Bad Games and the Non-Disclosure Agreement

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Let’s game a scenario here. The situation is this: you’re the PR man for an overly ambitious city-builder which is due to be released in, say, under six months. Your game is pretty terrible. It’s not lived up to the promises you’ve made as PR man, it’s not even lived up to the basic expectations people might have for a game in your genre. It’s just going to be terrible. What do you do? You can’t make the game any better than it is- there isn’t enough time- so you have one of two choices: let the news out that your game is terrible, or clamp down ruthlessly on the flow of information and cross your fingers that not too many brave souls risk a lawsuit over divulging information that could possibly hamper your sales on release day. The practical form the second choice takes is a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

There is no explanation for the NDA in its current form other than this. A game that has been judged fit to be beta-tested by large numbers of people is basically ready for release day. Its current form isn’t going to change significantly. Same thing goes for ‘preview’ code 90% of the time as well. Forcing your beta testers to sign a NDA is a cynical and actually tremendously dishonest PR gambit that has nothing to do with safeguarding your product from copying by the competition and everything to do with your desire, as PR  man, to fleece as many people as possible out of their money when your terrible game is finally released. The fact that people have actually been sued for the totally harmless crime of spreading information about a game they’ve been playing is as stern an indictment of the stifling corporate climate of AAA-title development as anything else. And the fact that companies sheilding bad games from criticism still resort to the NDA even after it’s been proven not only porous as a sieve but also morally bankrupt only indicates their desperation at having made terrible crap nobody wants to play. 



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