Is "Underhanded" Marketing the Way of the Future?


4th Edition


Disclaimer: Before you light your pitchforks, or sharpen your torches... I am not here pointing a finger at WotC and saying "you naughty, evil, Alcalde..."

You may be wondering why I am posting this here. And that is because it touches on WotC's (lack of) marketing, and I'd rather be wrong for posting it here, than wrong for posting it elsewhere...

Now on to my

Main Point: If you are not aware, then earlier this week WotC partially lifted select playtesters from their NDA. These individuals (One of which is Nicolas Logue posting here) were allowed to share their positive experiences about 4th Edition.

Some people feel this practice is underhanded. I am neither supporting or disputing that opinion. I'll leave that to the individual to decide.

However, I was reading the February 2008 (issue 225) issue of EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly), in specific the editorial by Editor-in-Chief Dan Hsu.

And it struck me that video game producers are acting strangly similar to WotC. I know, that isn't going to help the claim that 4th Edition is like a video game... But I can't change that.

In short, that editorial claims that in the past if a VG company didn't like your reviews/previews, they would just pull advertising. Lately though, companies pull your right to preview their product.

So the point I guess I am trying to make is, if you don't like the way WotC is handling things, it is very likely you won't like what (some) video game companies do.

And you may want to stay out of the consumer market altogether soon...

Again, I am not supporting, or vilifying, these companies and practices. The actions aren't really immoral, nor unethical. And they certainly aren't illegal. I don't think it is smart... But that is something else entirely.


As it may already be known, I am not a supporter of WOTC in any possible way. I was at one time, but they have lost my trust, and I am one of those people who "once you crossed me, you don't EVER get back over the line". Now being that it is a company and not an individual, my open-mindedness (forgiveness) could be greater simply because eventually, employees change.

With that said, of all the rotten things I believe WOTC to have done, their choice in allowing various individuals to say "only positive things" about their product doesn't even make the list. Underhanded? Questionable? perhaps, expected from a business point of view, Yes. Honestly, I wouldn't have expected anything else, and this is one of the few times where I don't think they did anything wrong. Some of their other decisions I can understand as well. If anything, I think they should have just left it alone, and kept everyone silent and found another way to handle damage control. Like perhaps....push 4th edition off another 2-3 years and make the changes the fans are complaining about as well as a host of other suggestions. They tried damage control, did it work? Doubtfull. For all the positive it may do, the negative is just as much. At this point, they are scorned if they do and scorned if they don't. A position I don't feel sorry for because they dug their own hole.

The Exchange

Advertising and marketing have always been about accentuating the positive and ignoring the negative aspects of a product or service. Its nothing new, but it is new to gaming. Its always been a hobby - even for the publishers - until recently. Now that it is a big business game companies will start to look and act like big companies always do. It is the unfortunate side effect of a free market.

If you think WotC is bad you should see what Games Workshop just did to all of the folks that were waiting for a 40K RPG.


This is why Kruelaid narfs cracked video games, tries them out, and then buys them to get the serial so he can play online IF he is pleased with the product.

Luckily it will be much easier to get an honest AND complete opinion of 4E on the messageboards--once it is out--so Kruelaid need not resort to extreme measures to ensure he doesn't take one in the hoop.

Sovereign Court

Underhanded marketing is not the way of the future. It's the way of marketing. I worked in marketing for many years and I have grown to DESPISE marketing. I see all the tools I used to tell people half truths. During every comercial break I mute the TV because I am being lied to.

Paizo Didn't send me a spam mail saying "WOW! PAIZO VOTED BEST RPG COMPANY OF THE DECADE!" If they had I would have taken there email address and submitted it to pr0n sites and online gambling sites to get there email system flooded with spam (I do this to companies in my downtime). Ultimatly the advertisment I trust is word of mouth. A friend said "Here, check this out" and handed me RotRL1, now I'm a subscriber.

When I receive my "WOW! WotC VOTED BEST RPG COMPANY OF THE DECADE!" email after I sign up for the online thing of theres I will levy a incredable wave of return advertising on them.

