A PR company responsible for handling 2K Games's Duke Nukem Forever publicity in the US has been sacked following claims that it would withhold future titles from reviewers who were less than complimentary about the Duke's return.
Rumours of shady deals between reviewers and publishers or PRs - always hotly denied by both sides - form a constant backdrop to the world of reviews: a game gets a bad review, and suddenly a few thousand pounds worth of advertising is pulled; a game gets a good review, and a PR agency buys the magazine's back cover - or the website equivalent - for a fortune.
Rarely is the dynamic made quite so obvious as in a comment by PR agency The Redner Group, posted to microblogging service Twitter in a fit of pique yesterday following a somewhat scathing reception for the Duke's return.
With Duke Nukem Forever having become a running joke in the industry due to its ridiculous development time, it would have taken a lot to impress fans. Sadly, the game has failed to live up to its expectations: with a 49/100 score on Metacritic, it's fair to say the game is a flop. Some reviewers were particularly scathing of the title, with the words "incompetance," "inanity," "odious personality," and even "stinking pile of crap" making not-infrequent appearances.
It's to these reviewers - many of whom are disappointed fans of Duke Nukem 3D, hoping against hope that 2K Games and developer Gearbox could achieve the impossible and make Duke Nukem Forever into the game people have been waiting over a decade to play - that Redner Group's comment was directed.
"Too many went too far with their reviews," the message read. "We are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom."
Naturally, the gaming community and the gaming review industry immediately took umbrage to the comment and its implied threat. While the person responsible quickly deleted the message, the damage was already done. It was a boneheaded move, and it has cost the PR agency dearly.
"2K Games does not endorse or condone the comments made by The Redner Group," the game's publisher clarified via Twitter, "and confirm that they no longer represent our products."
While the company's swift action in punishing its errant PR firm will help 2K Games come out of this smelling relatively clean, it's likely to do little to help sales of Duke Nukem Forever. Perhaps, sadly, DNF is a dream which would have been better off not realised at all.