The PR tempest in a teapot born of one misused gamer and shockingly bad customer support seems to have mostly run its course, leaving a one-man PR firm in apparent shambles and a unique video game controller accessory struggling to survive.
The issue came to light today when emails between Kotaku reader Dave and Paul Christoforo, the president of PR firm Ocean Distribution, were sent around to a number of sites including Kotaku. In them, Christoforo antagonizes, name-calls and belittles customer Dave after being asked why his order for an Avenger controller was delayed.
The obnoxious response gets worse once Christoforo begins name-dropping websites including Kotaku, IGN and Penny Arcade. Eventually, Christoforo seemed to go nuclear, calling out most of the sites he originally said he was pals with and name calling folks including Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik who proceeded to ban Christoforo permanently from the Penny Arcade Expo.
As news of the exchange began to spread, gamers began to attack Christoforo and the Avenger controller.
Earlier today we reached both Avenger Controller maker N-Control and The Hand Media, the folks who handled marketing for the controller prior to Christoforo, for comment.
Christoforo, we're told, is no longer working with N-Control. Effective today, the company is now doing all of their marketing with a new marketing manager who works directly for the company.
"We apologize for our poor representation from Ocean Marketing," David Kotkin, the owner and inventor of Avenger Controller told Kotaku. "We wanted to give Paul a chance. He was rough around the edges, but he had drive and enthusiasm. However his behavior was unprovoked, unnecessary, and unforgivable. We are no longer represented by Ocean Marketing."
Brandon Leidel, CEO and Director of Operations for The HAND Media, Inc., wasn't as kind about Christoforo and his outburst.
Leidel said that his company was initially hired to market the new controller, something they did up until earlier this year. He said that The Hand Media found themselves increasingly having to deal with customer flak over delayed shipping, and that it was becoming overwhelming.
"Then Paul came in and said 'I know this guy at Gamestop. I know this guy at Best Buy," Leidel said. "They saw dollar signs and decided to start working with him. We decided to walk away from this because it was a nightmare dealing with their problems and this guy Paul."
Leidel describes Christoforo as a "rogue marketing guy" someone who operated without any rules and never checked in with The Hand Media about what he was doing.
"He was representing the company in a way I wasn't comfortable with," Leidel said. "I brought this up a few times and said I cant have this guy representing the company and not have any control."
Eventually, Leidel decided to walk away from what he called a lucrative marketing contract over Christoforo's behavior.
N-Control's new marketing manager, Eli Schwartz, spent today trying to do damage control and deal with a flood of what he believes are unwarranted negative ratings for the Avenger on Amazon.
"At this point I'm just trying to point out that, what was said was someone who we hired, what he said should not reflect on the product itself," he said. "So far the Amazon rating on the Avenger has gone from 4 and 1/2 to 1 star in around 8 hours. None of the reviews are true, they all just appeared today out of pure hate trolling."
Schwartz added via Twitter that Christoforo is now "out of business."
A search through Florida's public Department of State Division of Corporations database reveals that Kotkin and Christoforo are listed as officers in a company called Afternoon Artists. Afternoon Artists was registered this July.
Schwartz said he has been receiving a lot of questions about that connection.
"David (Kotkin) said it was a LLC for a charity that was never actually created," he said. "He bought the name thinking Paul would be involved, but nothing came of it. The company never actually existed."
The real victim here appears to be The Avenger controller, a product, that while slightly over-priced, was both an interesting new way to game and a solution for some disabled gamers.