Definitely won't work for all crises, but was eye-opening to me, and a good lesson to those of us with businesses.
Bonus tip: the best / worst time to make a social media complaint is on a Friday night - most businesses don't pay someone to monitor social media on the weekend, and conversely most people interact when they're not at work, so complaints are more likely to go viral without a response for many days.
The golden standard for PR crisis management is probably Johnson & Johnson: http://www.aerobiologicalengineering.com/wxk116/TylenolMurde...
They definitely didn't choose silence. You're right, you definitely have to choose your strategy carefully, depending on your situation.
J&J had the opposite situation. Something went wrong and it wasn't their fault. Choosing to pay the consequences anyway made them look double good; once for taking responsibility, and again for doing it when other companies might've walked away.
The problem with EA is not so much their PR strategy per se, but their general unwillingness to fix fuckups. No amount of marketing can fix a fundamentally broken company.
Conversely, if a client is in tabacco, genetics or weapons manufacturing then the tactics adopted by J&J will be completely useless to them. Saying that the "Tylenol case" is a golden standard is missing the big picture.
For anyone out there interested in crisis PR I highly recommend "Damage Control": http://www.amazon.com/Damage-Control-Revised-Updated-Managem...
HuffPo will run a story from a mid-tier news org (AFAIK), and then it will go viral.
So it seems this might be a deprecated crisis PR strategy.
For example, from HN Search:
Results 1-10 of 493 for http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
Results 1-10 of 12,273 for nytimes.com
All journalists don't like to be second, but most don't get a say (they work in quantity not quality).
Journalists need exclusives, just re-hashing an existing story doesn't offer a compelling reason to the reader to choose your news outlet.
So the top-tier outlets will only want to spend their column inches and reader attention on the stories that give a compelling reason for them to continue returning... that is, exclusive stories and additional depth into breaking news.
People are naturally averse to being redundant when they're conscious of it. If the work has been done, why repeat? As a writer, I dislike writing things that have been written: if I don't have something new to say, why say it?
(There are good reasons to repeat, e.g. practice, but that doesn't apply here.)
Many places that feel that they need to "do something" end up speaking before they really understand what is going on. So you have the bigger risk of either making content-free statements that everyone sees through, or worse making incorrect statement that feed that flames that your organization is incompetent.
I don't think silence would work in either of these cases, but perhaps 'burning' would?
Looking back at the whole fiasco, I'm positive that the always-online requirement and server overload will forever define the game, but there was a much bigger problem lurking below that issue, which is that the game sucks anyway even if you disregard the early technical issues and the politics around "always-on".
It is, IMO, by far the least fun Maxis "Sim" game I've ever played, and that holds even if you include Spore.
The Latest SimCity got about 6 hours out of me, before I just went, "meah." - I didn't really get the same sense of progress, or emergent features, or ownership of the process and events that I get from other sims.
But - EA scammed me out of the $60 before I discovered that the game actually sucked, so - maybe it wasn't such a bad strategy on their part after all. But, with that said - this approach (hyping a game, limiting its playtesting, not providing extensive reviewer copies) - only works so many times before people start to get wise to your ways...
Chargeback if you can't get a refund (like me, I bought on Origin). I called up Amex, identified the charge, told them EA misrepresented the product, and a day later I had a credit on my statement. Took three minutes.
I may have been willing to wait out the launch fiasco, but when EA reps explained to me and others that our Origin account would be BANNED if we issued any chargebacks...that was the last straw for me.
I'm sort of hoping EA does ban my account. I'm sure my AG would love to hear about how they no longer provide me access to games I purchased in the past but they now no longer think I should be allowed to use.
Someone, someday, is going to challenge this. Its one of the many unanswered legal questions we have with licensing and ownership rights.
Possibly over-reacting, but I hate it when people use underhanded tactics like this, and I'd be ok with losing my other games just to spite them.
Sadly, I don't own any EA games, so I can't do this.
