Indie Publisher’s “send nudes” Gaffe Highlights an Issue for Studios and Content Creators

Indie publisher Flynn’s Arcade appears to be in full damage control mode after its PR contact wrote an email inviting press and influencers to—among other things—“send nudes” as a favor for Steam keys.

The email, sent to content creators and press outlets including CodeWritePlay on Thursday, announced indie game Lone McLonegan and seemed to bounce around from the point-of-view of the game’s titular character to more formal PR speak to an eventual call-to-action in which the apparent attempt at humor goes off the rails.

“We would love it if you could try it out before and as a favor, if you could give us a little review/stream/tweet/TikTok-dance/send-nudes/acute-sneeze wherever you fix better with your time and target :)”

(Excerpt) Email from Press at FlynnsArcades dot com, 11/4/2021, 5:59 PM CT

Streamers and content creators took to social media to discuss the message.

“This you?” asked Twitch Ambassador Hannah Rutherford above a screenshot of the email in response to the publisher’s announcement of the game release. Rutherford went on in the thread to point out that sending this to female content creators—a group known to suffer disproportionate sexual harassment online—isn’t funny.

“Why is a game studio asking for me for nudes/ cute sneeze clips?” asked Lauren Clare, a voice actor and Twitch streamer in a Tweet.

“I think it’s disgusting and classic behind-the-scenes sexual harassment mentality,” Clare added in a Direct Message via Twitter.

Some Twitter users have suggested that—as both Flynn’s and the game’s development studio are based in Spain—cultural differences led to “send nudes” being used for humor without the writer anticipating any issues. This was not part of the company’s official response.

Flynn’s posted a message on Twitter Sunday, a version of which was emailed to the same recipients as the initial communication. In it, “Beatriz” takes responsibility for the decision and expresses that neither the studio nor the rest of the publishing team were involved with the message.

“I want to publicly apologize for the press release sent this past day to different media.

That sentence is completely out of place, I have no excuse and it was in very bad taste on my part. There are no buts, it is unacceptable.

I am sorry for the offense caused to all those who received it, but especially to the developer studio Lone McLonegan. They have worked on the game for 4 years with a lot of love and effort and do not deserve to be dragged into this controversy because of my bad work, which I repeat, has been my sole and exclusive responsibility.

Also to the studio where I work, Flynn’s Arcade that has blindly trusted me and has been working hard for many years with indie studios to be splashed by my malpractice and dragged into a criticism they do not deserve.

As responsible for communication, I accept each and every one of the angry reactions that may have caused the press release and criticism towards me for my bad work.

As a professional I feel crushed for not having measured the consequences of the phrase and personally I feel that I have offended many people by a phrase of such bad taste as the one I have used.

I will not put the studio’s seal because it does not deserve to be linked to me.

From here, my most heartfelt apologies to all parts that have been implicated. I am sincerely sorry.

Beatriz, Responsible for the press release sent from Lone McLonegan on behalf of Flynn’s Arcade.

Unedited response posted by Flynn’s Arcade and emailed to the original message’s recipients

Despite the phrasing of the signature beneath the message, Flynn’s clarified in a Tweet that Lone McLonegan developer Sonomio Games did not write or approve the communication in question. For its part, Sonomio expressed it’s frustration with the surprise email in a series of tweets on Sunday.

We trusted our publisher on marketing and communications and we had no idea about that email but we’re very sorry that you may have received this in our name.

We’re completely devastated right now.

Sonomio Games via @LoneMcLonegan

Other Twitter users in the industry had advice on how indies can avoid similar issues or handle one after it occurs.

“For future ref, make sure to check over any PR that goes out for your games,” said Playtonic Games designer and former engagement director Daley Johnson in a Tweet. “A quick 2 min read could’ve avoided this.”

Johnson said that after an event like this, sending out a clarification email (when possible) may be the right move.

Sonomio has since clarified that it was not consulted about the message and does not have access to the email list to follow up with recipients.

While reception for Lone McLonegan seems positive and the issue is unlikely to seriously harm the game, it uncovers a couple of points to which developers may want to have a written agreement with publishers:

  • Studios may want to insist on the opportunity to approve mass communications from the publisher
  • Studios may want to insist on a “professional tone” clause, or even more specific boundaries about what is said on the studio team’s behalf

Lone McLonegan released to positive reviews November 3 on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

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