Atari Threatens Legal Action Over Alone in the Dark Reviews

Atari Threatens Legal Action Over Alone in the Dark Reviews

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Atari has threatened legal action against a couple of Norwegian review sites that recently gave painfully low review scores to the Xbox 360 version of Alone in the Dark, based on accusations that the reviews were made using pirated copies of the game.

The Norwegian site GameReactor recently slapped the game with a 3/10 review score, according to Kotaku, but pulled the review quickly after Atari pointed out review copies of the game had only been sent out one day prior, suggesting that the site may have acquired the game via less-than-legal means. GameReactor Denmark and GameReactor Sweden quickly followed suit with similar review scores, however, each giving the game 4/10, and the GameReactor Norway review was quickly put back online, with the original score intact.

German site 4Players also issued a review of the game, giving it a more favorable rating of 68 percent, but also found itself threatened by Atari lawyers for not using an authorized copy of the game. Jörg Luibl, editor-in-chief at 4Players, sent a message to Kotaku saying the site has been accused of "breaking the law and violating the rights of [Atari]," but maintains they based the review on a legitimate full-release copy of the game obtained from a "trusted dealer."

Strangely, the poor ratings appear to be limited to Scandinavian countries; while another Norwegian site, Gamer.no, also rated the game at 3/10, GamesIndustry says "broad averages" from U.K. sites are hovering around the 7/10 mark, and the same score was awarded to the game by Eurogamer. An Atari spokesman refused to comment on the poor Nordic reviews, but did say, "We're happy with the review scores in the U.K. We believe the game speaks for itself."

Complaints about poor review scores are nothing new, but bad reviews based on pirated copies of games, which may be incomplete, based on pre-release versions or otherwise not fully representative of the final product can be a more serious concern. In March, THQ Creative Director Michael Fitch blamed the collapse of Titan Quest developer Iron Lore largely at the feet of bad word-of-mouth caused by people playing pirated versions of the game. "Here we are, before the game even releases, getting bashed to hell and gone by people who can't even be bothered to actually pay for the game," he wrote in the Quarter To Three forums.

"What was the ultimate impact of that? Hard to measure, but it did get mentioned in several reviews," he continued. "Think about that the next time you read, 'We didn't have any problems running the game, but there are reports on the internet that people are having crashes.'"

Alone in the Dark for the Xbox 360 was released today in Europe and will hit North America on June 24. A PlayStation 3 version of the game is slated for release later this year.

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As shortsighted as it may seem sometimes, this is Atari's new low. O.o

If the sites were using a pirated version of the game, wouldn't the reviewers be a little skeptical about giving so low review scores in the first place?

Besides, Atari might want to keep those lawsuits at bay for a while. There's no merit in getting negative attention about the game, at least not before Yahtzee says a word or two about it. :)

Atari does have a legitimate grievance though, if the reviews are bad based on an illegitimate/crappy copy of the game. If the game's been (supposedly) fully played through in an amount of time that makes it impossible for it to have been the game sent to the reviewer by the company then that could be a very serious disconect. In other words; what exactly, is it that they were playing?

I still don't think that a lawsuit is the best way to go about expressing your discontent, though. :/

if in doubt, sue.

3/10, 4/10, with Eden Games behind this?
Me haz big doobts.

Now, that's a nice spin. It literally puts a new light onto the idea that pirated games would "help" games, like some people like to think to make them confortable while emule's running in the background.

Besides, all negative reviews solely coming from northern European countries?... maybe we should get a *tad* suspicious here.

And from the fury of the Northmen, please deliver us.

Yeah, I too have my doubts about the validity (and code integrity) of the version these guys reviewed, seeing as they're geographically close and anomalously low in score.

Or maybe the Norse localisation is poor or something...

-- Steve

Atari may have a legit grievance here. Such a tightly-focused group of shit reviews, when the game is being rated decently everywhere else, is worth a raised eyebrow or two. Threats of lawsuits may seem heavy-handed at this early juncture, but it's not entirely unreasonable if Atari is simply warning these sites that legal action will follow if it turns out they're using pirated copies of games for their reviews - which is a fair move on their part. Moral issues aside (and we know how I feel about that so let's not get started), these sites are putting the screws to Atari's sales based on a false premise. How many times has it happened before? If Atari lets it slide, how many times will it happen again?

By the way, can anyone tell me what's pissing these guys off? All I can vaguely make out (not speaking any Danish/Swedish/Norwegian) is that they seem to like the core idea but don't like the inventory and camera controls. I think.

-- Steve

To me it sounds like Atari is a sore loser, trying to blame "pirated" pre-release copies that were in fact quite legal release versions.
I don't think that many series can stay good over five games, which is further backed up by the fact that Atari didn't send out any promo copies.

Of course it's also possible, while highly unlikely, that all the reviewers were feeling down at the time of reviewing and were in dire need of happy-pills.

E//
After taking a glance at the comments section on GR; some say it's bad but not that bad, other say it's awesome while there are a few that say it was worse than 3/10. A rather normal reception I'd say.

Anton P. Nym:
By the way, can anyone tell me what's pissing these guys off? All I can vaguely make out (not speaking any Danish/Swedish/Norwegian) is that they seem to like the core idea but don't like the inventory and camera controls. I think.

-- Steve

Translated the Danish overview of scores:

Graphics: 5
Gameplay: 4
Sound: 5
Lasting: 4 (As in time until game grows boring)
Our rating: 4/10

Pros: Some good ideas. Different perspective. Resume at relaunch of game.

Cons: Sloppy and weird controls. Uneven graphics, bad inventory-system. Filled with small errors/bugs, forced fighting system. Poor camera. Bad voiceacting.

these sites are putting the screws to Atari's sales based on a false premise.

