Why does everyone have to convince themselves "professional" reviewers are paid off...? Is it not too much to consider they are just bad at reviewing games...? I seriously don't believe money changes hands for favoured reviews, not on any of the main sites I know of anyway... And I'd value the professional opinion over that of the angry moron on meta critic who rates the same game across all systems just because they're an idiot...
Money doesn't change hands in the form of "Here's a fistful of money. Give our game a high score" but there are plenty of incentives for keeping game publishers happy. For one, when you want to put ads on a gaming site, what type of ads do you think most appeal to the audience? That's right. Game ads. Publishers have been known to pull advertising from site for bad reviews of anticipated games before.
Another tactic that's damaging for reviewers is pulling prerelease support. Professional reviewers rely heavily on publishers giving them early review copies of games so they can spend a reasonable amount of time playing a game and writing a review so that it's ready before the game releases. Without these copies they have to scramble to buy the game on the day of release, play the game immediately and then write a rushed review so that they can stay competitive next to other game review sources. If your reviews are constantly late and rushed you will lose customers and in turn you will lose ad revenue.
firstname.lastname@example.orgGhz, XFX Radeon HD 6870, ASUS P8Z68-V/Gen3, 2x8GB G.Skill DDR3 1600, Crucial M4 64GB SSD, WD Caviar Blue 1TB HDD, XFX Pro650W Core, Corsair 650D