Doesn't change much, but it amuses me. Next time you check your mail and get 30 companies trying to convince you to give them money, open the envelopes, take the "Postage Paid" envelope they send you, put one of the other companies junk mail in it and drop it back in the mailbox. I'm trying to stamp out advertising 1 stamp at a time :)


SterlingEdge wrote:
Next time you check your mail and get 30 companies trying to convince you to give them money, open the envelopes, take the "Postage Paid" envelope they send you, put one of the other companies junk mail in it and drop it back in the mailbox. I'm trying to stamp out advertising 1 stamp at a time :)

ooooooooh.

nasty


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
SterlingEdge wrote:
Next time you check your mail and get 30 companies trying to convince you to give them money, open the envelopes, take the "Postage Paid" envelope they send you, put one of the other companies junk mail in it and drop it back in the mailbox. I'm trying to stamp out advertising 1 stamp at a time :)

I like the cut of your jib, sir.

Liberty's Edge

It's kinda why they have Consumer Reports magazine.

Meh, everybody lies on their resume. Except me.
When I go into a job interview, it's weird; I usually tell the least lies of anybody in the room. And I'm the interviewee!!!

Jon Brazer Enterprises

crosswiredmind wrote:
Advertising and marketing have always been about accentuating the positive and ignoring the negative aspects of a product or service. Its nothing new,

I agree. I don't have a problem with this aspect of their advertising at all. IMO, it makes sense. "Hey, playtester. Feel free to talk about what you liked about the game while we fix the stuff you didn't. We're going to keep the stuff you liked so have fun talking about it all you want." Really, IMO, there's nothing wrong with this.

crosswiredmind wrote:
If you think WotC is bad you should see what Games Workshop just did to all of the folks that were waiting for a 40K RPG.

Not wanting to threadjack, but care to give us all the dirt? I'd love to talk about something other then 4E negativity.


Disenchanter wrote:


However, I was reading the February 2008 (issue 225) issue of EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly), in specific the editorial by Editor-in-Chief Dan Hsu.

You know, its funny because I just read that not too long ago. I have to admit I'm a little bummed out these days in general. Maybe I'm just an old man, but I don't trust news agencies not to have an agenda (either direction, when it comes to politics; I don't want bias in both directions, I just want some fricking honest, restrained, factual reporting), I don't trust the History Channel not to be pushing a specific view and leaving out key details if it doesn't fit the narrative they are trying to sell. I never used to be cynical, but its hard not to get a bit hard edged, and I don't see any end in sight.

Back during Marvel's Civil War Marvel released fake covers and actually listed them on Amazon.com with false "spoilers" about the end of the story line to throw people off. It really pissed me off, because, fine, if you want to surprise people, great, but that seemed pretty deceptive.

Of course, I've also worked for a major retailer, know what the public is sold about how things work, know what corporate "officially" tells us to do, and know what the store managers and regionals actually do.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but its starting to really bum me out, so I have to leave it at that.


Kruelaid wrote:
This is why Kruelaid narfs cracked video games, tries them out, and then buys them to get the serial so he can play online IF he is pleased with the product.

Just imagine if people expanded this idea to all sorts of other products.

Think you might like that car? Steal one and drive it around for a while!

I wonder what marriage is like? ok... I won't go there on this one...

Sean Mahoney

Dark Archive

DMcCoy1693 wrote:
crosswiredmind wrote:
Advertising and marketing have always been about accentuating the positive and ignoring the negative aspects of a product or service. Its nothing new,

I agree. I don't have a problem with this aspect of their advertising at all. IMO, it makes sense. "Hey, playtester. Feel free to talk about what you liked about the game while we fix the stuff you didn't. We're going to keep the stuff you liked so have fun talking about it all you want." Really, IMO, there's nothing wrong with this.

crosswiredmind wrote:
If you think WotC is bad you should see what Games Workshop just did to all of the folks that were waiting for a 40K RPG.
Not wanting to threadjack, but care to give us all the dirt? I'd love to talk about something other then 4E negativity.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game has been around for many years, but until recently, there has not been a game set in GW's very popular future setting- Warhammer 40,000. A few years ago, to the great joy of their fans (including me), they announced that they were going to produce an RPG for Warhammer 40K. It was supposed to come out (IIRC) this time last year, but the release date was pushed back a couple of times. It finally came out about a week ago and sold out almost immediately (a limited edition, very expensive, version came out last month and sold out in about an hour). Almost simultaneous with the release of the game was an announcement from the company (Black Industries, owned by Games Workshop), that they were going to stop supporting their games in order to focus on making novels! So this new, long-awaited and extremely successful game is being canceled as soon as it's born. From what I've heard, it's an excellent game. I can't wait for my copy to arrive, so I can start playing.

