Thoughts on Another Scandal in the Industry

Time and time again, I’ve gone on record as defending those on the other side of the video game business from my fellow gamers.  The consumer doesn’t always remember how difficult it can be to just get a video game made, let alone get it into gamers’ hands.  Sometimes, though, the people on that side of the fence don’t exactly help matters.

The most recent hub-bub starts innocently enough (though what cluster-frank doesn’t, really?).  A gamer by the name of Dave pre-ordered two of these—uh—things, seen to the right.  They’re add-on thing-a-ma-bobs for your X-Box 360 or PlayStation 3 controller.  I’m not entirely sure how one is supposed to use these things, but Think Geek has a picture of one in use, seen to the left.

Anyway.  Dave orders two PlayStation 3 versions of those things, and is told they’ll ship by “early December”.  Come the Sixteenth, still no update, so he sends an e-mail to the company, Ocean Marketing.  It was a nice, polite e-mail, and the sole response is “Dec 17”, from a man named Paul Christoforo.  E-mails go back and forth a little bit, and here we get to the good stuff.

Part of Dave’s e-mail is as follows:

I noticed the updated info on the webpage, and I don’t understand why there is absolutely no benefit given to those like me who have already ordered, and paid their money.  You’ve had my money interest free for nearly two months, yet now ANY new order will get $10 off….meaning I should just cancel my order for 2 controllers, get my money back, then re-order.

Paul’s response:

Things happen in manufacturing if your unhappy you have 7 days from the day your item ships for a refund. You placed a pre order just like any software title the gets a date moved due to the tweaks and bugs not being worked out and GameStop or any other place holds your cash and im sure you don’t complain to activision or epic games so put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else. The benefit is a token of our appreaciation for everyone no one is special including you or any first time buyer . Feel free to cancel we need the units were back ordered 11,000 units so your 2 will be gone fast. Maybe I’ll put them on eBay for 150.00 myself. Have a good day Dan.

Paul Christoforo

Everything above falls under the [sic] notification, mind.  Also, Paul was at the time president of Ocean Marketing.

Think about that one for a second.  The president of a marketing company acting—well, like a whiny snot of a child.

Of course, it doesn’t end there.  Paul and Dave exchange more e-mails, with Dave shockingly holding onto his temper (and even complimenting the guy on his choice of motorcycle).   In Paul’s replies of ever-increasing childishness, he mentions “see you at […] Pax East“.  Around here is where Dave decided to include Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, giving the artist the entire chain of e-mails between himself and Paul.  Mike stepped in, promising to eject Paul from P.A.X., and—it just continues rolling downhill from there, and ends with an apology from Paul, his firing from Ocean Strategy and a press release that does everything possible to distance Paul from everyone else on the planet.  You can read the details at this post on Penny Arcade, this one from Kotaku, this one at The Escapist, and—pretty much a million other sites.

For me, I’d like to say—really, Paul?  Really?  I thought the last fiasco I talked about was bad—why’d you have to come out and prove me wrong?

He had a few good points mixed in there with the numerous pounds of manure he spewed at Dave.  Products get their release dates pushed back as bugs and such get ironed out.  That’s a good point, and one that the development/marketing side of gaming has only recently begun really discussing publicly.

Now, some digging reveals that Ocean Marketing isn’t a huge firm, and isn’t exactly specialized in the video game business anyway.  But—how would anyone know that from most of the news coverage of the debacle?  Even the big-time companies tend to just mention that Ocean Marketing exists, and even then it’s more as a footnote to the paragraphs about Paul.  Add that to the fact that many gamers still don’t understand the business side of gaming (which is more on the developers and publishers still not really talking about it much), and it’s all too easy to think that such a thing might be common.

Even with the incredible backlash that Paul suffered (some of which went too far, like threatening his family) in mind—most of that was centered around that specific man and his specific response to one specific gamer.  Yes, everyone else at the marketing firm, the developer of the controller add-on, and everyone else in the industry—they all distanced themselves from Paul as fast as they could, and with good reason, but will that be remembered?  A year, two years, five years from now—will it be remembered that the people said he was an anomaly, or will it only be remembered that a member of the business side of gaming was a complete jerk?

I hope it will be understood that the vast majority of people on the business side of gaming are hard-working men and women who are trying to get games and such into gamers’ hands and food on their family’s tables, who are trying to get quality products out so they can keep their customers.  I hope it will be understood that Paul is an anomaly—but I’m afraid it might not be.

I hope my fellow gamers will remember it, so I’ll say it again—Paul Christoforo was an aberration, an anomaly—he is not representative of the men and women in the business side of gaming.  He was shunned by his peers for a reason.  Let’s all remember that.


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