Spot On: GameSpot on Gerstmann

SPECIAL REPORT: Following days of controversy and the first post-Jeff podcast, GameSpot answers burning questions about the most controversial staff change in its history.


For the past week, controversy has rocked the game news media--a controversy that originated here at GameSpot. The affair began last Wednesday when near-11-year veteran reviewer Jeff Gerstmann's tenure as editorial director ended. In keeping with the human-resources procedures of GameSpot parent company CNET Networks and in accordance with California State Law, no public comment was initially made about his departure.

In the void of information that followed, numerous conspiracy theories sprang up. First and foremost was that, as a result of pressure from publisher Eidos Interactive, GameSpot terminated Gerstmann because of his review of the multiplatform game Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. The game was released on November 13, 2007 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. (The PC version of the game was released on November 20, but has not yet been reviewed.)

Hundreds of reports pointed to the fact that the Kane & Lynch video review was pulled and the text review's copy was altered as evidence substantiating this hypothesis. In many readers' eyes, the fact that the entire GameSpot site was "skinned" with advertisements promoting Kane & Lynch all but confirmed the theory behind his firing. In the gaming press, the subsequent furor has been dubbed "Gerstmanngate."

Due to legal restrictions and corporate HR policy, GameSpot could not initially comment on Gerstmann's departure. Though the site officially addressed the issue on Monday, the full story behind his exit could not be told--until now.

In the spirit of full disclosure to our readership, GameSpot News has been provided the following answers by management to the questions below regarding the circumstances surrounding Gerstmann's exit.

Q: Was Jeff fired?

A: Jeff was terminated on November 28, 2007, following an internal review process by the managerial team to which he reported.

Q: Why was Jeff fired?

A: Legally, the exact reasons behind his dismissal cannot be revealed. However, they stemmed from issues unrelated to any publisher or advertiser; his departure was due purely for internal reasons.

Q: Why was the Kane & Lynch review text altered?

A: Jeff's supervisors and select members of the edit team felt the review's negativity did not match its "fair" 6.0 rating. The copy was adjusted several days after its publication so that it better meshed with its score, which remained unchanged. The achievements and demerits it received were also left unaltered. Additionally, clarifications were made concerning the game's multiplayer mode and to include differences between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game.

Q: Why was the Kane & Lynch video review taken down?

A: Both the text and video reviews of Kane & Lynch went up on Tuesday, November 13. The morning of Wednesday, November 14, the video was taken down due to concerns of quality. Specifically, its audio was deemed inferior due to a faulty microphone. There were also concerns about the limited amount of footage, which was unrepresentative of the game in the review.

Q: Why wasn't the video immediately reposted?

A: Due to the crush of high-profile games being released the following week, there were insufficient resources to reshoot and re-edit the video review.

Q: Why hasn't the video review been reposted since the "Gerstmanngate" controversy broke?

A: A determination was made by GameSpot Live, GameSpot's multimedia division, that reposting it would seem reactive and might exacerbate an inflamed situation. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, it has since been reposted, and is viewable on the site in its original form (See above). For those who want to be sure that it has not been altered after the fact, the video review is also available on YouTube for comparison purposes.

Q: Was Eidos Interactive upset by the game's review?

A: It has been confirmed that Eidos representatives expressed their displeasure to their appropriate contacts at GameSpot, but not to editorial directly. It was not the first time a publisher has voiced disappointment with a game review, and it won't be the last. However, it is strict GameSpot policy never to let any such feelings result in a review score to be altered or a video review to be pulled.

Q: Did Eidos' disappointment cause Jeff to be terminated?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: Did Eidos' disappointment cause the alteration of the review text?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: Did Eidos' disappointment lead to the video review being pulled down?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: Why was GameSpot "skinned" with Kane & Lynch ads when Jeff was terminated?

A: Due to design and development considerations, media buys on GameSpot are made weeks in advance. The timing of said ads was extremely unfortunate but was purely coincidental and determined solely by the game's release date of November 13, 2007.

Q: Why did the Kane & Lynch ads disappear from GameSpot right as the "Gerstmanngate" controversy began to heat up?

A: Advertising sales on GameSpot are sold by the day. The end of the Kane & Lynch "skin" promotion had been predetermined long beforehand. Internal documentation filed before the review appeared shows that the site skin was scheduled to run from November 17 to 29, 2007. Site-wide ad campaigns automatically change at midnight, hence the "skin" being removed after hours.

Q: Was Jeff's termination somehow tied to the departure of former GameSpot Live managing producer Tim Tracy?

A: No. Tim and Jeff are childhood friends and had been colleagues until Tim transferred over to other CNET Networks Entertainment properties. His exit was completely unrelated.

Q: Why didn't GameSpot write about Jeff's departure sooner?

