At times being a game journalist has its perks. You may remember the free Xbox 360 given a couple years to all attendees of the Microsoft press conference at E3, or Sony dropping a year of PlayStation Plus on those that were present at its own presser. More recently, everyone that attended the PS4’s official press presentation in New York received the console with his name engraved on the HDD bay, even if that one could easily be interpreted as a review unit.
Apparently Ubisoft might have gone down that way at a recent press event in Paris, designed to showcase Watch_Dogs. Some attendees allege having received an Asus Nexus 7 tablet as part of the event’s “asset kit.” That definitely would be one hell of a asset kit, and I’m quite sure that’s not needed to preview the game.
The giveaway was first mentioned by Official Nintendo Magazine UK Editor in Chief Steve Hogarty on Twitter:
It is TRUTH. Ubisoft gave journalists a free Nexus 7 each at an exclusive Watchdogs preview event in Paris. Oh Ubisoft.
Since then the allegation has been backed by other prominent reporters, some of which mentioned that they didn’t accept the tablet or they’re giving it away for charity.
A couple Examples are Gamesindustry’s Dan Pearson…
@misterbrilliant Ours is going to GamesAid for Ebay auctioning, but yeah, pretty shameless.
… and Official Xbox Magazine UK’s Jon Hicks, that also added tongue-in-cheek that the mints that were inside the kit were instead accepted and eaten. Can’t say no to mints…
For the record: Ubi gave @dirigiblebill a Nexus 7 as a Watch Dogs “asset kit”. We made clear we can’t accept it & agreed to give it away.
VideoGamer’s Steve Burns was also offered the tablet, but didn’t even take it:
For the record: I was offered the Nexus, gave it back to the PR. No reason to take it. I did drink the water that was also in the bag though
Update: Xbox Official Magazine UK’s Edwin Evans-Thirlwell was between those that received the tablet, and wrote an insightful article about the whole event including his first-hand report, pretty much confirming what happened.
To further complicate the matter, apparently not all the journalists present at the event were offered the tablet, as reported by LCI’s Guillaume Delalande and other French journalists, that only received a T-shirt.
It’s worth mentioning that this kind of freebies aren’t as rare in the industry as many would believe, and happen in basically every industry where journalists are invited to exclusive events. It’s definitely not something limited to video games. It’s also important to consider that development teams are normally not involved with this kind of decision, that is taken by a company’s PR department or even by external PR firms, so it would be unfair to let it influence your perception of the game itself.
Many publications have rules (written or not) against accepting freebies, as you can see from the comments above. While many writers also won’t take them regardless of their publication’s rules due to personal work ethics. Ultimately, though, whether this kind of giveaway is questionable or not, it’s for you to judge.
In the meanwhile we reached out to Ubisoft for a clarification on the issue, and we’ll keep you updated on any reply we’ll receive.
Update 2: Ubisoft has since confirmed the event and apologized for the confusion:
During a recent Watch Dogs preview event, a number of UK journalists were given gift bags containing a tablet that was preloaded with Watch Dogs videos, screenshots and relevant links. This isn’t in line with our policies for working with journalists who cover our games, as we understand that gifts of this kind might be misconstrued. We apologize for the error and are sorry for any confusion.