Almost all awards shows draw criticism from normal Joes and posh critics in some shape or form. Differences of opinion are a core element of human nature, and no awards show will ever end with everyone happy.
However, occasional oversights can be glaring and the topic of heated debate, whether it be the Academy Awards or Most Valuable Player voting for Major League Baseball.
Last year, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences handed out its Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, as voted on by members of the AIAS. Curiously missing from the final nominations was Capcom’s Resident Evil 4, the game that nearly swept other awards shows’ choice for Game of the Year, including GameSpot’s.
At the time, a representative from the AIAS told GameSpot that RE4 was not eligible for nomination because its publisher was not a member of the AIAS.
“According to the rules, you have to be a member for your game to be nominated,” the AIAS rep said at the time. “There was a write-in option, and Resident [Evil 4] got written in, but [Capcom] chose not to play,” the rep said.
This year, when the nominations for the 10th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards were announced, two titles that gamers noticed were missing were a critically-lauded pair from Capcom–Okami and Dead Rising. Like RE4 in 2005, these games were widely recognized by the gaming press in their Best of 2006 awards–Okami in particular.
That struck a chord with Capcom, which responded to inquiries from GameSpot about not having a game from its catalog up for an AIAS award over the last two years.
A Capcom representative issued a statement, which began, “According to the AIAS DICE website, ‘Since 1998, the peer-based Interactive Achievement Awards are dedicated to recognizing the outstanding products, talented individuals, and ground-breaking development teams that have propelled the advancement of the multi-billion dollar worldwide entertainment software industry.’ What the site neglects to mention is that a product, individual or development team cannot and will not be nominated for an award unless a company buys its way in to the AIAS.”
Joseph Olin, president of the AIAS, denies finances and memberships were taken into consideration when the nominations were announced.
Olin told GameSpot, “Certainly this year, there were a number of titles from Capcom [and non-AIAS member] Eidos that were not submitted by the publisher or developer that were considered, ranked, evaluated, and voted on within our first voting process to become finalists by the academy’s members.”
Olin told GameSpot that some of the games were accepted as write-ins, but “they did not make the step from being a panel write-in to being a finalist in the category.”
Capcom believes that their games were left off final ballots because they would not pay the fees to become a member. “For last year’s awards, so many voting members of the AIAS were upset that Resident Evil 4 was completely left off the list for awards consideration, that the members themselves wrote in the game. Upon seeing the results of the write-in votes, Capcom Entertainment was contacted by the AIAS and told that the game would still not be eligible for any awards unless the company joined the organization. Our company was told, in essence, ‘Pay to play,’ a sentiment echoed in the quote from the AIAS representative.”
“To be presented an award and be formally submitted, you have to be a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences as a publisher,” said Olin. The rule has been in place for many years, however Olin concedes that it’s only been enforced over the last three years.
“We ask people to become members long before the voting process begins. Especially with a publisher like Capcom, who pretty consistently every year has one or two titles that demonstrate great gamecraft.”
Olin also said, “The Academy had contacted Capcom throughout the submissions and judging time period. And [RE4] was left on the ballot as a title for Console Game of the Year and Overall Game of the Year. It was not one of the five titles selected by the Academy peer panelists. The Academy contacted a number of publishers who were not members or members who had not submitted titles…the ONLY publisher of note that declined to participate was CAPCOM.”
As for why the members-only rule is in place and enforced, Olin says that membership is necessary to keep the non-profit company a purely independent organization. “The publishing communities and developing communities need to come together and … jointly fund the organization because ultimately they reap the benefits.”
“As powerful a medium we are, we need an independent voice that is able to recognize singular accomplishments within the medium. The only way to do that is to involve all the various parties, … have them put aside their natural competitive tendencies, … and be able to speak as one voice as to what are the year’s best games.”
The AIAS confirmed to GameSpot that in addition to Capcom, publishers Tecmo, Majesco, and Eidos Interactive are also not members. In fitting with the rule in place, no games from the aforementioned publishers have been nominated in the last three years (including this year’s show).
Regardless of the show’s rules, Capcom is still holding its ground. The publisher closes its statement with: “Capcom Entertainment would like to thank the gamers who have made Dead Rising and Okami so successful, the media who were similarly moved by the creativity and innovation found within the games and the teams at Capcom and Clover Studios who poured their outstanding passion, talent and creative energies into both ground-breaking games (coincidently, all things supposedly recognized by the Interactive Achievement Awards).”