A: Due to HR procedures and legal considerations, unauthorized CNET Networks and GameSpot employees are forbidden from commenting on the employment status of current and former employees. This practice has been in effect for years, and the CNET public-relations department stuck to that in the days following Jeff's termination. However, the company is now making an exception due to the widespread misinformation that has spread since Jeff's departure.

Q: When will the PC version of Kane & Lynch be reviewed?

A: We haven't decided when that will happen.

Q: GameSpot's credibility has been called into question as a result of this incident. What is being done to repair and rebuild it?

A: This article is one of the first steps toward restoring users' faith in GameSpot, and an internal review of the incident and controversy is under way. However, at no point in its history has GameSpot ever deviated from its review guidelines, which are publicly listed on the site. Great pains are taken to keep sales and editorial separated to prevent any impression of impropriety.

For years, GameSpot has been known for maintaining the highest ethical standards and having the most reliable and informative game reviews, previews, and news on the Web. The colleagues and friends that Jeff leaves behind here at GameSpot intend to keep it that way.

For a special report on Jeff Gerstmann's dismissal and a tribute to his legacy, tune in tomorrow to GameSpot's weekly live webcast, On the Spot. For a personal look at Gerstmann's exit, listen to the latest HotSpot podcast in which host Vincent Caravella discusses the controversial event with longtime Gerstmann colleagues Ricardo Torres, Ryan MacDonald, Alex Navarro, and Ryan Davis.

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Avatar image for ChiefFreeman

Saddest day in Gamespot history, alongside Ryan Davis's recent death.

Avatar image for mattschwabby

It's completely shady that this article still exists at all, given there is a video of Gamespot management admitting that he was let go due to the review: << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for metacodex

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for Yams1980

this is why you cant trust gamespot reviews. if a reviewer goes against the ads in a review, they are terminated. pretty much any ad u see up here the game will get a 7 or higher no matter how bad the game is.

Avatar image for S2333

I would still like to know why he got fired. It must have been differences of opinion between CNET and Jeff. His reviews were actually quite harsh on some games but were true.

Avatar image for joshboy101

@bennym6 He's Here: << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for KAOS1thebib62

It's a shame, i once loved this site and kinda trusted their reviews but ever since this site died, GameTrailers is where its at. Just about every review has a video review with it, unlike this 'site' less than 10% of the games on here dont have video reviews. People can believe whatever they want but in the end 99% of the old and good gamespot staff is gone. That should say what really happened in this jeff gerstmann situation. I only use gamefaqs.... never again will i use gamespot, its a joke. RIP Gamespot

Avatar image for Solid_Snake56

long live giant bomb...this site used to be a gold mine and now its just a flaming turd....I only come here for the forums now...not the corporate teet suckling reviews

Avatar image for Glokwerk

I would venture a guess that he either had a drug problem or that Gamespot had doen him wrong at some point before this review. He is acting way different than normal in this interview and seems to have a complete disregard for his job and this interview

Avatar image for deactivated-57fc1e7e5be4b

Ohh and long live Giant Bomb.

Avatar image for deactivated-57fc1e7e5be4b

GameSpot will never be the same. I have never seen one new episode of On the Spot seens Jeff left. Recently I have tried too see this years new On the Spot but after 10 minuttes I decided too stop watching. It was a horrorble bad show. I only use Gamespot too read and watch old reviews.

Avatar image for Shtinky

3000th comment. We're No Strangers to Lo-oo-ove! You Know The Rules - And So Do I...

Avatar image for Shtinky

GS has sucked ever since this happened.

Avatar image for Tyler_16

:( sad day I wonder if jeff has read this and I wonder if hes shaking his head or what... dont you think its weird how a bunch of guys left after jeff... if you think he was wrong and did somthing bad you think they would have followed him?

Avatar image for FallenReign

Good, Jeff was a horrible reviewer anyway.

Avatar image for bennym6

where is jeff now i wonder

Avatar image for DPGAssault

they have an answer for everything, lol. I don't buy it.

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Avatar image for deactivated-5bdcf25e4f65e

Time to move on. I'm sure jeff would think so.

Avatar image for Arclight_Blue

too much coincidence

Avatar image for TugaSoldatTV

this is gamespot: a pile of crap

Avatar image for Nosferatu006

It seems Eidos is becoming the Mafia of gaming. I'm just so glad for the release of See you in hell, Gamespot. You're dead now. (Hit me up on Giantbomb. Nosferatu2894)

Avatar image for TheGibsonSG

Wow, they managed to write an entire FAQ without answering trhe only question people cared about. You can't imagine that kind of talent.

Avatar image for Tigerman950

at least brad shoemaker's still here

Avatar image for LazyGamer_24

I've finally found out what happened to Jeff, after I saw comments on him I just wondered what happened. Now I know.