It's just another in a long line of terrible business decisions by GW, and another slap in the face to their customers and fanbase. I think it's partly due to being kicked in the crotch for several years by GW that I'm so pessimistic about D&D 4th edition. There are similar tendencies by WotC and GW- extreme raises in price of product, frequent new editions for their own sake, and a complete disregard for older veteran players in the hopes of gaining more newer and younger customers. At least GW's profits and stock prices have been going down the toilet for the last few years, so their reaping what they've sown. We'll see how Hasbro makes out.

And you thought this would take the conversation away from 4E negativity! :p


What bothers me is that overly aggressive advertising like that which seeks to turn supposedly impartial (which isn't possible when ad revenue is being thrown around, but whatever; at least there was the illusion of it) media like game review sites and publications into even further payed advertising speaks of an extreme lack of confidence in the product produced. Even if your game/movie/cd gets a bad review in a magazine, shouldn't you hold to your opinion that it's the best you could put out, deserves to be played and only the consumer can decide on what's fun to them? It's an insult to everyone that worked hard (hopefully) to produce a product if a review isn't honest. Advertising is necessary and important. But basically bribing your way to a good review is disrespectful to the people that put in the hours to make that product.

I don't necessarily think that Nicolas Logue's endorsement of 4e (or that of other playtesters) is disingenuous in any way. I'll admit that I haven't combed messageboards and blogs looking for every playtester's report; I don't really care to. Nic's a sicko and a drama queen, to be sure, and a man after my own heart, but I think toadying is a bit too tame for him. I don't believe every glowing report I hear, because what's fun for someone else may not be fun for me, but I wouldn't assume anything overly nefarious. Until you have a playtester coming forward saying,"I was payed to make sure that my take on 4th edition was as positive as possible" I wouldn't make assumptions like that.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sean Mahoney wrote:
Kruelaid wrote:
This is why Kruelaid narfs cracked video games, tries them out, and then buys them to get the serial so he can play online IF he is pleased with the product.

Just imagine if people expanded this idea to all sorts of other products.

Think you might like that car? Steal one and drive it around for a while!

I wonder what marriage is like? ok... I won't go there on this one...

Sean Mahoney

Or you could test-drive the car.

And maybe go out with the young lady, even live with her for a few years, THEN decide to get married.

Just sayin.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens Subscriber
crosswiredmind wrote:
Advertising and marketing have always been about accentuating the positive and ignoring the negative aspects of a product or service.

If this is clearly labeled as advertising and marketing, it is ok and nothing to be upset about. But if it is true that only positive reports, playtests and recensions are allowed to see the light of the day (even if indirectly, such as "we only give you the ads if you report favorably on our products"), while letting this look like a neutral report, then it gets hard for the potential customer to form an informed position about a product. This kind of marketing can be viewed as underhanded and less than honest, especially if it is impossible for the customer to judge whether the report is influenced by the company in question. It is of course in the interest of any company to be viewed in a positive light, but this should be reached by the quality of their products and not by underhanded marketing means. (Wishful thinking, I know...)

Stefan

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

While I am concerned about the state of video game reviews. I don't like that the reviewers have to rely on advertising from the people they are reviewing. I'm not sure how I feel about game companies who pull product previews to reviewers though.

I see similar things on movie posters and advertisements. They give excerpts from good reviews on their products. They don't put the bad reviews up because that is not a good idea. Of course this is not exactly the situation.

Can and should a game company not give preview copies to reviewers who give inaccurate reviews about your game?
What if the way they play the game when writing the review the game is not fun, but when played in another way it is fun? I mean that the game looks worse to the review because of the way he plays it. Should they give that group review copies if they do not play the games as intended?