I've actually taken to buying games I bought in the past (and in some cases still own the media for) specifically because it's supported better, and their digital game shelf allows me to download and install what I want, when I want (and it's cheap, I'll pick up 4-5 games for less than $3 a piece on their weekly sales). They've definitely made a fan of me.
I'm a huge GoG fan.
Really I would have been happy as a clam with something like SC4000, with curved roads, mixed-use zoning and an enhanced transport system. Gladly would have paid $60 for it.
The new SimCity completely failed to capture the "perfect garden" feeling that the previous Sim Cities managed to capture. Growing a city was like growing a garden, zoning was planting seeds.
The new one is just some set of administration abstractions over a social simulation. It just doesn't feel like SimCity, it feels like some totally different game.
So now I don't care, I'm not going to purchase the game.
This game just didn't have the longevity of the previous games.. I found I outgrew my city areas quite quickly, multiplayer was completely broken (whenever I clicked to join a game, all the lots were already full, I could never find a region with a free city. So I start my own region and nobody ever joins!) and even when I had a full region to myself, which is what I wanted all along, I could only ever link up 4 cities out of 16 because of how the Highways interconnect.
On reflection, I think one of the main problems was actually that the game was too easy! Plop in a Coal mine and a Trade depot and you could be making millions without ever plopping a house.
I'm just looking forward to GTA5 now... they've delayed the launch for 4 months to get it exactly right. Perhaps EA should look to Rockstar to see how to manager a cult game franchise properly... Attention to detail!
Maybe it's the same here :) Because you can only sometimes play it you feel compelled to because who knows when it might go down again?
Just a thought.
Same thing happened with the whole "WarZ" fiasco. That team had false advertising on Steam, a glitched game released, artwork from the walking dead was stolen, bug reporters banned from the forums and censored. It was a lot worse than SimCity, yet 2 weeks later we just stopped caring. It's a shitty game, moving on, lets focus on something more important, like plastic in our oceans.
Yeah, I think this about sums it up. When it comes down to it, all that happened is that a company made a bad game. Companies have been doing this for many years and will continue to do so for as long as the medium exists.
If anything, this whole SimCity fiasco has made me less of a fan of RPS in general. It felt like half their site was dedicated to bad-mouthing the game and EA for the first week or so after release. And, of course, they need to throw out a piece like this after a while to generate page views and remind us how terribly angry we should be that such a tragedy could have been allowed to happen.
Furthermore, this is not even about the game at all. It is about the crisis management of EA/Maxis, who simply lied (I doesn't care whether she lied or not, in effect it was a lie) when claiming that the Always-On-DRM, which prevented people from playing the game, was necessary to run the game at all because of server-side calculations.
I think RPS is right to make a story out of this fact. Companies who get away lying their customers and the press should feel consequences of this. All too often, and in EAs case this seems to me especially true, companies who behave unethical create a growing mass of disgruntled players not respecting, and not buying from, that company anymore, which the company can ignore for quite a while when focusing only on quarterly results (and given the arrival of new players all the time), until the negative image becomes so overwhelming that their customer-base collapses.
Whatever you need to tell yourself in order to maintain the level of anger you desire.
Nothing I saw from EA seemed out of the ordinary for a company trying to sell the game they made. Unless you expect companies to only promote games that meet certain quality standards when they are released.
I mean, look at Aliens: Colonial Marines. From my perspective, it was in much worse shape than SimCity upon release, and I don't see RPS coming out with stories about how the game has disappeared from the limelight.
Honestly, I feel like people got so angry about SimCity to deflect their own responsibility for the purchasing decision they made. No one forces people to buy games on release day, and everyone should know that the smartest thing to do is to sit on a new game for at least a couple of days to let any issues arise. That's the responsible thing to do as a customer, and obviously it was something many people chose not to do.
If that were true, no one would buy anything ever.
> If that were true, no one would buy anything ever.
Your comment only makes sense if you assume that everyone always does the smartest thing -- which seems not to be the case.
Honestly, I even agree with that partly. But note that I didn't buy the game. I still feel that this is wrong behaviour from EA/Maxis.
