IGN is no stranger to accusations of conflicts of interest. For years, the popular gaming website has been criticized for prominently featuring game advertisements alongside reviews for the very games being advertised. This has fueled suspicions that the views of those covering games for IGN could be subject to a “pay for play” bias, skewing the coverage towards games and game companies who funnel advertising revenue to the site.
Despite these concerns, IGN gave a huge “fuck you” to ethical journalistic practices this past Friday by announcing their acquisition of Humble Bundle, the digital gaming storefront known for selling games bundles and allowing consumers to donate part of the sale to charitable causes.
IGN is keeping the details of the acquisition secret, though representatives at IGN maintain that their company does not intend to interfere with the way Humble Bundle is conducting business at this time, and will instead merely inject resources into Humble Bundle to keep its rate of growth positive.
While certainly not illegal, this deal begs the question of whether it is ethical for a video game website, especially one that reviews games, to sell and produce video games (Humble Bundle publishes games in addition to being a digital storefront).
While giving positive coverage to games associated with Humble Bundle would be the most obvious breach of journalistic integrity, there are less obvious yet still questionable practices that could come from this partnership. Are we soon to see links to the Humble Bundle store alongside coverage of the games being covered? Will IGN use future bundles to pump up the membership numbers of IGN Prime, the website’s premium ad-free subscription service?
The ink on the deal is still wet and so far there is no indication that IGN or Humble Bundle have overtly crossed any ethical lines. However, both companies have left themselves cavernously open to ethical pitfalls, and given the watchdog nature of the gaming community, we’ll soon find out if they do.
So you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with retro games?” To which I would answer that retro and retro-inspired games frequently appear on the Humble Store, with games like VVVVVV, Cave Story and a few scattered PS2 titles appearing on the store over the years.
Now you may ask, “No, really this is just an opportunity for you to bitch about IGN, isn’t?” To which I answer, so what if it is? It’s not like I called them “cunt-broth-gurgling, Bay-Area moralists.” Oh wait- yes I did. And I fucking meant it.
If you would like to hear my live reaction to reading the news of the acquisition, take a gander at the video below. (NSFW – Use headphones or turn the volume down a bit)
Source: Tech Raptor