Major gaming website. Part of Vox Media.
Belated launch and Microsoft financing
Vox Media announced on January 2012 https://archive.today/XFYBG that it would launch a website geared at videogames journalism, under the placeholder name of Vox Games, which launched in February of the same year https://archive.today/9rYNF. Its name was changed to Polygon in April https://archive.today/K2Lll, but the official launch happened only in 24 October https://archive.today/BlSj0.
Meanwhile, in August 2012, thus before the official launch, Polygon start publishing a documentary called “Press Reset” about the history of Polygon itself https://archive.today/033mr. Besides the oddity of a documentary of the story of a website that hadn’t even officially launched yet, there was the question of the source of its budget: Microsoft paid US$750,000 for its production https://archive.today/Yfmti, ostensibly as sponsorship from its browser Internet Explorer which can be seen at the end of the videos. However, since Microsoft is also a console manufacturer and a major games publisher, this financing of a documentary goes beyond the usual publisher ads that are the major revenues of most major gaming sites, thus raising the question of conflict of interest even before the site itself launched. Added to this is the fact that Polygon already had US$40,000,000 raised in venture capital https://archive.today/tqlZO.
Halo 4 advertorial
On 30 October 2012, less than a week after its official launch, Polygon (among other sites) ran a loosely reworded press release of a Halo 4 ad campaign https://archive.today/Tqi8X, a major game published by Microsoft. The first few user comments on the article were critical of this and were censored for a little while before being restored https://archive.today/ZVzqf according to NeoGAF users. The following pictures are sourced from that thread.
It’s worth mentioning that this happened amidst the “Doritosgate” controversy, also surrounding the marketing blitz of Halo 4’s release.
Accusations of reviews biased against Sony and Nintendo
The aforementioned connections to Microsoft led some gamers to speculate on whether Polygon’s reviews unfairly favored titles for Microsoft’s consoles in detriment to those for Sony’s and Nintendo’s consoles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIRNAQseuec https://archive.today/heut6. However the evidence is circumstantial at best, seeing as several Xbox One releases received bad scores too. On June 2013, a user blog post on N4G showed that Polygon’s scores for Microsoft console titles tended to actually be lower than those for Sony console titles https://archive.today/LEYMl.
Accusation of misappropriation of funds
A Reddit user https://archive.today/heut6, along with accusing Polygon of possible pro-Microsoft bias by Polygon, also realized that the IMDB page for the “Press Reset” Documentary listed its budget as only US$75,000. The IMDB page has since been edited to show US$750,000 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2533830/business. The high possibility of a typo makes this evidence of bias seem circumstantial.
In its advance review, published 4 March 2013, of the remake of EA’s SimCity for PC, Polygon’s Russ Pitts gave the game a a 9.5/10 https://archive.today/ab5ra.
As the game was released the very next day, it was plagued by server outages https://archive.today/1mJfh. Seeing as the game’s DRM included an always-on component, it was rendered unplayable to many people for large stretches of time https://archive.today/ix3ey. In order to attempt to fix this, EA had to take servers offline as well in more than one occasion, further compound the problem https://archive.today/cAOeK.
Adding to this were several bugs afflicting the people who did manage to get the game to start http://imgur.com/f4PcBjb,3qnxoIs,o9F4MfM,cXirt8b,YeKbtxr,8uw8Mmc,54nSR0l. Besides common graphical glitches, the main issue seemed to be with bad pathfinding http://games.on.net/2013/03/maxis-to-address-simcity-pathfinding-complaints-as-more-bugs-are-found/, a severe problem given the game’s design.
As the multitude of problems with SimCity cropped up, Polygon’s review drew criticism. Although they could be excused for not experiencing server outages as it was an advance review, they still failed to warn their readers as to the numerous issues with both design and execution. So on the same day of the game’s launch they updated their review, lowering the score to 8/10. However, this seemed to some as disingenuous https://archive.today/RmYst and the score still seemed high considering the updated review itself admitted the reviewer couldn’t quite even play the game.
