Bizarre: TrustedReviews Pulls Website Reporting on 'Red Dead' Leak, Pays More Than A Million To Charities Of Rockstar's Choice

from the whuh? dept

When it comes to the private sector, it's not rare thing to see lawsuits over press leaks. Typically, those lawsuits target the person or entity responsible for the leak itself. While the real irritation in these leaks for companies comes from seeing them reported in the press, suing the press for reporting on a leak is fraught with statutory barriers.

Which is what makes it so odd to discover that TrustedReviews, a website that publishes news and reviews in the video game industry, disappeared an article it posted months ago discussing leaked information on the now released Red Dead Redemption 2. Oh, and it agreed to pay over a million dollars to charities of Rockstar's choice.

The British website TrustedReviews today pulled an article, apologized to publisher Take-Two Games, and said it was donating 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) to charity after publishing leaked information about Red Dead Redemption 2 in February of this year. It’s a radical move that raises serious questions about editorial independence and legal threats against the press.

TrustedReviews, which is owned by TI Media (formerly Time Inc, UK), is a technology website that publishes deals and reviews. In February, it published an article, sourcing a leaked internal Rockstar document, that listed details from Red Dead Redemption 2, which would come out eight months later. The article contained a list of bullet-points that claimed, among other things, that you’d be able to play all of Red Dead 2 in first-person (true) and that the online component would have a battle royale mode (to be determined).

Reporting on leaks of this sort is common, of course, particularly in the entertainment industries. While content companies have attempted to sue over everything from leaks to publishing spoilers, these threats and suits rarely go anywhere. If press freedoms in a given country are at all a thing, reporting from confidential sources on leaks is almost always included. The UK has its "State Secrets" nonsense, but that doesn't apply here.

Which makes all of this bizarre. Adding to the whole thing is TrustedReviews bending over backwards to fully apologize publicly, not in any way lamenting this outcome.

“On February 6, 2018, we published an article that was sourced from a confidential corporate document,” the website now reads. “We should have known this information was confidential and should not have published it. We unreservedly apologise to Take-Two Games and we have undertaken not to repeat such actions again. We have also agreed to donate over £1 million to charities chosen by Take-Two Games.”

Nothing about this makes sense, unless TrustedReviews was somehow involved in the leak itself, rather than simply reporting on it. There is nothing publicly suggesting that is the case, so we're instead left to assume that the site simply didn't want to engage in a costly lawsuit brought by Rockstar, who we have to assume threatened one. On the other hand, a $1.3 million payout isn't exactly peanuts either.

Frustratingly, everyone appears to be in the dark here. If only another press outlet could obtain a leak of what exactly the hell is going on here, we might get some clarity.


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  • identicon
    bob, 5 Nov 2018 @ 7:46pm

    it is odd.

    I'm betting take-two threatened to stop providing free game licenses and press releases to them early like they do with all the other publications.

    But the apologies and money do seem to suggest they did something nefarious, maybe not illegal but questionable ethically.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 5 Nov 2018 @ 8:34pm

      Re: it is odd.

      Gaming journalism magazines and websites have been receiving similar threats for years and years. One of my favorite examples is classic gaming magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, which received two separate “we will pull our ads” threats from publishers as retaliation for low review scores (Acclaim for Total Recall [NES], Capcom for Super Street Fighter II [SNES]). To its credit, the EGM editor-in-chief let the companies pull their ads to send a message: “You can’t buy a good review from us.”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2018 @ 9:13pm

      Re: it is odd.

      But the apologies and money do seem to suggest they did something nefarious

      Don't TrustedReviews get all the benefit of this donation? Take-Two chooses the charity, but that wouldn't entitle them to any tax credits, and unless they're running a charity-scam they don't get any of that money; whereas TR presumably get tax credit for the donation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Agammamon, 5 Nov 2018 @ 10:11pm

        Re: Re: it is odd.

        Still a million bucks out the door. I don't know how big trusted reviews is but I would be willing to bet not large enough for its tax bill not to be swamped by the write-off available for donating a mil.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 6 Nov 2018 @ 4:45am

          Re: Re: Re: it is odd.

          Is it a million bucks, or is it a million dollars worth of "free" advertising? Companies are infamous for this type of (non-)charitable donations - "giving away" credits towards purchase of their products or similar.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2018 @ 7:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: it is odd.

            That only works if Take-Two chooses a charity willing to take games or game credits. Most want cash or stocks. (TR is unlikely to have stocks, and I don't know UK tax rules... but in the USA, donating appreciated stocks is one of the best tax moves a person can make, because capital gains taxes are zero.)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Call me Al, 6 Nov 2018 @ 2:21am

        Re: Re: it is odd.

        UK Corporation tax is 19%, so at best they've saved £190k in tax. It still cost them £810k which is still over $1m.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2018 @ 8:29pm

    Re: It is odd

    Still more useful than anything blue ever said.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 6 Nov 2018 @ 5:08am

    How dare you do your job and ruin our surprise!

    As if I really needed another reason not to touch that game with a ten-foot pole...

    Threatening journalists for doing their gorram jobs, as though said journalists owe the publishers anything like that. Well, guess I've got two more companies to add to the 'Avoid if at all possible' list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fmstrat (profile), 6 Nov 2018 @ 5:48am

    Why? Future earned trust.

    Apparently the leak was "illicit in nature": https://www.vgr.com/red-dead-redemption-2-the-story-behind-the-most-expensive-game-leak/ I haven't seen this specifically stated, but my guess is TrustedReviews commonly gets information from publishers early to prepare their articles. They believed their middle-man supplying documentation had received approval to publish prior to delivery, and hadn't. This miscommunication caused the issue, and in good faith TR decided to make a donation to keep the relationship with Take-Two in good health for future publication. Companies who "wrong" a video game company commonly lose out on early access to games which make reporting possible. And this can branch out to other companies who see the bad faith as an issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 6 Nov 2018 @ 8:06am

    NotSoTrustedReviews

    Nobody trusts a brown-nose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2018 @ 9:34am

    If only another press outlet could obtain a leak of what exactly the hell is going on here, we might get some clarity.

    But only for a little while, then that explanation would itself be memory-holed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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