#61: Unto dust

Brands, eh? I love brands. Who doesn’t? I love supporting my favourite brands online. I love engaging with my favourite brands online. But what I love most of all is when my favourite brands engage with each other online.

I can’t imagine anyone thinks these things, really — not consciously, anyway — except perhaps the people behind the social-media accounts of said brands. There are a lot of things that make me feel old these days, but this makes me feel positively ancient, the kind of thing that has me loading up Google Maps (or, if we’re really leaning into it, digging out the Yellow Pages) to find the nearest glue factory. I was at a work event a few years ago and asked someone what they did for a living and they said, with a completely straight face, “I make dank memes.” I think there’s at least a small part of me that has never quite recovered from that.

Yesterday was a particularly busy day for the ol’ brands. First was this attempted dunking from KFC Gaming on the newly launched Back 4 Blood. Why does KFC have a gaming-focused social account? Moreover: why does it have 266,000 followers? Has this been proven in some way to sell more chicken? I suppose it must. Why?

Worse still was this cringeworthy exchange between the Fortnite and Among Us accounts on Twitter, a clearly pre-planned nonversation that appears to be building up to some sort of official collaboration. It comes mere weeks after a chunk of the Among Us development team used the very same social-media platform to (entirely justifiably) accuse Epic Games of ripping off Among Us without credit in Fortnite’s newly launched Impostors mode. Shortly before yesterday’s big sloppy Twitter brand-snog, Epic used a blog post about the latest Fortnite update to explicitly acknowledge Among Us’ influence.

“Big fans,” the Epic account parps in the Twitter exchange. Well yes, we realised that two months ago, when you basically lifted the entire design and structure of a very successful indie game, made by a tiny team, without any credit, because you figured you were big enough to be able to get away with it. “We never got to talk about how you inspired us,” it adds. Sure, because when you make dank memes for a living there just aren’t enough hours in the day, are there?

Honestly, get in the sea. Behind this chummy Twitter exchange is, I assume, at least one long email back-and-forth between a tearful indie developer and a put-upon Big Tech account manager, culminating in a signed legal waiver. “Yesssss have ur Agents contact our Crewmates,” the Among Us account replies. Yes, let’s do it properly this time. Have your lawyers contact ours. It should be easy enough — they already have each other’s details.

This is not a new phenomenon, I realise that. The term ‘brandter’, which I learned from Eurogamer this morning and have just punished myself for typing by ripping out a couple of nose hairs, has been in use since at least 2014. This is the world we have somehow fashioned for ourselves: one where global fast-food chains can boost business by paying a teenager £20k a year to be snarky about videogames; where potential legal battles are settled in chummy corporate Twitter threads; and where global corporations with billion-dollar market caps can do bad chat for mad numbers, and everyone seems somehow cool with it. We should not even abide this mediocrity, much less endorse it.

A friend of mine has worked in marketing for years, and was contracted by an agency a few years back to work on a pitch for a major gaming company. He and an accomplice spent two days hunkered down in a meeting room, working up an in-depth, lavishly designed Powerpoint deck for the project. When they were finished, the boss came to inspect it, and asked them to leave the room so he could do so in peace. They returned an hour later to find the boss had gone and left no feedback, but stuck two Post-It Notes on the wall. One read “TIKTOK”, and the other “MEMES???”

I think that says it all. I’m off to the glue factory. I shall save you all a seat.


  • A quick note on Monday’s Hit Points, about Jim Ryan’s desire for PlayStation games to reach “hundreds of millions of players”. I initially had a few lines in there about Sony’s renewed focus on mobile, but didn’t think there was enough out there about the company’s plans for me to really address it fairly. And lo, news emerges that Sony has poached Nicola Sebastiani, former head of Apple Arcade, to lead PlayStation’s latest stab at finding success on smartphones. A good hire, sure, but it’s going to take a lot more than that if Sony’s brand of expensive, and expansive, singleplayer action-adventures is to find a home on mobile. I will reserve judgement for now.
  • Tributes have been paid to Cherie Lutz, longtime business development executive at Microsoft, Unity and Wizards Of The Coast, who has sadly passed away. Lutz was heralded as a driving force in the rise of indies through Xbox Live Arcade.
  • Epic is being countersued by Google for dodging Play Store revenue commissions during the short-lived Project Liberty initiative. I am so bored of writing about all this and wish it would just go away. Perhaps they could sort it out on Twitter.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has crossed 24 million lifetime players and is now the most profitable entry in the series, says director Naoki Yoshida.
  • Jeff Strain, formerly of State Of Decay developer Undead Labs, has announced his new venture, Possibility Space, and it is absolutely stacked with talent. It’ll be a fully distributed operation from the get-go, too, which is excellent. There’s loads of wisdom from Strain in this IGN interview about culture and leadership and other things Hit Points likes. Hats off, Jeff and co.
  • In a bid to stop a growing problem with abusive behaviour, Riot Games is to disable the /all chat channel, which lets opposing players communicate with each other, in League Of Legends. A fine idea, but why stop there? Let’s shut them all down and just go back to writing emails every so often to people we actually like.

That’s your lot for today. Do you value Hit Points? Do you like the way it arrives promptly in your inbox three times a week, rounding up the latest developments in the games biz to save you navigating the hellscape that is today’s web experience? And in today’s case, saving you from the searing pain of watching #brands interact on Twitter?

If so, perhaps you’d consider a paid subscription. For just $6 a month you’ll get the warm, fuzzy feeling of supporting something you like, and would like to see continue — and, in the very near future, will also gain access to subscriber-exclusive content. If not, perhaps you’d give this silly thing of mine a share, using the buttons below. Have a grand couple of days, and I’ll see you on Friday.