Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
05 May 2006
Conflict of interest?
I don't do much actual curmudgeoning around here, so here's something to help make up for that:

So, does anyone know what the DS Lite's U.S. release date is, who doesn't work for Nintendo.

Okay I admit, that's not the real question. I merely wanted to point out that, of the people to do know, one of them is Craig Harris (no relation) at IGN. Check it out.

That's Craig Harris. Works, it seems, on IGN's DS site. IGN is a video game news site. You know, journalism.

Why didn't he, then, fill his audience, the people who come to his site to get NEWS, in on this juicy scoop?

Oh, because he signed an NDA. Simple reason.


I understand that they want to maintain a working relationship with Nintendo. Yep, I can understand that real well. Except that journalism, be it Old School, New Games or Daily Show, is, or rather should be, an inherently adversarial relationship. It is not the duty of a journalist to cozy up to sources of news.

Next thing you know, Reggie Fils-Amie will be giving the IGN guys nicknames, and they'll release videos of him looking under desks for Zelda: Twilight Princess, and they'll all react stony-faced when the Penny Arcade guys lampoon them to their faces.

I know the real reason they want to maintain that relationship is because the company is a primary source of news: press releases, screenshots, movies, etc. But that doesn't make it any less of a conflict of interest.


--John Harris at 02:56
Comment [ 7 ]

Comments on this post:

It could be that they want an exclusive in-depth interview/review/preview/something. The NDA is to guarantee that the press doesn't talk about it before the release, preserving the hype for just the right moment. Press embargoes happen all the time.

So IGN could have nothing to print while competitors "get the scoop", or they could sign the NDA, which I presume is temporary in nature.

I don't know if I would go so far as to say that it is a conflict of interest. It would be if the NDA in question was covering something that can't ever be disclosed, however.

By Anonymous GBGames, at 05 May, 2006 11:17  

This isn't really strange at all. Especially around E3 you'll see that companies have realized how actually getting Magazines/Websites informed about their games during E3 is mostly futile. So they have these pre-E3 demonstrations though they still often want the information to only come out during or after E3.

This is especially useful for Magazines, since they have to have their information before E3 so the physical magazine can reach the reader during/soon after.

Now, this is slightly different with the Lite because Nintendo wanted the information out slightly before E3 (yesterday).

It also isn't really that critically important that people have signed NDAs. Unlike journalism about, say, WMD in Iraq or something, nobody is getting hurt due to the non-serious topic of video games.

However, I'm biased as I've signed NDAs with various publishers in the past.

(and the ds lite is coming out in june)

By Anonymous zachary, at 05 May, 2006 11:43  

It could be that they want an exclusive in-depth interview/review/preview/something. The NDA is to guarantee that the press doesn't talk about it before the release, preserving the hype for just the right moment. Press embargoes happen all the time.

I maintain that this is still a bad idea. The press, no matter what type, should not be gagged in this manner. It *might* be acceptable in the case of a trade publication, but game magazines and sites are almost never trade publications -- they're general-market publication that have a specific area of focus.

I consider that signing an NDA is unavoidably an act of collusion between the parties offering and signing.

To zach, I say that just because everyone does it, it doesn't make it less strange. I may be a little more sensitive to than that most, considering the entire reason I stopped reading IGN was when they introduced their "IGN Insider" thing, which, correct me if I'm wrong (which is possible here, don't just take my word for this) because this was several years ago, was basically a way to get information out without making it "public" by putting a toll gate in front of it. Not only do they sign NDAs, but they use them as an excuse to sell subscriptions to some of the information they receive.

Even if that's not a reason for IGN Insider... I still am not convinced that the gaming press signing NDAs is acceptable. Not even as a condition for receiving pre-release software -- publishers should not distribute anything to a member of the press that they do not want shouted from rooftops.

By Blogger JohnH, at 05 May, 2006 16:02  

And here I thought the only reason insider existed was to seperate fools from their money.

By Anonymous zachary, at 05 May, 2006 17:00  

Craig Harris, not Chris.

Though an NDA has legal implications, it is not any different in effect from someone going "off the record".

By Blogger Troy Goodfellow, at 07 May, 2006 11:05  

Troy: Not my post, but I fixed it to say Craig and not Chris. Thanks.

By Blogger jvm, at 07 May, 2006 11:35  

t.g., NDAs have become institutionalized throughout the game industry -- not just when dealing with the press. I'm sure management in those companies isn't just being "off the record" with their employees.

Anyway, the legal muscle behind it encourages an atmosphere of rigorous truth avoidance and sourceless rumors (which a legion of net spoofers and photoshoppers take advantage of), instead of the traditional off-the-record comment, which many journalists would indeed take on the record if the news was big or important enough.

By Blogger JohnH, at 07 May, 2006 15:04  

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