Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Namco Bandai are good at PR

If there's one thing "core gamers" (for lack of a better term) tend to be less than welcoming about- apart from differing opinions, review scores and any minority within gaming- is the mobile gaming, free-to-play phenomenon that they fear poses a threat to the traditional gaming of buying a disc, which has been subject to the insidious trend of microtransactions as it is. So it wasn't much of a shocker when Namco Bandai's announcement that the latest  Ace Combat title, "Ace Combat Infinity" will be free-to-play went down like a feminist on youtube. So much so that, as Ace Combat Infinity's project lead, Kazutoki Kono told, Namco Bandai now refuse to talk about the F2P monitisation plan at all now.

 "We actually tried to explain the monetisation and how it works at first, but it made people confused and some people just said negative things because they didn't understand the whole of the game"
"That's why we actually stopped saying the details of it and are right now asking the players and media to try out the beta and see how it actually works as a game. Then we finally can get deeper into the details of the monetisation explanations."
And that doesn't sound remotely suspicious, does it? Right on the heels of the Xbox One, always-on DRM debacle, where most suspect Microsoft really don't understand what exactly it was they did wrong, Namco Bandai seem set on committing the same PR disaster of essentially telling fans, "Oh, you're worried about this new way we have for publishing a game? You maybe don't trust us not to nickle and dime your balls off? Well, we're doing free-to-play Ace Combat and fuck off! That's why!"
Everyone likes to have a laugh at the likes of Phil Fish kicks off like a bastard on twitter, but it's understandable at least. Indie developers are more likely to take criticism personally because they do so much of the work themselves and don't have the resources for a PR department. So it's all the more puzzling/ hilarious when someone from an established publisher undoes any potential goodwill done by the soulless, PR fucksters would try to put out. Although, in Namco Bandai's defence, it's a fucking miracle if any of their PR people tell you anything beyond the title and release date, so actually saying nothing would of been business as usual.  Not saying you're gonna say something like a bratty eight year old who's pissed their dungarees  in a huff because their schoolmate won't share their novelty pencil, "Well I'm not talking to you if you don't like our new F2P model, so there!"

As stupid and painful as it is to see developers and publishers repeatedly  miscommunicate and totally fuck up how they talk to their audience, part of me takes a perverse  glee at industry types crash and burning in spectacular fashion. Because they don't see it coming, that's the best part. The F2P by the nature of how games are accessed on phones works because those games are played in short bursts. So Ace Combat Infinity's idea of fuel running out and the player having to wait for more, or just pay for a instant top up,  doesn't necessarily ruin the flow of the game because your jet is refuelling while you get off the bus. Consoles are  stuck in the living room, so console games have always offered prolonged experiences. The first hints at using F2P ideas on home consoles have so far meant buying your game, only to find out bits of it have been cut off or locked on the disc so it can be sold back to you. And Namco Bandai's refusal to explain it doesn't exactly do much to put anyone's mind at ease that Ace Combat Infinity will be anything other than, at best, the wrong format choice or the kind of rip off that toddlers play to run massive bills on their parent's smart phones. I'm sure it's the former, not the latter, because everyone knows if you have a great product that loads of people will like, you don't tell them about it.

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