The Hype Cycle

I made up a new thing!

No, the Hype Cycle isn’t a cool motorbike that shoots lasers and slices of pizza. It’s what I’m starting to use to describe the trend in the gaming industry where publishers and media outlets generate hype for a game before it releases, and how those hyped games inevitably fail to deliver on the promises that were made in one way or another.

The Hype Cycle isn’t new, but it came to mind once I finished watching the trailer for the newly announced Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War.

In Come The Trailers

I’m reminded of No Man’s Sky‘s announcement and interviews with Sean Murray. With No Man’s Sky, the idea was that each player would experience a massive galaxy of star systems to explore, complete with the task of reaching the center of the galaxy. Looking back, it seems foolish in retrospect that I bought into the hype over No Man’s Sky; that I believed the marketing for it. That the procedural generation algorithm that Hello Games put into play would create memorable experiences for players.

No Man's Sky_20160814202018
Well, it’s memorable… Just not in the way they wanted it to be.

Obviously, No Man’s Sky didn’t deliver. It’s a serviceable game, but it didn’t make for the experience that it was hyped up to be.

Similarly, I remember the marketing for Destiny, which charged gamers to “Become Legend”.

Bungie’s goal for Destiny is to create nothing less than an action shooter sandbox in which you can experience practically any type of game you would ever want to experience. Part shooter, part MMO, part open-world action game, Destiny is hard to define succinctly, by design.  –Polygon

Bungie made promises that Destiny would be a gamechanger in the industry, melding MMO elements with the console space. Players would have the ability to do whatever they wanted to do, and would be able to drop into their friend’s game at will, complete with their ship swooping in to drop them off.

Most of what Bungie teased for Destiny – just like with Hello Games and No Man’s Sky – is technically in the game, just with much of the flair removed. No players getting dropped in by their ship, finding exotic weapons on the ground and using them immediately, enemy ships knocking over scenery, or being able to play Public Events whenever you want.

Another example? What about Rainbow Six: Siege?

Ubisoft showed a gameplay trailer for their tactical shooter featuring pre-match camera shots from a helicopter, the hostage panicking in front of the drone and begging for help, a helicopter insertion, the enemy team being able to move the hostage, traditional style Rainbow operatives, closed doors, being able to blast through floors, and being able to provide cover from adjacent buildings.

None of that made it into the final game, and that was supposedly gameplay footage.

Get Hyped!

So why am I ragging on released games that failed to deliver? Watch the gameplay trailer for Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War and listen to the commentary.

How much of the trailer is actually going to make it into the final product? Is an enemy that cheats death going to keep the wounds from their past battle with you? Are your minions going to really save you when you need them? Are the “stories” really stories, or just happenstance that you’d have to make note of for them to actually be considered stories? How much of the trailer was scripted?

“No two players of the game will experience the same story… [This is] one small example of the millions of unique stories players will create in Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War

The trailer depicting every element of the mission being both dynamic and unique reeks of PR BS. Yes, the mission will not play out the same for every player, but the same could be said for any other game. It’s a half-truth that exaggerates the facts to get people excited for the game. It doesn’t inspire confidence in me at least, knowing that they’re attempting to capitalize on hype and clever wording to score preorders.

So why do we keep allowing this type of marketing to work? The games never completely live up to the hype, thus completing the Hype Cycle. What sucks is that the Hype Cycle only continues because hype works, and even though the excitement never lives long after the launch of a game, the complaints are drowned out. People forget that they were duped and the next big thing takes the spotlight.

I personally just cringe whenever I see a “gameplay” trailer for an upcoming title now, especially once the PR speak starts. I’m just hoping that the day comes soon when a game can be shown off without hearing the used car salesman pitches.

What are your thoughts on the Hype Cycle? Are you buying into the Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War trailer? Do you like my MS Paint graphic? It took me a whole two minutes to make!

 

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6 thoughts on “The Hype Cycle

  1. This is the main reason I don’t preorder games unless it’s a title I know won’t disappoint me. (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Fallout)
    I wait to see what others feel about the game, check out the final product, and if it seems like something I could beat in a day and be bored with it until DLC, I usually wait a year to buy it so I can get it with all of the content for half the price of the original game without dlc. Arkham Batman games for example, fun to play, but nothing worth the day and a half it takes me to finish and get bored, worth the $25-40 dollars in entertainment.
    I played Destiny for the first year, and it was fun, never bought into the hype of it, it was the gameplay that I loved. However, the direction they were taking quickly killed it for me. As an adult, finding people to raid with and completing raids to get high level light gear that randomly could be 1-10 levels different and not the right stats was too much of a time sink I wasn’t going to stick around for. Even Blizzard using the same model has cut down the time and ease of getting into its end game content with WoW.
    Hype is also my deterrent of connecting with Nintendo products, they have developed a need of creating niche consoles, that follow gimmicks. I miss Zelda games, but I honestly haven’t played one since GameCube.
    If Nintendo ever published that game on Xbox or PlayStation in addition to whatever concept console they come out with, I would buy it, but I’m not about buying something with an odd controller or system design just because it’s their interpretation of gamings future. That and I’d basically be paying for a console where I’d only play maybe Zelda and a couple RPGs that sometimes only come out on Nintendo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. B-But the hype train has no stops!

