Sony Slowly Learning Internet PR

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Sony’s recent dust-up with gaming blog Kotaku over their publication of a Playstation rumor ended up being handled much more quickly than their previous public relations blunders.

We expect Homer Simpson to walk into a rake nine times in a row because he’s a cartoon character. Why Sony seems willing and eager to keep committing the same pratfalls has to mystify any reasonable observer.

The gaming blog Kotaku ran down a particularly juicy rumor about Playstation Home. They cautioned it was a rumor and ran the story:

Playstation Home sounds like it could be an interesting, lo-fi, killer app, as described by our source.

“Basically, you get to make an avatar for your console (like a Mii) and this avatar has a room. As you play games and accomplish certain tasks, you will receive items with which to adorn the room that are specific to the game (achievements). The kicker is that this is going to be a new requirement for every PS3 game…”

This also sounds kind of like it could fulfill the promise Sony made at last year’s GDC keynote to bring social networking to the PS3.

It’s a gaming rumor. That and a few dollars will get you coffee at Starbucks. Sony told Kotaku they don’t comment on rumors or speculation, a common practice in the tech industry. It sounded like they would just let this rumor pass by like a batter taking a pitch.

Sony came back swinging instead. Dave Karraker, Sr. Director, Corporate Communications for Sony Computer Entertainment America, dropped the hammer on Kotaku:

I am very disappointed that after trying to work with you as closely as possible and provide you and your team with access and information, you chose to report on this rumor…. I can’t defend outlets that can’t work cooperatively with us.

So, it is for this reason, that we will be canceling all further interviews for Kotaku staff at GDC and will be dis-inviting you to our media event next Tuesday. Until we can find a way to work better together, information provided to your site will only be that found in the public forum.

Sounds a lot like the Sony people came to know during the music CD rootkit scandal, where Sony ended up getting pilloried on the Internet, in the mainstream media, and by a few Attorneys General who felt the company may have violated a law or three.

It took a long time for Sony to make that situation right, though not everyone has forgiven them. The Kotaku kerfuffle has been resolved at lightspeed compared to the rootkit problem, as Sony and Kotaku talked things over:

He told me his take on the story and his frustrations and I told him mine, in the end we agreed to disagree on some level, but also decided that our readers and gamers in general would be best served if Sony and Kotaku could still play nicely together.

In a nutshell: The story remains up and Sony has re-invited us to the meetings and interviews initially scheduled for the Game Developers Conference.

The story demonstrates how something a company sees as inconvenient could really become so with enough people seeing what is happening. With the Internet, it takes very little time for a little corporate bullying to be turned against Sony.

That can happen to any company online. Not everything said about a firm will be positive, or even convenient. Businesspeople need to choose their battles a little more carefully in these situations. A simple “no comment” from Sony could have led to plenty of discussion about Playstation Home ahead of GDC. The publicity wouldn’t have cost Sony anything.

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Sony Slowly Learning Internet PR
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