Sunday, March 7, 2021
Gaming

The dark art of getting press coverage | This Week in Business

The dark art of getting press coverage | This Week in Business
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Here’s an awful lifehack for people looking to get media coverage for something that probably wouldn’t merit it on its own. I know I’m telling you this, but please don’t do this.

First, you have to understand that virtually all media these days relies on attention. An outlet driven by ads needs eyeballs to sell to advertisers. An outlet driven by subscriptions needs to regularly provide those subscribers with stories they want to read.

Attention is hard to get. A small handful of companies are big enough and influential enough that their every move gets attention. For everyone else, they need to make an argument that their thing is worth covering instead of everyone else’s. It has to stand out, maybe because it looks great, it’s from a beloved developer, or it’s part of a known franchise.

While those are, to some extent, under a person’s direct control, it takes varying amounts of money, talent, and luck to have your project qualify for any of those reasons for coverage.

It’s much easier, much cheaper, and much more within a person’s individual control, to make their project interesting instead. Maybe it has some shock value to it. Maybe the project is unbelievably absurd, or unabashedly ambitious. Maybe the premise is just so unworkable on the surface of it that people will check it out just to see how you’ll pull it off (or how spectacularly you’ll fail).

But there’s another, more calculating way to generate attention, and that’s to pursue something you know people will object to. Team up with an influencer known for racist statements. Make a game about mass murder during an epidemic of mass shootings. Make Valve choose between its principles and basic human decency.

Now you need to have thick skin for this approach, because it absolutely relies on people roasting you. Indeed, it works better the more thoroughly you get burned, the more zestfully people dunk on you. (Up to a point, anyway. If you’re too toxic for storefronts to even sell your game, you’ve gone a bit too far.) So go ahead and do some interviews about your game. Don’t worry about how flimsy or contradictory your arguments might be. Go ahead and say things you know will get people riled up.

I’m not saying all press is good press. But I understand why people do this. If you don’t think good press is an option and you’re in a market crowded with offerings of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, you might decide that bad press is better no press.

So aside from cynical motivations about getting page views, why would the press play along and enable this tactic? First of all, there are a lot of times we don’t, and you never hear about the project because it doesn’t get coverage. Or it gets covered on one site but not another, because everyone makes their own editorial decisions.

Second, there’s something to be said for the press acting as part of the immune system for a healthy society (or in the case of games journalism, a healthy industry).

The idea is that once something bad has been brought to light, other parties with more direct power and influence would then intervene, as Valve did in one of the above examples. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” as the saying goes.

But as the last decade-plus has shown in games and in society as a whole, this is a deeply unreliable process. In many cases, the institutions with the power to hold people accountable are either unwilling or unable to use that power. As a result, accountability and genuine consequences for harmful actions are not only getting rarer, they’re getting less expected.

In light of that, maybe it’s a good time for the press as a whole to re-evaluate some of our coverage decisions and adapt them to a world where immune systems don’t always work the way they should.

But I digress. For now, let’s talk about an entirely unrelated assortment of quotes and stats from the week in gaming.

QUOTE | “We can’t tell the story without telling the rest of it. We have to give players the context for why they’re in the city, why this battle exists.” – Victura CEO Peter Tamte explains how essential it is for the studio to provide players with proper context for the company’s upcoming Six Days in Fallujah.

QUOTE | “We’re not asking players to commit atrocities in the game. Are we effectively sanitizing events by not doing that? I don’t think that we need to portray the atrocities in order for people to understand the human cost. We can do that without the atrocities.” – In the same interview, Tamte explains how he’ll be omitting some pretty key context with Six Days in Fallujah.

QUOTE | “It’s like how many nukes have you got? If my biggest competitor was to sue me, there will almost certainly be something in their 15,000 patents that I probably arguably infringed. And probably more than one. But if I also have a load of patents in broadly a similar area, if they did that to me, I could probably find quite a few things they do in their software which probably arguably infringes a bunch of my patents. It’s a kind of mutually assured destruction.” – In a discussion on the GamesIndustry.biz podcast prompted by Warner Bros. being granted a patent for Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system, Kostya Lobov of law firm Harbottle & Lewis joins us to talk about the completely rational and not-at-all absurd world of software patents.

QUOTE | “Bringing Star Wars: Hunters to the Nintendo Switch and its passionate fan-base marks an exciting milestone for Zynga. We… are excited to see Switch players embrace our foray into console gaming.” – In a press release for Star Wars: Hunters, Zynga president of publishing Bernard Kim talks up how happy the company is to announce its first console game.

QUOTE | “I used to work on console and PC, and I’ll never go back.” – In a 2016 interview, Zynga CEO and former EA studios head Frank Gibeau talks up how happy he is to not be dealing with console games any more.

QUOTE | “We have a pretty large cash balance to go after more companies. We remain aggressive and inquisitive around buying more game studios and tech companies that we believe can be added to Zynga.” – Zynga president of publishing Bernard Kim says the social game publisher is looking to continue its string of acquisitions like Gram Games, Small Giant, Peak Games, and Rollic.

QUOTE | “While we can’t wait to gather in the halls of Moscone together again, and we did consider an in-person component this year, we have decided that it’s more important that our speakers, attendees and sponsors be able to plan ahead, to continue to be as safe as possible, and to spend our attention on delivering the best possible GDC.” – Game Developers Conference organizers this week pulled the plug on plans for a hybrid in-person/remote GDC in San Francisco in July.

QUOTE | “To play for the first time is what’s magical, and the platform holders need to figure out how to deliver that experience to their fans during an E3-like digital experience. I think that would be huge.” – Former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime gives his suggestion for what E3 needs to do this year with its own digital event.

STAT | 50% – Thethrottling Nvidia’s RTX 3060 graphics cards will do on Ethereum cryptocurrency mining operations, in an attempt to stop cryptocurrency miners from snagging all the gaming graphics cards on the market and making them hard to find for actual players.

QUOTE | “[Cryptocurrency Mining Processor] products — which don’t do graphics — are sold through authorized partners and optimized for the best mining performance and efficiency.” – Nvidia’s global head of GeForce marketing Matt Weubbling reassures people that the company is not objecting to cryptocurrency mining, but instead launching a separate line of high-end cards specifically for people who leave their computers running for a living.

QUOTE | “We’ve been working for more than a year on another gaming project, another horror IP, and we’re doing this with a very famous gaming publisher. I can’t tell you who. I can’t tell you what the project is, but I’m pretty sure when people realize we’re working on it, they will be very excited.” – Bloober Team CEO Peter Babieno teases something in an interview because he’s either working on a Silent Hill game or really enjoys playing with the emotions of that poor, poor fanbase.

QUOTE | “No IDFA? No Problem.” – The name of an initiative from a group of mobile advertising companies who see Apple’s new requirement that iOS users opt-in to tracking in the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) program as such a non-problem that they felt collective action with their competitors was necessary to prepare them for a post-IDFA mobile industry.

QUOTE | “The idea that I used social media to promote GameStop stock to unwitting investors is preposterous. I was abundantly clear that my channel was for educational purposes only, and that my aggressive style of investing was unlikely to be suitable for most folks checking out the channel.” – In prepared testimony before the US House Financial Services Committee regarding the recent GameStop stock surge, YouTube influencer Roaring Kitty insists he has no influence on his audience.





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