This isn't a case of a game that doesn't age well, the thing just didn't work. Even after fixing the servers it's still defective by design. Worse, EA deliberately lied about this and their coordinated responses show widespread and high-level involvement.
Anyways, thank your lucky stars I can chargeback, it's a lot cheaper for you than any of the other (all legal) things I'd do to get back at someone who knowingly sold me a defective product. Hiring a PI isn't that expensive...
RPS actually looks pretty good with this - maybe the web can provide a solution to this question? PR and paid publications are ultimately boring, even with the best efforts put in by professionals. If opinion and reporting find a better way of getting monetised on the Internet we may see solution for the boring, corrupt and uninformative media we have today.
To me the damage is done. I won't bother complaining or yelling. I just won't pay $80 and if certain organisations keep associating themselves with poor releases/games why would anyone keep handing over their money.
Especially when you're releasing something like the next SimCity sequel which plays on older gamers' nostalgia, why would people pay for SimCity 2 in a years time if they remember how poorly this one was sent out into the wild?
I am confused by people that post on forums and get outraged then buy the games anyway.
There are bigger news to run.
Sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing. Unfortunately sometimes silence is golden.
It's not as if EA has redeemed themselves in any way. SimCity still has a 1.9 score on Metacritic. The public still agrees this game is a failure and their sales will reflect that.
1) People pre-ordered, but didn't find out about the crippling problems until after installing it. By that time, they'd opened it. People are used to servers being overwhelmed for a few hours right on launch day. After that's passed and the problem persists, the whole thing is too late.
2) EA was refusing refunds of digital downloads. 
3) Even if you subscribed to their crap and waited for them to fix it, the game still exhibited crippling flaws which they refused or took ages to address, for example with the game's pathfinding system .
I am sure there were other issues that people faced but not being someone who actually fell in to the Simcity trap, I didn't follow it any more closely.
In short, the whole 'just don't buy it' attitude does not work as it's a naive view that completely ignores several key parts of the puzzle. Importantly, those key parts of the puzzle all involve the power resting in EA's hands where the consumers have little leverage to affect change. EA already had their money and had disclaimers on not needing to offer refunds, so the approach of shut up and let the problem go away was fine for them.
Nut games isn't a sne market. Most people with experience on it move away.
First off, it harms consumers to not get what they pay for. This is simply wrong.
Second off, it harms developers and producers because people view software purchases as high risk. Ever wondered why people dwell on buying a $3 app, but can impulse buy a phone for $300? If the phone is broken, you go back to the buyer and get it replaced. If the phone is unusable in term of user-interface, you replace it with a different phone/model or return it to the shop (EU law enabled this option by law most of the time). In one sentence, the producer is responsible so the consumer view it as low risk. With software, if won't start, is buggy or simply won't fulfill the intended task, the consumer is to blame for doing a bad purchase. The consumer see this as high risk. Thus, risk aversion goes into affect. If you are in the business of software development, you do not want this.
Last, if the producers of software is never hold responsible for their product, that attitude creeps over to critical systems like medical instruments and airplane computers. If faults or security problems is viewed as the consumers problem, then the quality and trust in critical system goes down.
There are many mediocre games out there. I bought a few over the years. Sometimes you get a bad game, it goes with the territory. I agree it's ok to voice your opinions and stick it to a bad developer on forums, but does the SimCity fiasco really needs to be talked about weeks after release? It's just a bad game, at the end of the day, what more is there to be said?
EA didn't get my money. I was never going to buy SimCity because it isn't my type of game, but even I knew ahead of time of its always-online component.
What would a suitable time frame be when such a thing should no longer be discussed? I don't know, but I suspect it would still be mentioned years later. I also suspect that no other phone manufacturer would dare to put similar DRM in a phone because of it. We are not there yet with software, but I personally would encourage such outcry when ever it happen.
Have anyone heard of a food producer that gone bankrupt because of their 100% satisfaction guarantee? To my understanding, the amount of people who would go through such policy and send back the package is so extreme few that the numbers get lost in the sale statistic.
Should they be held accountable for their words/actions?
