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Cryptic Marcom Malreported, Verify Ungood, Rectify Candygive

There’s been some movement on the Cryptic poaching City of Heroes players thing F13 turned up. Mainly, we have an Ivan Sulic sighting!

Ivan Sulic was the TOTALLY AWESOME community manager for Hellgate: London who memorably told angry players in the aftermath of a lack of LAN play, “who the fuck cares.” Given that Hellgate: London servers no longer exist, I would expect “anyone who owns a Hellgate: London box” the fuck cares. However, clearly, telling your customers to man up and deal is your path to being a straight shooter in Cryptic’s Department of MARCOM.

What’s a MARCOM? As the form letter Sulic wrote which impressed the hell out of Eric Schild until he realized it was a form letter explains, “Marcom is basically Community, PR, and Marketing.” Or, another way to put it, “Marcom is what happens when you’re too cheap and too clueless to hire seperate people for marketing and community.” But hey! Sulic’s off to a great start, explaining to Schild:

I think I know what you’re talking about now. I’ve been reading up on recent press and some news aggregates have picked up this story. Maybe I can help clear things up a bit?

Or, in other words, “we were going to ignore this but now actual news sites are talking about it, so we have to appear as though we’re doing something!” I’m not sure if that’s the Mar or the Com of Marcom talking, but there’s definitely talking happening now, with Cryptic people flooding into the F13 forums to make absolutely sure that Unsub (the user who whistleblew the whole story) absolutely positively no really has his Champions Online beta access back. I’m pretty sure that’s the Com of Marcom. Because the Mar of Marcom managed to get this closing tag for the actual-news-site-talking-about-this:

It’s refreshing to a see a gaming company not only own up to its mistakes but to publicly apologize for them, isn’t it?

Well, yes, it would. In fact, I’d like to see that public apology. Note to Wired: There wasn’t one. Edgy “aw shucks, we didn’t mean to do anything BAD!” wisecracks don’t really count. Although there was a mistake owned up to in the Marcom Minitrue Pressrelease:

So, we’re currently running the closed beta test for Champions Online and a few of our employees thought it might be a good idea to contact avid MMO notables and various guild leaders floating about to see if they wanted to test. I’m certain this wasn’t meant to be a malicious attack on a competing product, nor did anyone intend to steal players, violate user agreements, kill babies, or knife hardworking farmers in the back. We had invites to send and the folks who send them figured people who play MMOs most might want them most. If a line was crossed, it was totally inadvertent and no harm was intended.

In case you’re keeping track, that admission is dead center in the middle of the paragraph, as part of a distant “well, from a distance, I don’t think any of this happened, as a disinterested observer” passive voice. Well played, Marcom, well played! Reading is hard, and it takes effort to stay with it all the way through the non sequitors about knifing agricultural workers and protestations of innocence. Note to Wired Deux: Protestations of innocence generally tend to nullify public apologies. “I’m really sorry BUT I DIDN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING WRONG” only works when you’re an AIG executive being asked gently to return bonuses.

I wonder if AIG has a Marcom department.

EDIT 7:30PM Central: Note FROM Wired: They agreed that upon reflection it wasn’t much of an apology to speak of.

As this gets traction elsewhere on the Intertubes (including links here since I’m apparently one of the more mouthy of the MMOGerati), I’d just like to make a few final points:

– I was at one time an employee of NCsoft, and although I didn’t work directly with the NCNC/City of Heroes team we often sent each other mash notes. No, really, it was kind of pathetic. “I love your website! I read it every day!” “I love City of Villains! I have a little Kim Jong Il mastermind!” So, I’m not entirely unbiased (which you should always assume of me) (and, really, which you should always assume of everyone) in this matter. (Although I’m pretty sure I’m not high on NCsoft’s Christmas card list any more, either.)

– I would point out that in the grand scheme of things, Cryptic using the official message boards to recruit beta testers is a bit of a smaller sin than letting your publisher handle your being sued by Marvel, and then once the lawsuit ends promptly turning around and signing a deal with that same Marvel, minus the publisher. Legal? Sure! Ethical? Hm.