Well, That Escalated Quickly…

I thought today was just going to be a quiet Saturday. At one point I was about to get in the car and drive down the freeway to a conference I wanted to attend, but a staying up late last night prevented that so I ended up just watching the live stream and relaxing. Then the Twitter app on my phone started exploding. Followers and retweets of a couple Xbox One mocking tweets I’ve made were flooding in, and I knew something was up.

Either the site had been Reddited or something else was going on. I found out it was on NeoGAF, and then the day began. I’d say I spend about 70% of my Twitter time on Star Wars and geek-related stuff, and gaming makes up the rest, but today was all Xbox One with people asking about the Call of Duty: Ghosts 720p issue, Battlefield 4 being at 720p, and Microsoft’s embargoes over reviews.

The GAF thread really exploded when gaming prophet Crazy Buttocks on a Train popped in a confirmed that the 720p issue was the least of Micosoft’s problems. Mod bishoptl fueled the fire with hinting that news was so bad if it ever comes out there would be thermo-nuclear war on the forums. This bad news is currently hidden behind embargoes that have gagged “gaming journalists” due to how beholden they are to PR.

I’ve only heard about the resolution issues. But I have heard the same rumors about the OS and networking not being anywhere near ready for launch with whispers of crashes and other serious issues franticly being ironed out prior to launch. They’re just rumors and could be completely false, but there is definitely some kind if serious technical issue facing the system prior to its launch next month.

The big problem with this is that due to the gaming companies providing early review copies and hardware to gaming sites, they have become more and more beholden to the PR firms of the big publishers. I plan to go on a bit of a rant about this in this week’s podcast, but I’ve seen the beginning of this where about ten years ago Rockstar began to become very brazen in thinking that they could bully an outlet to raise a score to a 10. Thankfully, I never saw one of my co-workers do this, as they stood up to PR and explained the score they gave the game was damn good, but in the last decade high scores for certain games have become more and more suspect and the grip PR has on gaming outlets has become even stronger.

One publisher, who will remain nameless, once flew editors to Europe for a press junket for a PS2/Xbox game and offered to buy hookers for the editors. They didn’t follow through on the offer, but it was on the table for a time. Statues, free copies of games, lavish trips, expensive E3 parties, and the like are just ways for PR to woo editors more on their site.

In 2013 I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that major gaming outlets are nothing more than an extension of PR, and I’m pretty sure the publishers see them that way too. Every outlet wants to be able to review games prior to them hitting store shelves, and in order to do that you have to basically be on PR’s leash. So you have to play by their rules, even if it goes against your instincts or beliefs.

Embargoes are obviously important for marketing reasons as the publisher would have a specific marketing timeline worked out, and they’ll like to see a bunch of review hitting at the same time to coincide with their launch push of the game. Embargoes for crap games that are set to not run until launch day, or after, in order to hope people spend money on a game before reading how bad it is are deceptive. The same thing happens with movies (usually if you hear no reviews until opening day, you know it’s crap), but that doesn’t make it any more right.

But when a publisher sets an embargo that outlets need to follow, and stay quiet about, in order to hide a potentially major negative aspect that could affect purchases, the editors of that outlet become true collaborators in throwing their readers under the bus. If a publisher wants to blacklist you for telling the truth, tell the damn truth. So you won’t get a free copy of the latest Spider-Man game anymore. It’s more important to be truthful to your readers and not be a puppet of a publisher’s marketing department.

Ten years ago I doubt I would be writing this rant. But that was a decade ago. People grow, they change, beliefs also grow and evolve, as do convictions and outlooks on life. I’ve been pushing the Xbox One 720p stuff as it just really feels like people are being lied to and the truth, which could affect their $500 purchase, is being hidden from them. $500 is a hell of a lot of money for a gaming console, especially in this economy, and I know there are a lot of people out there who may think twice about buying one right at launch if some of the big titles are running at 720p.

Gamers have a right to know what they’re about to spend a lot of money on, and to hide that from them is wrong. That’s why this whole 720p thing is exploding today, and why people are so interested in finding out the truth.

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