Majesco’s Baller Beats Twitter drama continues: company may have misled investors
The Penny Arcade Report looked into the highly suspicious Twitter behavior of the official account for Majesco’s NBA Baller Beats. I was promised updates while Majesco looked into how it came into possession of one of the largest Twitter accounts in gaming without purchasing followers, but communications with the company fell to nothing after the story ran. Why follow the story? The high Twitter count was used to impress investors on an earnings call before the game’s launch. Yikes.
Let’s take a look at what has happened since, and why the emails executives sent don’t match the bravado of the company’s CEO.
In the past two weeks…
First, an update on what has happened to the NBA Baller Beats Twitter account since the story ran.
As before, I ran the account through Status People’s Twitter tool to dig into the quality of followers, and used Twitter Counter for follower count. My own stats haven’t shifted much, my followers are 67% good, 30% inactive, and 3% fake. The data for the NBA Baller Beats account, on the other hand, has seen some massive changes. Suddenly 41% of its followers are good, 36% are inactive, and 23% fake. In the time since the article was written, fake followers have increased 8%, while the inactive followers have fallen by 44% and good followers have increased by 36%. That’s a seismic shift from the original data, and it’s likely due to the loss of around 180,000 followers that happened after the story’s publication.
For reference, the biggest shift in the Assassin’s Creed account in the same time frame was an 11% increase in good followers, and in the Call of Duty account there is only a 1% shift in fake and inactive followers. That’s across a two week period, and it’s interesting to note that Ubisoft recently held a large press event for Assassin’s Creed 3, with a resulting blitz of information and hands-on previews. That’s the sort of PR move you’d expect would result in a bump in good followers.
We’ve tracked the number of followers on the NBA Baller Beats account, and you see that it peaks on September 10, when the game was released and my first article was published. After that followers began to drop. The account has lost about 180,000 followers since the article went live, around 25 percent of all followers to the account. Here are the updated stats for the account:
The team at Majesco was in contact with me the night of the article’s publication. “Please be assured that my team and I will be working through the night trying to learn more details and we will share with you everything we discover. We have already contacted all of our partners’ IT teams and will convene a formal group tomorrow to compare information. I realize this is still limited detail, but we are confident enough at this point regarding the numbers you’re referencing that I wanted to give you an immediate heads-up,” Kevin Ray, the head of development at Majesco said via email on September 10. “Please feel free to contact me at any time if you’d like to discuss further or for an update on our progress.
The reason given for the giant leap of followers that led to NBA Baller Beats having what could be the most popular Twitter account in the business? Contests. “I think the growth is probably due to the Twitter contest we announced around the same time as the inflection point you see in their graph,” Ray explained. “We’ll purge fakes tomorrow and update you, but since we came up with this hypothesis a few hours ago we are digging up a ton of supporting evidence. I’m sure there are still fakes, but there is no statistical anomaly here. We are on par with our industry especially when comparing 90-day moving averages coinciding with re-tweet style contests.”
“I am quite happy to share with you every piece of data that we get in its raw form and allow you to perform your own analysis,” he continued. “But again, I am very confident that neither Majesco nor any of our partners or vendors automatically created accounts.” No responses were given when I followed up asking for the information they found.
“We honestly did not look into any of this until you questioned our numbers,” Christina Glorioso, Majesco’s CMO, said in an email. “We immediately addressed and it’s taken us hours overnight to uncover what’s really going on,” She claimed the bump in followers was due to multiple contests and tweets from official NBA accounts.
I asked if their official explanation for the amazing Twitter growth was those contests and re-tweets. “As with every dev group, we honestly feel that the marketing department should be stripped of all bonuses, travel & entertainment expenses, and office supplies, and those funds should be applied to marketing our game!” Ray told me. In other words, apparently they felt the game could use more marketing, despite beating out Call of Duty on social media.
I’ve followed up a few times with both individuals to see if there was any update, and none of my emails were ever answered. People asked what the importance of Twitter followers could be to a company, and a reader sent in information from Majesco’s last earnings call, which also took place on September 10. Majesco’s CEO used the Twitter numbers as a selling point to investors on the day before the product launched. “We have over 4 million views of our prelaunch videos on YouTube and close to 700,000 Twitter followers, which is more than any other video game franchise or platform, and the game hasn’t even launched yet,” he said.
There is a huge disconnect here. In my emails Majesco claimed they wished marketing had more resources to get the game out there, while the CEO was bragging to investors about running one of the most successful marketing campaigns in gaming history. That’s the sort of thing that can move stock prices, and if there was any evidence of fraud it could explain the end of communication with the press.
How big of a deal is this?
I spoke with PR consultant Ed Zitron to discuss Twitter results, without bringing up Majesco or the NBA Baller Beats account. I wanted to know what he thought about a PR campaign that was able to bring hundreds of thousands of followers. “It would be a huge deal,” he said.
So, what if I told him someone claims to have done it? “Bullshit,” he responded without pausing. C’mon, it can’t be that bad, right? You run a few contests, get attention from high profile Twitter accounts, and you’re there. That’s how Majesco described it to me. He disagreed. “Twitter is a nightmare. Contests don’t get you followers. I’ve had tweets get 600 retweets and got about five new followers. And then something retweeted 40 times and got 14. It’s unpredictable and liquid.”
Zitron’s quotes confirmed something I already knew: there is no way anyone in the gaming business could have gained almost 700,000 Twitter followers for a Kinect sports game without either being incredibly proud of the result, or extremely skeptical of the numbers. Being told that the numbers were only looked at after I brought them to the attention of Majesco makes no sense, especially when the CEO of the company is using those stats to energize investors on an earnings call, and bragging about having “more than any other video game franchise or platform.” There was no one curious about how that happened? No parties for a marketing department that did the impossible?
I asked Zitron if there was any sure-fire way to get those results. “You can just buy followers,” he said. It’s simple to do, but of course Majesco adamantly denies any wrongdoing… at least they did so the last time they were willing to talk about this issue.