Archive for August, 2012

Why Nobody Wants to Talk

Posted: 2012/08/02 by Nick in Uncategorized

This is in reference to an article by Jason Schreier, which you can find here.  I’m gonna post this as an open letter to the author, since there is absolutely no way I’ll ever read, much less post on, one of Kotaku’s comments sections again.

You say that the gaming industry should communicate more with its customers and reveal more peeks behind the curtain so folks can see what’s going on back there.  I can understand the sentiment, I often feel that way myself, and since you’re a person who makes his living writing about this stuff, I can certainly dig where you’re coming from.  However, I think the gaming industry as a whole whould be foolish to do what you’re asking for.  Here’s why:

1. Pretty much anything you say can and will be held against you.  Any statement made by these companies carries with it a huge element of risk.  You can’t hint at a feature unless you’re positive that it will make it into the release.  You can’t talk about a release date unless you’re positive you’ll hit it.  Every word you type/say is poured over and analyzed for every possible meaning.  I’m just an observer here, I don’t work for a game studio or anything, but I have to think that if I got my teeth kicked down my throat every time I opened my mouth, I’d learn to keep my big yap shut.

2. Whenever investors are concerned, you have to be careful.  The same rules apply, you don’t want to hint at anything that might not later turn out to be true, but here it might actually land somebody in jail.  Hints and guesses become promises and expectations.  The rise of social media and a robust gaming press exacerbates the situation, as any tidbit that falls through the corporate wall quickly gets picked up and broadcast/re-broadcast.  Investors see this, and it doesn’t take much for them to get their expectations set to something entirely unrealistic.  If you work for one of these companies, I can guarantee you that your boss doesn’t want to get angry calls from investors.  You would be wise to keep all communications going through the PR bureaucracy.

3. I don’t think these guys treat the whole social media thing with the proper mix of fear and respect.  This puts them in an elite category of damn near every company in the world.  It’s a really new animal, and I think the business community as a whole is still trying to figure out how to spin/control/co-exist with this medium.  Quite frankly, I think a lot of businesses are hiding from this new animal.  I suspect that people who are really good at this are probably working in politics or for really big corporations.

To be honest, I don’t see any upside in communicating with the gamer community at this point. It’s impossible to compete with the negativity, the playing field is tilted in favor of the haters, and this whole concept of managing social media and communities is at odds with the core competency of making games.  In fact, I gotta think that if I was in the business, I’d shut down the forums, social media, etc. and operate like Willie Wonka, in complete secrecy.  If you want a peek behind the curtain, you have to buy the game with the golden ticket. 🙂

(This was cross-posted to my FB page, so if you get it twice, sorry)

(Edit: Added a title.  /embarassed)