For example, we get a lot of industry tips from people who call themselves insiders. They know a guy who works at a place, or they used to work for a place, that sort of thing. Sometimes we get names, but most times, we don't. That's when we start investigating. We'll ping the tipster, prowl around Linkedin, search Twitter, and contact the studios involved. Very often, the studios will be quick with a response because if there's going to be a PR trainwreck, they may as well get out in front of it rather than make it worse by ignoring us and hoping we don't print rumors.
Rumors, ug. I hate rumors. They're a minefield of epic proportions. If we think a rumor is legit or interesting, we'll usually use the word "rumor" five million times in the post, but that won't stop someone from informing us that we're violating whatever he happens to think our content format should be. (That format, for the record, includes rumors properly labeled as such, and that's true of basically all pop culture blogs on the internet.)
But sometimes we just can't verify a source. Sometimes a tip will sound shady as heck to begin with, but other times, the tip is just something that a studio refuses to comment on and we can't prove any other way. (It's weird, but the more a studio ignores our polite investigatory emails, the more likely the rumor is to be true -- and the more I want to run it.) The anonymity of the tipster is usually the deciding factor. For example, we recently received tips about a studio merger, tips we were unable to verify but suspected were true, but the tipster wanted to remain anonymous, meaning that ultimately, our only real source was "some guy on the internet." Contrast that with something like Funcom's layoffs, which were clarified directly by a Funcom rep.
I won't pretend that deciding whether something is legit and something you guys want to hear about is easy. It's not. It's a judgment call, and like everyone, we judge wrong sometimes. We'll do our best, though.
Here's another type of tip we get: the angry letter better aimed at a game's support staff than at us. Tipsters will direct us to long rants, forum threads, and form-letter support tickets concerning their customer service incident. Sometimes we just blink at these, wondering what to do with them, as we are not, in fact, in a position to investigate or bring justice to the perpetrator of every MMO studio slight known to man. Very occasionally, a support or gameplay issue is widespread enough that it's newsworthy or even columnworthy, no question about it. But most of the time, that just isn't so. Imagine if we escalated everyone's personal issue with a game to the level of an article -- we'd have no time to do anything else!
We appreciate the tips -- all of them, even the ones we can't use. I don't want to discourage people from sending us stuff, even if I wish anonymous sources were less anonymous and we weren't thought of as the final arbiter of customer support. We may not print what you send, but we still like reading about the seedy underbelly of MMOland and placing bets on whether that whole llama thing is real. My money's on why not.
What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is there no edit button? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at email@example.com. Just ask!