Avatar image for Xjner

O what a bunch of BS

Avatar image for K1LLSWITCH

Whatever the technicality of why Jeff's video review, or even text review, of Kane & Lynch may be, your journalism in the gaming industry is despicable and you, Gamespot, will forever be hated by the former fans, and former employers, of your site.

Avatar image for biggy887766

i can see how luigi's comment makes him so mature...COUGH

Avatar image for DrTea

@The_Luigi You're right, not every game has to have a "goody two-shoes character" but what Jeff was trying to say was the character's personalities were so bad that the player would not like them. Take the GTA series for example, the characters in the game are not all "good two-shoes" but most of the time they have such a great personality that you actually care about what happens to them.

Avatar image for The_Luigi

@SidV101 His review for this game was pretty bad. ie Whining about how the characters were unlikeable? That's just laughable, not every game must have a good two-shoes character all gamer neckbeards can relate with.

Avatar image for maggamuffin

excuse me? you say you're credible but you don't say why he was fired except that it was for "internal reasons" yeah, real specific. Maybe it wasn't because of the review but we still have a right to know what the reason is then.

Avatar image for pgharavi

still true?

Avatar image for SidV101

@ The_Luigi How the hell could you call Jeff mediocre? He was one of the coolest and most interesting guys on this site! He always wrote fair reviews and he never should have been fired over a stupid advertising problem. And for anyone thinking that his being fired didn't have anything to do with Eidos and CNet. . . you're an ignorant douche.

Avatar image for The_Luigi

I love how the comments here boil down to "Waaaah waaaah we are a bunch of pre-prepubescent butthurt nerds, I have never played X game but I'm gonna bash it anyway because a mediocre reviewer got fired!" Classic.

Avatar image for the_inferno94

i dont know gertsmann that much but i truly support that guy. I also think that his review has nothing wrong with it. Its gamespot's job to review games, and criticize it if necessary. Gamespot has the right to hold games at a high standard and no company could change or try to change that standard. Developers should be thankful for that kind of sites cause it gives them more insight on how to improve their games.

Avatar image for willimate

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for wadehone

[quote] Q: Why was the Kane & Lynch review text altered? A: Jeff's supervisors and select members of the edit team felt the review's negativity did not match its "fair" 6.0 rating. The copy was adjusted several days after its publication so that it better meshed with its score, which remained unchanged.[/quote] -- Can I just say this seems stupid... I mean does that mean that they pick a #, then write a review around it? WTF - you know? Shouldn't the # be based on the review? not the other way around? my buddy pointed me to their site (it's been stated enough times here that it doesn't need my bump. I'm going there for my .info)

Avatar image for anarchy31

i wish he wasn't fired I'm glad he made his own site:

Avatar image for deactivated-5bea216ec916f

Honestly I think the Kane and Lynch has nothing to do with it. I honestly think it was another reason that either violates some conduct thing or something like fooling around Really bad or something.

Avatar image for neokang

That what happen when business comes over, shame on Eidos really the game sucks totally and Jeff Gerstmann were right . now gamespot loses their credibility I'll watch my futur review on .btw stop covering up this scandal .

Avatar image for Timbydude

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for bugtrip

I blame management for ruining Gamespot for so many loyal readers and staff.

Avatar image for Underqwertyuiop

Wow, that article was total bull **** I don't see how they think it's going to help rebuild their credibility, it's destroyed it for most of us. I'm serious, they sound like a politician who's just barely able to cover up the huge scandal they just caused. X_X

Avatar image for Trollbane

The On the Spot explained nothing! Neither did the article. It's all a cover-up. C-Net is a group of idiots

Avatar image for drunken_munki

Terrible Game. Terrible attitude from Gamespot. Shame on you and Eidos. End of discussion.

Avatar image for Jynx_XIII

I'm glad I canceled my subscription. I saw the signs last year when they started to change everything and you could catch glimpses of the 'corporate machine' running this show. F*** gamespot, I don't give a d@mn if they ban this account. They aren't worth a s*** anymore anyways. First Kasavin, then Gallup, and most recently Navarro and Gerstmann. It's never a good sign when the people who are the heart and soul of something start jumping ship. Haha, maybe all the articles from now on will be written by "Staff". How's that for connecting with your clients? See you in the life rafts folks, the Titanic is goin' down.

Avatar image for Alexandru04

The game SUCKS ! What gamespot did, fiering jeff gerstmann was PURE TRASH !! They did that because they are slaves to money. Its totaly true i see no ther reason except the publisher threat them . Shame on you gamespot.. he was with you guys for soooo manny years and he was good. SHAME ON GAMESPOT ! this is the last time i enter this site.