On January 15th about 98% of our belongings got a truck headed to Utah. My wife and I are moving there from the east coast (we lived in NYC and on the shoreline in CT about 50/50 thus far). Before we were to leave, however, my father had set up a family cruise that included my mother and father, my sister and her husband, and me and my beautiful wife. The cruise was set to go to Haiti, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. As some of you may already have guessed this cruise was the now infamous “Norovirus” cruise. My wife got it. My brother in law got it. My mom may have gotten it… or may have just had a migraine mixed with motion sickness. My father, sister, and myself, all said “fuck all that” and felt fine. In fact the following day when it was just the three of us at dinner we ordered a nice bottle of wine to celebrate our awesome immune systems.
The virus was awful. I assume most people have experienced it at some point in their life, possibly confusing it with food sickness. For my wife it was a night of throwing up a few times an hour and other bathroom-type things I don’t want to go into detail about. We went to the infirmary as soon as it opened at 8am and there were a handful of people down there all with the same symptoms. After about 5 minutes the waiting room was packed and they sent all of the not-ill people out of there. My wife came back to the room about 30 minutes later saying she got a shot and a handful of pill packets and directions on when to take them. The shot effectively ended the stomach sickness but she continued to feel wiped out and had intense abdominal pain.
The rest of the trip after everyone recovered was wonderful. We spent time with my family. People who enjoy the sun (everyone except me) spent time at the pool. I actually won $60 gambling! Made some friends along the way. It was a great cruise. The ship staff was over the top in wiping everything down. They also canceled 2 stops and cut the cruise short. The cruise company was being very, very, conservative about the whole situation. This didn’t make us happy as everyone was finally having fun. They offered fairly substantial compensation.
I wondered why they were being so conservative about this as it happened so early in the cruise we could have all but forgotten about it by the time it ended but the answer was sleeping in the bed next to me each night. My wife, like several people on the ship, became cable news stars just by racking up roaming charges on their phones and talking to CNN, ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS, and MSNBC. Literally. My wife (or I, mostly her) talked to all of those outlets. We got CNN on the boat TV. They were discussing it like it was giant shit filled germ factory. Being inside it and seeing how the news portrayed it was interesting. Seeing how they dissected my wife’s quotes was also. We all know the news blows shit out of proportion (literally, this time) but seeing it happen first hand was very interesting. We all felt great, had an amazing day in St. Thomas and CNN on that night was talking about the ship like it was the floating plague. It was around that time that my father noticed the boat took an unexpected turn to the north. About 20 minutes later the captain told us that we skipping St. Maarten and heading home early.
The first thing I thought was “PR.” This wasn’t about the illness anymore. Every day that this boat was at sea was another day every news station was talking about it. I’m sure every cable news company had planes chartered to St. Maarten to interview all of us. Royal Caribbean made it seem like they cared about us and were taking us home to be safe (4 days since anyone in my family had seen a sick person). They didn’t care about us, they cared about their brand. As they should. Our happiness doesn’t mean a thing compared to their profits. This doesn’t mean they didn’t try to smooth us over though.
Flash forward to the night we returned to my parents house and I hop on the internet with just my phone and see this dude named NTKRNL on GAF giving away a substantial portion of Microsoft’s Xbox One plans for the next few years. The things I had already heard from my own Microsoft sources all lined up with what he was saying so I made the leap that the rest was true… except for one part. He mentioned a Titanfall Xbox One coming. I knew one was prototyped but was dropped due to it costing too much too early in the console’s lifecycle. So was this Titanfall box back on? I was using my fat, fat, thumbs like a madman talking to everyone I knew. Finally I heard from someone that it was back on. This was after a mod had closed the thread on GAF so I mentioned it on Twitter.
But why was this guy doing all of this? The first thing that stood out to me is that he had zero bad news. I’ve been accused 1000s of times of having a Sony bias (I do) and I think I’ve even reached double digits in accusations of having a Xbox bias (I don’t)… but even I have broken news like Driveclub’s delay. I was the only leaker (blogger? that sounds less evil) on GAF saying the PS4 wasn’t coming in October. I also broke the news that the camera wasn’t gonna be in the box (which is good or bad news, depending on your preference). So it struck me as weird that this guy was like “everything is awesome.” I have talked about many things over the years and, obviously, the people telling me this stuff worked at the companies that they were giving me info about most of the time. These people also have positive and negative things to say about their own companies. So putting all of that together I decided, with 99.99% certainty (as I said in my tweet ><) that this guy was a controlled leaker. In my opinion… Microsoft had planned this to get the core excited while most of the world stayed in the dark (like most things that happen on GAF or gaming-reddit).