I believe that many of them see the reviews as advertisements. If those reviews end up hurting their sales because the people who were thinking about buying it saw a mediocre review on a website why should they seek out those reviews?

So I guess I am sided on the side of the game companies, sort of, I don't know. I like the reviewers to exist and I believe that they need those advertisers and pre-release reviews to fill them up on content. On the other hand the game companies shouldn't be forced to produce review copies when it is likely the reviewer will cause less sales for the game. And if they want to review the game they can do it after the release.

As for the 4th edition reviews, it doesn't bother me at all. I see the reviews as a way to get people excited for the new edition. So that we can have more than just WotC employees saying, "Trust us, it's cool." We now get people outside giving other positive adjectives.

Let me say for example I'm play-testing a video game. If they let me talk about the experience outside and I start saying, "The game has a bad color scheme and had a bad interface," it would most likely give a false impression about the game since I was play-testing it so they could find those problems and correct them. Play-testing is supposed to find problems, giving lists of the those bugs to the public is silly too me since the bugs in the game should never make it to the final release.

Kruelaid wrote:

This is why Kruelaid narfs cracked video games, tries them out, and then buys them to get the serial so he can play online IF he is pleased with the product.

Luckily it will be much easier to get an honest AND complete opinion of 4E on the messageboards--once it is out--so Kruelaid need not resort to extreme measures to ensure he doesn't take one in the hoop.

I have a lot of hate directed at your general direction right now so I shouldn't make any more comments since I would likely burst into a tirade of cursing half-way through (if that much).

- Future Game Programmer.

Dark Archive

Kruelaid wrote:
SterlingEdge wrote:
Next time you check your mail and get 30 companies trying to convince you to give them money, open the envelopes, take the "Postage Paid" envelope they send you, put one of the other companies junk mail in it and drop it back in the mailbox. I'm trying to stamp out advertising 1 stamp at a time :)

ooooooooh.

nasty

Yeah, I like that. Sounds like something good to do on a day off.


Heathansson wrote:

It's kinda why they have Consumer Reports magazine.

Meh, everybody lies on their resume. Except me.
When I go into a job interview, it's weird; I usually tell the least lies of anybody in the room. And I'm the interviewee!!!

which may be the reason you're the interviewee so often :)

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Zynete wrote:


Can and should a game company not give preview copies to reviewers who give inaccurate reviews about your game?
What if the way they play the game when writing the review the game is not fun, but when played in another way it is fun? I mean that the game looks worse to the review because of the way he plays it. Should they give that group review copies if they do not play the games as intended?

Sorry. I don't understand your point here. People will play games how THEY want to, not how a manufacturer wants them to. You can't control the end user after they purchase your product.

If a video game company wants the end user to play their video game a certain way, that should be built into the programming. If the end user can play in a way the game manufacturer didn't intend, then that manufacturer probably should go back and look at the schematics before releasing the game.

If a pen and paper/board game company wants the players to play a certain way, they should clearly state this in their rule set. However, if the end user can play it in a different way, that means the rule set is probably not clear (or the game suffers from a bad design).

In either case, this is what playtesting is for.

As for a reviewer, their job is to report on their experience testing the product/watching the film, etc. It's not to toe the line of the manufacturer.

Reviewers should not be punished because their experience with the game doesn't match the manufacturer's biased view of their product. The manufacturer should strive to improve their product line to receive better reviews, rather than offer sub-par product to a bunch of yes-men. That does not help the end user, nor does it improve the overall quality of products on the market.

Dark Archive

James Keegan wrote:
I don't necessarily think that Nicolas Logue's endorsement of 4e (or that of other playtesters) is disingenuous in any way. I'll admit that I haven't combed messageboards and blogs looking for every playtester's report; I don't really care to. Nic's a sicko and a drama queen, to be sure, and a man after my own heart, but I think toadying is a bit too tame for him.

IMO Nic stated that the DMG was the best product he ever read. That was regarding the DMG, not 4th in general.

