Editorial: Sony's Kotaku Fiasco a Troubling Glimpse into Video Game P.R.

March 2, 2007 -
In case you missed yesterday's Sony-Kotaku soap opera, here's the executive summary:

Kotaku latched onto a hot GDC rumor concerning the possible announcement of something called PlayStation Home, a combination of achievements and social networking for the PS3.

That's what good journalists do: root out stories. In its report Kotaku explained that it was a rumor, and cited a number of reasons why it might be valid.

The backstory, Kotaku editor Brian Crecente revealed later in the day, was that Sony applied intense pressure to the popular game blog in an effort to suppress the story:
Sony asked us not to publish the story, first nicely, then not so much. (SCEA) representatives reminded us that the story was a rumor and then went on to say that publishing it could harm our professional relationship with them.

When I responded that we were going forward with the story and that sometimes news doesn't come from official sources I was told that if we published we would likely be blackballed by the company.

Specifically, they said we would be asked to return our debug 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.

It's unclear which rocket scientist at Sony made this decision, but it would be difficult to imagine a more destructive course of action. As a news site, Kotaku was entirely within its right to publish the rumor. Hell, it had an obligation to its readers to publish it. The fact is, Kotaku has more journalism chops than most other game blogs. Crecente, the site's editor, has been a full-time newspaper reporter for years.

As to Sony's objection to publishing rumors, are they kidding? Rumors get published all the time, not only in the game blogosphere, but in mainstream media publications as well - baseball trade rumors, Wall Street takeover rumors, political rumors, Britney Spears rumors...

What's really troubling here, however, is the mindset underlying Sony's decision. It says that the video game industry doesn't really want an independent gaming press. What they want are a network of websites that will regurgitate their press releases and recycle the product propaganda espoused by their executives during interviews.

Wasn't it only a couple of weeks back that outgoing ESA president Doug Lowenstein criticized the gaming press for a lack of professionalism? Here's an example of a member of the gaming press exercising quite good journalistic standards and, for its trouble, being threatened and bullied by a major industry player.

It's disgraceful.

In the end, Sony reversed its bad decision. But that came only after criticism of its bully tactics exploded on the net. If there's any silver lining here, it's that other game publishers will hopefully absorb the lesson and let the free press continue to be free from heavy-handed pressure tactics.

Comments

Is Sony actually trying to make gamers hate them? The endless stream of negative press and idiotic comments by Sony brass seems to say so.

Sony is being served large portions of humble pie and they (and fanboys) do not like it. They have become arrogant, project unrealistic expectations, release hardware that actually doesn't do quite everything it was supposed to do (the firmware updates will likely eventually get the PS/3 where it was supposed to be at launch day)...Sony is stumbling, so IMHO, this type of incident was expected, and I think more will happen. The way they are now backpedaling on the immersion fallout is more proof of that.

I'm a BIG Wipeout fan, and while I did enjoy Wipeout Pure, unless Sony makes a really good new version of Wipeout that has some innovative features as well as internet play, I'm not going to buy a PS/3 anytime soon...

Good on you Kotaku, I say.

Jeffy - the news crawl will be making a comeback, and SOON!

-GP

So is this an indication that the rumors are true and Sony was just trying to keep it quiet until the official announcement? If so, their plan backfired spectacularly.

Of course they don't want an independent gaming press. Almost no one wants an independent press and that includes most journalists and editorial staffs of major newspapers.

That said, this really -is- typical Paranoid, Heavy-Handed, and in the end Terminally Klutzy Sony.

Damn, I missed it. All because GP doesn't have the Kotaku scroller thingy like they used to! Damn you, Scuba Steve! :)

Anyway, this is not just Sony. Most large game companies, even our precious ninty, want to treat video game journalism as free PR, and not, well, journalism. I'm glad this all worked out, largely due to personal relationships, and not lawyer scum. (Apologies to Tom Buscaglia, and Shaun Skipper)

Handshake and a beer; not litigation. Hooray for common sense!

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

@EOTD

Oh, in several cases above (such as the US "Hostage" that turned out to be one of those large GI Joe dolls) I'm quite certain it was simply a case of incompetence/negligence. However, there are many cases where both the AP and Reuters have retreated into "How dare you question us, we never tell anything but the absolute unvarnished perfect TRUTH!" mode. They did it with Jamil Hussein's patently false story about the blown up and burnt down mosques, and even did it originally with the Adnan Hajj photoshopped photos, first saying A) the photos weren't retouched because no retouched photo could pass through the five layers of editors between the photographer and the photo going out on the wires, then B) the photos were slightly retouched to remove dirt on the negative (patently false), then FINALLY admitting C) that the photos were edited.

When this happens over and over, and always happens in stories and manners so as to further the same spin to the facts, it stops becoming isolated incidents or "rogue reporters" (as the saying goes, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is...). I'm sure you're familiar with the classic practice among law firms, businesses, and anyone else engaging in questionable practices: Always have someone mid-ranking to low-ranking in the food chain you can throw to the wolves if you get caught. That's the pattern I see here. An example of very, very obvious journalistic fraud is uncovered that somehow managed to slip through those "five layers of editors" despite those editors supposedly being trained professionals, they deny, backtrack the denial, finally cop to the fakery and attribute it to a rogue and unlicensed action by subordinates or perhaps one mid-level editor, who are then fired...and they continue with business as usual until they're caught again without doing anything to combat the issue. To me, that sends a message that these practices are at least -tolerated- at the institutional level in much the same way I've seen other businesses engage in dubiously legal practices with the unspoken understanding that "if you are compromised, the management will disavow any knowledge...".

@Brer

Thanks for taking the time to post all this. There's definitely a lot of evidence there, and I'll be looking at it a bit more in days to come.

I'm still skeptical, though, that it was the conscious decision of the AP or any of the other news organizations to publish false (or falsified) information - certainly stuff like this gets published at times, but that alone does not confirm that it's published with intent to misinform. That ambulance incident is by far the most damning piece of evidence, but the only thing about it that implicates the AP as a whole, and not just individual reporters and sources, is their staunch support of the story as originally told, as they were subtly correcting it in other articles (the "doublethink").

It seems to me that much of the false information published by news outlets is simply a result of the rapid pace of this class of journalism. Fact-checking is done in these stories, but it's nowhere close in detail to the checking that can be done on a story weeks or months in the making (or to that which has been done on these false stories since then). I think it's just a simple reality that fast-breaking stories often contain false information that can blow out of proportion, and that sources or reporters can play this system to try to garner more attention for themselves or their outlet with little risk of getting caught.

In the end, the best thing to take away from this seems not to be "don't trust the media", but "don't trust the media....initially". AP and the rest do serve an important purpose by getting stories out fast, and nowadays any errors they may make are usually caught by others (blogs etc.) who can take the time to look into each story more deeply.

[...] It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses over the next day or two. The situation is a little reminiscent of when Sony came down hard on games blog Kotaku for reporting Sony’s impending announcement of the PlayStation 3’s forthcoming social networking environment Home. [...]

adult movie xxx...

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ZippyDSMleeAnd I still spent 200$ in the last month on steam/GOG stuff sales get me nearly every time ><12/19/2014 - 10:55am
ZippyDSMleeMaskedPixelante:And this is why I'm a one legged bandit.12/19/2014 - 10:51am
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MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/12/19/marvel-vs-capcom-origins-leaving-online-storefronts-soon/ Speaking of "last chance to buy", Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is getting delisted from all major storefronts. Behold the wonders of the all digital future.12/19/2014 - 9:59am
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