Flashback to earlier that day when I was still on the ship pulling into port. I got a call in my room from the front desk saying that the vice president of the company had flown on board and would like to talk to me. We setup it up to meet at 12:45. I knew it was because I had tweeted about the cruise and have a fairly decent online presence. When I got there they asked where my wife was. Oh yeah, she’s famous now also. I forgot. So I got her right before she was about to have dessert (lunch gets desserts on cruises, don’t judge!) and we went back upstairs. The vice president of whatever office she was from tried to schmooze us hard. Oh Arnee, I hope you feel better. We care about you. Oh Pete, we hope you still had fun. We did everything we could to make this trip enjoyable under the circumstances.
It was complete bullshit. As we walked back downstairs my wife said “I walked away from dessert for that?”
The thing that was striking to me about that was I knew exactly why she wanted to talk to us – we both have a social media presence and Arnee’s soundbites were making their way around the world. She didn’t give a flying fuck how we felt. All she wanted was us to now have a part of narrative include that the vice president talked to us personally because Royal Caribbean cares! THEY REALLY CARE, GUYS! The irony being that I thought the cruise was great and the staff was great and it was only her, trying to convince me it was great, that I found totally fucking awful.
Sometimes companies try too hard.
After I had posted my “99.99% sure he is a controlled leaker” tweet I got an urgent message from someone who is very respected in the videogame community. Part of the deal was that I wouldn’t give his/her name (which I wouldn’t do anyway) and I’m not trying to pseudo-namedrop right now but I do want to make the point that this person is trustworthy and known and it would be counter-intuitive for her/him to ever lie to me. He/she asked me if a person from Microsoft could contact me. He/she vouched that this person was “very high up” and that he/she has known this person for a long time. I said sure and about 20 minutes later I got an email from someone at Microsoft.
The email was written expressly for me. I mean, obviously all emails you get are written for you, but this person wasn’t just putting together a mass email and trying to hit industry personalities with info. He was responding directly to my tweets saying that NTKRNL was not a part of Microsoft marketing and that Microsoft was trying to track him down with all available resources and that not only was he going to be fired but they were also going to press charges about releasing trade secrets. I read the email about five times. It made zero sense to me. Actually, let me clarify that, it made zero sense that they would spend the time writing this email *TO* me. Yeah, #PS4NoDRM was a big deal, I’m also not oblivious to the fact that I am much more visible in the community now than I was several years ago… but I’m not a bigtime player. I’m barely a bit player. Why spend that time communicating with me? This person didn’t care what I thought. They just knew that I had some sort of reach and were trying to spin it. Big or small. IGN or YouTube personality. They know they need to get the message out through everyone. At least Royal Caribbean sent a vice president…
I then got on twitter and said he wasn’t a controlled leaker. He was a renegade employee that was being hunted down by Microsoft. Even with the questions I had about the email they sent (especially since it just told me info and asked me nothing) I believed it because I trusted (and still do) the person who hooked us up to talk in the first place. It was weird but it had to be the truth. So my 99.99% tweet hit the .01% jackpot at that point. I said as much on twitter. I know a lot of people think I’m in this for the attention (I like attention but it’s not the only thing that drives me) or think I want to destroy companies (I have preferences but I’m not fucking insane). The truth of the matter is that I always say what I’ve been told if I trust the source. I make no money from this (yet, hopefully someday, we’ll talk when I get to Utah). Having 3000 twitter followers is cool but it’s not like it makes you get out of bed and high five yourself. I just know that for years I wanted info I couldn’t get and now I try to get people info they want to know. That’s it. That’s my fucking mission statement. You can troll me, you can say my wife looks like a tranny (ok maybe that one stung, she is fucking beautiful and like most husbands I don’t want anyone talking shit about my wife). But you can say whatever. I deliver news as I hear it. Sometimes it’s wrong. It’s not biased though. I am. Pete Dodd has a personal preference for Sony games. But I report what I hear. Many people thought I was trying to take Microsoft down by myself because of the leaks I had. As if I was the one that coded Call of Duty to be 720p just so I could report it. It’s absurd. I’m way off the point now but I had to get that off my chest. If you want to see me talk shit about Sony ask me about how SCEA has handled the Vita. I won’t hold back because I think Uncharted is a more fun game than Halo.
Now a few days have passed. Some AM radio show in LA called my wife and she did an interview this morning. Fox business wanted her on in the afternoon but she was going to see her mother and we are leaving for Utah in a few days. Right now I’m on a couch in my parents living room, I dug a 7 year old laptop out of a box in my trunk and decided to start writing (Arnee is out at a wine tasting because she knows humans). The cruise was fun. I hated when my wife was sick but it was 2 days and the rest was great, other than the moves made for PR’s sake. Also, as you guys know, I love the shit out of my Xbox One. I miss it, actually. It’s in the truck to Utah (purely because a ps4 is more portable so that’s with us). I thought the cruise was great and I would go on another cruise next week… but Royal Caribbean as a company annoyed the shit out of me. I like the Xbox One much more than I ever imagined and I don’t see that stopping soon (PvZ:GW!!!!!) but I’m now back on my original tweet. NTKRNL is controlled marketing. Why?
January NPDs. Also, no Titanfall Xbox. Don’t try to spin me, motherfuckers.