June 2, 2008 // 1:15 pm
- To recap: Konami are imposing restrictions on what publications can and cannot talk about when reviewing Metal Gear Solid 4. No mention of 90-minute cutscenes please, and while you're at it, no talky-talky about install sizes either, K? IGN are cool with that. EGM, refreshingly, are not.
Due to "limitations Konami wanted to impose on our comments", the editorial team decided to refrain from giving the game a score, and in lieu of a "review" posted a lengthy roundtable discussion about the game instead. It's hardly a gloved fist on an Olympic dias, but it is nice seeing somebody do something about such an... unsavoury practice.
Reviewers often have restrictions about what they can and can't talk about in reviews - in my experience, these have been restricted to plot details, which have an embargo date a little bit later than the general review does. But MTV Multiplayer's Stephen Totilo has apparently heard from some gaming media sources who said that when it comes to Metal Gear Solid 4, particular details are off-limits.
I've been told by two gaming media sources who asked to remain anonymous that Konami representatives had been asking print reviewers to keep some technical details out of their reviews, namely the length of the game's cut-scenes and the size of the game's installation on the PlayStation 3.
Such details wouldn't have been plot spoilers, but perhaps the publisher was concerned that they would be viewed as negatives?
Konami representatives declined to comment to me about any of this, as did editors of a few major video game magazines.
So, no one wants to talk about it - but, as Totilo points out, here at Kotaku we've already seen box shots that suggest a 4.6 GB install for the game, and information suggesting the game has at least some rather lengthy cutscenes, possibly even 90-minute ones. Both bits of information seem to have spread like a virus all over the Internet already, so if this is true, what would be the big hush on Konami's part?
My theory, for whatever it's worth, is the big I-word: Investors. These folks buy stock based on how they think a publisher's major releases will perform. Largely, these guys aren't gamers, but analysts (who do tend to play some games) offer them a basic checklist of positive and negative traits based on market sentiment.
An investor sees popular words like "sandbox," "open world," or "player choice," and can guess a game will perform well. An investor who sees words like "90-minute cutscenes," "large install" or other issues has been taught that these are things we, the game consumers, tend to get up in arms about, to the point where we leave 500 comments on a post about 90-minute cutscenes.
And thus, the investor loses confidence in the title's financial forecast. Of course it's not that simple, but those who deal in finance would prefer to believe there is a fixed "formula" for success.
And my guess - just a guess, mind you - is that publishers are not particularly worried about Wall Street types reading Kotaku on a daily basis, but instead hope that when investors or analysts do a quick Metacritic scan, they don't see anything that could be construed as a red flag.