIME PLAYED. At least then that gives readers an idea of how much time the reviewer spent before slapping a score on something.

Then again, I tend to look more toward user reviews on games, than professional reviews...

On the comments issue @madgear was addressing, unless a comment is outright cursing/name-calling, etc., I don't see the point of deleting them, especially when somebody took the time to comment on it. If there was a mistake, a simple edit with "Thanks to comment #5,001 for the clarification!" would be simple... but deleting a comment(s) seeking clarification on a post seems a bit odd... especially if it was done in a normal non-troll manner. The fact somebody took the time to actually read the article and spot a mistake in it, should be seen as a positive I would think.



StarDust4Ever said:

NintendoLife has always been my first source for Nintendo news, at least since VC-Reviews, and later Wiiware-World and the merger. IGN, for instance, is either biased or talks about stupid stuff that doesn't even relate to me as a gamer. Never mind looking through rose-tinted glasses talking about fanboy bias and a site called NintendoLife, but you all really do the best reviews...



Zombie_Barioth said:

I like the reviews and article here on Nintendo Life. They're professional but don't come off as too stuffy or biased, with a healthy dose of humor where appropriate. I've never had to question the integrity of a reviewer, every review I've read so far has been fair and honest.

Having the guts to bring up these sorts of topics shows good character.



Capt_N said:

Also, I wanted to point out:
1. I heard of this site while on the GameFaqs forums, & started coming here frequently.
2. This site has high credibility I think, partially as evidenced by Nintendo has in the past, put up an eShop shelf up based on this site's staff picks/reviews. That could, & must mean that in @ least a way, one way, or possibly many, (that) Nintendo believes that this site carries a great deal of influence in whether, or not ppl purchase their products, digital, or otherwise. It could also mean a sub-reasoning that NLife is constantly in Club Nintendo member surveys.

I feel that NL being respected by Nintendo themselves, in this manner, is a proverbial gold star pin on the chests of all NL staff. High integrity results in a good name, & a well-known, & well-respected character.



DreamOn said:

To buy or not to buy... So far this site has aided my buying decisions favorably with good reviews. I'm not often looking for a second opinion after reading a particular review of a game that interests me so that's always nice I suppose.



SCAR said:

You guys have the best Nintendo related news IMO, so whatever you're doing is working in my book.



antdickens said:

Some really good insight in your comments... thanks for all the kind words, we're glad that most (if not all) of you trust us.

Whenever websites/magazines get free games, hardware, attending pre-launch events, exclusive interviews and even simple advertising it would be wrong to say it doesn't influence people at some level, at least one comment recognised this, the question comes around when is it too much that the influence has a measurable/questionable effect on the outcome of that writers views - a very interesting topic indeed.

Being a Nintendo-exclusive site brings its own challenges, we want to work as close as we can with Nintendo themselves, to bring the best content/opportunities to our readers, but also need to retain our impartiality over critique of Nintendo. It's also very easy to label us "fanboys" when we score a 9 or 10 on first party Nintendo games, that's why our scoring policy is just as important as our advertising policy and so on.

We're all quite new to the "professional" games industry, and only have first hand experience in the UK, most of the people we meet are very genuine and write amazing stuff, but naturally there are some people that seem to edge towards personal gain/interest - everyone has their own circumstances and story to tell.

Great to hear people's opinions on this though, good stuff.




GREAT article. Generally I haven't noticed this with Nintendo Life and its reviews. However, just read and look at the reviews for Apple games! I know there's many very good games on the App store as I'm a keen gamer of the, but the review scores of them are ridiculously overrated. Check metacritic and read the reviewers' articles on there. The bohemoth that is Apple obviously holding a lot of sway there IMHO



Slapshot said:

Yep, I'll second the statement that @Sean_Aaron made: "I seem to recall a majority of what I reviewed when writing for the site was purchased by the site rather than gifted by publishers."

This was true for me as well. I did get a few cool things from a few publishers from time to time, but when it came down to the games, none of it mattered to me. I stake my credibility on every word that I pen for a published review and in every review I've written for the NLife network of sites, I always referred back to their clearly written scoring policies and rated it appropriately.

