August 5, 2005

Press Release Faux-Pas

This afternoon, JoWooD announced that they were terminating production of "Stargate SG-1: The Alliance™."

A game being cancelled is not the issue here. Games are cancelled quite often. Most games are cancelled before they are even announced.

What is the issue here is that JoWooD then proceeded to essentially ream the developer up one side and down the other.
“The title in its current form, initially scheduled for an October 2005 release, does satisfy neither our quality requirements nor the fans expectations. We will not release anything that does not do justice to this well known license” says Albert Seidl, CEO JoWooD Productions Software AG. “In recent months we have invested a lot of time and resources in helping Perception finish the development, but we now simply have lost confidence in their ability to finish this project in time and sufficient quality.”
Following the termination JoWooD has asked for repayment of their investment in development and further expenses.
According to our reading of the contract the rights to the title as well as the source code are transferred to JoWooD“. After delivery of the code and assets JoWooD will review the possibility of seeking out developers if it is economically viable to finish the title” reports Michael Paeck, Executive Producer for JoWooD Productions Software AG. “We are, however, not prepared to release anything but a top quality title. Fans of the show as well as gamers would not accept anything less. There are several options to consider, among them potentially moving to next-gen consoles for the title.”
This press release looks like it was written by someone who took a press relations course from Derek Smart. In it, they first announce that they are severing the relationship with the company. Then, they bad-mouth the work done by the company. Finally, they announce that they are making legal demands of the company.

If you are making legal maneuvers, please try to keep them out of your press releases unless you are required to by disclosure laws. This press release reads like an attempt to appease an angry mob of investors at the doors.

Had the slams against Perception been kept out of the press release, these issues could have been settled amicably out of the public eye. Now, having Perception on a resume could be seen by some as a black mark. Fans are upset at both Perception and JoWooD. They're upset at Perception for potentially destroying a possibly lucrative franchise. They're upset at JoWooD for publicly flexing their muscle with this title when they didn't with Söldner. They're upset with MGM Interactive for giving the license to a company with a poor track record of delivering quality releases. The anger would still be there had the announcement been shorter, but it would be much more subdued.

So remember kids, public relations is hard work. A good rule of thumb: don't say anything in a press release that you wouldn't say to a man with a shotgun to your forehead.

...and that's one to grow on.

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