Hello everyone. I wanted to have an article about the review of Shin Megami Tensei 5 on IGN and talk about how it is fundamentally flawed. The author, Leana Hafer, constantly drew comparisons between the game she reviewed and Persona 5, which made about as much sense as comparing Mount & Blade 2 Bannerlord to Mordhau, or Quake Champions to CS:GO. However, to be honest, the topic fizzed out and I wouldn’t be able to jump on that sweet clout train, so I decided to ditch the entire page that I wrote and start writing again. It’s easy to rag on game journalists for many reasons, like their lack of skill (in the case of Dean Takahashi), lack of integrity which results in bad takes (in the case of Leana Hafer), or just the most stupid takes you’ve ever seen in the case of Ana Valens, or that person who wrote the piece about the knob and balls Gamecube controller on Kotaku a short while ago. However, these reasons are based almost exclusively on the quality of their work as seen by the reader, the person who consumes the content made by them. Because of this, I’d like to talk about the reason why a professional like me really detests dealing with the journalistic lot and I’m convinced that it’s going to be rather shocking to you.
I think that being lazy is a very natural thing to be. We all probably enjoy slacking off once in a while, even at job, don’t we? However, being lazy at work isn’t usually worth it, as procrastinating will only bring you closer to a stressful deadline, as nobody is going to do your work for you. However, journalists seem to have a pretty nasty method of dealing with that.
You see, people from gaming studios, especially from the smaller ones, or ones with lesser-known IPs, don’t really have the comfort of letting a single tweet with a single word out and having the biggest outlets write a ton of articles about you – by the way, this really happened when CD Projekt Red published the word “beep” on Cyberpunk’s Twitter profile back in 2018, I think. However, most big devs usually rely on press and media portals on which they drop press releases (they are usually some sort of announcements with a short explanation and a comment from a member of the staff), host press conferences, have PR contacts listed and publish media kits (you can think of them as of packages with screenshots, gameplay clips, logos and other stuff that could be used in a press article, curated by the developer or the publisher). If you’d like to see a well-built press release portal, go to news.ea.com – you can say a lot of stuff about EA, but their press portal is really good. Keep in mind, though, that we’re still talking about companies that are the giants of the industry. The lower we go, the worse it gets. However, smaller studios can also have their media portals and use them as a repository of the news, they can also direct their press contacts to the portal. Bloober Team does that, as they aren’t a huge studio and yet they maintain their press centre. Good for them.
However, having a media portal doesn’t usually mean a lot when you don’t work in a well-known company, if you don’t have an extensive history of contact with the press and media, or if you don’t have big IPs. Even companies with relatively big IPs need to do what I’m about to explain. Here’s also when the human laziness I mentioned earlier kicks in.
Media outlets pose a great opportunity for little and medium-sized studios to gain some recognition and presence, especially if you work on a very daring or impressive game. They are fully aware of it, but they usually aren’t run in a non-profit way. They are usually maintained by ads they feature on their websites and they have to drive a lot of traffic to them in order to have them generate profit for maintaining the business. More people are likely to read an article about the new Call Of Duty than about, say, a new Switch-exclusive bullet hell that you and your friends made and want to sell. We have to keep in mind, though, that it’s not only triple-A games that get news about them published there – if it were like this, these outlets would post a very small amount of articles. Because of this, journalists also need some sort of filler. You know, three articles they need to pump out between writing a post about the new Battlefield fiasco and a piece on Elden Ring. Your biggest chances to cop an article about your game lie here, most of the time. However, there are certain things that you may do in order to increase the chances of having stuff published about your game. You also need to keep in mind that your competition are aware of them and they probably incorporate them into their press-related activities.
There’s some generally fair advantage that I can share. Make your email topic catchy and personalised, mail the journalists who have a history of writing about the games similar to yours, include a link to your press kit, or include it in the attachments, email the journalist directly, not as a CC and so on. This is all valid and fine. However, there’s one thing people do and journalists like to abuse in order to have their KPIs reached and to have more time to focus on games that interest them more than yours – write the article and allow them to take it and publish it as theirs. Why do I know that such stuff goes on? Because it made sense and I have written a couple of such articles in my life.
Sure, it’s good to have a point of reference and some good info when you write, but, let’s be honest, if there were people who’d willingly do the entirety of your work for you and would be glad if you took it, changed a thing or two and published it as its author, would you pass on such an opportunity to do nothing and to earn? I doubt it. It is understandable that some journalists, a lot of them, I reckon, have such low moral and ethical standards it won’t make a difference for them, but in a world where we were taught to take pride in our work and in our output, this seems honourless. Journalists, however, do realise that people in the industry often consider them to be the human equivalents of advertising poles (which they effectively are). They also have to deliver some filler and they often don’t feel like doing proper and thorough research. Then you come into the picture with a high-quality piece. If it’s not top-notch, there surely are other ones that will do the trick, will satisfy the needs of the head of the news outlet and will deliver a few more clicks.
While I won’t drop any names or any portals that do this, mostly because I’d be talking about the Polish domestic market, I’m sure this also happens in other parts of the world. Of course, not all journalists behave like that, but there’s a surprising lot who do. If you are such a journalist, I’d like to ask you how do you look yourself in the eye in the mirror?.
To put it shortly, gamedev professionals don’t enjoy contacting the press, as journalists often opt for using some other people’s articles and publishing them as their own.
Now, there’s a couple of questions for you. What do you think about this topic? For the gamedev professionals – have you ever written such an article that was used or was supposed to be used in the way described in the article? If you’re a journalist – have you ever done that or have you heard about people doing that?
Have a good one, cheers!