The surprising thing is it's actually doing pretty well:
Maybe it's the old, 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' coming true.
Personally, it's not so much the DRM that EA has infected their latest games with, or not even so much that it requires a constant internet connection (though, Sim City was one of the great play-alone games left) - but that they've been too cowardly too just come out and say, "Yes, we require you to be connected to the internet to play this game so that we can reduce piracy."
Lying (or not telling the truth) about this obvious situation only makes them look bad.
However, if the issue is a buggy piece of software that costs $60, that is going to be quickly forgotten. People don't have the energy to stay upset about something that in the grand scheme of things is so minor. If this is still registering on your personal radar a month later as a serious problem, consider yourself lucky.
Being able to ride (and manipulate) news cycles is an incredibly powerful skill.
I must say The Silence are a rather awesome enemy for the doctor.
It was clearly a unique decision for a unique situation and not a comment on telecommuting in general, despite what all the screamers were screaming. Judging from various comments from alleged insiders, it was a good decision because many of the telecommuters were just loafers.
Fact is, who cares what the screamers were screaming? Would people boycott Yahoo's products because they ended telecommuting? This so cannot be compared to buying products made in sweatshops, which many people clearly did for years anyway (and still do). Would employees stop wanting to work at Yahoo? Apparently, job applications are way up, including what industry considers top tier candidates.
When you make the right decision, sometimes the best option is to stay quiet and let the truth come out naturally. Of course, OP is more about the strategy in general, not whether or not the truth comes out naturally (in fact, in OP, they cared not for truth). I'm just saying I felt throughout the whole Yahoo telecommuting thing, Mayer did the right thing. Screw the screamers. They had no idea what they were talking about and wouldn't affect Yahoo in any way anyway.
Let's face it, Madden '13 and NCAA '13 will sell way more copies than Sim City has. Why should EA give a crap about a few stories on the internet?
But right now, you can't play the new Simcity without shovelling dollars into EA's pocket, and reward them for producing a fundementally broken game.
You just have to decide for yourself which is more important to you. Providing feedback to bad corporate behavior by refusing to give EA your money, or your curiosity to play (and ultimately be disappointed by) a shitty sim with all depth and complexity removed in favor of "social" interaction and microtransactions (buy packs of 2 buildings for $5, i.e. http://www.amazon.com/SimCity-German-City-Online-Game/dp/B00...).
However, if you care about the future of games, please don't give EA money.
Bioshock: Infinite came out and was good. Other than that, I just sit and wait for Civ V's next expansion, GTA:V, etc.
What!? Perhaps part of the reasons evil triumphs in media situations like this is that "good" white knights like the author carry water for people who, like Bradshaw, objectively make the world a worse place.
Hanlon's razor is irrelevant here. Regardless of whether Lucy is so stupid/irresponsible that she really didn't know such an essential detail of her studio's feature product or is simply a manipulative sociopath, decency dictates she be replaced.
I'm a huge Sim City fan and I'm really upset I'm not getting the Sim City game I wanted, but let's keep some perspective here. Bradshaw and anything that EA/Maxis says or does has absolutely no effect one way or the other on the world.
I browse plenty of gaming sites… but stories like this are why RPS is the only one that gets AdBlocker disabled"
LOL, this is the audience we're talking about here - people who proudly proclaim to the world how they support their causes by gasp disabling AdBlocker! I can see this guy sitting there, basking in his own self-righteousness, how he's such a good guy for allowing some ads (all of which he ignores) to be shown. And then people wonder why companies need to turn to always-online DRM for their software? Ever wondered why the world is turning SaaS-only, with all it's negatives? See it epitomized here.
PS thinking of it (and OT), isn't there an AdBlocker version that overlays ads with a white float, rather than not downloading them at all?
What should this guy do to meet your approval? Unblock and click every ad? AdBlock gives users more power to enter into agreements with websites that are respectful with their users' attention and reject websites that are not. Use a website occasionally? Add them to the whitelist. Meanwhile you never notice the scummy websites that have giant ads mid-article nor the 20-year-olds in your area trying to meet you for sex.