30 November 2007

Jeff Gerstmann and why Ziff Davis pwns CNet

Yesterday, Jeff Gerstmann, Editorial Director of CNet's GameSpot and (Since the departure of the huge asset that was Rich Gallup) host of GameSpot's Live Weekly video show On The Spot. Gerstmann ascended to the role of head honcho at GameSpot following the departure of Greg Kasavin, former Editor-In-Chief.

He took over hosting of GameSpot's On The Spot as he was formerly Rich's number two on that show. After a shaky first episode, he got it together and along with Ryan Davis managed to put together a generally good show.

Jeff has been a fixture at GameSpot for 10 years. He is GameSpot. They put him in charge and allowed him to renovate the review system in a bold, abstract way which - despite some unpopularity amongst certain quarters of the GameSpot community - was generally seen as a pretty good system. I have heard reviewers wondering what everyone's problem with it was pointing out that movie reviews carry half as many different possible scores and they are not criticised for it.

As a critic myself, I agree. As someone who has twice held positions similar to Gerstmann's role, I agree. In fact, in that position, I used scales with half the GameSpot system. Never hurt us.

Why then was Jeff Gerstmann, a key CNet and GameSpot asset, who had been appointed the leader and face of GameSpot, summarily fired on the day he was due to appear live in front of millions of gamers worldwide?

Current information points to one thing. Kane and Lynch.

Gerstmann gave Eidos's Kane and Lynch a 6.0. Eidos, who had splashed out on an over-the-top advertising campaign on GameSpot (Which mimicked that given to Halo 3, an easily more deserving title), were none too pleased.

However, apparently this only prompted a change to link the adverts instead to the game's site and not the review.

What seems to be fact is that Gerstmann's video review (Below), which does little more than summarise the points of his text review in his usual casual, likable and irreverent style, was the last straw for CNet's paymasters.

The corporate overlords that run CNet have pulled the video review from GameSpot's site and Gerstmann is now no longer a GameSpot employee.

GameSpot posted no reviews, did not broadcast On The Spot and did indeed do very little of anything yesterday. Rumours abound that the staff are "skittish" - they all seem to have been very much Jeff's men for one thing. For another, they likely approved the review since that is how GameSpot roll.

Furthermore, they can likely see their readers slipping through their fingers. Their journalistic integrity has been wiped away. CNet has sent the message that GameSpot reviews can be bought, editors fired at an advertisers request...What's next?

Furthermore, Gerstmann's exit follows an exodus of key people from the GameSpot team. First to go was Carrie Gouskos. Gouskos was de facto number 2 to Gallup in the GameSpot Live team, at least to the public (Gallup answered to Ryan MacDonald). She was one of the 3 faces of On the Spot (Along with Gallup and Gerstmann) and ran relief for Gallup during live events like E3.

She left to work on the development of Warhammer Online.

After Gouskos, the next big name to leave the GameSpot team (One who went to work at EA on Command & Conquer 3 - and presumably its sequels etc.), was Editor-In-Chief Greg Kasavin. Greg was the boss, He was very much in charge. Respected and liked by all.

Following his departure, there was no clear leader. 2 men, Gerstmann and MacDonald, appeared to have a power share. Gerstmann controlled Editorial content, whilst MacDonald was in charge of GameSpot Live. It was a departure, but the team worked.

The last big name to go, before Jeff, was of course Rich Gallup. Gallup, the face of GameSpot left without a job to go to. He literally walked, apparently to get married back on the East Coast.

If you're a suspicious guy like me, this makes no sense.

Gerstmann was a huge asset, Gallup was huge talent who they let go - seemingly without a fight. But more pressing than these curiosities is the why.

With 3 key people leaving and one of the absolute most important being fired, it begs the question.

What's really going on inside CNet? Did Kasavin and Gallup Leave because they were unhappy with their corporate overlords? It now seems conceivable. Think about it, there could be a huge amount of turmoil in there.

Gallup might have been happy to walk, unhappy with conditions. Kasavin might have been tired of the way CNet was treating him. Gerstmann stood his ground. They shot him down without a second thought.

No other explanation is logical than this: CNet and GameSpot are bitter enemies. Why else would CNet offload the popular head of GameSpot, alienating staff and fans, with the only reasonable explanation anyone can find being a video review of an advertised game. Without warning. On the day he was due to host the site's flagship show?

Until CNet provide answers, this is the view I'm sticking with.

Another key matter: Who replaces Gerstmann?

Assuming half the staff doesn't simply quit in disgust, CNet will likely continue their habit of promoting from within GameSpot. But then, who can they pick? The popular choice would be Alex Navarro. But Navarro is Jeff's man through and through. I doubt they would name him.

