The pass few days, there have been a couple of articles discussing how publishers try to stop a controversy by staying silent. RockPaperShotgun’s John Walker wrote about how the all talks of SimCity have gone away due to EA’s silence on the matter. Jim Sterling posted his thoughts on Destructoid focusing on how Gearbox Software did the same regarding the debacle that is known as Aliens: Colonial Marines.
With all due to respect to both gentlemen and those other writers who wholeheartedly agreed with their sentiment, I would like to say “And…so what?”
What EA and Gearbox are doing is not that different than what other companies have done when faced with a controversy that was a result of their actions. It’s up to journalists to find out what companies are hiding that could be detrimental or beneficial to the journalists’ readers. That kind of info is not given up easily by a company. It requires work from journalists to get that information.
If a publisher doesn’t want to comment on a story, well screw them. Their silence on a matter that is affecting their customers only makes them look bad. Whether it’s Exxon not taking about the oil spill that happened in Arkansas last month, the large amount of foreclosure fraud committed by JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, or Carnival’s repeated horrifying cruise experiences, these companies are not quick to admit their guilt nor provide any extra details about the matter.
So what do you do when a company is silent on a matter? If you’re a journalist that’s truly worth your salt, then you go out and investigate. You search around for what people are saying online, you look up public records to see if the company has a history of similar issues, or you lean on your sources for more info. Sitting around and waiting for the nasty truth to be revealed is not going to happen.
Regarding the two companies that were the focus of the articles, EA and Gearbox Software, I have to wonder if there is anything more to say on the two controversies they were part of. EA and Maxis finally admitted that SimCity doesn’t “need” to be online all the time as they said, but instead it was “meant” to be online all the time like a MMO. As for Gearbox, we’ve come to find out that Aliens: Colonial Marines was a mess because Gearbox handed off the game to other developers while they worked on Borderlands 2. Having multiple developers working on different parts of a game, without any clear leadership on the project, results in a mess that is Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Yet all that incriminating info didn’t come from EA or Gearbox via their common press channels. It came from journalists that found the info online or from sources within the company. That’s how you fight the silence, by finding the truth.
To go along with what Jim Sterling pointed out in his article, it’s up to the consumers to show their power by holding the publisher’s feet to the fire. If consumers are fed up with how a company acts, then they need to show it. Unfortunately, especially for gamers, a company can quickly redeem themselves for terrible sins in the most smallest of ways.
It doesn’t have to be compensation like EA did with giving a free game to those that bought SimCity or Sony giving free games along with a month of Playstation Plus due to the PSN breach. Sometimes, all a company has to do is release a good game. BioWare, Capcom, and Blizzard were all scoundrels in 2012 for their respective incidents of douchery. Do you think people are still made at them? Not nearly as much as when the controversies were fresh on our minds.
Silence from a company regarding a controversy is expected. What should also be expected is that journalists don’t let that silence stop them. They need to dig to get to the bottom of a story.