Geoff Keighly, Lauren Wainwright, Patricia Hernandez, and the guy from Gaming Everything have been busy waging a four-way tug-o'-war for the title of Most Embarrassing Figure In Games Journalism for some time now. But their craporama throwdown contest didn't have enough competitors, according to CNN.
"Look at these amateur amateurs," said some CNN guy in a suit that probably costs six months' worth of my rent. "Someone get in there and show them how click-bait is done right."
John Gaudiosi stood up and answered the call. Ever the most professional amateur out there, he'd show these amateur amateurs how a pro amateur really looks amateur in the most professional way possible.
Last week, Gaudiosi wrote an article for Fortune Magazine and CNN Money called "5 reasons the Xbox One will dominate" with the subheading "Why Microsoft is poised to win the console war." It promised to be an interesting read, at first. Microsoft, after all, is coming to the end of a very successful generation, and the Xbox brand is bigger than ever. The company spent June being thoroughly embarrassed by horrible communication and constant policy waffling, but bigger comebacks have been made. You or I might be interested in what this financial analyst has to say about the market's eventual reaction to the Xbox One.
Holy crap, those suits at CNN aren't dicking around with their entry into console-war bullshit click-bait flamefests. Two articles claiming completely opposite predictions, presented in the same way and with identical taglines. Whoa. New guy came to throw down. Ladies and gentlemen, the future of professional amateur games journalism has arrived, and its name is John Gaudiosi.
Writing articles about a console's strengths and/or weaknesses is fine—even expected of a games journalist. In the financial sector, upcoming electronics are of course fair game for all kinds of analytical writing. Investors and corporate bigwigs have reason to be interested in the next big devices by companies like Sony and Microsoft. Write about them! In the name of good journalism, please, please write about them. Tell the world about the strengths of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Do that. But don't go around saying that both are "poised to win the console war."
I've seen defenders of CNN take the stance that the articles are simply giving information about the consoles. That would be nice, if only it were true. Were that statement accurate, there wouldn't be one article whose intro ends with the line "Here are five reasons Microsoft will win the console war," and another article whose intro concludes, "Here are five reasons Sony will win the console war."
You see, Gaudiosi himself calls the upcoming sales faceoff a "war." Opposing sides do not both win a war. This is common sense. I didn't think I had to say this out loud, but then again, I guess I'm dealing with CNN, so I need to expect the unexpectedly dumb. If he were actually trying to educate the masses and nothing more, he would have written one article, perhaps titled, "Sony And Microsoft Preparing For Another Round of Console Warfare" or "The Biggest Weapons in the Arsenals of Microsoft and Sony" or "10 Things You Should Know About The Next Console War" or any number of titles.
But he didn't. He wrote separate articles that use strikingly similar phrasing and identical subheading while claiming that two opponents in a sales battle would somehow both "win." There's a word for that, and it's "tie." Johnny boy claimed nothing of the sort. He predicted both would somehow win; and he did this to get those sweet, sweet console fanboy clicks.
This is a case of a guy having a bit of information that doesn't necessarily pertain to his job. Gaming is a popular hobby, and Gaudiosi could easily be in tune with forums and news aggregate websites, and in turn, the sweet amounts of traffic they can attract if you put out just the right story. CNN is a news juggernaut, and its website is among the biggest of the big, that's for sure. But in this world where titans can fall just as quickly as they ryse, you can't just take your foot off the gas. A 1,100-degree story at N4G and some threads on GameFAQs, 4Chan, or NeoGAFcan be big stuff, no matter how popular your website already is—even more when you double your pleasure. If you're lucky, it might even expose your website to a demographic that doesn't usually click it, and then, fueled by console war patriotism, they'll click back the next day to keep arguing with that guy in the comments who just doesn't get it. In a perfect world, you'll even stealthily get a few people checking your site again and again to see if any more stuff about gamez has gone up. Ha. What a bunch of suckers. There's no money like easy money. If John knows the gaming world, he's aware of such communities and how they can be exploited.
There are legitimate reasons to predict that the Xbox One might win the next console sales race. There are legitimate reasons to think Sony might come out on top. (A Nintendo comeback is never out of the question, but that's not part of CNN's mess here.) But when you're writing articles claiming absolute domination by both, sorry, but it becomes apparent that you are simply looking for flame clicks.
I would have thought that Fox News and CNN's slap fight to be the least respected actual news channel had become too heated to ignore, but I now realize I should never underestimate the broad reaching power of CNN.