The Year’s Biggest Gaming PR Gaffes

I enjoyed this article just posted on IncGamers, about the year’s biggest PR snafus in the gaming industry. As you can imagine, a certain Diablo 3 game director makes an appearance. That was certainly a juicy week or two of drama, but since I was a part of that as it happened, I found the other stories in the article more interesting.

There are Hitman Absolution fan insults, a Borderlands 2 “girlfriend” mode, and the debacle of a non-launch that was War Z. Quote:

Then, on 17 December [War Z] appeared on Steam. It was accompanied by a features list that bore little resemblance to reality, and included several items (such as private servers) that were not even implemented in the game. Nowhere on the title’s sales page did Hammerpoint give even the slightest hint that The War Z was still very much in beta.

On 18 December the features list was altered to somewhat (though not entirely) fall in line with reality, but on 19 December Steam pulled the game from sale and offered full refunds to any dissatisfied players.

In between those two dates, Sergey Titov put out a disgraceful non-apology (on a thread that no longer exists on the War Z forums) in which he said he was sorry if anybody had “misread” the Steam features list full of outright falsehoods and that the list was open to “multiple interpretations.” It wasn’t. It was open to one interpretation, which was “many of these features are not present in the game that is being sold to me.”

I don’t know that the Video Game industry is the hardest/worst PR field in the world, but it’s got to be up there. Hugely competitive, very fast-paced, lots of overlap in products and audience, high fan expectations and demands, and haters galore. Given all that it might be a surprise that we don’t see more such blowups.


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  1. I think what I find most amusing is that, while the Wilson comment and the girlfriend thing were likely offhand, or at least traceable to one person saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, the other two had to be planned and approved. Someone just didn’t care and signed off on those.

    Regarding the Mass Effect 3 ending mentioned at the end. The… creative lead I think, for ME3 flat-out lied in an interview pre-release. (paraphrasiing) “This isn’t a game where you can say I got ending 1 or ending 2. It’s not multiple choice like that.” Yeah. Polishing crap didn’t help, but blatant lies got the ball rolling early.

    • Girlfriend mode made me smile. I didn’t really find it offensive, I guess because you still come across patronizing comments in gameing on occasions so it’s not entirely unexpected. When I play squad-based shooters I on occasion feel like I’m getting a pat on the head when I complete an objective as I get comments such as “ooo well done Elly” but I don’t mind it at all. The Hitman thing was a “what on earth were you thinking?” moment. We’ve all had those.

  2. lol

    There’s also the issue of the max players per server, which appears to be 50 in our testing but is still promised as 100 on the Steam page.

    Sergey Titov:
    Max players — I’m not sure why this is even an issue. [The] text clearly stated “up to 100 players.” And 50 players [which] we have right now — is what our players — our community feels is comfortable level for them to play. …
    This is why this number is set to 50 right now. Yet — on your own private servers you will be able to set to 100 if you want :).

    Sergey Titov:
    Let’s be frank: when you read “up to 100 players” — what does it mean to you personally? I mean, for me it doesn’t mean that I will play with 99 other players. Really 🙂 And yes game supports 100 players — heck, it supports actually over 400 players per server as of today. Do we have servers launched with this number of slots? No we don’t, because this is not what our players WANT.

    Yes, frankly, it absolutely does mean that the game will support 100 players. Anything less is a false claim. You could just as easily claim your game will support up to a million players, and then say “Well, 50 is between one and a million.”

    • Yeah I read that article a couple of days ago. Hilarious (and maddening) stuff. Some of it’s even more ridiculous than that quote. He’s literally unwilling to take responsibility for anything. And if you haven’t heard, they changed the respawn time in the game from one to four HOURS a day after launch, to try to get people to pay real money to revive your character faster.

      It’s worth pointing out that Sergey Titov is also the Guy resposible for the infamous Big Rigs – the “racing” game released with “AI” opponents that never even move and no physics (fall through bridges, drive straight up walls).

  3. Meh at least the other guys don’t keep spewing bullshit and empty promises like “It’s not up to Blizzard standards,” “We’re still polishing it,” “We feel that…| etc.

    • What happened with War Z is only about 1000x worse, which is unfortunate because I was really looking forward to a real zombie survival game. After that I could never trust giving my money to them. DayZ is fun but, being a modded version of another game and all, there is a lot of glitches and problems. SOMEBODY has to make a great zombie survival game in the near future… there has to be an audience for it right?

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