The dangers of listening to gaming PR

The dangers of listening to gaming PR

Gaming PR is by its very nature, a hype machine. It's designed to get you excited about a project, or a game, or a console or whatever it is going to (try and) sell, so it might seem a little redundant to suggest you don't take what it says at face value, but the gaming press, which I would occasionally consider myself a part of – depending on what its cause de jour is – does have a bit of a penchant for doing just that.

Take for example last week's big news. Destiny, Bungie's first new IP (on consoles) since it originally created the iconic Master Chief back in 2000, managed to sell $500 million worth of copies. That's an astounding achievement and understandably, every mainstream blog and publication jumped on the news. However this was one of those instances where a little closer reading would have gone a long way.

While Destiny still made Activision $500 million on its first day, it did that through sales to retail stores and first parties. The actual text in question said that "Activsion sells in more than $500 million."

Essentially, this means that Activision shipped $500 million worth of the game to retailers. Of course a lot of those copies sold and Destiny may still be the biggest new IP launch ever, but the numbers have been deliberately treated in a stealthy manner, to make it seem like the game is more successful than it actually is.

This isn't a new strategy for Activision though. It did the same thing with Call of Duty Ghosts, telling the world that it had sold more than a billion dollars worth of copies "into retail," worldwide. This again was picked up as the game having sold more than a billion dollars worth of copies. While Activision certainly had, to retailers as well as end users, that didn't mean it had actually sold that many copies to gamers.

As successful as Ghosts was, it wasn't that successful.

Microsoft is just as guilty though. Back in January this year, it would have had us believe that almost four million Xbox Ones had been sold, which would have made it far more competitive with the PS4 as it steamed ahead. However that turned out to be far from true, as once again the devil was in the details.

The terminology once again was that Microsoft had "shipped," 3.9 million Xbox Ones. Comparatively, Sony didn't need to play the numbers game. While it had likely shipped far more consoles than Microsoft, it opted to say it had "sold," 4.2 million. While that didn't put its quotable number much higher, it told those who looked into it a lot. Microsoft was worried about its numbers looking meagre.

Microsoft was again guilty of this when it released the original Kinect back in 2010, saying it estimated it would sell as many as eight million of the motion tracking camera by that Christmas. When the time came to announce when it had reached its milestone, it opted for dishonesty and said that indeed it had reached that number, but in units shipped, not sold.

While it's been a while since Sony was also guilty of such terminology twisting, it too has played that game when it comes to units shipped. When its own motion tracking hardware, the Move Motion controllers weren't selling quite as well as expected, it told everyone back in 2010 that it had shipped 4.1 million of its motion trackers, rather than telling everyone how many were actually sold.

And that figure was even more up in the air, as it was never made clear if Sony factored in the three separate components associated with Move Motion. Did it factor in the Eye Cameras a separate product, thereby its shipping figures aren't counted? Or maybe it added them on top of other units shipped to make the figures seem even better?

This is why you should always take gaming press presented press releases, with a pinch of salt. Nobody is suggesting any publication isn't worth of your attention, or doesn't produce good content, just be wary of the ones that look like they're copy and paste jobs from a press release, or where the reporter doesn't delve deep enough into the terminology.