Jumping On The Bandwagon! …where’s my piccolo?July 6, 2008
One of the great things about blogging is that when another blog or site posts a thought-provoking article that calls for more than just a quick reply in the “comments” section, you have an entire blog at your disposal. Aim… and fire!
Today’s bandwagon comes from a slightly scathing piece that Browncoat over at WHA wrote concerning EA Mythic’s informational control and release, which garnered some support and some criticism of its own. Essentially, Browncoat’s saying that EA Mythic’s marketing department is responsible for using a lot of smoke and mirrors and misdirection to keep the hype focused where they want it to be, and brushing off many of the concerns of the community looking for more concrete answers and information.
It’s a good topic to examine, since a few things are to be learned from studying it. The first is that we are, right now, in a phase where it’s far more trendy to support, compliment and encourage the company/game/dev team than it is to criticize. That’s usually the case pre-launch for any MMO — the whole “they can do no wrong” angelic front that the fanboys conjure up — and depending on how good the game is when played, can last a good long period. If people have concerns or constructive criticisms or troll, they’re shouted down. Nobody wants to hear dissent when they’re anticipating something great. But then there’s always the backlash, where criticism becomes more trendy, and supporters have their turn getting labeled as “brownosers” and “foolish”.
It’s the bane of well-reasoned posters, really. Lots of idiots on the internet can’t fathom that supporters of a game might also offer constructive criticism as well, but that’s how life works. If you care about something passionately enough, you want it to be the very best it can be. In my opinion, Browncoat and War Noob and anyone else who spoke out on this subject should be offered the courtesy of listening to their opinion before throwing them to the manatees.
As for the subject itself, I pretty much concur with Brownie. Yes, Mythic’s been near-awesome with the constant communication, great newsletters, dev contact and so on. But if you spend any time studying the progress of the information, you’ll see that it’s being channeled exactly where Mythic wants it to be that week. Like mainstream news, we’ve entered into “news cycles” where a particular hot topic is latched upon and discussed over and over until it’s near-exhausted — and who decides what topic that’s going to be? Very often, it’s Mythic’s PR. You see it at conventions, were certain facets of the game are showcased almost exclusively to all others, to where everyone who writes on their experiences pretty much says the same thing.
It’s not so much a conspiracy as it is good marketing. Right now, with the NDA in place, Mythic controls the release of public information (for the most part): where and when and how it’s given. No marketing team for any company wants to highlight areas of a developing product that are still in flux; they want to boast about the big winning successes that steal the spotlight away from all else. What Browncoat was trying to urge us is to realize that this is how marketing works — it’s neither good nor evil, it’s just how the game is played — and we should be a little more critical and a little more pressing with our detective skills in pursuing the truth.
Personally, one of my greatest worries for WAR right now is how little we know about some very large swaths of the game (and if that sounds familiar, I’ve said it quite a few times by now). What we’ve been shown looks great, but what we haven’t is somewhat disturbing. Sure, maybe it’s not polished yet and has potential changes in its near future. I’m sure that’s true. But what about the systems that aren’t anywhere near ready for release? What about the questions that fans have been asking, over and over, and Mythic keeps shrugging aside? Is it wrong to be so demandy of a company that’s been pretty great with communicating with us so far?
I don’t think so. The more info we have, the more we can sell our friends and families on this game. We’re part of Mythic’s marketing strategy as well, if you want to get downright frank about it (and I’ll be Ernest). Parroting Mythic’s talking points for the week isn’t as great of word-of-mouth as is hands-on experience, or barring that, someone else’s hands-on experience. Plus, details. Tons and tons of details.
The moral of the story, kids, is that it’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to be critical. It’s okay to want the full scoop before you buy the product. As long as you’re doing all this in a respectful, mature fashion, it can foster some great conversations in the community.