Jason Schreier of Kotaku reported today that Ubisoft may be skipping a year in their annualized series Assassin's Creed. When Kotaku reported that they had been presumably blacklisted by Ubisoft for their report announcing what eventually became Assassin's Creed Unity ahead of the Ubisoft Marketing calendar, I wrote a piece on Blacklisting in Games Media. Today's report re-introduced a debate on who should control the messaging: the content creator or the media?
As I did a couple months ago, if a leak occurs, I lean toward the media reporting on that leak in this argument. If Ubisoft wanted to make this announcement in a couple months through a press release or at a conference, it absolutely sucks that someone with ties to the organization let this information slip. But that's Ubisoft's problem, not Kotaku's or any other outlet that would choose to report on the topic.
I got into a cordial Twitter debate today about this with a friend who didn't understand people taking pleasure from reading reports like this. While I maintain there is an audience that appreciates being informed on this news, he felt that that same audience would also be appeased learning about this news on the publisher's time table.
I proposed the same hypothetical in my Blacklisting piece about getting the scoop that Half Life 3 was real. He said rather than publish the verified information, he'd instead take it to Valve and let them decide how he should proceed. I argued that from a business stance, he should absolutely take the lead and publish the story. By doing so, Kotaku was receiving more traffic today than it would have if it just republished the eventual press release alongside every other outlet.
I also argued that the media being beholden to marketing and public relations is horrible for the idea of journalism and press by comparing the situation to politics. If journalists only reported what politicians fed them, we'd never have things like Watergate or Snowden. He argued that political journalism has much higher stakes than gaming journalism. And while that is true, I don't think the core principles should change as a result.
In the same way that thousands (if not millions) hang all over every piece of entertainment news they can consume, there is an audience for gaming news and I love being a part of it. Marketing and PR teams are pretty much never going to tell stories that paint their companies in a negative light. And I don't fault them for that; it's bad business. But if people want to get to the bottom of why games like The Last Guardian or Final Fantasy XV have been in development for a decade or what really happened with Kojima and Konami, we have to rely on actual journalists to investigate and tell those stories. I'd absolutely love to be one of those people someday as I continue to expand my contacts, but for now I'm content to focus on responding to the news with editorials like this one, reviews, and working on my various features as I built a portfolio and audience.
Thanks, as always, for reading!
And to the friend I debated with, I believe I have represented your views accurately per our conversation. But if you have any corrections or points you would like me to clarify, let me know.