Conflict of Interest? Review Site Owned by Game P.R. Company

The owner of public relations firm which represents video game publishers also runs a video game website at which games are reviewed.

Credit Joystick Division with bringing the situation to light.

The game review site in question is GameCyte, while the P.R. firm is TriplePoint (formerly Kohnke Communications). Richard Kain (left) runs both. From Joystick Division’s lengthy expose:

Richard Kain, TriplePoint PR’s General Manager and Founder, in fact formed a new company – Pantheon Labs – under TriplePoint’s roof to create GameCyte, as a way to bring “quality journalism” to the gaming media – and then deliberately concealed his ownership of Pantheon and using domain privacy services like Domains By Proxy, a Joystick Division investigation indicates.


Then, when it came time to put together the GameCyte team, he staffed the site exclusively with TriplePoint PR employees – his former account executive the site’s most prolific reviewer. And by Mr. Kain’s own admission, some of the highest-reviewed games on GameCyte are from Telltale Games – a company he just so happens to be invested in.

Venture Beat’s Dean Takahashi offers additional info:

In a phone call with me today, Kain said, “I f***ed up in terms of the degree of disclosure.” He noted that he had links to both firms on his Facebook page but neglected to disclose the ownership in the “about” page for GameCyte. Now the “about” page has been changed to include the disclosure…


 You can put this one down in the “major whoops” column. It’s going to be hard for people to give the PR firm the benefit of the doubt and to trust GameCyte’s reviews, given how the relationship was unearthed. But so far, it doesn’t look like anything worse than bad judgement.

GP: We linked to GameCyte twice last week on stories which added follow-up information to the Activision piracy lawsuits revealed recently on GamePolitics. Activision is not listed among Triple Point’s clients.

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  1. DragonLordRyu says:

    While we’re on the subject of user reviews and a three-point review system, you all might want to check out my site,  It is that very thing, except even better (in some ways, at least).  It’s based on a specialized voting system (where you can vote "Buy", "Try", or "Trash" for any given game) that takes into account your preferences along with the preferences of everyone who’s voted before you to help you decide whether or not you’d like a particular game.  If you’re really curious about the mechanics, make sure you read my FAQ.  

    Oh, by the way, it’s still getting off the ground, so forgive the lack of data that’s on there — I don’t have enough users actually using the site yet. 

  2. Zerodash says:

    I’m suprised noone has taken Game Informer magazine/website to task for being owned by Gamestop.  The dubious credibility is very similar to this review site in question.

  3. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Ya but some would pay 20-40$ more than retail price, so realistically you need 0-150 as the collectors and limited editions are 80-120/130, but its not to far fetched to have a 0-200 scale its just something that would be needed for a fully configurable user review site.

    You could also go in increments 0.00, 0.99,10.99,20.99,30.99,40.99,50.99,60.99,80.99,99.99 up to 159.99 but frankly with shipping prices and various work rates leaving it 0-200 will be good enough even more so if you put in place a lil currency calculator that will show the price in different currencies. Make it very user friendly give people the ability to vote up/down the review and finish it off with the currency calculator that can be set to where ever the review is from or if you plan on running multi country pages.

    And I am saying you as in anyone crazy enough to make a site based on user reviews.

    Frankly I would let Publishers advertise on the site but on a 5 year contract they can not get out of where they pay even if something is reviewed or not, and I would have the contract stipulate that the publishers has no control over what the site says in the reviews the only power they have is to give a interview, propaganda packages and demos we just have to review the stuff as its given and I say this knowing they wont touch the site until its become a fad and then they will clamor to it begging to be let on and then they will be forced to some open rules first off the contract is listed on the site stating the words of the deal of coarse NDA is not a problem because the site wont sign away rights to be fully open about a demo or project its real simple you do not want "us" to talk about it don’t show it to "us" in the first place thats how a real review site should be run. The minute information protected is the minute its caned spam.

    Mmmm altho I could go with a NDA for plots and story’s and possibly characters and of coarse inter workings of  of a dev house but beyond that nothing else needs "protecting"….

