Quick: what’s the most popular type of post in games writing?
Is it reviews? On some days. Is it hands-on play reports of hot upcoming games? Could be. Is it news? Sometimes. But one that’s guaranteed hotness every time? Non-news. That is to say, things that are treated as news which are essentially meaningless.
The phrase “no plans” shows up at an alarming rate in these types of posts. It’s no one’s fault — the writers are doing their jobs by directly quoting publishers; those publishers are doing their jobs by sticking to their own announcement schedule (or lack thereof), and you can’t blame fans for being curious. But “no plans” in game news is essentially meaningless.
The most recent example is Sega saying it has “no plans” to release Phantasy Star Online 2‘s PS4 version overseas. Neither my friend and colleague Zarmena nor Kotaku’s Jason Schreier did anything wrong by posting the report, but we’re all fooling ourselves if we think there’s much weight to it. Take a look at just a few historical examples.
"No Plans" Means Nothing in Phantasy Star Online 2 English Release PS4 Non-News
I’m sure you can think of many more.
Game companies spend untold man-hours deciding when exactly to announce a game. People go to college, study, get degrees, and are hired and paid by publishers to lay out good plans for when to reveal and when to release software.
Imagine that you’re a game publisher. You’ve hired a group of people to strategically figure out when is the best time to announce your game and when the ideal release target is. They work hard, as you do, to lay out the perfect road to release. So long as your devs can meet their deadlines, you’ve got what you think is the best plan to maximize this game’s sales potential. This plan has cost you tens of thousands of dollars and hours upon hours of careful research and discussion.
…And then you get an email from Jim’s Game Blog asking “Hey! When are you releasing Star Kingdom Sonata!?” Are you gonna turn around and tell your team, “Cancel the E3 reveal. Fuck E3. People can know this shit in April if they need to! Who are we to deny The Jim!?” No way. You’re going to tell him “no plans,” because as far as the media need be concerned, there are none.
Moreover, it’s fairly rare that a game be announced for international release when it doesn’t even have a Japanese date. Some franchises see this happen, like Metal Gear and Final Fantasy, but those are larger-than-life names — definitely the exception and not the rule.
Phantasy Star Online 2 for PS4 is a brand new announcement with only the most vague release time frame, even for Japan. There’s no way anyone should expect a release announcement for the west yet. Companies have seen the dangers of announcing a game too early, and they will avoid that whenever possible.
The game didn’t come over on Vita or mobile, true, but honestly, I can kind of understand why. PS4, on the other hand? That’s fricking huge. If Sega truly is trying to learn something from Atlus, as it claims, then it won’t ignore that gigantic user base.
Publishers will announce things on their own time, not just any ol’ time they’re asked by a game blogger. All we can really do is wait and see, because the phrase “no plans” actually has “no meaning.”