In all the years I've dealt with 3rd-party PR firms who are hired on to handle publishers, developers and their upcoming titles, I've discovered that there are two factions. One group includes those that you personally know to the point of trading pictures of pets and offspring, and will stick by your opinion without prejudice. The other group is so stiff and uptight that they seemingly think everything they touch turns to gold, including turds. Thus a negative review could invoke a short-term cutoff from the products they represent in the future – possibly for good. Negative news articles provoke the same outlandish results.
As we all know, the long-awaited, highly-anticipated Duke Nukem Forever isn't faring well with critics and gamers alike, and for good reason (which won't be outlined here). In fact, it's doing rather poorly even though 2K Games will likely earn all the money back it dumped into resurrecting and publishing the product.
However one of the companies currently promoting the game, The Redner Group, has publicly come out and threatened to cut off further products to websites posting bad reviews of the Duke Nukem 3D sequel. This isn't unheard of, but it's also the first time it's been done right out in the public. Talk about balls of steel!
"Too many went too far with their reviews...we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom," the company tweeted. "Bad scores are fine. Venom filled reviews...that's completely different," another tweet read. While we haven't dealt with The Redner Group in regards to Duke Nukem Forever (we used 2K Games' internal PR and another 3rd-party firm), it seems clear that the PR firm is frustrated over the flood of negativity after what many of us thought would be the arrival of pure golden gaming goodness.
After news began to spread of the threat, company boss man Jim Redner seemingly changed his tune. "I have to apologize to the community," he said in a tweet. "I acted out of pure emotion. I will be sending each of you a private apology. I [also] need to state for th record that 2K had nothing to do with this. I will be calling each of you tomorrow to apologize. Again, I want everyone to know that I was acting on my own. 2K had nothing to do with this. I am so very sorry for what I said."
But the damage had been done, and there was no going back. After threatening to blacklist, The Redner Group had been officially blacklisted by 2K Games itself. "2K Games does not endorse the comments made by Jim Redner and we can confirm that The Redner Group no longer represents our products," the publisher said in an official statement. "We have always maintained a mutually-respectful working relationship with the press and do not condone his actions in any way."
As I've stressed for a while now, Duke Nukem may be able to thwart an alien invasion intent on conquering the earth, but the Duke Nukem 3D sequel didn't stand a chance against the hype built up around the game over the last 14 years. The negative reviews are expressing an expected disappointment, but they're also highlighting the game's tragic, fragmented developmental cycle. It's depressing to write anything negative about a game we really wanted to love. But it's probably equally depressing to read those words for the developers involved, the publisher flipping the bill, and the PR firms representing the final product.