NDA’s Are Bad

Let’s say you have a new product coming to market.  You budget about 10% of your overall budget to PR.  That’s a fair chunk of change on a $100 million project.  Now let’s say you realize later on a few things.  You have something that exceeded your expectations and you think there’s solid interest.  You also realize that your PR budget allocation wasn’t well allocated, in that what you spent didn’t really get you much or that you spent the money elsewhere.

Today’s internet is exponentially more interconnected and fast than 5 years ago.  I get a dozen tweets a day, multiple facebook posts, tons of feedly, a sub-Reddit and then the old school emails.  I can watch a stream on twitch or a series on youtube, with voice commentary.  What a team of 10 can do for a company pales in comparison to what 1 person with social skills and a solid social network can do (e.g. the Lazy Gamer comes to mind).

You know what NDA’s do?  They protect assets from espionage (no really, that’s what they are for).  The end result is that any word of mouth becomes basement driven and usually negative.  People are much more willing to be skeptical than trusting, certainly without evidence.  One post that says “stay far away” without content to back it up will do more damage than a PR video showing combat.

NDA’s today serve a single purpose in the minds of gamers.  They hide bad games from the masses until launch.  Aliens – Colonial Marines is a prime example.  Movies that do not have critic screenings are the same (R.I.P.D. is a recent example).  You either are confident in your product when you allow people to test it or you are not.

That brings me to the elephant in the room.  EQ Landmark dropped their NDA yesterday upon launch of alpha.  Alpha is before beta and always lacking polish.  But given that it cost $60 to get into alpha, they know everyone wants to have a good experience, so they are likely to talk about it in a positive light, even if there are bugs.  This is a really smart move because you now have a few thousand people talking about your game and generating hype. WildStar is driving me mad with their player streams because it looks just like the game I’ve wanted to play for years.

If TESO doesn’t open the doors this coming week, or Bethesda doesn’t start with a massive PR blitz, I have a strong feeling that they are going to get swept under the rug.  My Feedly on that game is near dry right now, and you know it’s going to fill up with EQ:L soon.

4 thoughts on “NDA’s Are Bad

  1. Well, I really hope Bethesda don’t begin marketing ESO, would be a bit awkward considering they’re not the ones making it =p HAHa but yes, ESO needs to improve its media representation and that NDA is far more a hindrance than an asset

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  2. In the mind of this gamer at least, an NDA for a video game usually means that enough features aren’t baked that they don’t want preconceived notions of what the game is to get out until some decisions have been made and they’re comfortable taking responsibility for them. EQL dropped the NDA because of the positive response, the didn’t want to muzzle positive press for a pre-beta state game, but how often is that the result? People have been known to lose their minds from datamined details that turn out to have no actual foundation in reality, NDAs help provide some protection from that kind of reaction. It’s simple enough, if you don’t like being stifled by an NDA, don’t play games when they’re covered by then… that isn’t a flaw in the NDA process itself, though. I don’t play games in alpha or beta, not because I don’t see the value in them but because I want to see the (hopefully) fully-baked end result, not the in-process version. I want my steak to have grill marks the first time I see it whenever possible.

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    • Oh, I agree that an NDA has the purposes you list. Certainly true. It protects the product from undue scrutiny. An NDA 6 months before a product launches makes absolute sense.

      My post on NDAs is more relevant to the final beta stages, where polish is being applied rather than system design. It also wastes the free PR (as you mention with EQL). An NDA when a game should be feature complete is a very bad sign on the health of the game.

      On a side note, I love betas. On a recent beta invite for a game covered by NDA, I think I submitted somewhere around 100 bug reports over the weekend. I like being able to see the before and after and being part of the process.

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  3. Pingback: The Cynic Dialogues Alphas, Betas, Kickstarter: What no ones doing but should

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