Every once in a while there’s a business analyst company that likes to make predictions about the games industry. Typically these are forecasts of how a company will do or what a company needs to do to survive. For a while there, about the same time that Jack Thompson was mildly relevant, you couldn’t step on a gaming news site without Michael Pachter making the headlines. His job was essentially to look at what companies were doing, look at the numbers, and then take a guess as to how certain things would perform or what companies would have to do to improve their financials.
It turned out that he didn’t exactly have a positive ratio in regards to the accuracy of his predictions.
Analysts haven’t gone away, however. They’re still out there and they’re still making predictions about the industry. At the end of March one such company, Super Data Research, predicted the next Call of Duty would be Black Ops III and that a new Resident Evil would release this Fall. Now, the article has since been updated, but let’s take the original quotes.
According to the company’s CEO, Eric Hirshberg, the Advanced Warfare franchise has now generated over $1 billion in sales. Hirshberg also stated that DLC sales were up year-over-year, indicating that a growing subset of the traditional console gaming audience is adopting digital distribution. This month’s success sets the stage for the hotly anticipated fall release of Call of Duty Black Ops 3…
...We anticipate this month’s downturn to level off during the coming few months, following a regular seasonal pattern but expect to see an upswing as the next editions of several major franchises like Halo and Resident Evil come out in the 2015 fall season.
The article discusses these games as if they’ve already been confirmed for release. That’s a bit peculiar, because there are no links or references to explain why Super Data Research would list these games specifically aside from being big name Triple-A games. Were that the case, though, it would make a bit more sense to mention a new Assassin’s Creed in the Fall.
What makes the assessment of a new Resident Evil particularly unusual is that Resident Evil: Revelations 2 had just released on gaming platforms. Is Capcom confident enough, and financially stable enough, to be releasing multiple Resident Evil games in a single year, especially when they’re in a very experimental phase within the triple-A space? It seems unlikely, whereas we already know Microsoft has been aiming for a 2015 release for Halo 5 and the odds of Treyarch producing Black Ops III (which has recently been confirmed) are extremely likely.
So let us pretend I am a gaming journalist. I come upon this research and find these interesting tidbits.What next step do I take? Do I immediately go and post about it on the front page, hoping to grab some excited new clicks to generate ad revenue? Do I assume that the “rumor” tag in the title fulfills my ethical duty as a news reporter? Or do I contact Super Data Research to ask how they came to these conclusions, and potentially contact Activision, Treyarch, and Capcom to try and get the inevitable “no announcements at this time” from them?
This is bad journalism, period. It doesn’t matter if you specify that these are rumors and speculation, you’re already putting ideas into the heads of your audience. There’s an expectation there, and now the pressure is on those companies involved to respond. We’re now on the level of celebrity paparazzi, eager to dish out any dirty detail for the sake of a quick buck.
Okay, nothing that selfish or dirty, but it’s a complete lack of professionalism and is disrespectful not just of the companies involved, but also of your readership. Your job as a journalist is information, and reporting on analyst predictions is like the local news reporting on the local gypsy’s tea leaves. Looks like a bountiful harvest this year!
The first step is to reach out to the research company and ask how they came to those conclusions. With that information in hand, at least the reader can measure out how many grains of salt to take that prediction with.
So what of the update that Super Data Research placed on their page?
Re: Call of Duty Black Ops III, Activision’s CEO made an announcement in February that Treyarch would release a new installment in the CoD series. Since this is the same studio that developed Black Ops II in 2012, it stands to reason that he’s referring to Black Ops III.
Re: Resident Evil 7, following the success of Resident Evil HD Remaster, we’re expecting more to come down the pipe this year, but have no information that points to the release of Resident Evil 7 specifically. That would be sweet, though.
In other words, there’s no real insider baseball going on here. Anyone could have guessed that there’d be a new Black Ops based on Treyarch’s involvement, and the prediction for Resident Evil 7 is completely ignorant, or disinterested in mentioning, the recent release of Revelations 2. These analysts are about as worth reporting as random folks posting on web forums. They’ve created a stir for a game that is unlikely to even exist. Even if it gets announced at E3, it will be announced by chance, not because these analysts had any real insight.
Now, did VG24/7, Metro, Bleeding Cool, Attack of the Fanboy or Segment Next bother to update their articles to coincide with this new information from Super Data Research? No, not at all. Because the next big headline to generate ad revenue is right around the corner, and everyone has supposedly already forgotten about the a possible new Resident Evil.
One can take solace in the fact that Super Data Research updated their page at all. This means that they at least had enough people asking for more information that they had to update their original prediction. Those sites that would violate basic journalistic standards should still be taken to task, though.