Perhaps more importantly, score aggregator Metacritic always keeps a publication’s first score as final, so the previous 9.5/10 remains on the site https://archive.today/i3Rp7. As Metacritic’s aggregate score is the closest the videogame industry has to a standardized score, with several stores like Amazon and Steam featuring them on their games’ pages, the hastily-given initial score of 9.5/10 was effectively the only one that mattered. The days after release saw the bug reports and server outages mounting, and on 7 March Polygon again changed the score of the game to 4/10, before finally settling on 6.5/10 on 3 April.
Polygon’s glowing first review of the game and complete failure to warn their readers of the many flaws in the game that weren’t related to server overload, coupled with their strange first update to the score (mocked as “Literally unplayable. 8/10”), harmed the site’s credibility and fueled long-standing allegation of favorable reviews demanded by publishers.
Bayonetta 2 review
On 13 October 2014, Polygon’s Arthur Gies reviewed the WiiU title Bayonetta 2, giving it a 7.5/10 http://archive.is/NhE84. Discussion about the sexualization of the title character takes up virtually half of the text.
A Reddit user https://archive.today/A8FwK noticed that Gies had also reviewed the first Bayonetta game as well, altho for a different website http://archive.is/kwlHD, giving it 8/10. For that first title, the discussion about sexualization is a brief mention, whereas for the sequel it’s a major factor in the review, and the game arguably lost score points for it.
Happening as it did amidst Gamergate, this raised the question of casuistry and the role of ideology in reviewing games https://archive.today/LI9fP. On the other hand, overzealous Bayonetta fans have been accused of retaliating against an unfavorable score, which does amount to a stiflement of criticism https://archive.today/gl3jo.
Suicide Girls mockery
Reddit users accused Gies of hypocrisy over his Bayonetta 2 review’s criticism of oversexualization membership in porno site Suicide Girls https://archive.today/nEFHj.
Gone Home review
On 15 August 2013, Polygon’s Danielle Riendeau reviewed Gone Home and gave it 10/10 https://archive.today/VpZTg (comments not available on the archived page).
It later surfaced that Riendeau was friends with at least two people involved in the game’s development: Steve Gaynor, co-founder of Gone Home’s devhouse The Fullbright Company, and Chris Remo, composer of the game’s score https://archive.today/6bOmd https://archive.today/pgrC3 https://archive.today/ew6rL https://archive.today/R1K4u. These relationships are not disclosed at all in Polygon’s review.
Riendeau had been a guest at Remo’s podcast, Idle Thumbs, a week before Polygon’s review was published https://archive.today/HbDpZ. At about the 0:02:30 mark, they talk about being friends for a long while before. Additionally, Gaynor was a member of Idle Thumbs, once having been co-host of the main podcast, and in October 2013 returned to host his own show in the site, Tone Control http://idlethumbs.wikia.com/wiki/Steve_Gaynor. Among the comments on Polygon’s review, a reader comments on these potential conflicts of interest, but is told by the site’s deputy review editor, Phillip Kollar, that a podcast guest appearance bears no problem. Riendeau’s friendship with Remo and gaynor which predates the podcast itself wasn’t brought up.
On May 2014, Riendeau became an occasional host on the same podcast http://idlethumbs.wikia.com/wiki/Danielle_Riendeau https://web.archive.org/web/20140702044028/https://www.idlethumbs.net/about https://archive.today/tOLBC.
All the information regarding Gone Home’s review other than Riendeau eventually joining Idle Thumbs was sourced from an anonymous picture found below.
“Kissing vs Killing”
On 1 October 2014, Polygon published an opinion piece by developer Zach Gage about the game Shadow of Mordor https://archive.today/XpO7f. He complained about the way the game introduced a stealth mechanic in a tutorial, as the player was taught to sneak to kiss his wife in the same manner as sneaking to kill an enemy. From that, Gage proceeded to pen a convoluted moral diatribe, including bringing up an issue of misogyny.
The article was mocked as inane, pointless and a cheap attempt to create a moral panic https://archive.today/BzrQL https://archive.today/72hb5 https://archive.today/mcktO https://archive.today/DVzFB. By contrast, Penny Arcade’s Gabe praised the tutorial in question, seeing it as a clever twist on the usually boring tutorial mechanics and it resonated on his experience as a family man https://archive.today/N3sIb.
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