Topware Interactive, the publisher behind Two Worlds II, is under fire from certain quarters for attempting to actively manipulate review scores and user-defined game rankings, yesterday's report by Destructoid's Jim Sterling alleges.
It's important to note that last word and not get too carried away, but the list of suspected charges brought to the table against Topware does not make for happy reading with Sterling's list of 'the various stories we have uncovered over the past few days' shown below:
- European reviewers have accepted ad buys from Topware in exchange for favorable reviews.
- Topware was caught by IGN attempting to influence the rating score of IGN's GameStats and inflating Two Worlds II's ranking.
- GameReactor was pressured to take down its Two Worlds II review because it used preview code to write it. The rub is that more favorable reviews released at the same time as GameReactor's were not asked to remove their reviews, despite being based on the same code.
- Topware employees have been writing Amazon reviews, posting YouTube comments, and posing elsewhere as members of the public to generate positive feedback on its own products.
- Threats of legal action against one reviewer were made without the permission of management, and rest entirely on the head of the PR department. A reviewer was accused of pirating a copy of Two Worlds II for his negative review, despite having been sent code.
- Destructoid itself was planned to be approached with a bribe. Topware paid for a Two Worlds II site skin, but withheld half the pay. The other half was allegedly planned to be paid in exchange for an 8.5/10 review from us.
Citing anonymous sources, as well as Topware's ex-PR manager Jake DiGennaro, who suggested that his time with the company had been morally questionable with him being 'uncomfortable doing some of the things [he] was asked to do', Sterling made no accusations of his own, but did note that there was far more noise coming from the side of the detractors.
Putting forward the other side of the debate, Topware's Managing Director James Seaman was less than impressed, maintaining that that 'DiGennaro was fired "with cause" and was now attempting a revenge plot by helping [Destructoid with their] story. He went on to respond to the other allegations, maintaining the following:
There is absolutely no correlation between review scores and ad buys. We do not even have the budget for ad buys that people would even take that seriously. On top of that Topware does not handle PR in Europe. Zuxxez Entertainment, our parent company, does.
[...] Topware does not engage in any manipulation of media sites or customer sites, but we are happy that people like our game.'
As Sterling himself notes at the end of the report, there are very few concrete facts to this one - it essentially boiling down to the voices of several disgruntled parties versus the voice of one man. But whilst it's still uncertain as to whether there's a fire or not, there sure is a hell of a lot of smoke.