Friday, November 20, 2015

The Business of Reporting Gaming News

I was a little surprised to see this story pop up on my feed today: Kotaku talking about being blacklisted by game developer Bethesda, the peeps that made Fallout 4. The game that is consuming the lives and time of nearly every gamer on the globe. But how does a news service as big as Kotaku manage to get on the blacklist? A site that big with more visitors then the average gaming source would be an ideal marketing place for any developer. So why shut them out?

Both Bethesda and Ubisoft have removed Kotaku from their marketing and PR lists. Any new games for early reviews are out of their hands, and typically requests for comments are left unanswered, though Kotaku does put forth the effort and asks every time knowing there won't be a response. Neither company has out-right said they have been blacklisted. In the case of Ubisoft it's less contact with Kotaku, but still providing some of the bigger games that need to be marketed - but there has been a noticeable absence in communication.

The truth is that since December of 2014, both companies have nearly gone radio silent on Kotaku when they broke news about Fallout 4 and Assassin's Creed Victory (now Syndicate) before the companies. You probably remember those times very well because they were the talk of the internet. Bethesda and Ubisoft never commented on the reality of these games, and of course we found out later in PR releases from the studios that the products were coming.

While some people within those companies still talk to Kotaku, it's always done on the D and the L. Sources are not named so people don't lose their jobs, as PR and Marketing departments attempt to control how information is released from the developer. Which is their jobs. Media outlets are blacklisted all the time. We rarely, if ever, hear about it.

What prompted the article were questions from Kotaku's readers. They wondered why Kotaku didn't cover Fallout 4 with a review on the game's release date, like so many other gaming outlets. Or why some of the die-hard AssCreed writers on staff were not involved in the reviews until months later after the release of Unity and Syndicate. It's because the developers don't want to play ball with Kotaku.

Kotaku serves their readers, and posting content that was leaked was enough to be blacklisted. While it sucks, and some may agree with the publishers on this one, I applaud Kotaku for sticking to their guns. They write their content for the people who read, not to gain favor with developers. They are honest with their reviews and will say when something sucks, but much more eloquently then I can at this moment. To quote one of the comments in the article, "[i]f you're pissing people off with your journalism, then you're doing your job." And pissing people off means getting a reaction from your readers, from the person, people, group, or event you're publishing about - ranging from joy to sorrow.

And now you know why the biggest game news source on the planet is not friendly with Bethesda and Ubisoft. Kotaku leaked new game news before the publishers could announce them, and that made them unhappy. So Kotaku can't play their games while the blacklist is maintained. It could change in the future but after that article posting, it may be a long while.

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