Bungie Unwittingly Creates a Prisoners Dilemma by Telling Gamers Not To Trust Day One Reviews

Usman Pirzada
Posted Sep 8, 2014
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[Op-Ed] The industry has evolved over the years to the point where getting reviews out the second the NDA lifts, or the product launches, is not only common place but required by publications. While this practice is all well and good for hardware, gadgets and even games with single player focus, it shouldn’t be applicable to online games. Bungie is now actively trying to discourage this norm via PR. However, even though I agree with the sentiments the developer has unwittingly created a Prisoners Dilemma of sorts.Bungie - Destiny Day One Review Featured

The Prisoners Dilemma – To Publish Destiny Review on Day One or Not

Calling this interesting development a Prisoner’s Dilemma might be an over simplification or an over complication depending on your viewpoint, but one that stands to logic. Before I delve further into this opinion editorial, let me first elaborate a little on what a Prisoner’s Dilemma is. This particular situation is a subset of the wider ‘Game Theory’ (this has very little to do with games) and one of the more rampant corporate scenarios, usually between two rival companies. It goes like this, say there are two prisoners who got caught without evidence. Prisoner 1 is offered 2 options. He can either stay quiet and go to jail for 4 or he can snitch on his partner and get only 1 year of jail time. Prisoner 2 is offered the same deal. The possible combinations of what can happen are as follows: 1) if both Prisoner’s stay quiet they will get 4 years each. 2) If one of them snitches on the other while the other remains quiet, the snitch will get 1 years while his partner 7 years. 3) If both of them snitch, both of them will get 7 years.

2011-08-14-BAires1980trimThis is where the dilemma arises, because the Prisoners cannot talk to each other and have no idea how the other will respond. The logical ‘colluded‘ solution is ofcourse for both of them to stay quiet, but since they realize what will happen if he/she stays quiet and the other gives in to the police, the incentives for this course are not overwhelming. Now that Bungie has stated that any Day One Review is not to be trusted, it has effectively created a situation very similar to the above mentioned dilemma. This is how the prongs of the ‘Game’ branch: 1) No publication publishes a review on Day One, everyone goes home happy. 2) A single pub launches the day one review while others remain quiet. The single pub will effectively get a complete monopoly on SEO and rake in 10x-100x the views it would normally get. 3) If all the pubs publish, they will not get any SEO advantage and also get bad PR as a cherry on top.

By definition, the actions of the publications cannot be predicted since there is no logical solution to this. Now the more observant of you would already have noticed a flaw that distances this slightly  from a true dilemma: the Pubs in question here can communicate with each other and ‘collude’ to achieve maximum optimization of the system. Ofcourse, a collusion this big is quite improbable not to mention impractical. This is what I think will probably happen: most of the renown gaming pubs will have the Destiny review ready on Day One, but will not launch unless others launch. This will make them ready for the worst case scenario. It will of course, defy the whole purpose of Destiny’s warning, since you have essentially finished the review on Day One and not taken your merry time but it is something that can’t be helped. So while Bungie’s warning is a good sign for the gaming industry it is in my opinion, sadly irrelevant. Oh, and let the Games Begin.

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