    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)

  4. sqlrob says:

    I write reviews on my LJ, but I use a completely different scale.

    Not stars, not x/10, not A/B/C/D/F but "how much would I pay for this?"


  5. ZippyDSMlee says:

    The monetary scale will definitely be an improvement on the scale of things, let uses decide on how they review and rate the games in their own unique way giving on the review page with a max of 2000 or so letters/words.Themonetary scale is the score that is shown and tracked by the site by.

    How how would the monetary scale work in increments of 1.00? 5.00? max of 200? 0-200?

    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)

  6. Zaruka says:

    sounds like a good idea im think it better then what most of the other sites even ign and gametrailers.

    oh idea do it where the editor can review but it like a player review that way you can have all points and who ever is the highest rated will be top score like ^^ said above me

    Thanks Zaruka

  7. Thomas McKenna says:

    I think that’s actually a really good idea. 

    The only problem I’d see with it would be the rating scale that’d abe in place.  If it’d be a number or grade system, different people will rate in different ways, thus giving a myriad of biased results.  Plus I think those rating systems are just dumb and insubstantial.  I mean, what really seperates a 9.5 from a 10, or even a 9 from a 10 for that matter when you don’t know the way that number is even chosen?  Did they have a team average it out, or did some guy just pick a number to the way he felt about the game?

    I’d suggest that the rating a person could give a game would be a choice of three options: if they liked it, if they were impartial, or if they didn’t like it.  Then, there’d be some program that’d tally the points, average it all out, and that would be the score that’s displayed.  For example, a game with 6 thumbs up (+6), 3 impartials (+.5), and 1 thumbs down (+0) would be a 75%.  This would then be displayed up on top where it’d say something like, "The average rating for this game by our users is 75%."  Below it’d then show that 60% liked the game, 30% thought it was ok, and 10% didn’t like the game.  This satisfies most people’s need for some sort of number or rating to something that’s mostly unratable, and it does it in a transparent, unbiased (from the hosting site, at least) manner.

  8. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I am all for that. Another thing to do is to not have any ads for games or game systems. If you need ads, only do ads for products and services that appeal to gamers but are not the above. This could be food, drinks, computer parts, etc.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
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    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  9. DeepThorn says:

    I am half tempted to create my own review site that ONLY has user reviews, who is interested in that idea?  If I get enough people to agree with it, I’m going for it.  The highest rated review will become the main review, then that is that.

  10. wintermute says:

    "It’s going to be hard for people to give the PR firm the benefit of the doubt and to trust GameCyte’s reviews, given how the relationship was unearthed. But so far, it doesn’t look like anything worse than bad judgement."

    It’s going to be hard for people to trust a gaming website’s review when it’s owned by a PR company, period.

  11. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    Heh. Never trust the ratings. Best to just rent a game and test it out yourself.


    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! Jack Thompson is gone, but we are not done… Not yet.

  12. Corey says:

     I dont see a huge problem with them having a review site. They should disclose information like that however. All of the major reviewers appear to have some bias though. I’ve noticed that G4 is in love with Bungie, IGN with Rockstar Games, and Yahtzee with Valve. Whenever they review games from their favorite developer, I have to take those reviews with a grain of salt. Who knows, this site may prove to be the most objective review site on the web.

  13. Vake Xeacons says:

     The controversy about gaming review sites and the companies they invest in is nothing new. Many gaming sites (cough gamespot cough) and mags have been accused of biased reviews because they need the advertising. This however, seems the other way around. 

    Kain’s the one investing in the companies, and while he needs them to do good, he’s the one giving them money. Technically, investors are the ones calling the shots; any Wall Streeter will tell you that.

  14. DarkTetsuya says:

    I give this article 5/5. 😛

    Seriously though, this doesn’t help the controversy (See also, Kane & Lynch)

    — "Jack and listen are two words that don’t go together…just like Jack and sanity, Jack and truth, Jack and proof, Jack and win…" — sortableturnip |

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