Then he stated, that 4th is cool to play but might not be for everyone.
And for once, he also stated, the he STILL plays 3rd.
All the others WoC designer and even Ari Marmel clearly state that they will never play 3r again because 4th is sooooooooooooo much better.
All in all I can not see any toadying. I rather see the first person who has 4th rules and has some neutral thoughts on it and does not swoon for the coolness.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

Crodocile wrote:
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game has been around for many years, but until recently, there has not been a game set in GW's very popular future setting- Warhammer 40,000. A few years ago, to the great joy of their fans (including me), they announced that they were going to produce an RPG for Warhammer 40K. It was supposed to come out (IIRC) this time last year, but the release date was pushed back a couple of times. It finally came out about a week ago and sold out almost immediately (a limited edition, very expensive, version came out last month and sold out in about an hour). Almost simultaneous with the release of the game was an announcement from the company (Black Industries, owned by Games Workshop), that they were going to stop supporting their games in order to focus on making novels! So this new, long-awaited and extremely successful game is being canceled as soon as it's born. From what I've heard, it's an excellent game. I can't wait for my copy to arrive, so I can start playing.

Ouch. I gotta admit. Atleast WotC ain't this bad. (Or at least, I hope they're not)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16

I'm hardly a fanboy for WotC, as many of the changes to D&D 4E sound unappealing to me. Having said that, I disagree with the criticism of their decision to only partially release the playtesters from their non-disclosure agreement.

Attempts to "spin" early reviews are hardly new. Manufacturers and media producers have always pressured the publishers of related magazines to conform to their party line. Wizards of the Coast isn't some tiny company that depends on word-of-mouth to move their product, they're playing with "the big boys".

Do you think that car magazines are completely candid about the flaws in new cars? How about bodybuilding magazines: Do you think they are unbiased about the nutrition products that fill their pages with advertising? Those gushing quotes on the back of any new novel: Do you think they pick those authors at random?

While I would prefer for WotC to take their playtesters entirely "off the leash", I can understand that they want the chance to fix obvious problems before people are told what those problems are. The purpose of playtesting is to solicit needed changes; it's kind of unfair to beat them up because they don't want their game's weak points publicly aired before they can try to fix them.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

I see a big difference between limiting what NDA-restricted beta-testers could say prior to a final version, and limiting what reviewers can say (whether or not what you give the reviewer is a final version).

I'm in the automotive industry, and to my knowledge, the corporation doesn't put those kinds of silly restrictions on reviewers of our cars (although I'm certain that some marketing folks would love to be able to). Reviewers have to be perceived as independent, or what's the point? And most car reviewers are independent.

Yeah, it's a problem that the video game industry does this. And if I were considering buying a soon-to-be-released video game, I'd rather get info from a friend who buys it on day 1, rather that personally buying it on day 1.

But that's completely different from folks who signed an NDA and provide beta-feedback to help develop the product. Now, if the people who attend D&D Experience this month are told they can't say anything negative about 4E, on pain of never being allowed to attend a D&D Experience convention again, then you'd have something comparable...

Sovereign Court

Next time you check your mail and get 30 companies trying to convince you to give them money, open the envelopes, take the "Postage Paid" envelope they send you, put one of the other companies junk mail in it and drop it back in the mailbox. I'm trying to stamp out advertising 1 stamp at a time :)

Cory Stafford 29 wrote:


Yeah, I like that. Sounds like something good to do on a day off.

I do it at the mailbox, not like I have to go in and get stamps. I dont even bring the letters in my house.

Scarab Sages

Zynete wrote:
What if the way they play the game when writing the review the game is not fun, but when played in another way it is fun? I mean that the game looks worse to the review because of the way he plays it. Should they give that group review copies if they do not play the games as intended?

I can see your point, here.

I know quite a few gamers (RPGs, wargames, boardgames, etc), and they all straddle various points between Storytelling, Simulationism, Powergaming and Tacticians. If I want an idea about whether I'd enjoy a game, I'm better off asking someone who I think shares my tastes, otherwise, why bother? (Unless you ask someone whose taste you despise, with the intent of 'If he likes it, it must stink'?).

