Rock Band 4 has received fairly positive critical acclaim although the user-response is quite mixed. In the last few years, community media via Twitch, Steam Reviews and Amazon Reviews have helped inform consumers when deliberating a game purchase. Many are distrustful of the mainstream gaming print media, and prefer to listen to first-hand experiences from early adopters. In a completely audacious move, members of the Rock Band development team have been leaving positive reviews on Amazon for a game they help create. Clearly, their own opinion is biased and skewed the Amazon reviews in a completely unfair manner. Destructoid investigated three leading reviews on Amazon and outlined their key roles at Harmonix.
In lieu of this damning evidence, Harmonix released a statement which reads:
“Harmonix has clarified its internal policy about posting reviews of our own products on retail sites, and we’ve asked that existing reviews be edited to identify Harmonix employees or be removed entirely. While we believe the reviews posted by a few employees were sincere and without ill intentions, as a studio we don’t believe these are appropriate actions. We appreciate the feedback from the community, and take our relationship with our fans seriously.”
Disclosure helps in this situation, but I’m baffled why these team members thought giving their opinion was a good idea in the first place. Even with this disclosure, people will find it difficult to take their opinion seriously. Matthew Nordhaus added this piece of information to his original review:
“I added this review half in jest (as you might be able to tell from the tone of the original). In hindsight, it’s probably important that I note that I worked on the game and work for Harmonix. That being said, I’m confident that if I didn’t I would still give the game five stars. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, cooperative game, rare enough already in today’s landscape, that I can play with my wife and kids. Music discovery, playing with your family and friends, and cooperation make Rock Band my favorite.”
I’m not entirely sure if this explanation sounds like a passionate plea or marketing exercise. Whatever the case, I’m glad this has been investigated and everything has been properly disclosed. Although, this was clearly going to happen and provides a lesson to any publisher out there who tries to pull a similar stunt.