Digital Distribution And PR Lessons From Metal Gear On Steam

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After all that hype for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I talked about, actually getting the game has been an informational and emotional whirlwind for those who chose to pre-order it on PC. Whatever happens, or did happen, let this stand as an example of what publishers and public relations shouldn’t do for highly anticipated digital releases.

You may have already heard the news about how the PC version won’t have a pre-load — how those who pre-ordered it will have to start downloading the 28GB game on launch day, which for some people will probably take hours or days, while the console versions have already been pre-loading. Some people have already resigned to not being able to play the game on day one at all. The problems behind this are obvious, but maybe Konami public relations could have done a better job keeping customers informed.

There’s been some suggestion that the team at Konami LA had to give up their vacations to move the PC launch date forward (it was originally the 15th) and they just didn’t have enough time to prepare the pre-load. It’s hard to say if that’s true. I’m not a developer and have never seen any inside look at what it actually takes to get a game pre-loading on Steam, but maybe Konami PR could have come out with this tidbit earlier. And maybe it could have tried to be more clear about the date and time at which people will actually be able to begin the download.

The countdown on Steam indicates 1:00 pm EST Tuesday, and that pretty much lines up with other Steam launches of big games I’ve seen in the past. It’s been a while since I’ve actually sat down and waited for something to unlock on Steam — I’m just not connected to new release hype culture like that anymore, but 1 pm EST seems to be normal. Other people say that countdown is unreliable, but seeing games unlock beforehand hasn’t been my experience. Right now though Konami on twitter is saying for Phantom Pain it might be midnight EST (13 hours earlier). Originally the word was midnight New Zealand time which would have been 8 am EST on Monday (a few hours before I wrote this). I personally can live with midnight because I can at least start the download immediately before bed and hope it’s done by the time I wake up Tuesday morning, but somehow I’m not optimistic.

Then you’ve got reports that the physical PC version of this game — only available on Europe if I’m not mistaken, only contains an 8MB executable that initiates the download from Steam. I guess it doesn’t realize people buy games on discs because they can’t go through 28GB downloads. Konami may as well have just sold stubs with download codes on them (for people who want to pay for the game with cash).

Some of the angrier people are talking as if this is some last bit of pain to go through because they can stop caring about Konami entirely after this, what with the company’s change towards being mobile-first. We’ll see. There’s still post-launch content to worry about like Metal Gear Online. Hopefully its launch on Steam is handled far better than that of Phantom Pain.

In any case, I think some companies have a long way to go before they figure out this “digital distribution” thing and how customers’ infrastructure should be taken into account.

BULLETS:

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