Fabricated play.com screengrab

After a week of publishing stories about leaked upcoming releases for Playstation’s latest handheld, the Vita, gaming journalists around the world were given a wake-up call, learning their source was a 4chan troll exceptionally good at Photoshop.

The seemingly harmless troll later evolved into a fabrication that would embarrass the entire gaming journalism industry.

Eurogamer, a UK based gaming journalism outfit, reported that four new titles would be released for the Playstation Vita, including handheld versions of the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy franchises. Robert Purchase cited a screengrab supposedly taken from play.com, a British online gaming retailer, showing the four titles as available for preorder. 

As has become common practice in the gaming journalism industry, other sites ran with the story as well, writing new versions of the piece to drive internet traffic. Joystiq, Kotaku, and Gamespot, all respected gaming news sites, ran with the story. And they all sourced the same fabricated screengrab from play.com. 

Play.com cleared the air by sending an official statement to Eurogamer. 

“Play.com would like to clarify details of yesterday's alleged leak of four new Vita titles. Unfortunately, the screenshots with references to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Nights, Tales Of Innocence R and Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, posted on a games forum were not genuine Play.com pages and were fabricated,” the statement read, putting the rumors to bed.

The internet declared open season on the gaming journalists that wrote the story, with users on NeoGaf decrying gaming journalism as a joke and 4chan users praising the successful troll as successful. 

Jason Schreier, the Kotaku journalist that wrote the story on the leaked Vita games, issued an apology to NeoGaf after the forums began criticizing his lack of scrutiny. 

“For my part in making this situation uglier and about something other than the accuracy of one report, I’m sorry. I’m sure you can imagine it’s no fun to have your reputation dragged through the mud and have even conversations you thought were private brought into the public domain,” said Schreier on NeoGaf.

Gaming journalism has often been criticized as begin based on rumors that are often found to be untrue and editorial reviews of games that are longwinded, cumbersome, and pretentious. Stories are often not held to the same level of fact checking and neutrality as more traditional forms of reporting.

And so the credibility of the gaming news business takes another hit as even internet savvy journalists prove they too can be trolled. 

Troll level: Murdoch – 4chan wins again.

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