Did you happen to see the news last week about Charlotte Toci, the Bandai Namco Europe community manager (or "junior community manager," apparently) who wrote some posts on Facebook responding to a fan asking about the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, and if BN would still localize it and bring it out (Vesperia on PS3 has a new character and other stuff left out of the original Xbox 360 version)? Toci said no, and that it was because Microsoft paid for the game's 360 exclusivity outside Japan. The original post was actually from April, but didn't get wide attention until recently. Here's Exhibit A:
Again, the original post was from April, but that's not the funny part; it's the fact that when it resurfaced on forums and the like, it floated for a week. A week! That's like a year in nerd rage reckoning. More than enough time to verbally crucify Toci, Bandai Namco, Microsoft, Sony, and whoever else the delightful Tales fanbase wanted to peg. Meanwhile, BN said nothing; Toci said nothing; nerds continued flogging. Why? Who really knows. Maybe nobody pinged BN (or enough); maybe most people just saw it as BS and let it blow over. After all, Vesperia PS3 is two years old, and the ship had likely sailed regardless of the method.
So it wasn't until a week after its resurfacing, when enough people had made a fuss of it, when Toci admitted she was not being totally authoratative, and apologized:
A few months ago I replied to a fan who asked me why Tales of Vesperia wasn’t localized in Europe on my Facebook page. I replied that it was because of a Microsoft exclusivity, thinking that that was the reason why, even though I didn’t have any official information on that.
I was wrong to do so, and sadly my reply was relayed on many websites, thus sharing a false information to fans around the web.
I would like to send my sincere apologies to all the Tales Series fans I have wrongly informed, and Microsoft & Namco Bandai for any damage that might have been caused with this.
As ridiculous as it is, I won't say Toci should be condemned or fired or never trusted again -- that's dumb, and it's not always the best way to get a point across. With any luck, her lesson has been learned, and she can continue her job. And it's not like her saying otherwise about Vesperia would completely reverse any hatred directed at Namco regarding Tales games anyway (yeah guys, keep calling them "Scamco," that's bound to get you what you want).
It is, however, a misfire when a company gets someone to be a friendly voice that more or less does speak for the company, then unexpectedly breaks off the leash, and everybody just stands there. So, the most troubling part of this to me isn't how long the misinformation was out there; rather, it's the thought process of someone at the front gates of a company in an industry they clearly don't have the right idea of. If Toci really believed that Namco was paid off to keep Vesperia on 360 outside Japan -- enough to say so confidently in a public venue without checking with anyone -- then I start to wonder what inspired that. What if it was predicated on the more ignorant views of the video game industry, where people ceaselessly presume the entire business is founded on one big unending cycle of bribes? Would you want that to be the voice of your company?
But I get that sometimes, for some companies, they're not looking for a "voice." For them, a community manager is tantamount to an intern with a salary; a peppy guy or gal who doesn't need years of industry experience but can still properly promote the products and draw people in. Meanwhile, the comparative "grown-ups" continue producing the games or handling the "real" PR. And even then, sometimes the company doesn't know what to do with them -- but hey, everyone else has a community manager, and we need a Facebook page and a Twitter account, so get on it.
I think that community staff, Junior or not, should be more than just contest-givers; they should be internal journalists of sorts. Of sorts -- ideally, they're hired to help humanize the company, to learn about it, and be as reasonable as possible to fans (or non-fans), and if a good question comes up that they don't know the real answer to -- like if Tales of Vesperia on PS3 is ever coming out -- they should be inspired, allowed and welcomed to send a query straight to the top and get the best possible answer, even if it's going to piss fans off. Again, that's my ideal, but if you have the wiggle room to hire more than one of them, how about exercising twice the potential? For what it's worth, Toci originally gave a nice, human response, which is respectable -- but imagine how much more respectable if it was truthful.
Then again, with this particular situation and subject matter, sometimes the biggest problem isn't on the inside...