Gamasutra - PR and the Game Media
Gamasutra has a long but interesting article up about the relationship between the gaming industry and the media that showcases its products, focussing on how PR shapes the perception and success of games:
It's the natural consequence of an undeniable fact: The games press is almost entirely dependent on access to information, people, and products that only game publishers can provide. You want the latest details on a game that's still a year away from release? What you get, when you get it, and who you get it from are ultimately decisions made by that game's marketers.
Think of it as a giant information spigot. The folks with their hands on the valve—the ones who tell games journalists about upcoming games (or don't), set up interviews with the game's developers (or don't), and eventually send out early review copies of that game (or don't)—are the publicists, or in the insider lingo, PR reps (public relations representatives).
You've probably heard the term thrown around, but what, exactly, does a PR rep do? “I work to educate and inform the media about our new product offerings and services,” says Michael Wolf, the PR manager for Games for Windows (the initiative, not the magazine). “The job of the media, in turn, is to carry their opinions about what I’ve told them to the public. The ultimate goal being to get coverage through online outlets, print publications, broadcast media, podcasts, etc.”
Wolf's diplomatic description of PR represents the ideal relationship between game industry journalists and the products they cover. But more often publicists seek not just to drum up press coverage, but to deliver positive coverage, preferably framed by certain points the game's marketers have deemed important to get across to the public (Spore is about evolution. Crysis is pretty, etc.). In short, they try to influence what the game press tell their readers, and how they say it.
As a simple fact of life, game writers and editors work with publicists on a daily basis, gathering the stories that populate their publications. But does PR really influence coverage? Do publicists really affect what you read in gaming publications across the web and on the newsstands? The very existence of the profession would seem to imply so. The real question is: How and to what extent? To find out, we spoke to several current and former game industry publicists—though many representing top-tier publishers refused (or were not allowed) to be interviewed—about their methods.