The Kamis – The Schadenfreude Award for Biggest PR Fail 2011

I love PR. I love that people who are paid obscene amounts of money to actually manage relations with the public can so often be so out of touch, so offensive, so painfully dim-witted. There is something so deliciously ironic about the whole thing that makes me tingle all over, like someone dropped an ice lolly down the back of my shirt.

And so, I celebrate some of this years most lovely PR Fails, spectacular own-goals that with a little due care and thought, could have been avoided altogether.

So, let’s get cracking!

5. Sony on the PS Vita proprietary memory format; “We wanted to make sure they (our customers) could have something with an equal condition for everyone.”

This amuses me, because it is so painfully out of sync with the world today. SD Cards have become the norm – they are cheap, reliable and the competition between makers continually pushes costs down for the consumer. So why release a new handheld console with a proprietary memory format for any other reason than to stop others making copies of it? And what do they mean “an equal condition for everyone”? Is that marketing speak for “We hate you all equally so we’re going to rob you all blind with our incredibly expensive proprietary memory format!”? Madness in this day and age. You’d think Sony would have learned by now that unnecessary expense was doing them more harm than good…

4. Blizzard’s Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) on the reaction to the sheer bile against World of Warcraft’s potential new talent system in Mists of Pandaria.

Look, we can boil this down to a nutshell. “We wanted to show you what we were working on, get your feedback, but it isn’t finished so please stop complaining”. Mr Street, of all the people in the world, you should know instigating a debate and discussion on the internet can at the best of times be fraught with great peril; much like a quest in World of Warcraft, you can go through some pretty nasty stuff before you get the reward. Complaining that users didn’t “get it” isn’t the fault of the users – it’s the fault of Blizzard for showing off a talent system that is unfinished, not even remotely tested and based on numbers that don’t even exist yet. You can’t have a discussion on a talent system that doesn’t even technically exist yet. It can’t be done – to which you have found out.

3. EA’s Origin Service and the release of The Old Republic.

Origin itself to me is a spectacular PR fail all told really, but it’s when they briefly provoked the ire of people by restricting access on Origin for The Old Republic that made me chortle like no-ones business. Digital copies being sold out? How does that work? Well Little Jimmy, what EA and BioWare didn’t realise was how many people would try and get through the doors, and they had to somehow limit the flow of new users. So they disabled purchases on Origin to allow some brief breathing space – which, in typical style, didn’t really work out that well for them. And it’s been a plethora of rather dim comments, from users not being paying customers as they aren’t subscribers YET (don’t ask!) to the idea that no-one really plays all that much, to the broken Light/Dark side thing forcing people approaching endgame to reroll as they can’t get the best equipment unless they’re all light side or all dark side, to the old “Go back to WOW!” from the community (the point boys and girls is to make a game where people DO NOT WANT TO GO BACK TO WOW!). It’s been a nightmarish launch when you compare it to the relatively relaxed and prepared launch of Rift this year.

2. Activision on the Spiderman: Edge of Time facebpook page; “Activision’s official source of news for our Marvel games is Facebook.com/HeroHQ or www.HeroHQ.com. Anything posted elsewhere should not be taken as representative of Activision unless confirmed by Activision.”

Except, you linked to it. They had what we know to be official interviews and developer commentary. And were giving away copies of the game – which were being donated by, let me guess… it is relatively accepted that the page was official, but the meltdown when someone made a quip about OnLive was simply textbook brilliance, a cavalcade of swearing and shouting and insults to discredit the page as quickly as possible to avoid doing any damage to Activision or Spiderman: Edge of Time. Except, the paper trails led right back to Activision – the e-mails, the developer commentary, the deals, the links. All are preserved on the internet for those who know where to look. A simple “We’re sorry!” would have sufficed. I don’t get why we needed the whole fanboy baiting meltdown angle. Unless it was a publicity stunt, in which case that didn’t work either.

And this years Schadenfreude Award goes to…

1. GAME on Exclusivity Deals; “We have had no such conversations with any publisher and have been in contact with various publishers who can confirm this for you as well”

This just speaks for itself really. It sums up all that is wrong in PR today – short sighted, poorly worded, not even a viable defence in the long run. It is so profound in its brilliance as bad PR that I’m not even going to rant about it.

It’s just perfect. In the whole “so wrong” sense.

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