Reviews from people you know are far more use than ones from a magazine; not because the magazine writers don't know their stuff, or are being bribed, but simply because you don't know their if their play style mirrors yours.

Scarab Sages

Disenchanter wrote:
In short, that editorial claims that in the past if a VG company didn't like your reviews/previews, they would just pull advertising. Lately though, companies pull your right to preview their product.

Good. Let them.

Oh, sure, it means the magazine has to find some more advertising, which will be a pain, but look at it this way. If the mag gives in to blackmail (which is what this is), and constantly gives glowing reviews to utter stinking turds, then they flush their integrity down the crapper, and readers stop buying the mag in disgust.

Why not call their bluff? After all, those publishers must need the advertising, or else they wouldn't have considered paying for it in the first place.

If a game really is that bad, I'd rather it not be advertised at all. Having an ad can give a mistaken impression that the magazine staff endorse the product. If they don't, then the product should be consigned to oblivion, and the publisher should do a better job.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

Stebehil wrote:
If this is clearly labeled as advertising and marketing, it is ok and nothing to be upset about. But if it is true that only positive reports, playtests and recensions are allowed to see the light of the day (even if indirectly, such as "we only give you the ads if you report favorably on our products"), while letting this look like a neutral report, then it gets hard for the potential customer to form an informed position about a product.

Just trying to be fair (I didn't switch side on anyone here), but I have to ask, "Why should a playtester mention something negative if they told the company to fix it?" The company may indeed fix the negative and the customer never sees it nor needs to know about it.

If someone says they're a playtester before the game comes out, why wouldn't you take their words with a grain of salt? Say the playtest version of the PHB included Warforged and 85% of the playtesters said, they didn't like Warforged in the PHBI. So WotC decided to move it to PHBII and then two months later a playtester said, "It was pretty good, but I hated having warforged in the PHB," what's the point? All that's going to do is stir up negativity about something that was changed two months ago.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

Larry Lichman wrote:

Sorry. I don't understand your point here. People will play games how THEY want to, not how a manufacturer wants them to. You can't control the end user after they purchase your product.

If a video game company wants the end user to play their video game a certain way, that should be built into the programming. If the end user can play in a way the game manufacturer didn't intend, then that manufacturer probably should go back and look at the schematics before releasing the game.

If a pen and paper/board game company wants the players to play a certain way, they should clearly state this in their rule set. However, if the end user can play it in a different way, that means the rule set is probably not clear (or the game suffers from a bad design).

In either case, this is what playtesting is for.

I was pulling some of these things from a persons review of the reviewers of Assassins Creed. He said that the reviews didn't make sense to him so he tried to beat the game as quickly as he could, something many people I know don't normally do, and that was when he understood the reviews about the game because it was no longer enjoyable when you play through it as quickly as you could. He said playing Assassins Creed on a deadline made the experience worse.

I'm not sure what could be added to the game to fix that. Force you on side quests? Make you talk to people?

I would say it would be similar to playing a pen and paper RPG as quickly as you could; running from encounter to encounter, telling the DM not to bother with room descriptions that don't effect combat anymore, barely talking outside of combat.

Sure, doing stuff this way may let you more quickly test all the levels of the game, but it isn't going to be the normal experience for the average gamer.

At least that is what I was trying to get at.

Larry Lichman wrote:

As for a reviewer, their job is to report on their experience testing the product/watching the film, etc. It's not to toe the line of the manufacturer.

Reviewers should not be punished because their experience with the game doesn't match the manufacturer's biased view of their product. The manufacturer should strive to improve their product line to receive better reviews, rather than offer sub-par product to a bunch of yes-men. That does not help the end user, nor does it improve the overall quality of products on the market.

I will sort of agree. I believe a manufacturer should strive to improve their game, not so that it gets better reviews, but just so that it is a better game. I do believe that there is a difference in the goals.


