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The Driv3rGate Scandal The Full Story (DriverGate) Fact Hunt Special17:42

The Driv3rGate Scandal The Full Story (DriverGate) Fact Hunt Special

150538-Driv3r (USA) (En,Fr,Es)-1

Driv3r box art

In June 2004, Atari's Driv3r video game was released to poor reviews, poor sales and to the controversy that would become known as "Driv3rgate".

Overview

Driv3r, as a sequel in a series that had sold millions on the PS1 alone, had a lot to live up to what with its intended features (ie a much bigger world, more vehicles and more realistic vehicle damage than both Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City) and the release of another Reflections Interactive game, Stuntman, which was essentially a tech demo/teaser for Driv3r’s game engine made to tide over fans.

After 4 years in development, though, the game was becoming a huge money-sink for its publisher, Atari (aka French publisher Infogrames, who’d bought and rebranded themselves under the Atari name after they bought out Hasbro Interactive a few years before), to the point it would have to sell 4 million copies just to break even. Desperate to recoup their investment as well as to compete with Rockstar’s upcoming Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Atari decided the best thing to do would to be release the game unfinished, a tactic that had previously worked out for them with their tie-in game for The Matrix Reloaded, Enter the Matrix.

Compared to Enter the Matrix however, Driv3r was in a much more incomplete state, nor did it have a then-popular movie franchise to ride upon and so, 2 months prior to release, Atari gave British publisher Future Publishing exclusive review copies to 2 of their magazines, Xbox World and PSM2, in exchange for giving the game a 9/10.

Upon Driv3r’s release and other magazines giving more accurate scores of 5/10 (Gamespot) and 3/10 (Eurogamer, who even went as far as to call the game "the biggest gaming letdown of all time"), people who’d bought the game and realized how buggy it was took to Future’s Gamesradar forums en masse to complain and question why the 2 magazines gave such high scores. Future, in surprise at seeing this backlash, started deleting all threads discussing the game and demoting long-time moderators. Users simply made new accounts and more heated threads to the point that even the editor for PSM2, Nick Ellis, began posting on threads to damage control both Future and the game.

During this time, Atari themselves were facing heated accusations from angry buyers, and so hired a PR/QA team called Babel Media to post fake positive reviews on many websites as well as make sock accounts on Future’s forums defending the game. Upon the discovery by a moderator of 2 particular users being sock accounts, they vaguely admitted working for Babel but denied being paid by Atari to defend the game. Future's response this time was to completely wipe every thread ever mentioning Driv3rgate, not only saying it could be considered "libel" but going so far as to continually revert changes on Driv3r’s Wikipedia article as well as annual pages and transcripts on the Internet Archive and Google Cache.

In the end, while Future and Atari were successful in burying Driv3rgate (this archive by Stuart Campbell being one of the few remaining records of its existence), it was a fruitless effort. Despite the initial hype thanks to the advance reviews, Driv3r only sold 750k copies worldwide and became a huge financial loss that Atari would never recover from.

Atari would eventually sell both developer Reflections and the Driver franchise to Ubisoft in 2006 (whilst finally admitting Driv3r was purposefully released unfinished) and eventually having its subsidiaries Atari, Inc. (formerly GT Interactive and Infogrames, Inc.) and Atari Interactive (formerly Hasbro Interactive, Inc. and Infogrames Interactive, Inc. and being the owner of the Atari name) filing for bankruptcy in 2013 in an attempt to sell off from the profit losing Atari SA (formerly Infogrames Entertainment SA), which didn't work, and both companies emerged from bankruptcy a year later, still owned by Atari SA.

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