Wednesday, 16 October 2013

over exposure for new games kills the fun

Anyone who watches Annoyed Gamer over on might have heard Marcus Beer complaining about the way PR is handled for games today.  His point in a nutshell is that companies today release too much information to the point that when a major title is released you already know everything about it.

Look at any of the major titles coming later this year and you will find a plethora of material for it.  Assassin's Creed IV has so many trailers, behind the scenes, screenshots, gameplay footage and interview segments now the game has lost a lot of potential impact.  Picking any big title will net the same kind of results because publishers are so terrified of missing those sales they catch verbal diarrhoea and spoil everything about their game.  It's like being told about an awesome television series and then that same person just tells you everything that happens in each episode in painstaking detail, making it pointless to watch.  All the twists and turns, emotional highs and lows and shock moments are gone.

Watchdogs for instance is a title that should have very little exposure because it's premise alone makes it very interesting.  When it first announced we learnt that you are a mystery man with the technology in a smart phone capable of controlling any piece of tech in a city, in this case Chicago.  The E3 reveal footage showed us a brief gun battle, melee combat and some tricks you can use the phone for.  It was great and really that is all Ubisoft needed to get people hooked, but that air of mystery is slowly being eroded by the constant updates of new footage and other media.  The game will be ultimately fun but not that "oh snap" inducing as could have and would have been had they not spoiled everything months ahead of time.

Batman Arkham Origins is out in a couple of weeks time and Warner Bros. and gaming networks keep spoiling it for me personally.  I didn't want to know who the assassin's were, so that when I did come up against them in turn it would be a cool experience for the first time.  However gaming sites love to splash this information all over their pages regardless of your interests.  Now yes you could decide to ignore these sites to avoid such spoilers, but when you want to say learn about the recent comings and goings of Sony and Microsoft it becomes unavoidable.  They never give title their posts with "New Arkham Origins villain inside", not it's "Villain X confirmed with Y powers and Z reason for being in the story".  It's bloody irritating to say the least.

Suffice to say that many players do seem to want to digest any and all information about a new game before it's release, usually to bitch and whine about on the forums and have arguments about a game they haven't actually played yet.  I have often considered starting a piece about dumb forum threads related to unreleased games.  It's more of a youtube thing really, since being able to talk about it and read them out is more amusing.

Some games are totally fine to spoil.  Fighting games for instance don't need to have information locked away, in fact it works to their advantage to reveal details regularly to keep fans interested.  But a game with a story or interesting premise benefits from a little secrecy.  Imagine if Portal had been completely laid out in front of you before release, it wouldn't be half as engaging.  The jokes would certainly been ruined because no doubt you would have heard them in the trailers, gameplay demo footage and convention demo's.  A good game doesn't need to have all of it's content spewed across the Internet months before launch.

Also what the fuck is up with publishers announcing games more than a year before they are released?  Why do that?  I mean yeah it's great to hear that a new entry in the "battle gods of Wrexham" is coming, but why tell us 18 months before you actually have anything to show?  Much like Rome II we saw still images of a game that was two years away from being playable.  Who does that benefit?  Wouldn't it be better to announce titles 8 or maybe 9 months from release, at least then the game could be shown off and it wouldn't be such a long wait for fans.  It just seems like publishers blow their wad too early and then scramble to keep the consumer base interested by posting spoilers for months on end.  All of this is based on the English speaking websites, factor in the foreign sites and even more information is on hand.  If you were multi-lingual you could probably discern 70% of a triple A titles content before it ever saw launch.

It wouldn't be so bad but when you look at the cost of advertising for a triple A title it makes you wonder how they ever turn a profit.  Many publishers seem to strangely indifferent to free advertising tools like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.  Despite my dislike of these programs they certainly are popular and can spread word of mouth for a new game quicker than any PR or ad agency could.  It's no surprise these days that players on the PC are turning to indie and smaller developers for their entertainment over these vastly bloated and over exposed games which more often than not are ports from the console version albeit with higher resolutions.

I agree with Marcus Beer that PR needs to cut down their exclusive interviews and events and keep things focused.  We don't need to know everything about a title months beforehand, we just need to know what they are selling and when it's out.  The player will ultimately make the final decision on whether it's worth buying or not so why try so hard?


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