The stick and the Doritos
Gaming outlets have always been an advertising-supported business — a revenue stream that has become substantially exclusive with the transition to online journalism. Working with small profit margins and with the bulk of advertising coming from game publishers, game journalism stands in a difficult-to-manage position, where the interests of their sponsors often go against those of their readers.
Advertising money has been the main tool among the many that publishers have used to pressure game journalists. Already in 1995 Amiga Power was noticing the problem, claiming game reviewers were very strongly influenced by PR people offering bribe-like gifts, and went soft on games to avoid creating bad blood with publishers.
In 2005, then-Editor-in-Chief of EGM, Dan Hsu, stated that covers stories were basically on sale, in exchange for ads, at one unnamed EGM competitor — claiming that his company's publications had been pressured by publishers to “play ball” as well or they would've lost their ads.
Over the years, many instances of publishers trying to propitiate, intimidate or otherwise pressure journalists have surfaced, giving the impression of a continuous struggle behind the scenes — where a lot of journalists have either been strongly influenced by publishers, or have had to fight very hard not to be.