As someone who works in games media, I’m often asked by friends and colleagues whether I’m excited for whatever big releases might be coming up. My answer, however, often surprises people (should I choose to be entirely truthful).
The truth of the matter is there are very few games I genuinely get “hyped” for. Which sounds kind of weird, I guess?
Obviously, I enjoy games. It’s just that there is so much media saturation in the games industry nowadays, it’s hard to remain excited when you are exposed to so much of a game before it’s released (unless I go on a media blackout.)
Gaming news sites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch… The ways in which we can access games media is indeed remarkable, but also kind of troubling. From my experience working in the industry, marketing agencies today seem to be much more concerned about exposure rather than building anticipation. I mean, sometimes I even receive links to multiple trailers for the same game in a single day; a marketing practise, which, for the record, really grinds my gears.
I thought it might just be me, though. It’s fair to assume someone exposed to games media every day might fatigue more quickly. However, from talking with others about how I feel, this definitely seems to be a problem across the board, for all types of player demographics, not just myself—and especially when it comes to the bigger AAA releases.
From what I learned from others, it was either games that were announced way too far in advance or cases where too much gameplay was shown prior to the game’s release—leaving literally no opportunity to anticipate the game, as there was basically nothing left to anticipate other than playing it for yourself.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to confuse transparency with marketing poise, as the latter is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s been inherently good from my experience.
Allowing players a means by which to directly interact with both publishers and developers is the best thing to have come out of this modern era, as we have only now stepped beyond that awkward period in games development where publishers would insist they knew what the fans wanted—which, of course, as history shows, was rarely the case. Without a doubt, we’re now getting some of the best games ever made because developers are listening to player feedback.
However, the question remains: is the current attitude towards games marketing a problem, or just a modern reality?
Anyone in their 20s or older would likely remember a time where written content reigned supreme—a time where we only had the occasional preview or screenshot to bide us through until a game launched. In that era of gaming, it was easy to get carried away with hype, but I guess ignorance and hyperbole go hand in hand. Notably, though, it was also a time where reviews were more than recommendations as you had no other way to know if a game was trash.
However, let’s face facts, there were definitely a lot more shit games being released in those days (full retail priced games, anyway). In fact, it was far from the “golden era of gaming” that the nostalgic heart inside me would have me believe. Although, the anticipation I felt then was much more intense, and I don’t think it’s just because I was younger.
I’d assume the question you would want to ask me by this point is, “Well, what games are you actually hyped about then?” And the answer is kind of unusual. The only upcoming games that come to mind are Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian, and Persona 5. I still look forward to plenty of titles, but this is not to be confused with “hype.” For these three games, in particular (all of which are Japanese-developed), I get excited whenever there is a slither of new info.
Why it’s unusual is because I’ve been anticipating each of these games for the better part of a decade. However, no matter how much I see of them, I still have no idea what to expect from the final product. The way the media has been handled (admittedly very poorly at times) has never gotten to a point where I felt like I’ve seen so much that I no longer have anything left to look forward to. I’m not saying these games will be great, just that they all have me very curious.
I’m sure someone must be thinking, “Why not No Man’s Sky then, with that logic?”—which certainly hasn’t been over-explained or oversaturated. I know it’ll feel deflated for some because of all the delays since the announce, but, based on the games mentioned above, that’s obviously not an issue for me. It’s simply the fact that no matter how much of the game I see, I still don’t know what it is you do exactly. I’m less curious, and more frustrated by how unclear it all is.
With the majority of AAA games, and even some indies, by the time launch has come around, I’ve already seen a ton of trailers, gameplay demos, ads, TV spots, etc. Not to mention video reviews that will either beat the same b-roll footage to death or further spoil parts of the game that could still be a surprise. When I finally play the game, there is almost nothing left to surprise me. It’s not that the game itself is any less enjoyable, per se, it’s that it’s not as exciting.
I guess it makes sense now why I founded a site specialised in written content, as I generally prefer discussion. I find simply talking about something with others promotes the best kind of hype. Which brings me to what I love most: E3.
E3 is the time of year where everything has that new car smell. It’s not without low points, of course, but it’s often where we learn about a new game for the first time or get our first big glimpse of something we’ve been waiting for—that perfect moment in time before the marketing campaigns swoop in to ruin it. I live for those “bombshell” moments!
At the end of the day, I think finding the best kind of hype is ultimately about balancing knowing too little and knowing too much. If you know too little, great games risk being missed, and that’s not good. However, if you know too much, there is nothing left to be excited for. I don’t think oversaturated marketing is going to go away anytime soon, either, so the realisation I’ve come to, and something I’ve seen more and more people doing, is voluntarily going on a media blackout. Which basically means choosing to abstain from excessive video coverage, gameplay footage, and trailers.
I’m not going to lie and say I don’t yearn for the old days of games media sometimes, both as a gamer and as an industry member. However, the transparency that the rise of digital distribution had brought about, is, without a doubt, the best thing to happen to games development, and I don’t think I’d now be willing to trade that for nostalgia. Sure, my hype might not be what it used to be, but I am playing better quality games a lot more often due to these changes.
For now, I’m okay with dealing with oversaturated media; if only because I appreciate the other shifting paradigms in the industry. Media blackouts might just have to be a thing, and, of course, we can always look forward to E3…Right?