November 1, 2006 4:00 PM | Simon Carless
So, you may have seen a news story today about an interview with Phil Harrison on the Three Speech blog, in which he reveals that there are 40 E-Distribution games currently in development for the PlayStation 3. All well and good.
But what, exactly, is Three Speech? According to the 'About' page, it "...isn't part of PlayStation, but it does get to speak to PlayStation... We bring together people who have something valid and engaging to say about gaming and digital entertainment." That's a bit vague - is the blog Sony-run or not? Well, GamesIndustry.biz's story on the interview reveals that Harrison was "...speaking to GamesIndustry.biz' Rob Fahey as part of an interview being serialised on semi-official Sony blog Three Speech."
So the interview was conducted by Fahey for Three Speech, and then GI.biz gets first reprint rights to the exclusive chat? Sorry, Eurogamer guys (who I get on well with!), but this really opens up a number of journalistic issues. It's pretty clear to me that the 'Three Speech' blog is Sony Europe's attempt to get its message out amongst the blogerati in a more nimble way than just official websites (as excellently practiced by Major Nelson and friends for Microsoft), but surely using Fahey is a bit of a suspect move?
I say this because, as a PR site which certainly appears paid for by Sony (the Three Speech domain is owned by Ramp Industry, which has done 'trendy urban' sites for Sony in the past), it's just not a good move to fake an attitude like: "People are free to say what they want here. We won’t censor content so long as this space is used constructively" - and with a pun on 'free speech' as the blog name, too.
You know, this 'free and open' is true to some limited extent, but why weren't there any difficult comparative questions asked about Xbox Live Arcade in the Harrison interview on E-Distribution? Surely the fact this is for a Sony site makes a difference? (The earlier discussion on SIXAXIS is a bit more rigorous in terms of asking tricky questions, mind you.) I'm aware that the interview was _largely_ just informational, and there are some tautological ways round this. But how about Sony just give Fahey a no-holds-barred interview with Harrison that would run in full on GI.biz, and then reprint the bits they want to? Or wouldn't that be bloglike enough?
So Harrison is free to snark away about the competition (Xbox Live Arcade), without anyone asking him questions on the business model validity of a big star like David Jaffe making a small $10-ish downloadable, almost faux-indie game with (sure, smaller, but still expensive!) in-house Sony resources. Well, that's one question I want asked - there are any number of other hard questions that could be asked, and I'm not either a Microsoft or Sony fanboy.
But overall, even if this isn't sleeping with the enemy, the odd Three Speech interactions are certainly snuggling up pretty close. If Sony is going to come out and court the Internet in a more informal way, these sites can't be 'semi-official'. You need to state your agenda, or don't come and play at all (see: Fragdolls), and journalists need to be aware of the ethical problems lying there-in, because Sony's profit motive lies above any interest in fairness on their part.
[Disclaimer: Obviously, I also edit Gamasutra, which could be considered a competitor to GamesIndustry.biz. But I like and get on well with the GI guys, and they will hopefully/presumably still talk to me after this post.]
Categories: PlayStation 3