An Australian journalist is claiming he was sacked for blowing the whistle after Rockstar demanded positive coverage of its latest game.
As reported by News.com, Toby McCasker was formerly the deputy entertainment editor of Zoo Weekly. He posted an excerpt from an email on Facebook, alleging that it was sent by a Rockstar PR executive to magazine staff. The email apparently concerned forthcoming release Red Dead Redemption.
"This is the biggest game we've done since GTA IV, and is already receiving Game of the Year 2010 nominations from specialists all around the world," it's said to have read.
"Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this - he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here."
The Facebook post has since been deleted and McCasker has been fired from Zoo. The journalist claims he was the victim of a system which enables companies to demand positive coverage in exchange for advertising revenues.
He told News.com, "I did not sign up to become a journalist to write advertorials masquerading as editorial. This 'cash for comment' culture that is fast becoming the status quo within print media bothers me a lot."
Rockstar Australia commented, "We are not clear on what the story is here. We always try to present our games in the most compelling way to media and fans alike and of course we, like every other videogame publisher in Australia or anywhere else for that matter, want to have our games seen in a positive light."
Zoo editor Paul Merrill denied McCasker's allegations, telling Kotaku, "I would like to make it clear that at no time has Rockstar EVER sought a preferential review in return for advertising. In fact no games company has ever suggested this. And Zoo would never give a positive review to a game we didn't rate in return for ad dollars."
Merrill went on to claim that McCasker was fired for "a number of reasons", including "his decision to post a private email on his Facebook page".
He added, "This email was not referring to a game review. [McCasker] should not be considered a credible source of information on this matter."