Viral Marketing is something we’ve talked about at length here on PRC.net, and today’s Reader Submission is no exception. We’re now at a point where it’s commonplace to insert shills into a gaming community with the sole intention of praising a product, a tactic I myself find absolutely ridiculous, and something that thankfully other people are quickly growing tired of as well. Thanks to our boy BTP, we’re getting a look at how other genres handle viral marketing tactics – and no surprise here – they do it just as poorly. Will companies ever learn that this just flat-out isn’t fooling anyone? Only time will tell…
Good afternoon, James and crew. How are you guys doing? Hopefully it’s been well. I believe it’s time for me to write my first reader submission. You guys can call me BTP, I believe that won’t cause me any issues around the forums.
We need to shine some light on the fact that the bad moves made by certain developers are not exclusive to sim racing. I need to say something pretty quick before addressing this issue. I’m mostly a hardcore gamer; I’m spending much more time on First & Third Person Shooter like Uncharted 4, The Last of Us, Counter Strike Global Offensive, and Rainbow Six Seige, but I do find time to dig out my Logitech G27 and run laps in both Assetto Corsa and Automobilista. I’m not a decent virtual driver and I’m aware of that. Most of the time I just enjoy turning some practice laps at my own pace, but right now jumping into competitive events isn’t my thing.
Anyways, as the title of this submission suggests, we’re not alone on developers going full Stalin on us. There’s this game called Killing Floor 2 on Steam, that’s achieved a bit of a following. It’s a fun game, and the co-op elements are fairly well done. I had a couple buddies who were big into this game, and they’ve recently told me that a fair bit has changed behind the scenes. According to them, and many user reviews, TripWire have been “silencing criticism.” The company implemented microtransactions and haven’t fixed issues that have been around forever. This sounds a bit familiar, hey? Developers trying to monetize content rather than prioritize bug fixing….
Some users even discovered that TripWire had been using Free Weekend events on Steam to generate fictional positive reviews blindly praising the game. There are users playing the game for minutes, even seconds, and then giving the game a recommended review while specifically downplaying things the dedicated community around the game is upset about. Suspicious, to say the least…
I can understand that this is not a sim racing example, but at the end of the day it’s the same thing, over and over again. Viral Marketing is getting tiresome, and I wish it would stop. Do developers think we are fools and will believe such obvious lies?
You’re right, this submission is a bit off-topic, but the point you make is still valid, and I’ll try to bring it back to our world with a more relevant example. Now for the longest time, I’ve been probably the most outspoken and abrasive person within the sim racing community when it comes to discussing viral marketing. And I’m like this for a very simple reason: this community is already small as shit and it’s hard enough to find people who genuinely know what they’re talking about when it comes to hardware, software, or the overall simulation value of certain games. The last thing this hobby needs, when finding helpful info is already difficult in the first place due to the sheer number of people who can’t fucking drive, is for 30% of sim racing message board personalities to be acting as used car salesmen for their game of choice. All this does is confuse people.
I mean, it’s sad really. You can’t go on the iRacing forums, what’s basically the biggest sim racing message board on the internet, and ask about other racing simulators without being beaten into the ground by adult manchildren who are convinced you’re somehow inferior to them by having any sort of desire to play something else. And after Need for Speed 2015 tanked hard, any valid criticism on the game’s official Subreddit was met with apologists whose entire post history was spent sitting on the Need for Speed section defending the game. Imagine you’re just some dudebro who’s bummed that the new game he bought was kind of shit, and you go on Reddit to see if anyone else feels the same way, and you’re met with this weird army of people trying to tell you that you’re the problem – and before you know it, there’s this whole ecosystem of haters, apologists, and trolls locked into this eternal nonsensical war… And it’s all fueled by the developers themselves.
Oh, there’s people out there who don’t believe the developers play a role in this, and think it’s all just a bunch of beta orbiters standing up for their favorite game? I have a buddy’s login info for the Project CARS WMD forums, a place where 80,000 individuals came together to help shape the development of Slightly Mad Studio’s most recent racing simulator, and these forums were essentially used as an “open office” to organize the game’s development. I want the skeptics to take a good, hard look at these posts I’ve captured below from a 1450+ page thread dedicated to Press Articles on Project CARS, because viral marketing is absolutely, positively, 100% real.
Two guys brag that they’ve basically ran to the comments section of each article screeching at their respective authors, begging them to change certain details that portray Project CARS in a negative light. One guy actually celebrates the fact that EuroGamer obeyed his commands. A third urges WMD members to rig the vote of an Austrian review site. But we’re not done yet.
A journalist for some Xbox magazine in Europe, a user whom financially backed Project CARS, gave the game an honest review and drew attention to the abundance bugs found in the Xbox One version of the title, was promptly bitched out by the IT Manager of Slightly Mad Studios for not “knowing what has been done here”, and claims “there are different ways to express an opinion”, adding that the author, Matthias Brems, “doesn’t deserve the Press tag.” So not only were there shills running around in the comments section of every Project CARS article, but now we’ve got Slightly Mad Studios staff themselves implying that Press members were intended to give the game a positive review.
So we get to these last two posts, and again, I seriously want people to tell me I’m making all this stuff up. Go right on ahead. We have one guy saying straight up that they were “too late to influence the voting” on some Russian awards website, and another guy saying “the power of WMD is needed here” after our boy Ian Bell made some interesting comments about the Nintendo Wii U version of Project CARS being abruptly cancelled. In all three examples above, we can clearly see average sim racers – who should otherwise chilling out and playing games with the rest of us – instead collaborating on a private message board to push a certain product on the rest of the community. That’s not cool. We barely even have enough people to fill online rooms. Hell, we barely have anybody playing online at all. We don’t need to cut an already small population in half by turning some of them into used car salesmen.
But the bigger issue is viral marketing itself, and there’s a simple explanation as to why it will absolutely never work as intended. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together will simply question why a flood of fictional positive comments are needed if the mainstream gaming review scores claiming the game is great are indeed accurate. If the game is as good as IGN, Gamespot, PC Gamer, and GamesRadar say it is, why are developers bending over backwards to create an army of shills in the first place? They shouldn’t need to.
Unless the game isn’t very good.