Do Gifts Amount to Bribes? Ubisoft Gives Away Nexus 7 Tablets at Press Event

Why giving out Nexus 7 Tablets at a Watch Dogs PR event has caused a storm of controversy.

Editor's Note: The following is an opinion piece and does not represent an official stance from GameSkinny on any issue or event.

--- Update: Ubisoft UK has tweeted an official response:

----- Original story:

There was a lot of attention-grabbing happening at this year’s PAX East in Boston. As a person who went to cover the event, there were several times that I was approached and asked to check out a game by the developers. After all, my badge said
"Media" and it is the media that helps spread the word and gets people interested in the newest games.  

And while I received several fliers, business cards, and a key to the Wildstar beta that I have no use for since I am already in the beta, I was never important enough to be given expensive tech to sway my opinions.

However, it looks like some were in other parts of the world apparently.

While I was on a plane traveling back to my hometown, news broke that Ubisoft gave away free Nexus 7 tablets to attendees at the Watch Dogs event in Paris.

While I understand that it is tempting to receive gifts from developers or publishers, if a journalist or reviewer wants to gain the respect and trust of their readers, they should not and cannot receive these gifts without disclosing that they got them, or just flat-out refuse them. The reviewer should not accept anything that would compromise their review. Allowing that sort of nonsense completely discredits the reviewer and their merit as a trustworthy source of consumer information.

Reviews are supposed to tell a potential player if the game is good and deserves a buy, or if it is utter slop and doesn’t deserve a dime. Bad form on Ubisoft’s part, but it is even more disheartening that my journalist peers would accept such a gesture.

What do you think? Should gaming journalists and reviewers be allowed to accept gifts?

Featured Columnist

Gaming enthusiast. Great at many, master of none.

Published Apr. 16th 2014
  • LudoLogic
    I'd say this is one of the main problems with games journalism. On the one hand it wants to be taken seriously and on the other it has publishers handing out what are clearly bribes.

    As Jason_9092 says, why should games critics/journalists be exempt from what would considered bribery in any similar field? I'd say it goes beyond just affecting reviews too, it completely undermines the integrity of the writer's opinion on anything games related when they're willing to except these "gifts".

    Not to mention it creates a downward spiral, where we have a soft gaming press that's unwilling to ask tough questions to those it writes about because it doesn't want the stream of free stuff and ad revenue to stop coming in. It reduces games journalism to just being a PR exercise for the publishers.

    When we throw our hands up in the air and say "that's just the way things are" we sort of forget we've allowed it to become that way, it didn't happen by accident.
  • Spyke_3447
    Very well said and right on the money. I mean spot on... no money was involved... xD
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Since this is an opinion piece, I won't take you too much to task here - but it might be interesting to know who the recipients were, if just to see how they rate Watch Dogs vs. the rest of the gaming media reviewers out there.

    I'm a fan of the Ain't It Cool site hosted by long-time film fanboy and critic Harry Knowles. Harry and other critics who post there are often under fire because the studios know who Harry is and often send swag, offer trips, backstage access and premier passes to him and the other writers.

    Any positive articles on the site, particularly about titles some fans consider trite, are looked at as dubious and Harry has been accused of being soft on films that give away goodies.

    Accepting major swag damages integrity, even in the friendliest of terms because credibility will be questioned. The most honest work may come into question if it favors the swag giver.

