THQ Nordic, a publisher that’s seen rapid growth through recent acquisitions and funding, found itself in a public relations predicament after deciding to hold an AMA on notorious internet cesspool 8chan, which is known best for hate speech, far-right conspiracy theorizing, and pedophiliac content.
It's yet another example of how not to do PR in the game industry -- or any industry, for that matter.
"We're doing an 8chan AMA and we have no idea why. Come join us!" read the initial tweet from THQ Nordic. Two hours -- and thousands of (mostly negative) tweet reactions later -- the THQ Nordic marketing director who led the AMA was apologizing. [Edit: the THQ Nordic tweet containing the link to 8chan was still live several hours after the apology.]
"I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site," said Philipp Brock, PR and marketing director for THQ Nordic. "I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form."
"I am terribly sorry for the short-sightedness of my (!) decision [emphasis Brock's], and promise to be far more vigorous in my assessment of these activities in the future," he said. "This was not about being edgy, this blew up and I very much regret to have done it in the first place."
8chan is a message board known for a lot of things: as a haven for the online hate group Gamergate, a place to dox and "swat" people who have social justice leanings, a home for far-right conspiracy theorizing, and most egregiously as a haven for pedophiles and pedophiliac imagery.
It's unusual -- perhaps unbelievable -- that THQ Nordic's marketing and PR team was unaware of 8chan's history. Game developers on Twitter knew about 8chan, with their reactions ranging from confusion to anger, seeing THQ Nordic's use of 8chan as an alignment with the site's sordid past (and present).
As negative sentiment built on social media, THQ Nordic's Twitter account sent out a cryptic update that seemed to imply the company was approached by an 8chan user about holding and moderating the AMA on the board.
"The opportunity was here and we took it, we got apporached [sic] in a very friendly and polite manner and were assured, said person (shoutout to Mark) will take care of the nasty stuff. so, here we are," the tweet read.
In a follow-up email, we asked Brock about instances where he interacted with 8chan users -- one instance where a user asked about "big tiddie lolis" (i.e. underage girls with large breasts) in THQ Nordic games, and another where he appeared to assure a user not to be influenced by "SocJus crowd" (the user's words, not Brock's).
Brock told Gamasutra, "I fucked up and well…It is strange to have to say this, but I’ll do [it] nevertheless: I am not a white supremacist, nor into child pornography, nor do I think this AMA was smart in hindsight and if I could, I would undo it."
"'We’ll try to stay that way' was in relation to us not censoring our games, not the SJW part, but I guess at this point, people write their own stories and yes, everything I have said can and will be used against me," he said in regards to his response to a user who said, "please don't censor any games nor appeal to the SocJus crowd. You guys are doing fine as is."
THQ Nordic has been ramping up its growth recently, picking up new game properties, studios, and issuing new shares to fund even more acquisitions.