First and foremost, I’m a gamer and have since the days of yore when Diablo (the original) first came out. My gaming habit is actually what finally inspired me to quit teaching. I’d done my Girl Scout good deed for the world for a very long while and it was time for something new. So I became instead a newsie on another MMO site and did that for a long time before landing the plum job here at MMORPG.com. So I know hype and I am as much a victim of it as anyone which brings me to the point of this whole post. It’s about the way we get news from the games we follow.
As someone who’s been a “newsie” for gaming websites for 7+ years, I’ve been witness to nearly every type of PR ploy thrown at gamers. Public Relations by the nature of the business is supposed to generate hype and excitement. Generally reps do a great job combining both carefully worded quotes with interesting factoids of news. Yet even they slip up sometimes. Up to recently, the most annoying PR stunt involved revealing a game’s box art. I mean, who thinks that that’s actually news? It’s just a CGI-generated drawing or an over the top piece of artwork designed to get horny young men to pick up and buy a game for no other reason than boobs and butts (think Earthrise here). But still, as a newsie, I am compelled to publish bits about box art even though I have to put on a proverbial clothespin every single time.
Lately, however, a new and insidious trend in public relations has been rearing its ugly head: Announcements about coming announcements. This particular trend came to a head for me this week with more than one company sending out press releases to announce that an announcement would be on its way within X-number of days. The clothespin wasn’t enough this time. I had to bring out the paper bag and type blind.
I get it. I really do. Public relations campaigns are geared to generate hype. In this day and age of social media and the necessity for posting up-to-the-minute ‘news’ on Facebook or Twitter, PR firms have to stretch to find something meaningful to say as often as possible. This is a Herculean task given the length of development times these days. One way around the need to make things up or to avoid yet another inane “what’s your favorite class” poll, reps have implemented the announcement of the announcement. These give fans a lot of fodder for speculation (they hope) or cause them to “unlike” the fan page (they hope not).
Still, PR firms wouldn’t employ such tactics if they didn’t translate into news sites covering the announcement of the announcement and in hits to the games’ websites. And dutifully we fall in line by either generating more hype for the announcement of the announcement or we castigate and mock the announcement of the announcement. No matter which opinion we voice, I can imagine the PR reps sitting in their darkened offices cackling like Wicked Witches of the West. “They fell for it, my pretties! And their little dogs too!”
So what’s a newsie to do? If I take the high road and omit coverage of these announcements of announcements, I get those snarky PMs telling me that I’m “missing major coverage and not doing my job”. Conversely, if I do cover announcements of announcements, forum threads are filled with “this is news?” comments. Both make me want to tear my hair out as a victim of the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t syndrome’.