Jon Wood Rants on Press Releases
It's a new column, a new day, a new beginning for me. As much as I enjoyed and still do occasionally enjoy writing those lists, it's good to be able to get out from numerically rating groups of things and spend my columning time doing what I really enjoy doing: ranting about things that piss me off.
I'm not going to say that I'll be ranting and raving for your amusement every week or anything, but at least for now, at least today, I'm going to lay into a topic that's been getting on my nerves for quite some time now:
Stupid Things Your Press Releases Shouldn't Say
Over the years, I've read a lot of video game press releases. And when I say a lot, I mean more mind-numbing press releases than is actually good for the average person's mental health and stability. As a result, I've developed my share of pet peeves.
I know, I know. There have been multiple articles and columns written lately about the evils of over-hyping an MMO. The thing is, I'm not talking about MMO hype, I'm talking about the language that MMO developers have gotten into the habit of using when it comes to the way that they market their games both to the media and to the public.
It's not that I don't think that companies have a right to hype their games. Of course they do. Selling the game is the actual business part of making the game. There are just a few words that I never want to read in another press release as long as I live:
Innovative / Ground Breaking
Don't call your own game innovative or ground breaking. Seriously, it's just bad form and it sounds stupid. Do you really expect anyone to believe that you've taken the time to actually analyze the full spectrum of the market, done an honest side-by-side comparison and come up with the fact that you're doing something new? Isn't it far more likely that whoever it is that sits in an office and makes the big decisions about money decided one day that people like innovative games, so you'd better peddle your game as innovative?
Ok, maybe that's too cynical, maybe your game actually IS innovative and ground-breaking. In that case, I still say you shouldn't be the ones to tell people, at least not in so many words. You come off as a lot cooler if people figure out for themselves how innovative your game is. Sure, tell us about the thing that's innovative. Let us draw our own conclusions. Don't provide commentary on your own product. Leave that to the press.
Also, just as a side note for anyone reading who may not have been told this yet: Just saying that your game is innovative or ground breaking or any millions of other positive descriptors doesn't make it so.
Ok, so you've got some kind of rock star developer working for your company. That's awesome, and you should certainly tell people about that fact. Just don't, for the love of all that is holy, preface their name in your press release with "industry legend." It's not cool to tell people how cool you are with the possible exception of Ozzy telling us that he's the F#@%ing Prince of Darkness. I'm going to lay it out real plain for you here: If you have to tell people that you're an industry legend... You're not. If you're a legend, people have heard of you. If you've just got an awesome resume, or you did something really cool on some big game. Just say that.
Poor language quality
This is maybe the one, single thing that irks me beyond anything else. It's the total inability of some companies to construct press releases in even the most rudimentary form of passable English.
Now, before anyone gets down my throat about some companies not having English as a native language, this is something that I completely understand. With that being said, it doesn't take that much time, effort or money to have a native language speaker take a pass over the release to clean it up for distribution and publication.
I'm not one of those people who thinks the whole world should "just speak English." I happen to love other languages, but nothing looks more unprofessional to me than a press release for an English speaking audience that no one took the time or effort to see if it was actually comprehensible in that language.
In any case, these are just a few examples of some of the things that I have come across in press releases. The take away here is that game companies and their marketing departments shouldn't be telling press and players that their games are cool. They should be showing us. They shouldn't be telling us that their game developers are legends, they should be securing their legacies and making them obvious to all and for the love of God, if you want to be seen as serious and professional, present your press releases in a serious and professional context.