This week, the following events took place: 1. We got a bunch of tips telling us that the Xbox 360 version of Alone in the Dark had turned up on BitTorrent sites. 2. Scandinavian games site GameReactor (The Norwegian edition specifically) were one of the first to review Alone in the Dark. They gave it 3/10. Ouch. However, they then promptly pulled the review, and accusations of shady dealings were levelled against the site by Atari, who said that press copies had only been sent out the day before (the review has since been reinstated, and the 3/10 stands). Odd, seeing as many other European publications also had reviews go live this week, but whatever. 3. German site 4Players reviews the game. Gives it 68%. Then is threatened with legal action by Atari because, yes, Atari had no idea how the site got a copy of the game.
4Players' EIC Jörg Luibl says that Atari's lawyers have accused them of "breaking the law and violating the rights of their client (Atari)", all because 4Players reviewed the game prior to its release, but without using a copy sent to them by Atari. 4Players maintain that, like many other games not sent to them by publishers, they secured a copy via a "trusted dealer". Which could well just be a firendly local GAME manager cracking open his shipment of the game before the street date, it could be point #1 (the leaked copies of the game), who knows.
It's interesting that Atari are so worried about publications securing their own copy of a game. Do they fear that, because these outlets may have received copies of the game "early" (ie from pirated copies), that they're somehow reviewing incomplete code, which could affect their opinion of the game? Maybe. Pessimists could, however, be forgiven for thinking it's a convenient excuse for Atari to attack negative reviews of the only game they're releasing in 2008 that has any chance of making them some money.
UPDATE - Tor-Steinar Nastad Tangedal, from Norwegian site Gamer.no, has contacted us with a similar story. He writes (though without proof we're unable to confirm this):
Gamer.no was the second publication in the world to publish a review, and we also gave it 3 out of 10. The review was based on a retail copy obtained from a store on Tuesday this week. Atari contacted us just minutes after it was published, claiming that our review is probably based on a preview or pirated copy, and requested it to be removed. We never removed it, of course.