While video games are a huge time investment in the pre-production and development phases, there is really only one time period that matters. That is. of course, the time just before a game's release and actual debut. A good marketing campaign can make or break a video game before it even reaches the hands, consoles, or computers of its consumers. Much like the hype man that works hard into the depths of the night making sure the crowd's energy level stays at an all-time high, video game's “hype men” are the trailers, the screenshots, the interviews, the behind-the-scenes sneak peeks that all release before the game comes out. Some work out super well, and others... well, not so much.
The most fantastic example I can give on the sunny side of this to begin with is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Everything we saw about this game beforehand prepared us for what we'd see inside Aloy's world. We saw the glory, we're playing the glory, and we're so very glad for the glory to be real. On the flip side, the most obvious example in recent history, No Man's Sky. Personally, I had fun with this game. Yeah it was repetitive and sure the creatures weren't the giant hulking beasts I expected them to be, but I still enjoyed my time with it. The same point still remains however, the game is not what was advertised. Sony and Hello Games got a little wild and crazy with their marketing for the game, and fortunately for them/unfortunate for us, we all jumped on the hype train. I know I did, I bought No Man's Sky for full price when it first released.
There's a danger here that people were and still need to be talking about. Similar things have happened before on a smaller and less widely covered scale. Let's talk about Aliens: Colonial Marines for a moment. Yeah, remember that train wreck of a game? The original trailers for the game showed gameplay footage that never made it into the final game, due to differing developers having their hands on the it. Everyone got super psyched that we might finally be getting an Alien game that doesn't suck, but then guess what? It did. A product of unfortunate development issues certainly, but the let-down wouldn't have been so bad if not for the hype train blasting its way through first.
The most recent example of hype trains failing to deliver the precious cargo we were hoping for is Mass Effect: Andromeda. The internet is absolutely losing its mind over the many glitches and bugs affecting the game at the moment. There's the “android-esque” blank stare from one of the characters as she talks about how her “face is tired from dealing with everything.” Also floating around are gifs of characters whose legs seemed to have failed them catastrophically. As far as we've been concerned with the marketing surrounding Mass Effect: Andromeda, and the bevy of behind-the-scenes looks we've been privy to thus far, the game should be perfect.
The Mass Effect: Andromeda development team has said they're going to continue to perfect the game right up until it's pried from their cold dead hands, but that's still leaving us with the stomach in our throat feeling that the game might be bad. The intense flood of marketing for the game throughout its development, and especially close to the release date, has had us all climbing aboard that hype train hard once again. Here's hoping the destination station is as glamorous as we've been hoping all along. I'd rather not end up in bum-f*** nowhere Nebraska or something.
How do you feel about video game marketing and the magical smoke and mirrors effect it sometimes has on the eventual product? Do developers need to tone it down? Or do you enjoy the moments when the hype man cometh?