Guest post - By Jens Schroeder Jens Schroeder is a Ph.D. student at the HFF Konrad Wolf in Potsdam, Germany.
The short version: Popular gaming blog Kotaku reports rumor, upsets Sony, Sony blackballs Kotaku, the intertubes are with Kotaku, Sony and Kotaku get a room and make out.
Since Sony announced the release of the Playstation 3, they accumulated a pretty impressive record of alienating the gaming community. In fact, even the mainstream press was alienated. While Nintendo was all rainbows and unicorns, Sony's black behemoth was expensive and sitting on the shelves despite claims otherwise. In Europe, the problem was worse.
One might have expected the tide to turn once the console got released, but a lack of quality titles, exclusivity and expensive BMWs provided ongoing skepticism (not to mention one of the worst examples of viral marketing EVER)
Along came Kotaku, reporting on a rumor about a forthcoming new technology that Sony is apparently about to reveal. Deciding that this might show the second best thing after sliced bread in some badly timed light and not letting the net create the buzz, Sony went for more alienation via blackmailing.
"Specifically, they said we would be asked to return our PS3, uninvited from all meetings scheduled with Sony at GDC, including one on blogger relations and a one-on-one with Phil Harrison, and that they would no longer deal with us" Kotaku Editor Brian Crecente writes. Crecente had the balls to run the piece and Dave Karraker, senior director of corporate communications for Sony Computer Entertainment of America wasn't happy:
"I am very disappointed that after trying to work with you as closely as possible and provide you and your team with access and information, you chose to report on this rumor.... I can't defend outlets that can't work cooperatively with us. So, it is for this reason, that we will be canceling all further interviews for Kotaku staff at GDC and will be dis-inviting you to our media event next Tuesday"
In a split second the internet imploded and a black hole formed. Sony was about to get sucked into a parallel universe were Atari still ruled the market. Only a phone call to Kotaku could save them. The issue was resolved and they all lived happily ever after.
It leaves a weird aftertaste: When will Sony stop the alienation? Why didn't they let the web do the buzz? Are they afraid that the negativity built up to a point where they didn't want to leave anything up to the blogosphere? Destructoid editor Robert Summer writes: "Whether you know it or not, about 70-80% of the Internet hates you right now. I understand this might mean absolutely nothing to you, but this isn't 1997".
Of course part of PR work is to control rumors and get the company's message across (yes, Microsoft in these cases would give you their standard line but they keep close ties with gamers by other means, as Summer points out) – though here there was finally some exciting news for the few Playstation 3 owners out there. Maybe a little bit more openness/honesty would help.