Speaking on reviewers as a whole, not just NL, but there is another side to the card as well, and one that I don't hear anyone talking about. If a bad game (3-4/10) comes across your desk, there ways to write a bad review in such a way that it doesn't destroy your relationship with the publisher - it's true. First of all, bad reviews are insanely fun to write, because, well, you can just have a lot of fun crafting wisecracks inside them. But you can also briefly mention the game's potential and state that "sometimes every good idea/intention doesn't evolve into a great game - it happens."

If a game is flat out garbage (1-2/10) and it's something that they shouldn't be publishing and asking people for their money for, then that's not someone I don't want to be dealing with anyway - I'm going to rip it alive and make dang sure nobody spends their money on it.



Wildfire said:

Listen guys I used to go all the time to Game trailers but then I started to notice a bias torwards microsoft,Sony and a anti nintendo vibe from that bunch that I simply couldn't stand going there anymore. Then I found your site and I've never stoped coming here since for nintendo news and reviews. and gonintendo!
When I want to see some general news about games I'll simply go to Ign.
What I'm trying to say here is that I trust your reviews guys, so keep the good work!



ei8htbit said:

Ha! We're all talking to ourselves here guys, let's be honest, how impartial can a fansite for Nintendo (it's called NintendoLife for F sakes) truly be? I'm okay with it, I love Nintendo products, I'm here because I find they have a great collection of breaking Nintendo news and the writers have some charm and wit that's fun to read. But attempting to call any review on this site impartial is hilarious - every game reviewed is through already rose-coloured glasses by virtue of being Nintendo products.
For example, when's the last game reviewed you've seen that scored less than 7? Nearly EVERY game, including the most obscure WiiWare titles score 8, 9, or 10 and quite frequently. At that point their review scale should just be 1 - 5.
I've never seen a game review get less than that unless it's a "safe" score like giving a 14 year old game that's republished on virtual console a 4 (I'm looking at you Castlevania Legends for the original GameBoy) That's a safe score because there's no real backlash from publishers for straight re-release ports where the publisher is just making profits on anything that actually sells rather than having the pressure to have sales to recoup the huge investment of a new game.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting NL is "bought" by advertising, I just think that a combination of openly-existing Nintendo Love and common sense of not biting the hand that feeds highly influences every review score on this site. And I'm okay with that because as a reader we also have the responsibility to parse the context of what we read and what we choose to believe.
So rock on NintendoLife! Keep giving me awesome amounts of news coverage and entertaining, confidence-boosting, buyer's-remorse-consoling reviews because I can't get enough Nintendo!!




The ppl on this site also run kinectaku and push square. Microsoft and Sony sites. Also, I think many of the reviewers don't just own, play and like Nintendo consoles. They own the microsoft and sony consoles as well. They are impartial if you read each revw carefully and critically. Also read their scoring policies.



antdickens said:

@ei8htbit thanks for your enthusiastic comment, I do appreciate your point that Nintendo fans are always going to be slightly more in favour of Nintendo products, but that's not strictly speaking "bias".

I'm not trying to prove you wrong as such, but our scores are very mixed - taking WiiWare as an example: you can see there are lots of 1-5 scores along with 6-10 scores, so saying that most games get 8/9/10 is simply not correct.

Looking at our reviews as a whole, that are listed on Metacritic, states "On average, this publication grades 10.3 points lower than other critics." and "Average Game review score: 63" which backup my previous points.



MegaWatts said:

Great article, Thomas.

It's great to be a part of the NL team, because I know that integrity comes before anything.



Yanchamaru said:

I really trust this site but there should be an option for Nintendolife members to rate a game and have a cumulative user review score placed right next to the staffs score



Emaan said:

I love Nintendolife. This site is my first go-to for Nintendo related news and game reviews. I trust the writing is as objective as possible, but I acknowledge that we can't all be without our opinions.



KneehighPark said:

For example, when this site is at the bottom of review scores... and gives a game a 1 out of 10, I would expect that means the game is basically broken, not playable, terrible button responses, etc. BUT, then you read/see other reviews rate the exact same game around the 7s mark... there is clearly a disconnect somewhere.

