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How To Read A Press Release

Sanya Weathers Posted:
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Sanya Weathers's MMO Underbelly: How To Read A Press Release

This week, Sanya tears apart a fictional press release to help people read between the lines and figure out what companies are really saying.

I have helpfully annotated a fictional press release for your edification. Please note that these comments do not apply to releases from small, underfunded startups, for the most part. It takes professional skill and lots of money to be this mendacious.

The fictional press release is published in blue, while my commentary is in white.

Embargoed until 6/22/09

The embargo is because a print magazine with maybe a tenth of the readers of a website has a 24-hour exclusive.

Worldquest of Champhammer Hits One Million!

Notice the lack of a concluding noun. Users? Players? Unicorns? Who knows? Most reporters don’t read anything past the headline and the opening statement, and the PR person knows it. The PR person also knows that every reporter is going to paraphrase the headline. After all, paraphrasing a release makes you a *journalist*, but posting press releases makes you a studio’s bitch. Or something like that. Anyway, an ambiguous headline makes it more likely that the lazy reporter will jump to a flattering conclusion like “one million active subscribers.”


Well, no. The release writer is almost certainly not located anywhere near the studio. Even if they’re in the same state, the writer probably didn’t talk to any developers. The writer is probably reading websites and talking to reporters, though, especially if the studio doesn’t have a decent community person.

Awesome Super Studios and their publisher, Home of Live Entertainment, announced today that their innovative new title, Worldquest of Champhammer, has reached one million registered users in less than three days.

“Innovative” can be replaced with any random buzzword the studio manager has the hots for that week. Savvy release writers working for micromanaging douchehounds will also throw in random adjectives. It’s low hanging fruit the douchehounds in question can change and feel like they accomplished something, without causing painful last minute revision work for the writer.

“Registered” means an account has been created, or a CD key has been checked in, but no human has necessarily logged in at all. “Users” is the accepted industry term for “people who have not yet choked up any money.” And the number of days is counting from launch day onwards, but the number of registered users is counting everyone who pre-ordered, and sometimes even counts the late stage beta testers, if those testers were rewarded by being allowed to keep their levels and gear.

Now you know why Blizzard put that “definition of customer” into their releases for so long. They actually had something to brag about.

Worldquest of Champhammer is now officially the fastest growing subscription MMO in North America and other westernized territories.

“Fastest growing” is dividing the number of “registered users” by the number of days since launch. “Subscription” is thrown in there to avoid the issue of how many free downloads or free games see faster growth. And “westernized,” “oceanic,” “European,” or whatever, are all words to rule out any of the Asian territories.

“Our growth is dramatically exceeding our expectations,” says John Doe, President, Co-Founder, Lead Designer, and Giant Douchehound. “We want to thank our players and our retailers for their enthusiastic support. We’ve delivered a highly polished product, and we’re hard at work on our next content patch with flying beagles.”

First of all, John Doe said no such thing. The PR person writing this thing couldn’t get John Doe to return a phone call or answer an email in ten million years. However, John Doe has let it be known that leaving out any of his titles will be cause for a whining sulking hissy fit that will last for days. He is all of those things, and don’t you forget it because he was designing games with punch cards and rubber bands when you were just playing D&D.

But it’s good that John doesn’t write his own quotes. John is too much of a self-centered cretin to think of thanking the retailers or the players, so it’s best someone without a personality disorder is the one writing the quotes.

“Polished product” was a phrase the writer was told to include in every press release as part of the branding.

The flying beagles feature mentioned was on the three month plan that PR/Marketing was given. A senior producer type approved this press release before it was sent out. Front line employees will read this release and drop dead of heart failure, because the feature was cut due to the impossibility of its execution and/or its highly exploitative potential.

Oh, and “dramatically exceeding expectations” is code for “we know the servers are crashing every ten minutes, please stop complaining about it.”

About the game: Worldquest of Champhammer was the long-awaited MMO version of the popular gaming franchise. More information can be found at the company website. Featuring PVP, PVE, EVP, PCP, and actual pee, the game is playable by everyone all over the world.

“Long-awaited” is usually a nod to how badly the launch was delayed.

About the studio: Awesome Super Studios was founded in 1979 by John Doe, and their first title was programmed entirely by punch cards that Doe made himself with an awl. Since then, the studio has created dozens of popular titles, including Worldquest of Champhammer.

John Doe’s co-founders are not mentioned. Any “about the studio” blurb that reads like this is a warning to potential employees to inquire as to the degree of interaction they will be required to endure with this monkey.

About the publisher: Home of Live Entertainment has been a leading publisher of multiplayer games for a billion years. With a prominent profile in Europe, and a satellite studio in Beijing, Home is poised to dominate gaming for the next generation.

That’s all code for “lots of money,” “global perspective,” and “cheap outsourcing available to our client states – join us today.”


Sanya Weathers