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I tried to log into Titanfall on Monday at 9:02 p.m. PST.
No big deal. I will get some work done.
So 9:30 rolls around, then 10, and still no luck. I began to check Twitter and the Xbox Support Forums, and it turns out that quite a few people were having these problems.
By 9 p.m. I was just a smartass gamer…
I get why servers explode for every multiplayer launch, but I still don’t get WHY servers explode every multiplayer launch… #Titanfall
— Rory Appleton (@RoryDoesPhonics) March 11, 2014
But by 10, I had switched into game journalism mode.
In that context, the launch going bad was awesome for me. I was one of the first people to put a story up about it, which is perfect for a medium-ish kind of site like Gamer Headlines. I also work for a smaller site called Corrupted Cartridge, where I don’t have enough clout with the Google Gods to cover something like that, and I write for a newspaper, where I can afford to patiently and broadly cover any gaming news because typical gamers aren’t even close to its target demographic.
I get paid at GH based on the traffic my stories get. Gamers like stories about Titanfall. Gamers love stories about launches and games going badly. So, while I was pissed about not being able to play a game that I purchased and waited for, I was pumped to be able to make money off its failure. I knew I only had until business hours the next day, when the big sites like IGN and Polygon would bury me on Google.
Then something tragic happened: they fixed the servers. Jon Shiring worked on a fix, sent out a tweet, and it was over for me.
Patch is out. Things are starting to recover quickly now – you should get onto that Private Lobby server much faster soon.
— Jon Shiring (@jonshiring) March 11, 2014
I updated my story to reflect the fix and saw the traffic come to a grinding halt. Sure, there are still some issues being ironed out, but the scope of the problems is very narrow, unlike another game that still isn’t ready (name rhymes with cattle yield).
I spoke to Shiring and another of the developers, told them they did a great job and it was the fastest fix I had ever seen for such a big launch, and started playing the game. They seemed like really good guys, and all parties involved totally killed this launch. I switched off the journalist and enjoyed a totally awesome game.
However, the whole thing got me thinking: we suck.
Gamers, the websites that cater to them, people in general– we all suck. We want to watch the car crash; we don’t want to stop it from happening or congratulate the millions of people who drive accident-free every day.
If I see a story titled “Respawn fixes Titanfall launch issues in under two hours, game lives up to hype” by the New York Times, I wouldn’t read it. Nobody would. But, if icanhazgamez.com or some other made-up site has a story on N4G that says “Titanfall is screwed, new EA COO resigns, Respawn goes under,” my mouse would break from the clicking stress I would put it through.
It’s a business. The most popular story I have ever written took me 10 minutes to write and it wasn’t even news; it was a rumor about workers at a Foxconn manufacturing plant sabotaging some PS4s. I didn’t even want to do it, but my editor said it would be a big deal for us. I’ve spent hours on stories about social issues, interviewed passionate people, etc. and had a few hundred people read them. It is the reason tabloids and places like TMZ exist, and it’s why every local news broadcast and newspaper front page begins with stories about murder or violence. As a consumer I want to read crazy things, and as a journalist I want to report crazy things so that I can make money and climb the ladder.
I am sure that none of this is news to anyone. I learned a lot of this in my very first college journalism class.
However, I felt bad when I had been so quick to pull the trigger on a “Titanfall is failing, lets get ’em!” story. The guy who helped write the code for the game and fix the launch issues read my story and asked me to point him in the direction of any more issues. He did his job, and I did mine. I didn’t lie about anything, but it still felt a little odd.
I am still going to be part of the problem. I will look for stories anywhere and everywhere. But maybe I can also be part of the solution as well.
Maybe I can help in some small way by covering huge multiplayer launches that go well, in addition to the ones that go south. Maybe I can start reading the editorials and news that people wrote because they liked a game or a game launch went perfectly, not just the popular news story entitled “This game’s resolution is a few hundred pixels less than it should be, so let’s lynch the developers!”
Maybe you can help too.
Originally posted to Gamer Headlines