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Marketing is About Control: On Arkane and Prey 2

Lies and deceit, or normal business operations? Looking at the situation surrounding Prey 2.

Thanks to the journalistic work of Kotaku's Jason Schreier, we learned today that Bethesda has put Arkane Studios' Austin branch to work on a new version of Prey 2 following the dismissal of the original developer, Human Head Studios. When this rumor first appeared at Kotaku in May, Bethesda and Arkane denied it. They denied it again in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun as recently as yesterday. Now, readers are hip to the fact that Bethesda and Arkane Austin lied about the entire situation.

The thing is, this has happened before. Platinum Games denied working on Metal Gear Rising after Kojima Production had issues making the game work. OnLive's former director of corporate communications Brian Jaquet denied that the company was folding when asked by Polygon. GSC Game World denied the cancellation of Stalker 2 on Twitter, only to delete that denial later. NCsoft told Kotaku that rumors of layoffs in its Austin branch were "not accurate at all," only to confirm the rumors a day later. The normal response is "we don't comment on rumors," but these days the press and readers just take that as a "yes."

Marketing is about control. Controlling the specific message going out, controlling the presentation, controlling the timing, and being able to prepare yourself way in advance for the feedback or fall out. If a journalist does their job well, the information released throws all that control out of the door. Despite having friendly ties, our two sides hold different, opposing viewpoints: public relations is about careful dispensation of knowledge, while journalists are about getting as much of the truth out there as soon as possible.

"The rumors are true and the quotes dismissing them are misleading you," Jason writes.

Well yeah, they wanted to announce the game when they had a cool trailer to work with or when the reveal could really stand out. That's their job. That's why PR gets angry when a review embargo breaks: it's like watching a carefully-laid raid plan being destroyed by Leeroy Jenkins. Jason's job is to make sure you know that they're making Prey 2. When he ran the first rumor, he was confident in his source and put his name on the story. So, when Bethesda/Arkane lied, that made him look bad; good journalists trade on reputation of truthful reporting. Both sides are protecting their livelihood here, and Arkane/Bethesda probably views the entire thing like your friends lying to you about your surprise birthday party. The ethical response would be to rely on the tried and true, "no comment," but for some reason publisher and developer declined to take that road.

For the time being, Arkane is in it as Kotaku's recent report includes images (sidebar) of Arkane Austin's creative director Rapheal Colantonio emailing his staff and asking them to not talk to the press. He uses the term "press sneak fucks" to refer to the gaming press, and that's led to a new Twitter hashtag. But honestly, if Arkane's Prey 2 hits shelves and it's great, this will all be dust in the wind. Fans are more concerned with a good game than the shenanigans surrounding it.

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