After surviving more than a few PR disasters in the build up to the release of the Xbox One – have Microsoft dropped the ball again?
Microsoft On Verge Of New PR Disaster
If there is one thing gamers have been vociferous over, ignoring the constant war for console supremacy, is the need for transparency from developers. A game designer, producer, or manufacturer of gaming consoles can quickly earn the ire of their buying markets by questionable business practices.
Microsoft has had a very difficult time with the media in their unveiling of the Xbox One last year the the continuing press coverage into the new year. Whether it was the always-online requirement or the discontinuation of used games or shared games amongst friends, it was clear that Microsoft did not need anymore bad press surrounding their new console as they try to beat out Sony for top position in the gaming market.
Microsoft and Other Unethical Marketing Practices Revealed
As reported by Ars Technica, Machinima, the well known video game news and reviewing site, stared offering its video and content partners an additional $3 dollars per every thousand views of content relating to the Xbox One. Word came from Machinima’s on-site community out of the UK. A similar promotion was passed back in November of 2013, offering partners an additional $1 per thousand views for Xbox One content.
In the open call from Machinima, partners had to create or feature video with 30 seconds of Xbox One footage, mention Xbox One by name, and include the tag “XB1M13.” Searching this tag on Youtube lists hundreds of affiliated partners of Machinima with Xbox One content.
While this ethically questionable style of marketing is suspect, it is not illegal or unheard of. Often times companies will commission reviews or press coverage from less conventional news sites like Machinima, and in their coverage reviewers or gaming journalists will disclose that they are receiving additional monetary incentive for their coverage and still give unbiased coverage. In the case of Machinima’s Xbox One coverage, however, it is not the case.
Are Microsoft In The Wrong or Is It The Same For Every Company?
According to legal documents posted on Ars Technica’s website, Machinima affiliates must say nothing negative regarding Machinima, Xbox One, or any Xbox One titles. This legal agreement goes on to say that the monetary arrangement is to be kept confidential or the agreement would be considered void for that affiliate. In short, the agreement was for positive coverage, and only positive coverage of the Xbox one in exchange for an increase in pay. This removes any kind of imparitality on the part of the affiliate coverage of the console.
In any industry, this kind of practice would not be well recieved by the consumers involved. However, gamers are a special breed and you can sure they will be having their voices heard loud an clear across various mediums.
According to Microsoft, in a statement issued to Ars Technica, they first denied involvement with Machinima for positive coverage. However, as pressure mounted, they released a second statement saying that the agreement for promotion of the Xbox One back in December of 2013 was standard and they are not in any way responsible for reviewing the content.As we know, the Xbox One has enjoyed a strong start to life regarding sales figures but Microsoft will certainly want to avoid any potential PR issues as they continue to battle it out with Sony.