Accentuating the positive and downplaying or flat out obscuring the negative isn't underhanded marketing. It's just marketing. In order to sell maximum product companies would logically want consumers exposed to the maximum level of positive influence.
Only allowing positive reports from its NDA-restricted playtesters (or any playtesters, for that matter) makes perfect sense to me. I don't personally find such actions immoral or unethical.
Bribing or strong-arming reviewers is a different matter but has anyone actually accusing WOTC with this practice? I don't think so.
Now if you want to talk underhanded... I would consider their practices over on the WotC website in this department. Quickly deleting negative comments about 4E and/or, worse, banning those with dissenting opinions from the messageboards altogether just plain sucks. Sure, there are a few individuals who need censorship for their foul, offensive delivery of overblown emotional comments but they should be a rarity. Not allowing your own customers to discuss their preferences or opinions in an open forum is not just unfair ... it's poor business and, I think, reflects on the poor integrity of the company.


Zynete wrote:
I would say it would be similar to playing a pen and paper RPG as quickly as you could; running from encounter to encounter, telling the DM not to bother with room descriptions that don't effect combat anymore, barely talking outside of combat.

Are you talking about 4th Edition now? :-P

Okay, I admit it. That was a cheap shot. (But it felt good.) :-)

Dark Archive

I just read an article that talked about the shift in business ethics over the last 20 years. It looks like underhanded business practices have become common and "acceptable". To fix this, they said that classes teaching proper ethics will be opening up across the country from jr. high to college level. The way it is now, teachers are just pounding these crooked techniques in to the minds of the youth.

*off the topic of 4th but I thought that was interesting

Scarab Sages

Tharen the Damned wrote:

And for once, he also stated, the he STILL plays 3rd.

All the others WoC designer and even Ari Marmel clearly state that they will never play 3r again because 4th is sooooooooooooo much better.

Just for the record:

I did not consider my blog entry (or posts made later to other sites) to be marketing. Or at least, not 4e marketing. It -was- Owen Stephens marketing, because I want prospective 3rd party 4e publishers to be aware I am available and up to speed on 4e. I also have overseas freinds I have promised to keep up to date, and web posting seems the best way to do that.

I do like 4e. I think it's going to be a big hit. I think it's going to do D&D very, very well. There are specific problems I have seen cause people to leave 3.x D&D, that 4e tries to solve, that makes those players excited abut D&D again.

I alos think 3.x is a heck of an rpg. I like it. I think a good publisher could do very well continuing to support it. No matter how good 4e is, there are going to be people who don't make the switch. I may keep runinning 3.x games myself, and I'd certainly still play in them.

No freelancer I know would spin their view just to make WotC happy. They may exist, but I don't know them.

Thanks

Dark Archive

WotC is still miles and away from pharmaceutical companies or quarterly stock reviews that include only the studies that make them look good and completely bury any studies, reports or analysis that suggest that Pizofixitin will make your eyes explode or that Ownitall Inc lost more money than it's made for the third consecutive quarter.

Plus the whoppers that come out of Congress. "OMG! If you vote for bill 7182398, swarthy immigrants will break into your house and marry your dog and if you try to stop them the gub'mint will show up in black helicopters and make you sign up for socialized medicine, then take you away and sell your organs to godless furriners!! No really! Ignore the bit about increased fuel standards, it's a TRAP!"

Hysteria. It's the wave of the future. Get the people to run around screaming, hands waving in the air, 'cause any publicity is good publicity.

Liberty's Edge

Ethics is certainly big in business now, and has been since the collapse of Enron. What companies do about it, well, that varies. But I don't think you can find a Fortune 500 that doesn't have an 'official' ethics policy. Most of them have at least a toll-free number that employees can call outside of the company to report ethics violations by management anonymously.

Marketing is an interesting thing. Most of marketing is trying to get your message to people, and most of the people don't want to hear the message. How do you just target the people who WANT to hear your message. What about all the people that don't want to hear it, but if they do they want to avail themselves of the product?

For example, if we could take a poll, wouldn't most of us choose TV without commercials of any kind? But, what if a product came out that was a 'must have' for us? How would the company let us know that it existed? Word of mouth MIGHT do it, but those first people have to learn about it first. Hope the product isn't manufactured by a Chinese firm, for instance.

Regarding the release of 'positive responses only', I think that can be a little misleading. While they certainly might change the 'negative' aspects, who's to say which is which? I might right a glowing review about all the things I think are AWESOME in the new edition, and they might change all of those things.