Building upon what Phil said, I don't think its a matter of disconnect, simply a difference on what scores mean to people. In my experience, there are gamers who expect scores of 10/10 to equate to some sort of catharsis or huge innovation within a game, while to others, a score of 10/10 equates to a game that is really well put together, with little or no flaws. Similarly, there are people who expect a game that gets a 1/10 to be riddled with visual flaws and other glitches (broken gameplay, constant crashes, etc.), while others expect a game that is simply garbage, even if it doesn't crash.



theblackdragon said:

^ I've always explained when this sort of thing comes into question that this is why we link to Metacritic with every review. Metacritic pulls together reviews from all across the internet so that you can see and compare their scores at a glance — and if scores aren't your thing, they provide links to each review they pull scores from so that you can go down the list reading through them if you like. I always use Metacritic before purchasing a game now mainly because I not only like to hear different opinions about what I'm looking to buy, sometimes one reviewer will go into depth about one part of a game I was interested in, and another will go more into depth about another part that maybe I won't like so much. Second opinions are a good thing, and we're only one voice among many. We're flattered that so many people trust in our judgment, but in no way do we demand to be the be-all, end-all of your purchase planning, and in fact we encourage you to read everything you can before making a decision. :3

@Ant: yay!!! i'm sure everyone will love it :3



ei8htbit said:

@antdickens Look, I'm not attacking the integrity of this site or it's authors, I believe they are stand-up, and the writing in general is well done. But, if you want to use Metacritic averages as a point of reference (which includes several other fansite reviews that happen to meet the metacritic criteria) you conveniently left out the fact on that very same statistic page it reveals that NintendoLife in particular (a site that reviews only Nintendo platform games) scores on average 49% HIGHER than the average critic in all of the metacritic database. For those keeping score at home, that means that on average, Nintendo Life is rating any given Nintendo platform game a higher review score than any other competing publication or site nearly HALF of the time. That is an overwhelming majority when you factor in average and negative reviews as the counterpoints.
I will say it's worth noting that apparently the majority of negative reviews Nintendo Life has given are for WiiWare titles or less than widespread DS/3DS titles that most other publications don't even review (so good on them for at least covering them) so these reviews don't factor into the MetaScore averages as a result. By the same token WiiWare titles aren't the ones spending money on advertising so the argument can be made that it is a whole lot easier to provide lower scores without big publisher pressure on those while appearing completely objective,
Bottom-Line: I love this site, I respect the authors, the news coverage is top-notch, but it's hard to justify reviews here being completely objective given the environment in which they are presented.
On principle alone it's easier to trust the objectivity of a publication that waves no platform-specific banner on it's sleeve, but I'm here for a reason: I enjoy Nintendo products and I appreciate the Nintendo fan coverage this site provides.



warvad said:

People who review games are horrible, and giving a creative medium like games arbitrary numerical scores is utterly ridiculous. There is no reason I should put their opinion higher than anyone else's.

No offense to anyone who writes for NL. I love this place.



MegaWatts said:

@warvad as someone who has written a review for NL I find myself somewhat agreeing with you - writing game reviews doesn't make your opinion more "authoritative" than anyone else's. I mean, when it comes to choosing a game, I'd probably go with a friend's opinion than some writer I've never heard of.

Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that reviewers are "horrible". There are many benefits to reading a review, provided that it has been done right. Proper analysis is needed throughout and opinions must be justified. The other issue is that many people can't stand back from what they're playing and view it objectively. We're all fans of gaming and we all have our favourite games/series. Nevertheless, that's not an excuse for giving a game a free pass - some of my favourite games, despite bring very entertaining to me and "perfect" in my eyes, clearly have their issues and if I were to review them, I would be expected to highlight these.

I agree that scores are ridiculous - I personally do not understand why they are so heavily relied upon when, especially when Metacritic produces an aggregate score based on numerous outlets using numerous different systems. As Kneehighpark states above, people hold different views for what each number is worth.

Nevertheless, numbers seem to be a necessary evil; most readers want a quick and easy way to identify the value of a product. If readers, as a whole, actually took the time to just read a review and base their decision off that, then scores would be less important. It'd also give PR people less marketing material for their game box art.



