Microsoft Guys Talk About Leaks

Speaking during a segment on Gamerscore Blog’s latest podcast, Microsoft’s Games for Window’s PR manager Michael Wolf charged that information leaks, such as those for the Xbox 360 Elite that appeared before the official announcement at the end of March, are counter productive because “…they don’t have any context.”

“For the Elite, for example, people were talking about the functionality and had pictures and all this stuff, but they didn’t have the full story. They didn’t know the price, they didn’t know the accessories, they didn’t know additional information that really puts a lot of context and a lot of information behind it,” commented Wolf. “The reason why it’s bad is because then you lose all the context. You lose all the facts that back it up, so that people hear the story once, understand it, and move forward, as opposed to hearing things bit by bit, piece by piece.”

John Porcaro, Microsoft’s senior group manager, online community and communications, echoed this sentiment, but conceded that information leaks may be a necessary evil. “With the way that Internet works we’re just going to have to deal with it to some degree, but on the other hand, it’s almost like there’s so much information out there… you could say any publicity is good publicity, sort of play devil’s advocate there a little bit.”

Now maybe it’s just me, but this sounds like sour grapes from Wolf.

Microsoft has put very specific people into this role of evangelism where they blog and they announce and they interact with the Internet and try to control what we all hear and see. I really don’t like how that works, because I think there’s a very real sort of “advertising” that’s always happening with those blogs and people don’t see it or choose to ignore it. It’s a bit insidious IMO, but I realize that people don’t necessarily see it that way.

So here we have those people complaining that news gets out that they would rather not have people know about and the underlying problem with that is their lack of control. Hey guys, tough shit. You can’t control everything people hear and see. No matter how those rumors of this new Xbox 360 got out there, they did. Even after we had all the facts, people still aren’t exactly eating up the controlled message you’re trying to feed us about expensive hard drives, yadda yadda.

I think I’m rubbed the wrong way moreso than other people by this kind of thing. I really don’t know for sure. I don’t like this idea of corporate spokespeople as “friends” of gamers. They’re not my friends. They’re trying to sell me something, but they’re trying to do it in a way that seems to me to be sort of insulting my intelligence. As if I won’t see through that I’m only their buddy because they need me to buy their stuff…

I’m sure I’ll get shit for this post, but this kind of ticks me off. Is it really news (the section this link takes you on Gamasutra) that a couple PR guys said they’re not happy about leaking information because they want to control it better?

I agree with you. It doesn’t get under my skin to quite the same level, but I’m with you in principle. And what are the PR guys talking about? We knew everything about the Elite. Hardware, pricing and everything. And it’s their own blogging style coverage that was responsible for some leaks, as the Major Nelson podcast/interview with the Elite announcement has the guy (don’t remember who he was) talking about the Elite admitting that it had slipped up and was in some of Nelson’s own Flickr photos months ago.

Tough luck.

When the rumor broke on the GAF, they absolutely did predict the final price. So I’m not sure what he’s talking about, there.

I think the first time really solid rumours regarding the Elite - not just ‘some’ version with HDMI - popped up at February 7th. Take note that, to this day, Microsoft hasn’t officially announced a PAL release date - and yet the price given there is spot on considering that systems in Europe and Australia are always more expensive. (The latest rumours hint at the official price Euro being €460.)

Of course, instead of complaining about the ‘lack of context’, they could have simply confirmed the speculation and sorted things out, but hey. :)


Sure, you can control it. You can be like apple, and sue your biggest fans. But that’s even more counter productive. Apple gets away with it because apple afficianados are psychos, microsoft not so much.


“PR rep wants to control spin, news at 11!”

…they don’t have any context

Lol… “It’s bad for you to find out about our console until we are able to properly rev up the fanboys and mindfuck you in the process…context!”

What happens with Apple is mostly internal. It’s a very different structure than Microsoft, and it wouldn’t work there. The lawsuit stuff is mostly irrelevant – those were cases of Apple learning the external limits of the control that they apply internally without restriction. The biggest reasons why Apple doesn’t leak very often anymore are confined within Cupertino.

When you have to have to have LCA approve your release strategy you don’t want to have leaks which could cost you millions in lawsuits because you’re a company with lots of cash…

Does anyone need this actually explained?

Friends? It’s not like a guy like Major Nelson is my friend (why would anyone believe that?). But I would still hate to see him stop blogging. As long as those blogs have full disclosure, I don’t see the problem. In fact, I rather have these so-called corporate mouth-pieces than nothing at all. At least they give us the pretension that they listen to us (the customers). Can you say the same about Sony and Nintendo (who do you bitch to there, some customer service representive in India)?

