id Software Buyout Fallout
TGBF.TV -- Our friend Chris Schetter from TGBF has decided to start up his own column. This week, he talks about public relations in eSports.
This week we saw the news that John Carmak and company id Software are now under the ZeniMax umbrella with Bethesda Software. The interesting part to me is not the buyout itself and what it might mean for the quality of product that we might now see coming out of id - noplace to go but up in my opinion, as Carmak still has more or less full control over the products coming out of id and a fresh line of funds at his disposal since ZeniMax won't want to see their investment go to waste. No, the interest here is how the main figures in this story made their reactions public, and there's a lesson to be learned here for the rest of us in gaming.
Very few organizations in gaming are truly good PR communicators. When it comes to making large announcements or an organization needs to make something known, the gaming community seems to be particularly impared in this regard; either the message or related event doesn't live up to the hype generated for it, or the message is delivered through the wrong channels in an inappropriate way. Either way, the result is pretty embarassing.
Carmak's cool headed business sense was on full display this week; in addition to being a brilliant programmer, it's clear he commands a complete understanding of his business and the benefits of positioning his company underneath a larger publisher entity to ensure forward stability, especially in this economic climate. There was an 'official' press release written up and posted on the main website for id Software and Bethesda, and some time later Carmak made some interviews here and there to explain why this was a good move for id. Everything was carefully planned and done with a degree of restraint.
Restraint is exactly what was lacking in John Romero's reaction to the whole thing, quickly venting on Twitter for the world to see and then slowly backtracking over the course of the day. Romero was one of the co-founders of id Software, but left some time ago to found or co-found a gaggle of relatively inconsequential studios. His hallmark is something seen all too often in the competitive gaming scene today - hype the living shit out of something, ruffle as many feathers as possible, and then not deliver on the hype. His clear penchant for attracting attention to himself got the best of him in the morning, and by the time the evening rolled around he was moving as fast as he could to douse the flames on several bridges. Not that I expected anything different from a guy who establishes and hosts an entire wiki about himself...I mean really...
It's unfortunate that the gaming community seems to harbor more Romero types than Carmak types; more people who would rather hype themselves for immediate attention and try to sustain baseless hype over long periods of time and call that success, than put their time and energy into things that are actually constructive and move the scene forward. At the very least, the scene in general seems far too eager to air its dirty laundry as fast as possible when things go sour.
Case in point: the Buit on Energy league and MaxFrag spectacle. It's just the nature of business, the floor can fall out from underneath you sometimes with little warning and sometimes no justfication at all; it's how you deal with those situations that will define your organization more than what you do when things are going swimmingly. Don't get me wrong, I'm not passing judgement on who's right or wrong in this particular situation, I'm merely bringing it up to compare. BoE's reaction to the whole thing was Romero-esque, wasting no time in banning people from IRC channels, crying foul to anyone who will listen, and pleading for public support the very minute things started turning south for them. MaxFrag's reaction showed a good deal of restraint, but I think even they aired a bit too much detail in the reaction they posted on the former BoE domain than was really necessary. In the end, we could easily separate the businesspeople from the hacks.
Those that have been watching our content since the days when the Battlefield series was our main title knows that we didn't always fly under the TGBF moniker, and there was a point a few years ago when a decision had to be made to ensure the future success of this endeavor. It wasn't very popular, and I am still the target of flames from kids that just can't seem to let it go. Much of the details as to why we made the decision we did were never aired out and generally remain unknown; keeping our cool and not getting in a childish pissing match in IRC and forums set a precedent for the reputation we carry today: "one of the most reliable E-sports broadasting companies to date."
We've gotten to this point the same way iD Software has: through hard work, not hype. Deliberate planned communication is the best way of getting a message out, not fanning the flames of an IRC-spam-driven hype machine. It will be our collective ability to cooperate and communicate with each other and the general public in a professional, meaningful way that will help us rebuild and continue to grow the scene.
Chris Schetter is a broadcaster at TGBF.tv.