Celebrating 11 years of hard work at one of the fastest growing publishers in the game industry this month, Pete Hines, Bethesda’s vice president and head of PR and marketing, has grown his solo operation into a globally operating department. Right before diving into the recent launch of Fallout: New Vegas, Hines took the time to share his stories on building his team, his own philosophies on PR and how a genuine approach can sell more copies.
Filtering out the ego
Hines started out at Bethesda in 1999 doing the marketing and PR together with one of the company’s artists. As his team grew into the massive department it is today, with multiple foreign offices and a global presence, Hines sought only to bring in people that have the right personality. “There are a lot of people out there with the right skillset, but we have a very specific way of doing things at Bethesda,” Hines explains. “Which is really a reflection of my way since I was the only one doing anything for a while.” With every single person Hines added to his team, he made sure that the newcomer knew his methods and was a perfect fit within the team itself. The result is Hines’ continuing legacy to the company, a well-oiled marketing & PR machine that only selects the best people fit for the job when needed, where needed.
“When the going gets tough, and it starts to hit the fan, you find out real quick who you can rely on and who you can’t,” Hines explains. ”My approach has been to find the folks that I really enjoy working with and that I know that I can trust. Who are not only smart, who are not out there to grab all the glory or have a huge ego that has to be managed. I think that has served us well in kind of keeping that same feel from when it was just three or four people.”
The growth of his department not only changes Hines’ position, but his approach to his work. Once the guy who spent most of the day talking to Bethesda’s community on forums and really being down in the grassroots, things inevitably had to change over the years. “I have to accept that I can’t spend all my time doing that anymore,” Hines admits. “But I’m certainly missing that. It was something I always felt I was pretty good at and I certainly enjoyed, but I can’t run a global department like that.”
Despite all those changes, Hines is still a well-recognized figure within the international game press community. “I still stay pretty involved in the different areas that I used to manage minute to minute,” he adds. “I’m just not the one doing it minute to minute.”
Instead Hines tries to spend more time coaching and helping members of his department. In that aspect, Hines remains a strong believer in the philosophy “if you want to do something well, you have to do it yourself.” “I’ve tried to step aside and let folks take more of a lead role in a lot of stuff,” he adds.
Like Franky said
Even though the department has grown, Hines has made sure that his philosophy and approach have remained intact within his department’s culture. “I sort of do what I do and try to do things a certain way,” Hines states. “I have a personal philosophy to PR. I really try to do things that stay true to the development of the game. I really am not a big fan of the ‘cheesy.’ I am not a big fan of beating our own chests or telling everybody how great we think we are. I’m a big believer in ‘walk softly and carry a big stick’.” Though Hines never discussed his approach extensively with fellow peers, press or fans, it’s hard not to think that the attitude he has fostered within the PR department at Bethesda has become a kind of a pleasant rarity for many members of the game press to deal with. “I’ll be pretty candid about our own stuff. More importantly, I kind of tend to err on the side of providing information and letting everybody else draw their own opinions and conclusions. That’s my own take on how to do things.”
After all this time doing things his own way, Hines acknowledges there are plenty of people in the industry who do a good job in PR by constantly trying to grab the spotlight or referring to their products as the next big thing. “I just have very specific ideas of what’s right and wrong,” he explains. “I have a very strong opinion that we should never comment on or criticize anybody else’s stuff unless what we have to say is positive. I play plenty of games that are terrible and drive me crazy, but who am I to go and tear down somebody else’s product? I have my own business, I pay attention to what I’m doing and what my company is working on. I let everybody else worry about their own stuff. They don’t need me commenting on their game any more than I need them commenting on mine. I see lots of people out there commenting on other people’s stuff, but that’s just not how I think it should be done. Over the years, I think our attitude has struck a chord with folks. They appreciate that. I don’t know, maybe I should probably ask them, but it’s certainly nice to have a good rapport with the people in the industry, be that fans, press or whomever.”
There are certain things that Hines is not prepared to do in order to sell another copy of a game. Having a big mouth or offering his opinion unasked are two of them. “That’s not who I am and I’m not going to be someone that I’m not trying to sell products,” Hines argues. “I tend to believe that most folks can see right through what you’re doing and can tell right away whether it’s genuine.” This preference for a genuine approach admittedly reflects his desire for the rest of the industry. “Do I wish other people would act that way? I certainly see folks doing stuff that makes me cringe,” Hines admits. “Why would they say that? Why would they do that? Yet, at the end of the day, it’s none of my business. […] It’s no more up to me to tell somebody how to make a game, than it is to tell them how they should do PR.”
It should be clear by now that Pete Hines is someone who can appreciate a sincere approach to PR. “I’d like to see more folks in the industry who genuinely love games and what games are about,” Hines admits. “You can’t fake that kind of knowledge, insight and passion.[…] You can tell when somebody is talking about shooters and really gets it, versus when they’re just reading off the back of their competitor’s box and really not having a clue what the difference is between Modern Warfare and Left 4 Dead.” Hines would indeed like to see more of a genuine aspect in the general activities surrounding PR. In his own experience dealing with the public, he has realized that half-hearted attempts and the lack of any knowledge and passion to the medium is no longer invisible to the public.
According to Hines, the experience of consumers starts in the initial promotion of a game. “Your first experience with Fallout: New Vegas isn’t really the moment you put the disc in,” Hines argues. “It’s all the times you interact with the game before it comes out, whether it’s the trailer that you see or the website you go to. All of that is a part of your experience of that game. Seeing more cases where that experience is tied hand in hand with the experience of the game makes it feel much better to the fans and ultimately makes it much more effective.”
The challenge of making a game and getting it out to the public has kept Hines fascinated in his work for more than a decade. “I don’t need something entirely new or different to do,” he admits. “Every time, it’s fun, new and different. No two games are the same, even when you do the same two games in the same series.” Hines had one of his biggest challenges in the launch of Fallout 3 , which not only demanded a rather strategic approach to both the development and promotion of the game, but had him traveling the world to inform a vivid community of fans what Bethesda was doing with the game. “We had a very specific idea about how we wanted to talk about that game and present it to the public. […] It was long and exhausting, but I think it was really well executed, and I think it had a lot to do with how big the game ultimately ended up being.”
Hines recently promoted Fallout: New Vegas, developed by Obsidian Entertainment, which was released on October 17, 2010.
Vlad Micu is managing editor of Gamesauce.org. He previously has been a freelance game industry professional for over five years and traveled around the world while running his company VGVisionary. Starting VGVisionary during college, Vlad was able to work independently as a pr & marketing consultant, event manager, industry journalist, speaker and game developer. He just returned from Bangkok, Thailand, where he pursued his dream of making video games as the game producer at arkavis, an up and coming casual game studio.