Viral marketing. It’s a topic which needs no introduction here on PRC.net, so it’s not going to receive anything elaborate. With how popular and influential social media has become in the 21st century, companies involved in crafting a wide spectrum of goods, services, and entertainment have figured out that they can plant fictional positive feedback smack dab in the middle of many ground-level online communities, a cheap yet effective way to drum up additional interest in their product. Sure, it can backfire spectacularly when a video game developer cannot make a quality experience to save their lives, and the false reception in no way reflects the application contained on the BluRay disc, but a large majority of the time, nerds aggressively labeling each other as shills via internet message boards is a quick way to paint themselves out to be nothing more than amateur conspiracy theorists. Aside from, you know, all of those times they were proven to be right.
So again, we’re talking about the Project CARS franchise by Slightly Mad Studios, and again, I’ve got to make this one quick – if you’ve been on PRC.net over the past year, you’ve heard it all before. Upwards of 30,000 hardcore sim racers, video game journalists, and other miscellaneous investors were instructed to spread the gospel of this rather underwhelming mainstream racing simulator prior to release, resulting in an extremely large number of units sold across all three platforms, only for the massive audience to discover the game wasn’t really finished or subjected to proper Quality Assurance testing. Those who quickly grew frustrated with the title’s obvious lack of polish were belittled by developers on the official forums, and deemed shitposters in other areas of the Project CARS community not governed by Slightly Mad Studios. It was a total mess, and while it was fun to cover as the editor of a sim racing blog, this certainly wasn’t the direction sim racing needed to be heading in. Shills shouldn’t outnumber the genuine community members.
Now with this game being a little over a year old, most of the message boards have quieted down. The official Project CARS forums have seen a huge decrease in activity, with only the hardcore fans sticking around to continue discussing the game. Reddit’s home for Project CARS has been more or less deserted, with the odd thread appearing to ask if certain problems have been fixed, if more downloadable content will be arriving in the near future, or what the company’s plans are
And then there’s this guy.
The brief post history of Reddit user Le_Kinnuen is a stunning example of a viral marketer who is downright brutal at their job. The key to viral marketing is to be subtle and appear as if you’re a genuine member of the community voicing a unique opinion that can be informative to other users, only to be secretly under instruction from your masters to spread their desired ideology. This guy right here has some work to do. Slightly Mad Studios does not have a rock band aura surrounding them, nor does the sim racing community have nicknames for Ian Bell and company such as “Wookie Games” and “beard man”; they’re a portion of the team that helped put together the iconic GTR 2 back in 2006, and that’s how most people will refer to them. Hardcore sim racers, the kinds of people who would populate a Subreddit dedicated to Project CARS, would never refer to a racing simulator as a “PC car game”, nor the company as “Slightly Mad Games.”
But we can go even deeper. Project CARS was built specifically because the two Need for Speed Shift games created by Slightly Mad Studios were notorious for their inability to provide a satisfying end-user experience. The driving model was butchered beyond all recognition, after claims that this would serve as a spiritual successor to GTR 2 thanks to the FIA GT license. “Getting the controls right,” as our resident viral marketer writes, was basically impossible without the use of numerous community modifications only available for the sequel – not for the original. In fact, it’s absurd to see any sim racer praise the original Shift release, as virtually all of the effort spent by the community on making a Shift title playable and enjoyable was saved for the sequel judging by the extensive list of modifications available at NoGripRacing.com. The total list of downloadable modifications for Unleashed doubles that of the original game. Nobody in their right mind would install the first game over the second.
Oh, and what’s this “Phoenix” that both the viral marketer and the moderator of the Subreddit are talking about as a “different subject altogether?” Nothing on the official Slightly Mad Studios website discusses a game named Phoenix, and Google turns up some Space Invaders clone. What the hell is going on here?
I fired a quick message to Ian Bell, and he had no problem revealing Phoenix was simply the internal code name for Project CARS 2. Therefore, this basically confirms the random guy on Reddit blindly praising the work of Slightly Mad Games and the entirely forgettable Need for Speed Shift (2009) was actually a guy from the Project CARS 2 team – or at the very least, a financial contributor to the title.
This particular exhibit of viral marketing is a classic example of what not to do when resorting to guerilla marketing tactics in the electronic entertainment industry. Our boy Le_Kinnuen fails to understand the history and prior reception of the company’s products, uses incorrect and out-of-place lingo for his intended environment, accidentally refers to the company by the wrong name, and reveals both an in-house nickname for an upcoming title that average sim racers wouldn’t know, as well as a pet name for the boss of the entire operation. It’s a poor performance that will most likely see him benched for next week’s assault on the sim racing message boards, and we here at PRC.net would like to wish the owner behind the Reddit account of Le_Kinnuen the best of luck in his future endeavors. Wookie games all day long!