[dropcap]K[/dropcap]otaku, one of the most popular games media outlets on the internet, is also undoubtedly one of the most divisive – the site is essentially the Marmite of games media- you either love what they do, or you want the site to be shut down and all those involved to be removed from the internet immediately. Therefore, when Editor Stephen Totilo published an article recently discussing how the site has been blacklisted by two major publishers, the internet was soon alight with discussion surrounding the subject, so, I figured, why not join in?
Blacklisting, for those who are unaware, means that a games publisher has effectively shut off the flow of information concerning their games to Kotaku – they will no longer get review copies from Ubisoft or Bethesda, nor will they receive promotional material or news about games from them- they are effectively in the dark. This subject is a particularly divisive one, especially because Kotaku is involved, but I have two points that I feel need to be made on the matter: Firstly, it’s almost never right to blacklist a media outlet, and secondly, Kotaku has been blacklisted for no good reason.
Let’s face it, blacklisting is generally a terrible thing for publishers to do. While I understand that a publisher has the right to limit who gets its content, it’s still not good business. It is at heart a petty thing to do. In blacklisting a company, publishers are effectively punishing them simply because somebody did something that they couldn’t control. Publishers love control – prior to the release of a game, they try to control every little piece of information out there, in order for it to get the best buzz. When somebody breaks this control, and especially when they alert people to potential issues, publishers are angry, but what they need to understand is they can’t control everything, and punishing the media for losing control is certainly not the answer.
Blacklisting is generally a terrible thing for publishers to do. It is at heart a petty thing to do.
What is particularly egregious about this situation is the fact that Kotaku did nothing wrong. Moving past personal feelings for Kotaku and their parent site Gawker in particular, it would be unfair to say otherwise. Blacklisting should only ever be an option when people break a contract made with the publisher (for example, non-disclosure agreements), and even then, it should be a last resort. Yet, in this case, no agreements existed. This wasn’t concerning the breaking of contracts- Kotaku was ostensibly doing their job as journalists – they were using sources to discover stories hidden away, and were then disclosing that information to the public. There was no agreement with Ubisoft or Bethesda, as they got their information from private sources, meaning that they were well within their rights to tell the public the information that they had discovered.
It is definitely Ubisoft and Bethesda who are in the wrong here. I fail to see how anybody could possibly try to blame Kotaku, who were simply doing their jobs, for any of this. Publishers need to stop wielding the blacklist as a weapon of censorship. Instead, they need to accept that things people write about them are not always going to be friendly. Instead, the focus should be on bettering their games.
Do you think Kotaku are in the wrong? Let us know @boargames