Home Gaming When Good PR Goes Bad – The Hydrophobia Fallout

When Good PR Goes Bad – The Hydrophobia Fallout

3 min read

Dark Energy Digital, the company who developed Hydrophobia, recently published the XBLA title after years of hard work. When anyone publishes a labour of love, only to see it take some flak from the press, they are surely allowed to get a little miffed.

However, when “being miffed” transforms into “downright hateful”, it becomes somewhat problematic. Dark Energy Digital, specifically their PR person, seemed oblivious to this difference, and leveled some pretty serious comments against EDGE Magazine, and Destructoid.

EDGE Magazine, not the nicest of chaps but a good outlet none the less, gave the game 3/10, which seems harsh until you consider this extract (via GamePolitics):

“Protagonist Kate Wilson is a forgettable nonentity as she whines and wails her way through every linear section. The maps themselves are multi-tiered chores that require little initiative to navigate, the storytellers all too eager to intervene with a directional soundbite or, worse, a piece of the story that involves hackneyed terrorists and a perpetually raving, arrogant Scottish mentor.”

Another extract, so you truly grasp how much they didn’t like it (via Ars Technica)

The bugs that inhabit the waters of Hydrophobia are another concern. Ranging from fatal scenery clipping to an awkward inventory display that implies a lack of ammunition until a weapon is equipped, it indicates a title either unfinished, unpolished or simply unprepared for a world of digitally delivered games…

Both extracts contain legitimate reason to give a title a poor score right? Wrong, according to Dark Energy Digital PR maverick Deborah Jones, that is. She told VG247:

“Clearly, they haven’t played the game, we’re extremely frustrated by the review. We’ve got reviews that are absolutely outstanding that say they love the product… If they don’t do the review properly, they shouldn’t do a review at all.”

One would think that, after that piece of unprofessionalism, that Deborah Jones would have learnt, but one would be wrong.

Jim Sterling, of Destuctoid, posted on Twitter that he wasn’t have a very good time with Hydophobia. Deborah Jones saw this, put on her serious pants, and called Samit Sarkar, Destructoid’s sports writer, demanding to speak with Sterling. Bear in mind that Sterling and Sarkar don’t live in the same state, let alone work in the same building.

She then made similar claims against Sterling, saying he wasn’t playing it correctly and that “We’ve put three and a half years into this game, and you just don’t get those kind of scores if the game is bad.” Evidently, Sterling (as well as other outlets) think otherwise.

Ars Technica contacted Jones about this recent behaviour and she stated; “We absolutely believe in the freedom of the press to make a fair and independent assessment of a game’s merit. And we believe it is our role as a developer to independently provide materials to facilitate a fair and accurate review.”

That sounds like a load of garbage to me.

According to Sterling’s twitter, he missed 6 calls from Hydrophobia’s creative director yesterday.

Freedom of the press my arse. Developers are allowed to ask why their game got a low score, and perhaps use that knowledge to improve their future title. However, this is stepping firmly over the line of professionalism and straight into harassment territory. I don’t see how Dark Energy Digital will recover in the eyes of the press, honestly.

By the way, Deborah Jones, if we ever review Hydrophobia, 10/10. Just please don’t shout at us.

Last Updated: September 30, 2010


  1. riezo

    September 30, 2010 at 14:51

    So whens the Hydrophobia review going up? :silly:


  2. Kale

    September 30, 2010 at 15:30

    😆 Kale, of the internet, agreed that he wasn’t have a very good time with Hydophobia either. (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

    But ol Jim is difficult gamer to please. Metacritic is averaging a 66 with 12/16 reviews being a score of 60 and above at the time of writing this.


  3. Geoffrey Tim

    September 30, 2010 at 15:36

    bunch of bullshit. If a game sucks, a game sucks.Pr and marketing people have to realise that not every game is going to get an 8 or higher, that 7 and 6’s aren’t bad scores at all and that shit games deserve shit reviews.


  4. doobiwan

    September 30, 2010 at 15:46

    The right to free speech applies to the publisher as well, she’s totally within her rights to call someone out if they’re being harsh.

    Lets be honest, not all reviewers make a real effort, and in any civilized society the accused has the right to face their accuser.


  5. ewie

    September 30, 2010 at 15:50

    Will it score lower than Hous M.D on Lazygamer,

    Stay tuned for the gripping finale of this saga

    soon. ….


  6. doobiwan

    September 30, 2010 at 15:50


    12/16 reviews rate the game over 60% Which suggest the super low scores are just pissy prats.


  7. Karl Thomson

    September 30, 2010 at 15:58

    She isn’t the accused. The *product* is whats being reviewed, not the company behind it. Also, she is practically harassing Destructoid if you read what she said to them on the Ars technica page.

    Its out of line, and unprofessional.


  8. Karl Thomson

    September 30, 2010 at 15:58

    Are you mad? Then we have to deal with that woman. *Shivers*


  9. Miklós Szecsei

    September 30, 2010 at 23:05

    That… would be amazing. Seriously.


  10. Gavin Mannion

    October 1, 2010 at 01:35

    Call me cynical but I would put money on Destructoid complaining about the game simply to get this sort of attention.

    Jim and the rest of the guys at Destructoid are more than capable of handling an over zealous PR lady so I doubt they are feeling harrased.

    Either way the only winner from this in my eyes is Hydrophobia, I gotta download it now to see what all the fuss is about


  11. James the Zombieeater

    October 1, 2010 at 10:11

    The gang at Destructiod is definitely the trolls of the gaming world, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve latched onto the debacle for cheap hits.

    However, it’s never a good sign when your PR people start waving their sticks and throw tantrums.


  12. Karl Thomson

    October 1, 2010 at 15:01

    I am an Destructoid fanboy of sorts, which I’ll freely admit, but there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour even though its handleable.

    When are we going to review it and give it 10/10, citing it as the “Citizen Cane of games”?


  13. Geoffrey Tim

    October 1, 2010 at 15:32

    Yeah…your fanboyism is shown by your use of “an” before a consonant..Also, it’s “Citizen Kane.”


  14. Karl Thomson

    October 1, 2010 at 15:36

    Destructoid is now classified as noun. Yes the whole word, check the 2011 Oxford Dictionary.


  15. Karl Thomson

    October 1, 2010 at 15:38

    Also, Citizen Cane is a pun. Spoiler.


  16. Geoffrey Tim

    October 1, 2010 at 16:07

    Your mom’s a pun. And she’s spoiled already.


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