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Management Failure at Gamespot?

December 5th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 2 Comments · Media

A wise man once said to never assume malice where incompetence is a sufficient explanation.

That may be the deal at Gamespot regarding the termination of their editorial director, Jeff Gerstmann. Though many people are pointing to the threatened “mass resignations” in this Kotaku article that cites yet another anonymous source, for me the big thing is how it emphasizes managerial dysfunction.

However, the source did speculate that disagreements between Gertsmann and VP of games Josh Larson may have been the root cause of the former being terminated. Larson, successor to former editor in chief Greg Kasavin, was described as out of touch with the employees who report to him. The VP is the one allegedly responsible for telling Gamespot editorial staff that it was Gerstmann’s “tone” that was at the heart of his dismissal.

As for the now-pulled video of review, it appears the reasons for it’s removal are less nefarious than assumed. “Jeff showed up late. It was thrown together quickly, the sound sucked, there was only footage from the first level of the game—it was a mess,” our source said. We were told that the redacting of the clip was based on a producer’s decision and not a demand from upper management.

We have no more and no less reason to trust this anonymous source than we did the Valleywag Gamespot insider or whomever spoke to Penny Arcade. But the tone of the news blurb has that ring of truth for anyone who has worked in a corporate structure; new people come in to change general direction, underestimate the importance of long term relationships within the corporation, take quick and decisive action, and then find themselves legally restricted from fully commenting on what went down.

Of course, this is a less sexy story than “marketing people fire journalist” and will almost certainly get less play in the blogodome than the “corrupting influence of money” story.

The thing is, as far as we know, neither is a full accounting of what happened, each is plausible based on whichever circumstantial evidence you look at and which anonymous source you listen to.

I thought it was only fair to give this alternate explanation an airing, since some people who reference the mass resignation bit don’t talk about the reasons given for the threatened action.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    One interesting thing about all this is the Penny Arcade effect. Wasn’t their strip patient zero in this epidemic of rumors? In fact, didn’t the timeline sorta go like this:

    *A Penny Arcade strip implying that Gerstmann was canned because of a review score appeared on their site on a Thursday, although their strips normally go up M-W-F.

    *An editor at a competing site mentions that this strip is up, which then begins a flurry of ZOMGs!

    *From there it just snowballs.

    Is it possible that Penny Arcade alerted members of Gamespot’s competition to the strip to get the ball rolling in a viral kind of way?

    Does Penny Arcade wield that much influence on the world of gaming?

  • steve

    “Does Penny Arcade wield that much influence on the world of gaming?”

    When it comes to “ohmygod, the press is horrible!,” for sure. Any review they disagree with is targeted, and often ridiculed. And their legion of fans will rush off to that site and vent. And their “review” becomes the general consensus.

    However, despite a large number of readers, their influence didn’t make Psychonauts a hit. So it’s possible they can generate a lot of bluster and outrage, but less action. (Child’s Play excepted, which they—and their fans—deserve all the praise in the world for.)