On November 28, 2007, Jeff Gerstmann was terminated from his position as Editorial Director after 11 years at the company.Initially after the firing, Gamespot and its parent company, CNET, did not give out the reason why Gearstmann lost his job. This news came as a surprise for everyone involved in the gaming industry because of who Gerstmann is. Jeff Gerstmann was one of the most popular game reviewers at Gamespot. Game developers and publishers highly value his gaming opinion. After Gerstman’s firing, fellow Gamespot editors Ryan Davis, Vinny Caravella, Brad Shoemaker, and Alex Navarro all left the company in protest. They all seem to know something about the incident that the rest of the world doesn’t. They understood why he was fired and they didn’t like it one bit.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
The mysterious firing of Jeff Gerstmann sent the internet gaming community into a frenzy. Rumors and speculations started flying around regarding the mysterious termination. What did this senior Gamespot writer do that cost him to lose his dream job? The one theory that gained the most traction at the time involved a game called Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. It was Gerstmann’s last review at Gamespot and he gave the game a “low” score of 6.0. This was unacceptable to the game publisher, Eidos, because they spent huge advertisement dollars on Gamespot.com. The entire website was themed with Kane & Lynch.
Many came to believe that Gerstmann lost his job over his review of the game. However, no one was able to confirm this theory for sure. CNET and Gamespot tries to dismiss the rumor by stating that Gerstmann wasn’t fired over his Kane & Lynch review. To add to the mystery, Gerstmann himself wasn’t allowed to speak on his firing because of legal implications. He was forced to sign a non-disclosure contract on his way out so that nobody would know the exact reasons why he was let go. All in all it was a well orchestrated move by Gamespot. Gearstmann described this event as the “craziest thing that’s ever happened to me.” His firing was so big that his parents were getting phone calls from foreign newspaper late at night. The world wanted to know why Jeff Gerstmann was shown the door.
Similar to Steve Jobs after he was forced out of Apple, Gerstmann started his own company. He created a gaming website called GiantBomb shortly after his time at Gamespot. The site was a hit with gamers and it quickly became successful in its own right. Gearstmann was able to put his past behind him until 2012 when CBS Interactive bought out Giantbomb. CBS also owns CNET which owns Gamespot. This means that Gearstmann would be united once again with his old company and working in the same building before he was fired.
Before they could move forward with the deal, Gerstmann believed that he and Gamespot would have to talk about the firing and let the public know what went on in November 2007. CBS comply by lifting Gearstmann’s non-disclosure clause, allowing him to break his silences and finally speaks about what happened. Soon, a live stream session was arranged between Gearstmann and a member from Gamespot. The purpose of the stream was to address the acquirement of GiantBomb by CBS. They would speak on the cooperation between GiantBomb and Gamespot. Most importantly, the liveshow is to address the reasons why Gerstmann was fired from Gamespot to begin with.
After much speculation regarding the circumstance, it turned out that the rumor regarding Kane & Lynch was true. Gerstmann explained that a new management team recently came into power and they couldn’t cope with pressure from publishers. Eidos threatened to pull advertisement from Gamespot based on the 6.0 score that Kane & Lynch received. Gerstmann was considered to be “unreliable” to the company and you know what happened next. Thankfully, that management team is no longer employed by Gamespot. Ironically, Gerstmann claimed in the same interview that he ran into Kane & Lynch developers after he was fired. They admitted to Gerstmann themselves that the game wasn’t very good. They got away with murder and they know it.
Gerstmann believed that he did nothing wrong by not giving favorable treatment to games that were advertised on the website. He said, “We did what an editorial team does. We did what we were supposed to be doing. We reviewed games, we instructed people about the quality of games, and we were completely honest.” Personally, a senior game reviewer should not be fired for giving a game 6.0 score. It’s a fair score given to a game that neither good or bad. This was an assault on journalism ethics.
The firing of Jeff Gerstmann was a giant bomb in gaming journalism’s history. Though this event happened a long time ago, it’s important for the gaming community to remember what happened to Jeff Gerstmann in 2007. Gerstmann could’ve easily avoided all that trouble and gave the game 7.5 score and nobody would bat an eye because he is Jeff Gearstmann. Instead, he gave the game 6.0 and lost his job as a result.
Edit: Gerstmann’s name was mispelled.