Friday, March 16, 2012

Giant Bomb Sold to CBS Interactive

Yesterday, Giant Bomb was purchased by CBS Interactive. CBS Interactive, of course, is the parent company of CNET, which possesses notable websites like GameFAQs and GameSpot.

Companies are bought and sold all the time, so this is something that generally shouldn't be very surprising. An independent family of journalism sites, Whiskey Media, began in 2007 when Shelby Bonnie (co-founder of CNET) founded the company. With the intent to produce a network of journalism sites with a social-networking bend, Shelby Bonnie and his team of capable engineers, designers, and producers gave way to a seemingly brand new approach to internet journalism. Now you could base it around a set of personalities to lead a sort of community aspect to the writing and interactions. Whiskey Media would go on to add Giant Bomb to its network of sites with this goal.

While this was happening, Jeff Gerstmann was the Editorial Director at GameSpot, one of, if not the biggest name in video games journalism. Starting fresh out of High School in 1996, Gerstmann spent the next 11 years crawling his way to this position. Working closely with his editorial staff, they devised a new scoring method for games that was meant to provide a more accurate and varied scale, preventing games of different quality levels from acquiring the same scores due to a mathematical formula. Around the same time, GameSpot had been in the process of hiring both new marketing and new managerial staff, most of which had never before closely worked with an editorial staff.

Due to this new scoring systems, games began to end up with lower scores than previously. A game that might have earned itself a 7 out of 10 in the old system may well now be a 6. This seemed to cause the ire of publishers, who would threaten to pull their advertising from GameSpot. It has come to light that this began to happen with October 2007's Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction (written by Aaron Thomas), but did not reach its pinnacle until Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (written by Gerstmann), less than a month later. Gerstmann scored the game a 6.0 (then a 'fair' on the GameSpot scale), and spoke frankly about the games quality. This lead to threats of pulling advertisement funding from the publisher, Eidos Interactive. Notably, the site was covered in a Kane & Lynch skin wrap at the time. After a series of heated discussions behind closed doors, it seemed as if the matter had been dropped, that GameSpot (and Gerstmann) had retained their integrity, and that things would blow over.

The following Monday, Jeff Gerstmann was fired.

Infamous Penny Arcade strip regarding "Gerstmanngate"

He would go on to form Giant Bomb underneath the Whiskey Media flag, joining the ranks of Comic Vine and Anime Vice to become the third site under the banner. With a strong focus on community and fun, Giant Bomb quickly began to show promise as a place free of many of the burdens that had rapidly begun to be the assumed status at GameSpot. Following Gerstmann's departure, fellow GameSpot employees Ryan Davis, Brad Shoemaker, Vinny Caravella, and Alex Navarro also joined the exodus from GameSpot to Giant Bomb. The site's podcast, the Giant Bombcast, would go on to consistently be in the top 10 most downloaded video game podcasts on iTunes, globally.

On March 15th, 2012, it was announced that Giant Bomb and Comic Vine would be sold to CBS Interactive. This, of course, meant that the offices of which would be moving to a very familiar space – that is, the very same offices they were working in in 2007, at GameSpot. This is where the controversy and the real crazy bits come into play. Giant Bomb, a site that many view as a site built to escape everything GameSpot grew to represent, is now in the very same building, receiving funding and pay from the very same pay, and (despite the almost deafening insistence from Giant Bomb themselves) presumably going to be held to the same standards. As someone who followed the crew from their time on the Hot Spot, to their private blogs, and then to Giant Bomb, I would be remiss not to add that I am, personally, very worried. This seems to fly in the very face of what Giant Bomb represents, to me.

As a personal aside, I have a hard time blaming business for being business. Companies exist to make money, and it's probably pretty unfair of me to be upset that that's what everyone in this situation is trying to do. I understand why this is happening, but it certainly doesn't make me any happier about it.

Dan pretty much thinks this is huge bullshit. You can follow him on Twitter here.


  1. I recommend that everyone watch this

    1. I watched it when it aired. Completely surreal.

  2. It was mind-blowing to see Jeff on On the Spot again.