How not to handle bad PR for your product or your client's product: Let us review the sad tale of Duke Nukem Forever and The Redner Group.
PR agency blacklists are nothing new in the tech media business. Upset the wrong people at the wrong time and you, as a journalist, can find yourself in a black hole the next time it comes to needing information for an article or product to review.
But general consensus is that Jim Redner, president of The Redner Group, really stepped in it on Tuesday when he used Twitter to publicly threaten journos who were trashing Duke Nukem Forever, the new game published this past week by 2K Games.
Posting from the official Redner Group Twitter account on Tuesday, Redner himself tweeted, "Too many went too far with their reviews ... we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom."
He went on to say that it was okay to give a bad score to a game, but "venom filled reviews," in his opinion, were different. Redner didn't specify which reviews he thought were "venom filled" and which were, well, critical.
Within minutes word began to spread of Redner's tantrum. Game journalists and gamers alike collectively clucked their tongues at Redner's display of emotion - uncharacteristic for a PR firm that values its image and the image of its clients above everything.
Emotions from game journos are running high after Duke Nukem Forever's release. The game is famous for having a 14 year (yes, a decade and a half) development cycle, originally created by 3D Realms and ultimately finished by Gearbox Software.
Coincidentally, Gearbox finished the game later than they first anticipated. The collective eyeroll from game journalists around the world set the Earth off its axis momentarily.
Duke Nukem Forever's predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, was infamous in its own right, for having a musclebound, cigar-chomping hero that uttered one-liners worthy of the cheesiest action movies, and for being steeped in politically incorrect humor with plenty of T&A thrown in.
Duke Nukem Forever, as it turns out, is a chip off the old block. MetaCritic.com rated DNF a scant 48 out of 100 as this article was posted - a miserably low rating for a major console release from a big publisher - with critics calling out the game as a "relic from the past," "a mess," "sloppy, cobbled together" and more.
Clearly DNF has touched a nerve with reviewers.
And a nerve with the head of The Redner Group, a company that has worked with 2K Games and Gearbox before to launch their hugely successful game Borderlands, according to Gamasutra.
Jim Redner realized he stepped over the line shortly after doing so, apologizing publicly in his Twitter feed and promising to contact game journalists individually as well. But by then the damage had been done.
"2K Games does not endorse or condone the comments made by @TheRednerGroup and confirm they no longer represent our products," said the company in a tweet of their own. "We maintain a mutually respectful relationship with the press and will continue to do so. We don't condone @TheRednerGroup's actions at all."
2K Games' role in all this is pretty safe, despite being the purveyors of crap that the game journalists are so grossly offended by to begin with. As for the Redner Group, well, only time will tell. But clearly Jim Redner has some fences to mend.