Sean_Aaron said:

I have to say that I do find this site pretty objective. I certainly caused my share of controversy by slating things other people love (Space Harrier), but generally speaking when it comes to big titles usually people who are fans of a franchise/genre get to review the game.

That might seem like guaranteed bias, but the fact is that as someone who isn't a fan of platforming games and hasn't played a lot of them, I'm probably not the best person to review a Mario game. Likewise, despite really enjoying Skyward Sword, I've only played one other Zelda game, so I'm not going to be able to make the same kind of deep connections or pick up on references as a die-hard fan of the franchise. I think that might account for the apparent skew in first-party game scores more than anything, but I also think that given this is a Nintendo fan site it's not a surprise that fans of Nintendo like Nintendo games.

I think what would be very clearly an example of unfair bias would be for a reviewer to glibly excuse flaws in a first-party title or omit any reference to them at all. I'm unaware of anyone doing such a thing here.

And let me second (or third) a dislike of scores, but the sad truth is that metacritic is a powerful force and if you don't use scores you won't get listed and if you don't get listed you're getting a lot less hits.

Lastly let me say that given this is a fan-run site it's extremely slick and clearly run and staffed by people who value quality in what they do. Most (if not all) of the people who run this site aren't getting paid. I cannot tell you how many developers I've talked to that assumed we were all doing this as a paid gig. Okay that's enough back-slapping for me, I'm going to bed!



gundam00 said:

I personally don't give high value to critic reviews because they tend to be too clinical. Instead, when I read reviews, I focus in on the things the reviewer likes and didn't like. There's always room to make something better, but if a review doesn't mention things that can be improved, I'm a little skeptical, nothing's perfect.

In regards to NL, I haven't found you guys to be "bought out". You're reviews are well balanced. There was one thing NL did that made me step back and wonder. I can't remember it exactly, but I think NL had some kind of promotion or contest inside the 3DS eShop. For some reason, I remember being in the eShop and seeing a NL panel with three of your Mii faces or something, I can't remember. I thought that was odd and out of place.

But after NL's "enough with Mario" campaign back when NSMB:2 was being released, NL showed their independence from Nintendo and your true feelings, and you guys stood by your remarks throughout the comments and round tables, so I thought that gave NL integrity.



Philip_J_Reed said:

it's hard to justify reviews here being completely objective given the environment in which they are presented.

It's hard to justify reviews anywhere being objective since they're one person's opinions about another person's work of art.



CowLaunch said:

I think it's fairly simple, if you look at past review scores of games you've played and generally agree with them, you can mostly trust the site in regards to the honesty and quality of analysis.

I remember Official Nintendo Magazine's (UK) scores in my view being a little high sometimes (perhaps to be expected).

Bending the topic slightly, I've been wondering how writers deal with the difficulty of accurately reviewing games that will have DLC at a later date.



antdickens said:

@ei8htbit don't worry, I don't feel your attacking the site, it's good to discuss these things, that said I think your picking out the stats that backup your point, rather than looking at all of the data.

For example, you focus on the 49% higher, what about the other 51%? That's made up of 20% the same as other critics and 31% lower. The reason that wasn't included in my comment is because the result of all of that data is the average: "10.3 points lower than other critics", which is the definitive stat here.

It's wrong to highlight one statistic without looking at the whole percentage.



MegaWatts said:

@CowLaunch I think it's important to review the product as is. If DLC comes along later that improves the game then a review for DLC can deal with that. If you were to take the DLC into account before, score up the game because of this and then the DLC gets cancelled, you're going to look a little silly. We must review what is right in front of us.



Pikachupwnage said:


Your kidding right?

I have seen several games downright savaged by reviewers on here and I don't really see a enormous Nintendo bias especially given that quite a few of the reviewers also have a PS3 or other non-nintendo systems.



Token_Girl said:

I think the best way to keep reviews above-board is to separate "journalism" (going to sponsored press events, doing dev interviews, reporting on gaming news) from "reviews." If you have different people doing those things, the person writing the review is not going to be swayed by the swag they got at the preview event. The person who manages advertiser relations should be doing no official writing for the site, obviously.

