Every year, video games get one or two games that have a tremendous about of hype around them pre-launch. Fallout 4 and the Witcher 3 are a few that come to recent mind. This year’s is No Man’s Sky. It’s had hype building around it for a few years now.
Here’s the scandal - things that were promised in interviews by Hello Games’ Sean Murray (and others, but he’s chief among them) didn’t come to light in the final product. There are now three voices:
- “We were lied to and got ripped off!”
- “Just because the developer said that they wanted to do something doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen!”
- “Everyone who feels duped are idiots for buying the hype instead of buying the game!”
Somewhere in 2000, I ran one of the more noteworthy pre-released Black & White fan sites from Lionhead Studios. When the game came out, I played it for a few days, then tore the site down and replaced it with a list of reasons that I felt ripped off. Someone from Lionhead reached out to me and asked if we could talk on the phone. As they’re in the UK and I was in Eastern time zone, we had some trouble negotiating that, but they heard what I had to say, and some of it made it into the game post-release patches, and some more of it made it into Black & White 2, and some just didn’t happen at all.
Hello Games has the same problem with Sean Murray as Lionhead Studios had with Peter Molyneux. And that problem is that these two people dream big and should have a PR person that filters all of their thoughts to the public. When these developers are sitting around a table of developers working on the vision for their end product, they should have free rein to talk big. That’s what creatives do, they dream big and the want to make those dreams happen. It’s the job of the PR people to make sure that the public never hears about dreams that cannot be realized in the final product.
At a personal level, this has also led me to a strange place. I was looking forward to this game, and the positive reviews sound good, but there are so many bad reviews, and I have a hard time distinguishing legitimate complaints about the game and the reviews that are tearing into the game because Sean Murray eighteen months ago said that some feature was going to be in the game, but it’s not.
It’s probably a fantastic game, but I’m not in a great place to gamble sixty bucks on a game that I only play for a couple hours and then move on.
And this is the lesson of having a PR firm handle all of your PR stuff instead of a developer. Developers develop, public relations relate to the public. Each have their role.