Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight. This month we talk to Stefano Petrullo, Founder & CEO at Renaissance PR
You started your career as a games journalist in the nineties. What’s your best story from the ‘golden years’?
I’ve got plenty from when I was at The Games Machine and Zzap64. When we reviewed Ultima 7, five of us had to play it constantly over the course of 24 hours, writing the review, grabbing screenshots and so on. Similarly, another time we had to transfer review code for a Team17 game to an Amiga through a modem at 2400 BPS. I mean, it took more time to download the game than it did to play it!
We’re on the eve of a console launch. How does this one differ from those you’ve seen before?
I’ve got to be honest and say I find the console wars that typically flare up rather boring, and I hope this is the last time we see them. That said, it’s interesting to see how the two platform holders are definitely heading in different directions this time – something I think can only benefit the consumer – and the timing of Amazon’s Luna announcement also seems significant.
Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction?
We are continuing to evolve as an industry, but it seems we’re still not able to learn from our past mistakes (games delays, budgeting errors). And there’s a large amount of toxicity floating around at the moment, with disagreements being amplified and politicised on Twitter. On the positive front, however, the industry is definitely getting more diverse compared to other, older sectors, and that can only be a good thing.
You spent almost seven years at Ubisoft. What did you learn?
Lateral thinking, ethical practices in PR, and the fact that huge, multinational publishers can and indeed do listen to their employees. I have incredible memories of working with both the central corporate and product PR team in both France and Montreal, as well as the old guard in the UK office – which now boasts the incredible Stefan McGarry, who I am lucky enough to be able to call a friend.
With respect to your current role, what was your dream job?
I’d say I’ve ended up doing what I like doing the most – talking about video games. That said, I grew up clubbing back in Italy and, whilst I was editor at PC Zone, I was a resident MC every Friday and Saturday night at a local nightclub. I would have loved to have become rich and famous doing that if I’m honest.
What are the biggest PR challenges today?
I always say discoverability is key, as well as adapting to the continuous shifts within the industry. More broadly, however, since Renaissance’s inception in 2015, we have invested in two things; tools and people. Tools that help to gather and analyse data – media coverage, content creator output, etc – and people that have the talent to make connections with journalists and content creators at both local and global levels.
What was the funniest single moment of your career to date?
Back in the 90s, I almost got arrested coming back from ECTS because I’d bought a Star Trek Next Generation Phaser type II replica that, on the X-Ray machine at Heathrow, looked like a gun. The funniest part is, when I was asked to explain what was in the box, I simply said it was “just a toy”, which they seemingly misinterpreted as a sex toy. I’ll let you imagine the faces of the armed police at the airport as they opened the posh red velvet box with the United Federation of Planets gold insignia embossed on the top.