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Eidos launches Tomb Raider Underworld, gets PR team to massage Metacritic scores

By on November 27, 2008
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I blogged earlier in the year about the dangers Eidos was running by launching Tomb Raider Underworld so close to Thanksgiving: the late release date gave no room for slippage and ran the risk that it would squeeze out a poor quality game, or see its pillar title miss the crucial Christmas sales period.

OK, so I was wrong about the slippage.

But maybe not about the review score. Following the Kane & Lynch review scandal where Eidos was alleged to have pulled huge amounts of advertising and got a journalist fired as a result of a less-than-positive score, the company seems to be at it again. This time, it has been asking journalists to hold back reviews of Tomb Raider: Underworld until Monday unless they score over 8.0.

According to videogaming247.com, Eidos PR firm Barrington Harvey said “That’s right. We’re trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos.”

When asked why, the spokesperson said: “Just that we’re trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that’s handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don’t put people off buying the game, basically.”

Simon Byron of Barrington Harvey has been on an extensive damage limitation exercise (You can see the text at Kotaku.com), but Eidos has yet again been hit by a reputation that it is willing to pull no punches in order to get favourable reviews out of the independent press.

PR firms putting embargoes on reviews until a given date is perfectly fair: it enables journalists to get advance copies, to have to time to review the title and craft their editorial. But putting a score-based caveat on it is crazy.

Barrington Harvey are a respected firm (and I like Simon Byron personally), so I would like to think that this was a junior PR rep being overzealous (or possibly, over-honest). The alternative, that this is a tactic that PR agencies are using to strong-arm better Metacritic averages out of the gaming press, is shameful.

Tomb Raider Underword currently has a Metacritic score of 77.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com