My Dear Brian,
I chuckle at the thought of your first reaction to this letter — I am almost certain that you opened the envelope expecting to be fired, due to “thought-crimes” or other some such accusations of disloyalty to Ubersoft. In fact, I am pleased to tell you the truth of the matter is quite the opposite: you are being promoted.
Yes, your recent questions regarding our methods of doing business have drawn plenty of attention. And yes, in many instances such questions are grounds for termination of employment. In fact, in most instances, such questions are grounds for termination immediately… this ensures that the Ubersoft Marketing division functions as a single unit, with no appearance of dissension ever reaching the public’s eye.
Your questioning, however, has been different from the norm. It shows a unique desire to find the methods behind the apparent madness of our industry. It shows a desire to learn, and the ability to accept the consequences of possessing that knowledge.
That is why you are receiving this letter.
Everyone who works in our industry long enough eventually faces what amounts to nothing less than a crisis of the spirit. Every young executive eventually comes face to face with the inevitable questions of our industry: why do we operate the way we do? Why do we promote products, for example, that we haven’t even begun to develop? Why do we create products of poor quality when it is not appreciably difficult to create products of good or even excellent quality? Why do we habitually lie to our customers when it’s been shown that being truthful to and fostering a positive relationship with them creates much stronger consumer loyalty?
Anyone of any moderate intellect can see that something is strange about our industry: we get away with practices that would never be considered permissible in, say, the automobile industry. We promise to deliver products to market quickly, and after we have delivered them years behind schedule, we claim to have actually done so.
And people believe us.
And the money we spend on these tactics is unbelievable! Ubersoft has hired an army of lawyers and public relations firms to keep our reputation strong despite the years, even decades of broken promises, unmet expectations, and empty, meaningless hype.
So it is only natural–in fact it is obligatory–for people in our line of business to begin to question why we do the things we do, and why we don’t do the things we claim we will.
There is no reason, for example, that Ubersoft cannot be the company we claim to be. Our programmers are more than capable (when not indulging in excess), our marketing machine is top-notch, our resources are indescribably vast… if we so chose, we could create quality products that far outstripped our competitors. They could in fact be the stable, reliable, mission-critical systems we advertise them to be. And with our already vast resources, we could lock down and control this market in a way that would not raise the suspicions of the Department of Justice… we could be a legal monopoly, and continue to be rich.
You reached this realization a few months ago, Brian, just as everyone in your line work does at some point in his or her career. And you began to wonder why, and you tried to find answers. And then you reached the place that everyone does: the crossroads. You were faced with one of four possible conclusions, and you chose.
Some choose to continue forward as though nothing was wrong: to believe, in effect, the hype rather than the truth. These are the deluded, and they are useful only because they are loyal. They continue down their path, content that everything they see is real, content that we really do produce the best software on earth, that nothing is ever better than this, that our excuses are real. They never advance beyond a certain point. They work as advocates, PR representatives, and middle-managers.
Some decide that the reason we do what we do is to ensure that we sustain our market. If we created stable products, they reason, people would no longer need to buy new computer software, and we would be out of business. This is a ludicrous position, of course: when you solve a problem, that problem changes. Creating a database that reliably stores a certain kind of data also creates a market for using that data in a way no one has ever used it before… and thus there is impetus to extend that application, and there is still demand for a new release.
Some come to believe we are too short-sighted to understand the advantages of sacrificing short-term gain in order to cultivate greater long-term benefits. This is an understandable position; all actions point to it. We certainly squeeze every nickel we possibly can out of the market, we ruthlessly exploit our competitors and force them into nearly untenable agreements that give us every benefit and saddle them with every responsibility. We inflate prices when we can, and undercut all competitors to ensure that even if we cannot pad our profits we can at least maximize them by forcing everyone to buy solely from us.
Some, however, see beyond our apparent acts of folly, and suspect something more. They see the intellect of the people involved and feel it incongruous that individuals of such obvious mental acumen would not be so fundamentally stupid. So what, then, would account for our activities?
Some believe we are simply arrogant, and believe ourselves untouchable. This is an easy assumption to make, since many (even most) of us do display arrogance in our day to day interactions with the unwashed sea of humanity. But we are not arrogant because we believe we have already won… we are arrogant because we see who oppose us, and know that victory is inevitable.
Others believe we are paranoid, to such a degree that we cannot allow anyone or anything to prosper at our perceived expense. This, too, is an easy assumption to make — because it is, to a certain extent, correct. We are paranoid, and we do not want anyone else to prosper at our expense. But we are not paranoid because we feel that any company can rise up and bring us to our knees (though we may say so on camera or before a judge or Congressional hearing)… we are paranoid because it is natural and healthy for successful captains of industry to be so.
Most of the people who reach this point settle on either of the two possibilities as “the truth,” and go no further. They are content in believing that we are either arrogant, or paranoid, or both, and accept those traits as our motivation. Some continue to work for us, and are useful… there is always a need for the cynical and amoral in every organization. Some even attain high-level positions within our organization. Some embrace the arrogance, or paranoia, some laugh at it, and some simply ignore it and get on with their lives. But all of them believe they understand why we are what we are, and on that level they are satisfied.
But they are wrong.
And then there are some, a very few, an exceedingly rare breed of men and women who are not content with this explanation. They try to look further, to look beyond all appearances. They see that we do what we do, and see the drive and dedication we have, and they realize that this drive is not petty… so why would it be focused on such petty acts of mercenary economic warfare? These are the people that see our motives without actually understanding our actions, and suspect that beyond all the pettiness, beyond all the cutthroat business, beyond all the short-sighted strategies and short-term goals, there is a grand design.
In short, they suspect that we know exactly what we’re doing. They suspect we have a master plan.
They are correct. You are correct. All your suspicions are correct… there is something more than what you’ve seen, there is a plan that I have laid out from the beginning. And you, Brian, will be a part of this plan. Many have suggested, and I agree, that you are ready to take the next step. To learn the secrets, and be part of our greater purpose.
In the next few weeks I will be sending you more letters, introducing you to the concepts and methods that we are using to put this plan into effect. When I am done with my tutelage you will be one of an elite few who are actually steering the course of our industry, and by extension, the world.
Welcome, Brian. Learn your lessons carefully, and do not tell anyone what you read here. If the world were to learn what you will, all would be undone.
The Dark Lord of Ubersoft