This is a very quick post regarding modern PR practices and how every single medium to large-scale video game and entertainment media website cannot be trusted never-ever-never. Ever.
Disclaimer: I don't play sports games, especially soccer games. I just don't care about football. This post is exclusively about dirty PR practices employed by commercial companies and PR agencies they work with.
On September, 25-th EA Games released a new title in their well-known sports games series named "FIFA 19". I won't go into details what a... Controversial product it ended up being. If you're interested, please refer to the following videos by YongYea: one, two, three.
I'm here to talk about how the game scored at one of the better known review sites out there — Metacritic.
Here's the FIFA 19 for PS4 page at Metacritic in its current state (Oct, 5-th):
Note the sharp disparity between "Critic" and "User" scores for the product.
EA is a big Commercial Entity and its CEO knows the company needs to maintain good sales of its products. The most common way to do so when it comes to review websites and social networks have always been... paid reviews. It doesn't come as a shock to anyone: everyone is aware that at least a 15-30% of all reviews on the Internet should be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak.
As a web project manager working for a public commercial company I have an understanding of how you should approach paid reviews, how one should create new virtual users and make the best use of those accounts as well as existing ones.
And I can definitely tell you this is not how you do it.
These are nothing special. Just your most basic dumb "virtuals" which when profiled can be easily discerned as fake users created specifically to promote a single electronic product. There are many like these for most of EA titles, especially in the FIFA series...
But seems like EA's methods don't stop there. Check this one out:
How about this one:
Notice anything interesting?
I sure do! Check out the scores such paid users leave for a product of a competitor. Pro Evolution Soccer is a sports games series published by Konami. And what do you know, here's how Pro Evolution Soccer for PS4 scores at the moment:
79/100 vs 7.2/10 user score.
Huh. This looks... A bit more believable than what we're seeing for FIFA 19, don't you think?
Therefore I see it like this: EA decided to go both ways:
- promote your own product with fake 8-10 out of 10 paid reviews;
- drown the product of the competitor with 1-2 out of 10 paid reviews.
But don't be so quick to judge only EA just yet.
I bet PES' publisher is also not a saint as you will see below.
Why Are You So Negative?
Just to be fair, let's take a look at several profiles of the users who left all those negative reviews for FIFA 19. You know... For Great Justice!
Here are the profiles of the first several posters from the user reviews page:
This one is either a very angry player who decided to create an account specifically to bash the latest bunch of EA games or a virtual created by a competitor's PR team to lower the scores of the games. Go figure.
I swear this guy is is legit.
This one seems legit as well. You can read his reviews, they are not generic and quite specific when it comes to pointing out strengths and weaknesses of various products.
Jeez... This guy seems to have a particular gripe against EA Games. Note the duplicate reviews. It's either a virtual or a lazy user with a personal vendetta. I bet on the former.
Seems legit. Note how the user praises and bashes both PES and FIFA, pointing out specific pros and cons for both series.
Looks familiar, doesn't it? Learn from the pros: drown the competition, right?
And there are lots and lots of users with only 1 game reviewed, that being... You guessed it! FIFA 19.
Looks totally legit. Right, Konami? Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to speculate.
Or did I?..
What Happens Next
What's surprising to me is that EA gave up... rather quickly with their paid reviews. There's only a handful of 10/10 reviews for FIFA 19 which is rather weak. Seems like EA gave up much sooner than it did with Mass Effect Andromeda, for example.
Here's where it gets even more interesting.
Starting Monday, Oct 8-th, Metacritic reviews page for the PS4 FIFA 19 can and will probably change in one of the following ways:
- EA have actually gave up on the paid reviews PR campaign for the game. This is a very unlikely scenario, since FIFA series is the best cash-cow EA ever had and no negative reviews or bad press shall affect sales of the game and in-game loot boxes! I mean, that's what I'd do if I were EA. It's like: "Hey, we're already the scummiest bunch, why not go down in flames... From the burning $100's! Ha-ha-ha!
- A more likely one: EA PR and legal (why not?) will use their excellent diplomatic skills and all those negative reviews will just... Disappear! Vanish into thin air. Like it never happened. That's why I've grabbed a complete snapshot of all user reviews posted at the moment and am making them available here: FIFA 19 Metacritic user reviews up to Oct, 5-th.
Sold-out Rotten-Hearted Game And Entertainment Media
I'm aware that it's no breaking news that everything and everyone is for sale. It's up to the highest bidder to get advantage of the corrupt Media outlets and promote their product or agenda.
I just want to grasp this opportunity and log all Media who gave this product a higher than 80 Score when it's apparent (even to me!) that it's just a re-skin of the previous title in the series as well as a quick cash grab, especially when you take the loot box drama into consideration.
I will now thank you for reading my sudden rant and leave you with the list of the ones to avoid (at least I know I sure will):
P.S. I don't care if FIFA 19 or PES sell well or not. I just want to let those PR agency watchdogs who are performing regular community reaction analysis, that are reading this post to know that we know what you are doing. You're the scum of the Earth and these practices are what ruins the fair competition on the Internet. And you bastards are the ones to blame.