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Transparency: 4 Reasons Gaming PR Isn't the Ultimate Evil

This week was wrought with PR issues in gaming. Larry explains why PR teams aren't actually evil.

Most of the time we look at the Public Relations team as glorified salesmen for the gaming industry. It’s comical sometimes how little some PR teams know about the game or games they represent. And if you’ve worked with as many PR teams as I have, you’ll know that it’s beyond funny and into the realm of sad how many of these teams come across like they are trying to sell you snake oil, even when they are actually selling a really good game.

These PR teams also seem to personify the barrier between gaming journalism and the “real story.” Needless to say, PR doesn’t have the best rep and is often seen as the enemy when it comes to games journalism.

However, we saw this week four very specific and important reasons why game companies need PR teams. Maybe they aren't as evil as we like to think.

1. Stopping Daybreak DDoS

CEO of Daybreak, John Smedley, was rightfully upset at the wrist-slapping that the Finnish justice system gave the member of the hacking group Lizard Squad. Although the kid wasn’t tried for the bomb threat that forced Smedley’s plane to turn around earlier this year, he was partially responsible for the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) many gaming companies experienced this year, costing those companies large sums of money.

Lizard Squad not-so-subtly claimed that it was Smed’s rants that lead them to retaliating with a DDoS attacks on Daybreak itself. Of course, this particular attack was fixed rather quickly, but it did cause downtime for Daybreak’s games and websites.

Smedley eventually deleted his Twitter and Reddit account. He said on Reddit that it was of his own accord, but many people suspect that it was highly influenced by his friends and PR team. Many times the PR team acts as a much-needed filter for developers when dealing with high-profile issues that can and will affect a huge business. I’m not blaming Smed -- he was was only exercising his right to free speech -- but if what he said had been filtered by his PR team, it might have mitigated or prevented the resulting DDoS attack.

2. Clearing the Cloud of Misinformation

Also this week, we saw Line of Defense developer Derek Smart stir up trouble for Cloud Imperium, the company creating Star Citizen. Smart demanded, among many other things, that President and CEO Chris Roberts resign so that the game can actually release and not become the vaporware Smart is claiming it to be.

While I’m not even going to try to take sides in this argument, it is clear that the game needs a PR team to better propagate information to the public so that everyone knows better the state of affairs with the game. Of course, Roberts and his team have been very open and vocal about clearing up this mess, but much of what PR teams do is spread that word to the ether, giving more people the correct information -- hopefully.

3. Shutting a Smart Mouth

In the same instance as above and a previous blog post, Smart could have used a PR team, too, but for a different reason. Sometimes, even when you have a good point, if you continue to harp on the issue, it doesn’t make the right impression.

Also, if you mock or belittle the opposition, it paints even a justified accuser in a bad light and spoils what could have been a very legitimate reason for calling out someone for wrong-doing.

In Smart’s specific case, not only did he belittle Chris Roberts, but he also belittled the people who defended Roberts. Those are the people you’re trying to convince, man! Had Smart (a developer with his own company to concern himself with) had a PR team backing him up, it could have convinced him to stop talking when the battle was at a standstill. Pouring more words on a heat battle only serves to fan the flame against you.

4. RaiderZ and the missing developer

I know everyone is sad about Perfect World Entertainment's shutdown of RaiderZ. (I’m kidding, most people have probably never heard of the game.) This game, originally created by MAIET, was intended to be stiff competition for TERA with its action combat. However, as it turns out, MAIET shut down months ago, yet PWE continued to run the game without telling its western audience.

Now, I don’t know who could have used a better PR team, PWE or MAIET, but someone needed better communication because the press release reads like PWE called up MAIET for its monthly meeting only to find out that the phone was disconnected:

“In the past, we have been working with MAIET, the developer of RaiderZ, in order to troubleshoot and solve issue to keep the game available for the players. Unfortunately, MAIET is no longer operating anymore.

“Since there’s no more active developer, it’s very difficult to troubleshoot any issue that happen to RaiderZ. We’re unable to deliver a quality experience to you, our players, so we’ve made the difficult decision to shut down RaiderZ.”

Well, duh, you’re shutting it down. I’m not sure where the communication breakdown happened, but it’s clear that PWE’s PR team is attempting to cover up some odd SNAFU. That said, had its PR team got ahold of this information faster or if MAIET had an actual PR team, this public weirdness could have been smoothed over.

 

As much as I dislike dealing with some of the loopholes PR teams create, we need to understand why they're here in the first place. Despite some of the clearly jargon-filled press releases, these teams of wordsmiths can do an amazing job of preventing internet explosions and painting a realistic picture of the company they represent.

I do not envy the jobs of these marketing managers and PR workers; it’s clearly important that public companies need them, if only as a buffer.

But the conversation doesn’t end here. Let me know your thoughts on these situations in the comments below. How could they have been handled better, and are there any big PR blunders that happened this week that I missed?

Published Jul. 17th 2015
  • Durinn McFurren
    Contributor
    Well... okay, in theory, a PR team can give a wonderful and accurate picture of a game, prevent developers from making the kinds of faux pas that create an internet shitstorm, and generally be really, really beneficial to a good game. In fact, without a god PR team, games depend purely on gamer word-of-mouth (including those players who happen to have well-read blogs or whatever). So, yes, a good PR team is very important for a good game. It can help spread the word, it can help prevent people from being alienated... the list goes on.

    On the flipside, PR teams (and not just in games, but in general) frequently avoid giving an accurate picture by distoring facts, not necessarily through outright lying but by dwelling on one thing over another in their efforts to sell crappy games. Or, sometimes, even by deliberately giving what amounts to misinformation.

    I'm not saying PR teams are bad. There's many cases where a good PR team can be actually beneficial for both players and a game. For example, if the changes that Wildstar made since it first started had been broadcast with better PR, maybe the game would be in a better state today. On the other hand, as I am sure you are aware, there's also PR teams that will do literally anything to sell a crappy game. As with many jobs, it's both a necessary job, and yet one that can easily be twisted. In a sense, a good PR team is great when it is paired with a great game, and it sucks and is misleading when paired with a bad game.
  • Larry Everett
    Featured Columnist
    You're absolutely right. With this article, I just wanted to make sure that we didn't lose sight of how good and necessary PR teams can be.

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