Likewise, if they did allow people to discuss things that didn't work, those things might change as well. Learning about the feedback process and how WotC is working to 'fix' things would do more to reassure people that the game is going to be in good hands. I don't trust them, though. Heck, if they won't put an index in their product and won't address errata (and dismiss most errata as 'unnecessary') I think 4th edition has a couple of strikes against it before it is even released.


Now that I am not running late for work...

I am surprised this thread took off as well as it did. I didn't think I put enough of my personal bias into the original post to get people worked up enough to post.

But you guys... *snif* Some of you threw out enough personal bias for all of us. :-)

The reality is I don't like these practices. Again, I am not vilifying the companies. Just because these actions are acceptable, or perhaps not-not-acceptable is more accurate, doesn't mean I have to like it.

But I am more cynical than most. I always take reviews/previews of all types with a grain of salt. And I want to hear/read everything the (p)reviewer has on the product.

If a game has very little replay value (like Assassins Creed, either of the God of War games) I want to know. I really want to know if the game can be finished in a couple of days of serious play.

Likewise with RPG's, I want to know about the faults before I bother to learn about the greatness. For example, I would consider the new Death and Dying mechanic of 4th Edition a fault. If I knew nothing else about 4th Edition, that would be enough for me to know I really don't want to play it. Fortunately, WotC thinks that is a selling point, and they are probably right, so I do get to know about it before I waste time or money on playing it. :-D

But, I have a hard time understanding why businesses do what they do anyway... So it is no surprise to me that this type of thing makes no sense to me.

Liberty's Edge

DMcCoy1693 wrote:


Just trying to be fair (I didn't switch side on anyone here), but I have to ask, "Why should a playtester mention something negative if they told the company to fix it?" The company may indeed fix the negative and the customer never sees it nor needs to know about it.

If someone says they're a playtester before the game comes out, why wouldn't you take their words with a grain of salt? Say the playtest version of the PHB included Warforged and 85% of the playtesters said, they didn't like Warforged in the PHBI. So WotC decided to move it to PHBII and then two months later a playtester said, "It was pretty good, but I hated having warforged in the PHB," what's the point? All that's going to do is stir up negativity about something that was changed two months ago.

Just playing Devil's advocate here, not trying to pick on you specifically. This is doubly true since I know you are doing the same thing and I respect that.

I think only allowing a playtester to talk about their positive impressions can fall into this same trap. If a playtester raves about warforged in the PHB but 85% of the playtesters said they didn't like that aspect of the game and it was removed, what purpose does it serve to allow a playtester to praise something they may not know was removed from the game two months ago?

Now, Wizards does seem to be handpicking who gets to talk so I assume that means these guys are in the loop when it comes to changes. So my thought might be somewhat flawed. But it would really stink, for instance, for Nick to praise the DMG only for Wizards to change the content before release. I know, not likely, but you get the idea.

In my mind, Wizards should have kept the playtesters under wraps and got their act together when it came to crunchy previews placed within the proper context of the while game. Its obvious the playtesters can't talk about specifics and can only talk about what they liked, how could anyone at Wizards not forsee this situation being a problem?

If they did decide to let the playtesters talk before release and if they are going to handpick them anyway why not do it in an interview style advertisement? I seem to remember something like this for 3e. I think it involved a whole playtest group actually. Sure its still slanted towards the positive end of things, but at least there is no question the interview is spin. In this case Wizards could have made a token attempt at exploring some of the things playtesters may not have liked and then revealed to us those things were changed, thus illustrating a desire to be sensitive to concerns.


Underhanded marketing does not *have* to be the way of the future...

This book is really awesome and I think you should give it a look. A PDF preview of the content is located here (direct link to PDF).

Disclosure

Spoiler:
I'm one of the authors.

See, that's not so hard, is it? :P


Lilith, if I didn't respect you, I would think that was pretty underhanded. :-P

Community / Forums / Gamer Life / Gaming / D&D / 4th Edition / Is "Underhanded" Marketing the Way of the Future? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in 4th Edition