It's important to remember that the marketing departments at game companies are not trying to "purchase" review scores (at least most of the time). However, they would hope the positive associations they create at these events might turn a 7 into an 8 or an 8 into a 9 in the reviewers mind unconsciously (I would imagine if a game is disappointing, too much hype could also potentially backfire, but they wouldn't be giving reviewers press invites if it backfired more than it helped.) Reviewers attending these events is a conflict of interest, though especially in a volunteer site (or a site that doesn't pay well), those sorts of fringe benefits may be the incentive that keeps people reviewing for a site in their spare time (or instead of getting a better-paying job in another industry).

Luckily, the best way of solving this problem is to know about the problem, which NLife seems to do.



ei8htbit said:

@antdickens Since we're making this about political semantics..
"It's wrong to highlight one statistic without looking at the whole percentage."
I completely agree, that's why I pointed out the relevant counter-point stat you glossed over. The simple hard fact is that 49% of the time NL reviews Nintendo-platform titles higher than all other publications. That's not a deceiving or implied average, that's bulk review totals (Nintendo-platform-review-for-Nintendo-platform-review against other publications).
You're claim that "(on average NL reviews are) 10.3 points lower than other critics" is the "definitive" stat on that MetaScore breakdown is flawed, misleading and not a relevant overall percentage for two reasons:
1) misleading because "10.3" metascore points on your 10 point scale is actually the equivalent of 1 point.
2) that particular average is an aggregate of each publications cumulative reviews - so it doesn't take into account that the average being compared to other sites includes reviews across multiple other platforms not including Nintendo, which is a flawed comparison since that is all that NL reviews (whereas the 49% is entirely relevant because it only takes into account identical reviews that NintendoLife covers against other publications for those same titles - which all are Nintendo platform).
Anyway, I fear I may have (unfairly) struck a nerve with my initial claim as you and your team clearly care about the content of your reviews and it's obvious that there is no other agenda beyond that. Perhaps relying on empirical evidence to critique the review of or motivations behind literature in itself is irrelevant given the completely subjective nature of (both) forms of art in the first place.
So, in the spirit of Phoenix Wright, I hereby withdraw my MetaScore argument and I happily concede to your defence in the name of fun, videogames, and the Nintendo Seal of Quality.



ramstrong said:

"For example, when this site is at the bottom of review scores... and gives a game a 1 out of 10, I would expect that means the game is basically broken, not playable, terrible button responses, etc. BUT, then you read/see other reviews rate the exact same game around the 7s mark... there is clearly a disconnect somewhere."
"I wouldn't say "clearly a disconnect." I'd say "clearly a difference of opinion." I certainly can't speak for other sites, but if we rate something a 1, it's because that's what our reviewer honestly felt it deserved. And I'm happy to assume that if someone else at another site gives it a 7, that that score reflects their opinion honestly. (Even if I wouldn't agree with it!)"

First of all, great article! I did see that picture, and oh boy, what a picture! I even blog it on my site. And there is a link that does it justice, and somewhere in the comment section, there is a mention that a highly experienced professional reviewer wrote several "reviews" without bothering to install the software! That is one possible explanation for the score discrepancy. It's a clear disconnect, not a difference of opinion. Simply because the other guy didn't bother doing a proper review.

So far, NL has done an admirable job reviewing the games, although I do wonder whether or not there is a system on distributing the games according to reviewers' preferences, as sometimes I think the reviewer and the games are mismatched.



Shadow_Chad6982 said:

i found nintendo life by browsing through comments on gametrailers. now this is the main site i use for nintendo new. i feel that the reviews are more fair than gt's.



RetrogamerFan said:

Really interesting article. I tend to read reviews from quite a few sources on the net (and in old-fashioned print - hence my avatar). I'm sure the accusation of bias is thrown around a lot more than it should be. A review is just someone's opinion and so may be at odds with someone else. It's dificult to prove someone has been unduly influenced or even bribed to give a good review, most times it's just down to the fact that a game appealed to the reviewer but lots of others didn't like it. If a review site/magazine does give good reviews just because they get a few freebies from a publisher, i would trust most readers would see through this pretty quickly and the site/magazine would lose hits/readers pretty quickly, so i don't think it happens very often. An example i remember was an Amiga magazine giving a glowing review to the Rise of the Robots - credibilty of the magazine after that review = zero.

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