Today, as part of a peculiar interview on Metro, Sony Computer Entertainment President Jim Ryan was asked if he could guarantee that the “free” (I always use obligatory airqotes here, because PlayStation Plus games aren’t really free) PlayStation Plus edition of Driveclub is still coming. His fairly standard response “I can’t say anything at this stage” immediately made the headlines, magically turned into “Sony can’t guarantee Driveclub: PS Plus Edition will ever release,” and a myriad of variation on that theme.
Here’s the actual exchange:
GC: I understand that you did a lot better than some in addressing the situation, but that was still three months. And… is there still going to be the free PlayStation Plus version?
JR: That’s still being looked at.
GC: You can’t guarantee that it will ever happen?
JR: I can’t say anything at this stage.
While I can see how some (consciously or not) transformed that into “Sony can’t guarantee” yada yada, that’s simply not what Ryan said (besides the fact that Ryan isn’t “Sony” he’s one executive within Sony, which is a different pair of sleeves).
Ryan said “I can’t say anything at this stage.” Which is a very standard “no comment” response. Even top executives often have things they aren’t allowed to talk about (even more so when they’re not directly in charge of something), and quite evidently any detail about the PlayStation Plus edition of Driveclub is part of those things.
The reason is as clear as the sun: the PlayStation Plus edition of Driveclub is a PR disaster for Sony. They promised something with fanfare and drum rolls, and that something has not been delivered yet. It’s not surprising that executives and PR received a gag order on the issue until an actual date can be given.
Anyone that ever conducted an interview should know rather well that there are times in which you ask something the person sitting in front of you can’t talk about, and he or she will answer a variation on the “I can’t say anything at this stage” theme, which translates to “sorry, you asked me something I’m not authorized to discuss, so I will politely decline to respond.”
It happened to me a gazillion times, and it happens to every journalist in every field so often that it’s not even worth dwelling on.
A “no comment” reply means neither “yes” or “no.” It simply means “I can’t answer.” That kind of response to a “Can you guarantee X?” question doesn’t imply “I cannot guarantee X.” It just means “I can’t talk about X.” The leap from the latter to the former is gramatically subtle, but it is indeed a large one.
Making that leap is also definitely misleading, especially in a headline. Whether such headlines have been worded like that on purpose or not, it’s not for me to judge, but their misleading nature is evident. A rather by-the-book case of twisting someone’s words.
After 1.11, what else is coming to DRIVECLUB?
Server upgrades: to improve stability and performance for all current players and to enable the release of the PS+ Edition and DRIVECLUB companion app.
Finding that quote isn’t even that difficult, considering that it’s just one week old, and it states very clearly that the PlayStation Plus edition is coming. So yeah, Sony definitely said that we’ll get it, and did so no longer than a week ago.
Assuming that those who wrote today’s headlines didn’t know about this, and didn’t intentionally try to mislead, maybe a bit more basic research should have been in order.
Ryan cannot say when it’ll come or give any details, to the point that he declined to respond altogether, but that’s par for the course in the PR and interview game. What’s most surprising, is that anyone in the press was surprised (pardon the pun) about a “no comment” answer, enough to turn it into a news piece.
Update: here’s an official statement from Sony itself:
Although currently we do not have an update regarding the timing for the launch of the PS Plus Edition, we are continually working on improving the server capacity to enable us to launch the PS Plus Edition as quickly as possible.
I normally don’t enjoy writing “I told you so,” but… I told you so.