    Gaming Media has been exploding recently and so many more new writers and bloggers are finding their voice. Getting a beta key or some packaged gimmes is one thing, but it may be hard to not be swayed when given a sizeable promotional gift. Especially if these new voices fear being shut out from future access as well.
  • couillon_1053
    I think the author may be over reaching here talking of bribes. However, he hits closer to the mark when bringing up "gifts" and professional journalists. Are there ethical standards regarding gifts between journalists and their sources? And when i say gifts, I mean items that exceed a specific $$ threshold($100 for example)...inother words, not swag.
  • Longtimegamer
    Game reviews and gamers have long been victims to the industry and reviews. Everything but utter shams, are getting at least 8/10 and big releases all hit 9 and 10. I remember the times when there was only one or two games in the whole world being given 9 or >90% such as half life, and the reviews were very accurate and trustworthy sources. Incomplete games were named and shamed. Only in gaming will incomplete games receive awards and high scores such as Titanfall. An unfinished film, music album or book would be mocked, but we have now got to the point where consoles are being released incomplete due to the passive nature of game journalism. Reviews and pre release hype is all industry fed and the journalists seem to lap it up. I now feel like game reviewers must be another species to me, because they all seem to enjoy ALL the games and find slight variances in products enthralling. But on buying the game, rarely the hype is justified...I am rarely impressed any more, it is all repackaged old news. We all eventually get to play the games you guys review & I feel like the gaming industry is built on so much hype now, that every game become a disappointment. Watchdogs has been in my sights since it's first mention. The concept seemed exciting. Now we have daily news on all its details there are surely non left. All we will have to enjoy on unwrapping the game is the exploration of the in game world, which we have long gotten used to after playing similar games such as GTA. So with Watchdogs hype being so potent, I fear the inevitable disappointment, after all it is just a game with a story already told to us, with tricks and cool features already divulged in an open world environment already experienced in other games. Compare that go a game journalism alternate universe, where we have several months of 5/10 or maybe a 7/10 here of there and all of the sudden there is a game that gets 9/10 and we are left to discover why on our own, without a 24 month campaign of game details released to satisfy a fake hype........or.......maybe at 33 I am just too old and grumpy for gaming now :D
  • [[Deleted]]
    I think (and hope) its just some miscommunication that's been blown out of proportion.

    Yes "Swag" or what I like to call "Easy Money" since I manufacture alot of Swag, and its know what.. different story...

    Back to topic, Swag is one thing, bribes are another, however there is a fine line between the two, were they just giving out the tablets to the first x number of people with media/journalist tags? or were these individuals targeted as being people whom will be writing reviews?... Im sure the reporters story and ubisofts story is different and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    Had these people been specifically targeted then its a thin margin border lining if not crossing into non-consented bribery. (bribery in which no verbal or written consent is given but sort of expected by taking the gift).

    Most likely, the case was they had x number of tablets and the first x number of people fitting the qualifications receive the gift. Its quite common at all sorts of trade shows. Example..a building supply chain will by 1000 pens and 12 dozen golf balls, the pens are for anyone and everyone, but the first 48 contractors get a sleeve of golf balls. Are those golf balls bribes? simply put, no. However since their way more expensive than the pens their has to be some sort of system in place to maximize their potential for marketing (and prevent the first a-hole from coming up and taking the whole batch).

    Same goes for the tablets, by giving them to journalists that are more likely to mention in article somewhere they received some really cool stuff from ubisoft does more than giving them to random people.

    Theirs nothing wrong with target marketing and giving better swag to people who you know are more likely to support your product.

    However if they asked "are your reviewing are game? yes, oh here have a nexus tablet on us" that's more or less bribery since now their specifically targeting reviewers AND bringing up the subject of review while handing them the item, and even then... its an iffy case.
  • Jason_9092
    What I would like to know is, if this sort of thing is viewed as bribery in some industries, why not this one? What is it that makes the gaming industry exempt?
  • Wrong._2677
    What people need to understand is that this has been going on for years now. IGN, Kotaku, Gamespot, everyone at the big review websites gets to go for free, and then they get free shit, and then they get early access, and then they get exclusive interviews. Why do they get all of this stuff out of the kindness of said publishers heart? You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Ring a bell? IGN has their own employee cast in ME3 and people took that review seriously? Of course the media is paid off. Don't give them free shit, or event passes, bad review, give us lots of stuff, good review.

    It isn't just Ubisoft, it's everyone. Microsoft, Sony, EA, Capcom, Activision, the list is endless.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Ubisoft doesn't need to bribe anybody. Nobody calls "swag" at gaming conventions a bribe yet when they give out a Nexus 7 it becomes one? It's ridiculous. They were very likely promoting their Watch Dogs Companion App so it makes sense.

    Also, if Ubisoft's so called "bribe" convinces a "journalist" to write a good review, it's the journalist who lies, not Ubisoft.

    This is nonsense.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    For the record, I've dealt with publishers and PR people for years, and I've never once been approached with a bribe.

    At events, companies often hand out SWAG and you can argue they're attached to a particular product, but that's the way things are. I can pretty much guarantee you that any critic worth a salt won't be adjusting their scores because they got a tablet. I don't think you have to worry.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    That's how I feel about the situation. If Ubisoft handed me a tablet for free then said here's watch dogs, what do you think. If it sucked, you better believe my review would reflect that.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I agree and share the same opinion as Fathoms_4209 and you Rothalack.

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