As is Ryan Davis, the probable second choice. Brian Eckberg would be best left to sports, to liaise with SportsGamer.Com, which GameSpot now own. So who could they put in Jeff's place?

Noone other than those 3 is an obvious choice. Brad Shoemaker is a wild card candidate, but that would seem to entail promoting over the heads of others and at any rate, he too appears to be a Jeff man. Even simply expanding MacDonald's duties is not going to work - he carpooled to work with Jeff and Alex every day, he's "one of them" from CNet's point of view.

So CNet will have to name someone new. They'll either poach someone from 1Up or IGN, or else name someone from CNet. Should the latter happen, make no mistake, GameSpot is screwed. We've already discussed the possible friction, the staff wouldn't like a corporate move like that were the friction real.

Update: CNet opted to name Ricardo Torres, a senior staffer who'd taken a slightly backroom role in recent times as Jeff's de facto successor.

You might think I'm being melodramatic. But I'm deadly serious here. This is bad news.

Jeff is great. Check out his band here

I'll be watching Tournament TV tonight. After that, I'm going to have to consider leaving GameSpot in protest unless some good explanation is given for this mess.

Jens Out

24 November 2007

I was supervising the Points for Stars Program

As of Monday, Nintendo Europe is changing their website from the current, tired design to an all-new one. Don't be surprised if it's white with blue and pale grey accents and many curves.

More important than revising the tired site design, we believe that as of the transition, we will finally be able to exchange Stars for Wii Points. I am making a point of converting as many Stars as possible into Wii points. I want me some VC games.

I'll probably also keep some back for Wii Software downloads. I really just wanna get Mario Kart 64. I might grab Sin and Punishment or Super Mario World. Dunno. Still think I'll keep some points back for Wii Software downloads. That being said, I may just buy new points for that.

Seeing is believing

18 November 2007

iPhone is like, so totally awesome

Before work yesterday, but after grabbing some breakfast, I ventured into the Carphone Warehouse. They had iPhones displayed prominently on a classy wooden table resplendent with logos. Well, Apple's, iPhone's, Carphone Warehouse's and O2's.

These displayed iPhones were working perfectly and were there for all to play with. So I decided to take it for a whirl. I played some music through the speakers, checked out CoverFlow and browsed Apple.com in Safari.

Browsing (With Working Class Hero playing in the background) took up the majority of my demo. I was keen to try it out as I'd not had time when demoing the iPod Touch. I have to say, it's great. I was whizzing around the internets - Google for instance - without any trouble.

Next thing I did was go to Quicktime>Movie Trailers. I tapped the first one I saw - Children of Men I think - and it took me to the page. Where on a desktop the video would play in-page, there was a thumbnail and a little play icon. Tapping it started the video full screen. It, was awesome.

Anyway, that was my quick play with the iPhone. What really struck me about it was that it felt so nice in my hand. The aluminum back feels great and it's a really nice size.

Speaking of size, it's quite small. Very cute.

The demo completely sold me, I'm definitely getting an iPhone now. There's no way I'm not. It's just a matter of when.

Feel Good,

15 November 2007

Breaking the Street Date

Super Mario Galaxy is officially released tomorrow here in the UK. Millions of fans nationwide are waiting impatiently. I've already played about 3 and a half hours of it.

GAME sent my copy early, so I was able to play it once I got back today. It's actually probably a bad thing, I have some homework I need to do for tomorrow. But it's not too much, I should be able to get by.

To start, the game's freaking gorgeous. The water and the normal mapping in particular shine - as do the brilliant light effects. Pun fully intended.

Next, the controls are great. Mario moves perfectly and his various actions like spinning and jumping feel great to do. Spinning initially worried me. Shaking the Remote, you know? But it actually works very well.

Now, the game is a roller coaster in difficulty. There are some extremely fiendish levels that had me pulling my hair out to get the star, and others which simply require some effort to get through. It's all very satisfying.

All in all, deserved its hype.

To move on, Call of Duty 4 is awesome. We played it in 1080p - the first time we've played any game at that resolution - and it just looks fantastic. And watching my brother play it reminded me how much I like that style of gameplay. Which put me onto the Medal of Honor Heroes 2 thing again.

So I went and found IGN's review. Normally, I avoid IGN. I prefer to stick to 1UP and GameSpot. But IGN had a review and I read it. Game looks totally awesome. I can see myself spending hours playing and tweaking the controls.

I'm really pumped for it! 32-Player CTF on Wii? Hell yeah I'll pay £30 for that!

Well, £27 to me.

I've been looking into PS3. My father intends to buy a 60GB model, but I think I will probably also need my own model. As such, I'd likely grab a 40GB. But I'm holding out for the White one.