No, I agree with you, this is not news (dog bites man). A news story would be some corporation claiming they loved information leaks (man bites dog).

What’s really ironic about this is that the cover story for Wired this month is about how companies are really starting to “bare it all” and have more open discussion with their customers. There’s a section specifically on Microsoft and some of their initiatives (that I’d never heard of before) to become less close-mouthed and have a better running dialog with their clients and customers.

Bah. I’d rather have real openness, than this calculated “syntherity”. How much of this disingenuous twaddle are we going to have to endure before the public-at-large recognises it for what it is: A snow job.

The irony doubles when Vogelstein, the author of the piece on Microsoft, is accidentally sent the dossier about him and his story from Wagner Edstrom, the PR firm.

PR and marketing is inherently unethical. It’s almost as bad as journalism!

And Michael Wolf used to be on the press side and undoubtedly would have jumped on any advance information and published it.

Assuming it’s the same Michael Wolf… if it is, well… eh.

From my perspective currently, now having been attached a PR department for 9 months now, it’s interesting to see how it all works and fits together with sales, marketing, etc. (or in some cases when it doesn’t), coming from a journalist/writer’s point of view. In the past month or so we’ve had a number of frustrations honestly but, unfortunately, these things happen. To go out and publicly complain about how you can’t tightly control the information or its flow is I think at best somewhat naive.

— Alan

360 Leaks

Edit: fixed

Is that the same Michael Wolf? The baby-faced PC Gamer editor?

Putting aside whether or not they should complain publicly about the leaks (though there’s enough discussion that it apparently was a topic of interest to someone), it’s not like Gamerscoreblog (“The inside scoop from Microsoft Xbox and Games Employees”) or (“From inside the Xbox team”) are exactly hiding the fact that there’s a marketing element to their existence.

  • Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft, and though I’m only paid to manage games coverage on, and I posted opinions, helpful messages, and occasional drivel here for six years prior to joining the Xbox group, Dave recently made it clear that he thinks I’m now unable to form my own opinions and I am some sort of stealth cog in the Microsoft marketing machine. Do not believe anything I say.

I dunno, I don’t think it’s that “insidious.” I mean, yeah this is sour grapes from a PR guy whose job it is to control the flow of information leaving the company (about certain game-related items, anyway) and it’s bugging him that some of the press got a scoop. People on the press side could just as easily write an editorial about how scoops are good for the world (and they’d be right, mostly).

But having PR guys to control your corporate messaging isn’t “insidious” and I don’t think it’s somehow underhanded that MS has an official blog for their games PR people. It’s all very much out in the open and on the table. It’s right there prominently on the blog: “Gamerscore Blog is written by members of Microsoft Games Global Marketing team.” There’s Major Nelson’s blog, and he’s not PR. He obviously works there on the Xbox Live team and he has his opinions, but his blog posts don’t go through PR or marketing first. He’s not gonna spill a bunch of secrets, but he has in the past and still from time to time will say thing about MS products on his blog/podcast that don’t just totally toe the company line. And again, it’s fully out in the open - nobody’s trying to present any of this stuff as independent, unbiased info.

I like that MS unleashes their PR and games people (Ozymandias, Major Nelson) to blog and say what they like, with the only rule being “don’t do anything stupid.” Ozymandias and Major Nelson’s blogs are not run by MS, they don’t live on MS servers, they aren’t funded by MS.

In fact, the idea that these guys are out there doing that is one of the things that I like about MS in the game arena. They seem genuinely interested in connecting with their gamers, not just doing the standard PR dance with the press. They want to put up ideas and info and press releases and other stuff on their blogs, read the comments, and take that back to work with them. It doesn’t mean they’re going to do what everyone asks for (microtransaction nonsense, anyone?) but at least these guys are visibly passionate enough to go out there and mix it up with their customers, as it were.

As for the leak itself - hey, if Michael Wolf wants to stop leaks so he can better do his PR job, that’s an MS problem, not a press problem. They need to work better with their partners in manufacturing and retail to keep their mouths shut.

Oldnewthing and cbrumme have been invaluable. The things that blogs can alleviate is providing context to unexpected changes. Their downside is signal to noise ratio.

I guess there’s is also the Raymond Chen example of complete dereision for misusing an API, but at the same time you get the reasoning along with the insulting. Useful for anyone interested in results.

I’m just glad we snagged Anders and got him to implment everything correctly at an enterprise levels. Refactoring java in source control is ass on ass squared. Partial, modules, assemblies, GAC, and AppDomains makes classpaths look retarded. And they are for a platform that is supposed to be implementation independant. Not every OS has a file system YO.