A lot of us enjoyed some great games in 2019, but the year had plenty of, well, awkward moments if you were following the industry.
In our extremely online world, it seems easier than ever to make a big PR blunder. But some people and companies didn’t do themselves any favors. It almost felt like some of them were going out of their way to create controversy.
So if you need a refresher, let’s revisit some of those big PR disasters of 2019 right now.
Randy Pitchford says no ‘microtransactions’ for Borderlands 3
Borderlands 3 came out this year, and that meant that we had to put up with a lot of bizarre Randy Pitchford moments (and we’re not even going to touch Medieval Times).
Pitchford was at his peak when he decided to put Game Informer on blast because it … correctly quoted him. Basically, Pitchford said that Borderlands 3 won’t have microtransactions. Turns out, he meant it will only have cosmetic ones. This was confusing, so Game Informer wrote about it. Pitchford then lost it.
Here is the story. What here is incorrect? What is muddled? What is confusing the situation? It’s basically all quotes from you and your team. And yes, it is 4 am. pic.twitter.com/9U0ku6GE2X
— Andy McNamara (@TheRealAndyMc) May 2, 2019
There was also confusion with why Troy Baker did not come back to voice a character in Borderlands 3, with Pitchford and Baker each having their own version of the story.
THQ Nordic gets friendly with 8Chan
8Chan is like a worse version of 4Chan, and that sentence should be enough to terrify you. Among other things, it has a reputation for being cool with pedophilia.
Sounds like a great place for an AMA (ask me anything), right?
That’s exactly what publisher THQ Nordic thought, for some reason. And even when people online were telling them that this decision was bonkers, it defended itself (shoutout to Mark). THQ Nordic would eventually come to its senses, I guess, and apologize.
"I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site. I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form. (…)
— THQ Nordic (@THQNordic) February 26, 2019
It’s always incredible when a publisher has to go out of its way to say that they don’t condone child pornography.
Blizzard freaks out over China
This mess seemed to consume all of gaming for a good two weeks, which is an impressive feat in an industry that is always moving from big event to the next. It started when professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung made comments supporting the protests in Hong Kong after winning a tournament. Blizzard, which has a major stake in the Chinese gaming market, responded with harsh bans for Blitzchung and two announcers who were on creen while he made his remarks.
Blizzard’s overreaction drew criticism from fans, employees, and even politicians. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack would issue a late defense (not really an apology) concerning the issue and reduce the punishments, but his statement did nothing to dispel the belief that Blizzard was more concerned about being friendly with China than free speech and fair play.
Brack would take another stab at an apology during BlizzCon in November, and this one was decent enough to give most fans an excuse to move on from the incident. It didn’t hurt that Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV were announced shortly afterward.
Stadia’s confusing launch
The heck with Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 in 2020! This year had its own platform launch with Google Stadia! That’s plenty exciting, right?
Well, it turns out that the launch of Stadia in November was more confusing and underwhelming than anything. Those who got their early version of the cloud-streaming service via the Founders Edition became angry as Google was late to give them the codes they needed to start playing. People also discovered that the promise of 4K, 60 fps gameplay didn’t apply to every title in the Stadia library.
Speaking of that library, it started small and isn’t getting much bigger. Games are also expensive, launching without current updates, or lacking enough players to make multiplayer convenient due to a lack of crossplay support. It’s too early to say that Stadia is dead on arrival, but it isn’t a great start.