PR: how not to do it

Yesterday was Midsummer, a day where you are obliged to participate in strange ceremonies like dancing around a huge cross covered in flowers, eating unhealthy amount of food you normally wouldn't eat, and drink a even more unhealthy amount of booze. While all that is fun, I spent the entire day today trying to stop my head from hurting. Ah, human nature, our true arch enemy, what stupid things you make us do.

So I spent the entire day sitting in my bed browsing the interwebs while hitting the keys as softly as possibly, and found quite many enjoyable things. I read a week or so ago about the game Limbo of the Lost on GamePlasma, where they discovered that graphics in the game had been blatantly stolen from numerous big games, one of them Oblivion (which I love by the way). The theft was so painfully obvious that there wasn't even a slightest idea of even denying it. A picture say more than a thousand words. The publisher pulled the game from the shelves, and we will see what legal actions will be taken against the creators.

Now this is in itself a juicy drama to feed the Drama Fish with, and I wouldn't really write much about it, but the entire thing have grown as people began digging about this game and found more than a few pair of dead bodies in the closet. That the game is painfully bad made flamers show no mercy as they poured oil on the already blazing inferno. Or the game could actually be good if you read the review on Just Advenure before it was discovered (game got a B first, and changed to F later) about the graphics, but as I read the "review" on I can't possibly see what's good with it, even if you ignore the theft).

Background checks reveal that the game was created by Majestic Studios, and had been in productions since the early 1990s, first for consoles and later for PC in 2003. Someone even pulled out a magazine article about the game when it was for consoles back in 1995, further proving that you can't stop the Signal (page 1 and page 2 of the magazine).

What make the story compelling enough for me to write about it, this being more of a MMO gaming blog and all, is what was revealed about their PR when people had been digging. Apparently someone at Majestic, under the alias Fable, began making forum posts at GameBoomers and Just Adventure about the game, pretending to be a normal person. Also a poster announcing himself as the company Majestic Studios dropped in and soothed people who had trouble getting copies of the game. Simply praising the game and offering advice to a reviewer on GameBoomers, the entire thing would never have been discovered had he not become upset when he thought the reviewer would publish hints or spoilers. Angry words were traded, and when a moderator discovered that Fable and the poster who told he was Majestic Studios had posted with the same IP... well, people were pretty upset. In fact the reviewer felt so betrayed that the finished review was pulled before publishing and the user Fable/MStudios was no longer welcome on the forums. People who had announced they looked forward to the game decided not to play it.

This make me furious - forums and blogs are for the people and by the people, where they can express honest opinions (and usually be flamed alive for it). Companies - and I'm sure there are plenty, but few that become known - that disguise themselves as normal people praising their game should be either crucified or stoned to death. Reading a comment made by a normal person saying that a game was good or bad can have great impact on me, simply because I know he comment is from a normal person just like me. Not as much impact as a professional review will, but it could just tip the scale of me deciding between buying or not buying a game.

Before Internet (what was it like, I can't even remember) word of mouth was simply people telling their friends, while nowadays word of mouth can be what you write on a blog or post in a forum about, and people link to it or talk to other about what you wrote. The entire Limbo of the Lost scandal prove just that; I guess Majestic are quite dumbstruck by the amazing power Internet and today's communication is; blogs, forums and Digg make news travel horrible fast.

And what where they thinking? They thought people wouldn't notice?

While posting how great your game is anonymously can be tempting for companies, the gain is not that great - if the game is bad no amount of PR posting will save it, and if it's good word will go around anyway - and if discovered... well, let's just say you should pray that doesn't happen.

Viewing this extremely bad PR got me thinking about WAR, where the PR is the best I have seen yet. The personal touch and sheer excitement that Paul Barnett brings in his videos also got me extremely excited about the game. And here I am, writing a blog and promoting WAR - for free.


  1. Kinda late finding your blog...Good read.

    Now, about the Paul interviews. I am sorry, but I have an aversion to guys going all wonky and weird.
    He is dorky beyond measure.

    Also, the fact they are really talking WAR up, that if it fails even a little, it will be a major downfall.

    Finally, I just had to enjoy a recent X-Play preview with Paul and WAR.
    Note the continual staring at Morgans boobs...

    How professional.

  2. Yup, Paul is all wonky and weird, and that's refreshing after having to listen to all the developers who read from papers. But yea, he can get a little too silly.

    Thankfully they have Jeff with him now as his opposite. Organized, serious and informative. Everything Paul is not ;)

    And as long as they don write "participate in huge siege battles with hundreds of people", they just might make it.

  3. lol..

    That is a good AoC jab...nicely done.

    Man, Funcom screwed the pooch. I hope they can get it together and remember.

    PvE before PvP if you don't know how to do PvP.