Do you have any reason to believe that?
The sites themselves claims that they had gotten the copies from a retail store. This simply means that one of their friends in a shop sold them an extra copy prior to official release; happens all the time, it even happened to the last harry potter book.

Since Atari has no proof, and the sites would screw up for themselves if they reviewed a pirated copy, I really don't think we can assume that the sites reviewed a pirated copy. They probably reviewed the real thing, a day early.

H0ncho:
the sites would screw up for themselves if they reviewed a pirated copy, I really don't think we can assume that the sites reviewed a pirated copy. They probably reviewed the real thing, a day early.

Highly likely since reviewing a pirated game, thus risking a major screw-up, just to review it a day early just seems way too stupid and not worth the risk. If they couldn't have gotten hold of a legal release copy I'm pretty sure they'd wait that extra day and just buy it then.

I just thought of something...

I mean, absolutely nobody, globally speaking, pays attention to what an obscure Norwegian gamer site says. The only reason why people knows about this is because Atari threatened legal action.

H0ncho:
The sites themselves claims that they had gotten the copies from a retail store. This simply means that one of their friends in a shop sold them an extra copy prior to official release; happens all the time, it even happened to the last harry potter book.

Well they're not bloody likely to admit they reviewed a rip off a torrent, even if they did, are they? That'd blow the credibility of their review right out of the water. Perhaps it's not very nice to accuse game review magazines of piracy, but they did review the game before it was physically possible for them to have received an (Atari-approved, anyway) advanced copy... and if they're unscrupulous enough to break street date, why not the small additional reduction in scruples to just go a-viking on the Internets so that they can guarantee their "zOMG F!rst!!1!!1!!"?

Also, I *hate* with a burning passion stores that break street date and allow their patrons to spoil plot points for us honest players before the we can even touch the disc. May their future stock deliveries be "delayed in shipping" for all eternity.

-- Steve

H0ncho:
They probably reviewed the real thing, a day early.

Do you have any reason to believe that?

As Mr. Nym pointed out, there's fishiness going on here no matter how you look at it. Nobody knows what the truth is at this point but everyone seems to be making a lot of assumptions. I haven't said I "believe" anything yet, although I will point out that even if these review sites are just convincing retailers to break street dates, they're doing absolutely nothing for their credibility with developers and publishers, which will only hurt them in the long run.

And the quote you posted was somewhat out of context as well: You left out the "if it turns out they're using pirated copies of games for their reviews" part.

In corporate buisness, the scandinavians are much more honest then pretty much everybody else in the world. If all of them agree that it sucks, i'm more inclined to believe then then when the brittish say it's decent.

Asehujiko, that's an assumption that can cost you a lot in "corporate business".

In any case, why is Atari basing its case on the date? Don't they know whom they sent review copies to?

In addition, I've read that the desire to publish reviews first (and so be unique) is very heavy on gaming sites, especially the smaller ones, so it wouldn't surprise me if the piracy thing is true. I'd also say getting an early copy from a "trusted dealer" is shady at best.

IMO, more sites should work on delivering better content (see The Escapist), not just being "first".

Remember when Atari said they want to stop the development of games such as AitD?
Well, could it also be that upn pre releases they may have tested, they sensed that it wasn't that good, and are building up some offended facade to protect their butts?
Just looking at the other side of the fence.

Atari pushed out Knights of the Old Republic II before the game was finished because they mishandled other unrelated business endeavours and were hurting for cash. This is simply karma at hand, nothing else. ;-)

Echolocating:
Atari pushed out Knights of the Old Republic II before the game was finished because they mishandled other unrelated business endeavours and were hurting for cash. This is simply karma at hand, nothing else. ;-)

That's an interesting way of looking at things...

As for the actual reviews, I must say that something does seem a little odd. I mean, if only a few sites give it a terrible score, and others are giving it decent scores, then something is bound to be going wrong.

Some sites weren't intimidated enough after the gamespot fiasco, that's what went wrong. I played it for a while on a friend's console and i fully agree with the scandinavian reviews.

Here's an easier way to go: 'Suggest' on Scandanavian websites and to the reviewers themselves that they 'might' have used illegal copies. Make them worry, and hurt their credibility. Don't mention Atari, don't mention the word 'lawsuit,' and don't make this news outside of this relatively small territory, especially not after what's been happening recently (ie. Gamespot, Kane & Lynch, MGS4's secret installs).

Still, it's always nice to give the forums another chance to prove that they're smarter than the devs.

Echolocating:
Atari pushed out Knights of the Old Republic II before the game was finished because they mishandled other unrelated business endeavours and were hurting for cash. This is simply karma at hand, nothing else. ;-)

...Atari had nothing to do with KOTOR 2.

Maybe you don't feel bad for Atari (which I kind of do), but definitely feel for Iron Lore. I enjoyed Titan Quest, and to see one of the reasons they shut down is because of people bagging on a pirated-version of a game. That in its own right seems ridiculous.

On the other hand, for the pirated version to suck so much, assuming the game doesn't (nothing sure), it would either mean there's been a leak for a very early version, yet it only surfaces then, or the pirated version has lost some content en route, which is illogical. Most games still hold on DVDs, and more and more people are getting access to internet with even wider bandwidths. At this point, there's little reason to remove content from a game.

It could be that the game is not that good in the end. IO Interactive used me to nice games with their Hitman series (though there was very little significant evolution on the bad aspects), yet Kane & Lynch got shot midair.

...

It seems that this game would deserve an Enhanced Edition. It appears that while terribly bugged and played with arguable controls, it has a formidable atmosphere, notably later in the game.
I'd say just rent it if you really want to play it, but don't pay full price. We still deserve finished products.

 

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