In China, there are so many game companies filling the online space, meaning that marketing and hype has become somewhat problematic. Opting for the Blizzard method, some companies refuse to say anything, but in their silence comes the "uncle", the whistle-blower and rumor monger of China's gaming community. So who is this "uncle"?
NetEase, a company that Kotaku knows all too well (hi NetEase!), recently did a special report on the Chinese gaming "uncle", and how the rumor mill is now creating a vacuum of real gaming information for the Chinese community.
Back in January 2007 when World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade was released worldwide, Chinese gamers went online to speculate on the time when the expansion would hit China. Unhappy that they were getting the game later than the rest of the world, many gamers voiced their discontent online. Then suddenly in February 2007, a post appeared online in a Chinese forum.
The post read, "My 'uncle' works at the9 (then Chinese operating partner of WoW) and he says that there will be an update in the coming weeks."
After this was posted the user's account was immediately hidden to protect their identity. A few weeks after the original post showed up online, WoW was updated and the user id of the rumor poster unmasked. The poster was also granted a special forum badge called the "uncle" badge.
Thus, the "uncle" was created.
The creation of the "uncle" can be said to be both a boon and a bane to the Chinese online gaming community. Companies like Blizzard tend to give very little information prior to release, allowing "uncles" to give out information to info hungry fans. However at the same time many of these "uncles" turn out to just be rumor mongers creating disinformation.
According to NetEase, because the "uncle" has times where he is right, many people will listen to online posters who have an "uncle" badge. Now companies are beginning to exploit this trust between the online community and "uncles".
Some manufacturers use their "uncle" status to raise the audiences' expectations. They concoct all kinds of rumors and hype. According to NetEase this is, in a sense, destroying the spirit of information that "uncles" originally stood for...
This trend looks like it won't be stopping anytime soon—at least until, dare I say, somebody cries "uncle".