I just read Joel’s piece, Mouth Wide Shut, on whether it’s a good idea to pre-announce software you’re working on. His policy is to announce nothing in advance, in order to keep things simple, avoid wasted publicity for stuff you can’t buy, keep competitors in the dark, and prevent the embarrassment of making promises you can’t keep. That makes sense to me.

One industry that kind of provides the reductio ad absurdum argument about what can happen when you announce things before they’re read is the game industry. Companies that make games inevitably get bit for talking about release dates that are never met and features that never make it into games. At the same time, the game industry hype machine is crazy. There are people who spend a lot more time obsessing over games that they may someday get to play than actually playing games, I would guess. Even so, nothing brings down a landslide of negative attention more swiftly than not delivering promised features.

I don’t know whether you’re familiar with Dark Age of Camelot, but it’s an MMORPG, and by virtue of that has the most vitriolic customer base you can imagine. (I don’t know why MMORPGs have this sort of relationship with their customers, but they all do.) There were some features that were talked about before release that never made it into the game, but at the same time, there are tons of features in the game that were never imagined, and the game has evolved a lot so many of those features are probably no longer even relevant. In spite of that, there are some people who play the game that are complaining about those missing features, even though they literally have not even been discussed by Mythic for months. The moral of the story? Customers never, ever forget and they certainly never forgive. My vote is for keeping your mouth shut.