How Close is Too Close? …or How I Came To Love Kotaku.

Posted: March 6, 2007 by Kendricke in Gaming Sites, The Gaming Industry

I’ve been mulling this idea ever since returning from Sony’s San Diego Summit.  It was a three day romp of media hype and interaction between SOE’s PR and players, casual bloggers, and news site admins. 

Shortly after returning home from sunny southern California, I started scrutinizing the event with a bit more hind sight.  I started wondering if I was approaching gaming news correctly.  Traffic has been ramping up significantly at eq2.warcry.com and we’ve managed to report on some news I thought was fairly significant. 

A big part of this has to do with our interactions with SOE directly.  We’re doing what we can to bring more news to the fore, and for the most part, SOE has been pretty forthcoming with interviews, previews, first looks, and other little tasty news bits.  My job would certainly be harder if we didn’t have that relationship with the folks over at SOE.

So, imagine my own concern when I read that “Sony Blackballs Kotaku“.  Say what?!   

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • Kotaku’s editor, Brian Crecente, comes across a rumor that Sony is thinking of unveiling a new technology which would likely be announced at this week’s Game Designer’s Conference (GDC).
  • Brian contacts sources at Sony to try to verify the information he does have.
  • Sony asks him “not to publish the story, first nicely, then not so much.”
  • Brian feels it’s important to run the story, and contacts Sony to tell them as much.  He mentions that not all news comes from official sources.
  • Sony responds by informing Brian that if he decides to run the story, Sony will cancel all appointments with Kotaku staff at the GDC; demand the return of the special debug PS3 they’d sent to Kotaku; and would basically no longer deal with Kotaku.
  • Brian decides to run the story anyway, citing the sources he does have as well as going to great lengths to point out it’s just a rumor.
  • Sony sends an email basically following through on the earlier threat.

Now, Brian Crecente isn’t your average gamer blogger.  He’s got a degree in journalism and another in English.  He spent 11 years covering the crime beat for the Rocky Mountain News.  He’s probably seen a threat or two in his time as a news hound. 

Now, this is where I start to get really concerned.  To be fair, SOE  is not SCEA…but SOE is jointly owned by SCEA (as of April 2006, SOE is actually SOE LLC, a joint venture of Sony Pictures Digital and Sony Computer Entertainment of America).  So, it’s certainly not outside the realm of credibility to believe that SOE could try similar tactics with other sites at some point in the future, right?

Do I really believe they’d do this?  No, but I’m a pretty trusting guy.  I’ve met these folks several times and feel I have a pretty good working relationship with most of them.  I speak to a lot of the PR team or developer team on a pretty regular basis.  But…didn’t Brian have a similar working relationship with his contacts at SCEA? 

Now, in the end, the it seems that Sony and Kotaku kissed and made up, and Kotaku definately came out of this smelling like roses.  However, the whole drama leaves a pretty bad aftertaste.  There’s a lot of questions here still unanswered – not the least of which is whether or not Sony would have reversed direction had Kotaku not taken the issue public? 

Did Sony change course based on the goodness of their past relationship with Kotaku, or did they cave to public pressure?  Has Kotaku truly come out on top here, or will Sony start privately reducing contact with them all the while publically saying the right things? 

It’s a tough nut, no matter how you try to crack it, but one thing’s for certain:  Sony didn’t need yet another PR black eye like this, especially right before the GDC. 

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