    My ridiculous (what I sadly call) joking aside, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a rare game or any media that lives up to the hype, yet game developers are using this phenomenon to snare their consumers into buying subpar products…and it’s working. This goes along with my thoughts/feelings on how the name/brand sells (and again I think this branches into all media e.g. Stephen King could write a novel in ketchup on a napkin and he has a fan base that will buy it). It’s one of the reasons critique are so necessary, and why I won’t hold back even on my favorite franchises (the first of which is alliterative for those last two words) ESPECIALLY why, because we want games to improve. We don’t just want to buy them due to the name alone, though many do. It’s allowed large developers to become complacent, rest on their laurels, etc. It could also be why the indie game industry is growing to fill that void. Though I could see another cycle occurring where they make it big, become complacent, and fall into the same pattern, prompting a new indie industry to rise from their ashes.

    I feel like I didn’t quite go along with your original thought train, but rather a tangent. I hope there’s some value to the blathering mess above.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice! I know I’ve gone on about hype on my site, as well, and so will spare your innocent comment section the rundown of all my thoughts on the issue, but you raise good points here. It’s unfortunate that the tech culture we’re in so easily feeds onto the “hive mind” that hype seems to tap into (for any media). It seems like a self-perpetuating cycle: it sells products (a news outlet, a game, a movie, a book), and so it continues, but at some point I can only imagine that we will suffer from hype-fatigue and have to change how we handle things. We can’t always been existing in a state of hyper mental arousal.

    I also agree with The Shameful Narcissist that honest critiques, even of games that we like, are of paramount importance. If we want games to continue to improve, we need to look at them critically (and fairly), not just review them using a list of characteristics or praise them prior to release because of a name, an expectation, or a developer.

    In regards to Shadow of War, I’m tentatively hopeful, because I really love J.R.R. Tolkien, but Shadow of Mordor began to deviate from some of the “core” concepts of Tolkien-esque lore (again, another old post that I’ll spare your comment section haha). I’m nervous that it’s just going to turn into a crazy action-adventure game with orcs, instead of a story that could actual fit in the universe of LotR.

    Like

  4. It’s all about managing your expectations I think, especially when the hype comes directly from a dev/pub.

    I think No Man’s Sky did itself no favors though by being, at best, a passable title (I’d personally say less than passable). It promised the moon, kept promising the moon, and then delivered a meteor shard that had crashed to Earth. I’m more likely to forgive a piece of media for its hype of falsity if it is good (like say Fable II).

    I do think the hype train has gotten out of hand though. One of the problems with No Man’s Sky was that it was literally hyped to the moon and back before it came out. Years of hype with less than factual information set people up to believe the game was something it maybe never had a chance of succeeding as. Shadow of War at the very least is out in a few short months, it shouldn’t have the time to fill the air with falsehoods, and there is less likely a chance that major changes should take place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Expectation management is a big thing in life, though in games it can play a major role as well. I think the biggest issue with No Man’s Sky is that Sony really wanted it to be a system seller, so they let Sean Murray do his thing. What they didn’t realize I suppose was that even though he’s an indie developer and he isn’t part of their company, he had the potential to affect their image (which he did). No Man’s Sky is a perfect example of why developers themselves aren’t in charge of PR. Mr. Murray had his vision of what Hello Games’ title was, and perhaps it met their own expectations, but the public had a different view of it. That divergence made for the drama surrounding the No Man’s Sky launch.

      I think the biggest issue I have with Shadow Of War is that WB isn’t trying to temper their words at all in light of their previous screwups. Batman: Arkham Knight had a disastrous launch (especially on PC) and if their previous releases are any indication, Shadow Of War is going to have some pretty shameless DLC plans. My concern however is that Shadow Of War isn’t going to live up to the expectation that “stories” are going to play out in the way that they’re portraying it in the gameplay trailer, but will rather be similar to the way the Nemesis system worked in the first game. There won’t be narratives in the way that the trailer suggests, and I think gamers are setting themselves up for a disappointment.

      It still looks pretty damn fun though!

      Liked by 1 person

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