But this is after iPhone, MacBook, 360 (May buy my brother's off of him), and PC upgrades.

Jens Out

12 November 2007


Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that All Your Disney has joined The Disney Fan Network. I say eagle-eyed, but that's not strictly true. Many of you will have noticed I'm actually pushing the Network hard, both at All Your Disney itself and here.

But why not? Networks are there to generate collective traffic. Anyone who likes Disney who visits the blogs on the All Your Blog Network would be well advised to keep tabs on TDFN - run by the good people at The Disney Blog - easily my personal favourite Disney site.

But, to business. Final preparations are underway for my getting a job. You know what that means. Stuff. Stuff to write about. Games, movies, accessories, phones and computers.

Well, just one each of those final two. First off, the iPhone. Funny thing is, I didn't realise how much I really wanted iPhone in my life until fairly recently. And yet, it is without a doubt the culmination of desires I've had for a long time.

The MacBook meanwhile is the core of a long-standing desire to be untethered from this desk. iPhone represents another pillar of that - providing connectivity at all times.

But the MacBook is to allow me to browse the web, chat and play music/videos away from the desk. On my bed for example, or in the living room. The iPhone can accomplish this, yes, and will do so in some instances, but when I want a computer, the MacBook enables me to use one with more freedom.

That also frees this machine up for use as a gaming platform and a server. Fun.

In bad news, I have a terrible cold or a mild flu. One or the other. Either way, existence is hell. Grr.

You know, even though I love this monitor, I am sorely tempted by this, the Disney HDTV, lovingly adorned with Mickey Mouse symbols...Then again, I suppose I will probably need a second screen at some point. Plus, watching TV with Pinnacle TVCentre Pro is a real bitch.

I'll have to think about it.

Jens Out

06 November 2007

Passing the 7th Position in the Rule of Doubling

In a brief follow-up to the previous post, I have now definitely decided on the iPhone. It was the web that won it.

Now then, to the issue of the day. Portal. Hot freaking damn. Way back when Portal was newly announced and everyone was drooling over Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2 Episode 2 (I'm sorry, that is such a mouthful), I myself was more interested in Portal.

And man was I right to be. This game kicks ass. It's funny, crazy, quirky and above all, original. Truly it is the class of the Orange Box, as many have conceded in the time since the Box was unleashed.

Incidentally, what a freaking dumb name. Orange Box. It's so...Meh. Mind you, the box art is far worse.

Another great game is Metroid Prime 3 Corruption. Easily the best controls ina first-person shooter to date. I can't wait for an online game with similar controls - which I am reliably informed is inbound in the form of the 32-Player online Medal of Honor Heroes 2. Finally a reason to play a Medal of Honor game.

I know I can't wait to be blasting fools with my Wii. EA, I salute you.

Speaking of the Wii itself, my Remote Jackets showed up. I have my spare Remote in one - so newbies to Wii can't kill me - but my own personal Remote, with a rechargeable battery, is Jacket free. Well, it has one. I just don't put it on it.

The Writer's Guild is on strike stateside. Wowsers bowsers. That shit is real. I hope it gets resolved properly and fast - imagine the turmoil if the actors and directors went out in sympathy.

iPhone is out this Friday at 6:02PM. Yes, that's right. 02. O2. Get it?

Clever...But really lame.

Tomorrow I'm off to an interview for a job. Assuming I get said job, it should bring in moneys to buy all the things I'm wanting - starting with such games as Super Mario Galaxy, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Guitar Hero 3 and some maybes like Geometry Wars Galaxies, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and a Disney game I might pick up to review for All Your Disney dependent on how much I earn.

And then later, of course, the iPhone, ahead of the MacBook a couple months later.

I should probably also upgrade my Desktop. I'll do that after the MacBook though. Things that need doing:

Replace Graphics Card with a higher memory DX10 number
Replace Pentium 4 with Core2 Duo
Replace one Optical Drive with Blu-Ray capable equivalent
Replace one optical drive with HD-DVD capable equivalent.
Maybe add another Half-Gig of RAM

That'll bring it in line with the peripherals and its peers - read, my brother's media centre monster.

Lastamly, I'm soft-announcing a delay in Six's development owing to other commitments the team has. I can however just about promise a 2008 launch. We may launch, however, with some of our niftiest features not in place yet. The content uploading and everything will be there, it's just of the flashy stuff like in-page notifications may be released in our 1.0.6, 1.1.2, 1.1.8 etc. updates.

"We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."


PS: Anyone else think an open, multi-platform competitor to Xbox/Games for Windows LIVE would be a great idea? I sure do. And I have some ideas for it.You better believe it. Anyone who would like to see that happen, get in touch.