Friday, November 9, 2012

Just Say No to Swag

With the advent of "Dorito-gate" gaming journalism has come under even more scrutiny and criticism than usual. One of the key points being distribution of promotional materials often referred to as "swag." Basically the way it works is some marketing department will send all kinds of stuff to review outlets in order to promote an upcoming game. A recent article on Kotaku paints an interesting picture of this practice and the shear variety of enticements that are offered:

Its been so common for so long that even when the game company has nothing good to send, they'll send something (how else to explain Nintendo once sending me screws and bolts to hype… was it… Custom Robo?). Somewhere beneath my desk is the mini surround sound system Capcom sent with my review copy of Resident Evil 6, the better I could hear the game, I guess. (I will never unbox it and it will be given away quietly, rest assured.) Did I really need to be sent a crazy clock to cover Dishonored? Disney wants to know if I'd like to go to Disneyland to review Epic Mickey 2. EA wanted to know if I'd like to go to Germany to play Need for Speed and, oh yeah, learn to drive a Porsche. Last spring, Ubisoft sent me and other reporters a now-notorious modified American flag to "thank" me for my efforts building awareness of the game. 

The first thought that popped into my head after reading the above paragraph was "Why would anyone in their right mind want to wear a T-shirt with a game or company logo printed across it?" Maybe some tool will think it looks cool, but as far as I can tell swag exists primarily to reduce people to the level of walking advertisements. Usually you get paid to wave signs that are trying to sell something. I guess marketing departments are hoping they can find some suckers to do it for free.

Luckily for me this blog doesn't do enough traffic to draw the attention of...well...anyone. But I consider myself fortunate in that regard since it means I don't have to call up any publishers and ask them to quit sending me useless junk. As for big sites like Kotaku, I suggest doing likewise. I doubt they'll listen to my advice though because they still want to have free press copies of games delivered to their office days (or even weeks) before the release date. Again, in my case I don't really want or need free press copies of games. That might sound crazy, but honestly I have enough money to buy the games I'm interested in. Plus, I'd much rather play the finished (and preferably patched) consumer product rather than a buggy pre-release build.

A little bit to the left please.
Depending on your world view "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" may not be the same as bribery, but as far as I'm concerned that's enough to get tangled up in some company's PR spiderweb.  And once your caught up in those sticky threads called "swag," "exclusives" or "event invitations" then you're never getting back out with your integrity completely intact.  A lot of journalists may not care, but at the very least if they get companies to stop spending money on this kind of stuff, that means more funds for actual game development.  And at the end of the day all everyone really wants is better games, right?  

No comments:

Post a Comment