The most exciting time of the year for any gamer is the fall, when all our favorite series get their long-awaited sequels. Blockbuster series like Call of Duty, The Elder Scrolls, Assassin's Creed, The Legend of Zelda, Battlefield, Uncharted, and many others are launching new games this season, and with some serious fanfare. But all this excitement might actually be bad for your gaming. Here are five good reasons why you shouldn't believe the hype when gaming season rolls around. And no, we're not just talking about this gaming season. We're talking about every gaming season.
You Could Be Seriously Let Down
I think we've all experienced those games that promised to be awesome and were developed by the best people in the business, but managed to be pretty terrible regardless. One example that stands out for me was Haze. You might not remember it, but it was hyped for years as a shooter for the then-new generation of consoles. But it was awful. And it's not just new IPs that succumb to this. Highly-anticipated sequels like Duke Nukem Forever—and basically every Sonic game released in the past five years—have been promoted as the next big thing in gaming, but ultimately failed to deliver.
Hype Precedes Quality
Pretend you had never played a title from the Assassin's Creed series, never having even seen a commercial for it. If I came up to you and asked "Hey, how's that Assassin's Creed: Revelations game going to be?" You'd probably answer that you didn't know, that you'd have to play it first. However, if you ask someone who is a wild fan of the series, they'll probably tell you "That's going to be the best game of this year." In both cases, these people have never played the game, but the difference is that one has fallen victim to the hype.
It doesn't actually matter if a game is good or not. Fans will go out and buy it on day one, just because they have been told it is good, and they're willing to give the series they like the benefit of the doubt. They make their judgments prematurely, before they ever even put thumb to button.
Flaws Are Overlooked
It's unfortunate, but people are easily influenced, especially when you combine a massive amount of hype and affection for a series. Just look at Final Fantasy XIII. When the hype machine went into effect for this game, commercials, billboards, and every type of visual ad imaginable showed us Final Fantasy XIII's beautiful character art. The game's design was reminiscent of older Final Fantasy titles. And then when the game was finally released, fans went wild. Did they care about the excruciatingly linear level design? Not so much. And the ridiculously over-complicated story got criticized by reviewers, but the fans said they loved it all the same. The only thing these people cared about was that it was a Final Fantasy game. This meant that the hype machine worked, and the game's flaws were classified as side-notes rather than actual criticisms.
Hype Provides No Information
Like anyone who is excited for an upcoming game, I like to know as much about it as possible. This means reading previews, watching videos, and checking out unofficial Wikis. But when the hype machine starts going into overdrive, the visibility of a game goes way up while new information about the game gets released more slowly.
The recent Gears of War 3 launch illustrates this point. After several commercials showing the same in-game footage we'd already seen played over and over, the Discovery Channel aired a special two-part episode of American Chopper filled with Gears of War 3 branding. But was there any game footage? No. Aside from a few shots of Cliffy B, Gears of War 3 wasn't really even that meaningful to the episode. Sure, there was branding everywhere, and the episodes featured some old footage from Gears of War 2, but in the end it was just two hours of hype that didn't show us anything meaningful.
Hype Is Created to Drive Early Sales
Ten years ago, this type of game advertising oversaturation didn't exist. So what has changed? Well, for one, gaming is more popular than ever, so naturally the visibility of its advertising has grown as a result. However, the hype machine is about more than that. In this world of 12-month turnaround times and million-dollar budgets, companies use sales data from day-one and first-week sales to make decisions about a franchise's future. And in order to effectively get gamers to buy new games as soon as possible, the hype machine attempts to create a culture of "need it now" gamers. Do you really need to be a part of that system?
Unfortunately, hype is part of the gaming industry, and it's not likely to go away any time soon. But to be well-informed consumers, we need to understand how the hype machine works and keep in mind that just because ads, billboards, and commercials say something is awesome, that doesn't make it the best thing ever. You certainly don't have to buy it immediately. Even though Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is coming out soon—and you can bet advertisers will try to convince you that it's your obligation as a gamer to buy it immediately—you don't have to get it the second it hits store shelves. That's just hype, and you don't need to give in to it.
By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*