No Man’s Sky release and predictable fallout brings up the perfect opportunity to talk about video game marketing, and how hype is ruining video game experiences. With massive amounts of hype, started by Hello Games and then carried by the media, the game has resulted in large amounts of bad reviews. Until companies learn how to control hype, this trend will continue, ruining what could be amazing games.
In today’s online world, the company that builds the most hype gets the most pre-orders and the highest sales. Games that fail to build hype are quickly forgotten, often regardless of their quality. Far too often, a great game is considered “underrated” simply because people never knew about it.
Getting hype for your game has become essential for video game marketing. Without it, games fail. So now, companies are having to resort to anything and everything to build attention for their games. That includes things like: promising features that are not in the finished product, showcasing gameplay at higher resolutions than is possible on consoles or available at launch, or shiny trailers that mislead players.
No Man’s Sky is a great example of a game that was overhyped and is now paying the price. The game was first announced back in 2013 and was at Sony’s E3 in 2014. At both premieres, we got beautiful trailers and some pretty big promises. Then, over the years, the clips of gameplay and statements pushed expectations higher and higher. Players kept seeing and hearing about concepts that never made it into the final game.
From there, the media went nuts. They push every little tidbit, deconstruct the trailers as true gameplay and began claiming it to be the greatest game of all time. By the time it was released, no game could have met everybody’s expectations.
That’s the dangers of hype. Too little, and nobody knows about your game. Too much hype though will result in not meeting expectations and bad reviews. That, in turn, could hurt how profitable a company can be in the long run. The issue of hype becomes: do you want immediate cash now, or create a good reputation for quality games and earn more money over time.
From a business standpoint, creating hype for a game utilizes some of the best marketing strategies. This includes tactics like social media attention, great video content, and being in tune with real time events. A great video game trailer can be viewed millions of times, and is great for gaining that initial attention. Than, they slowly trickle out more game footage to keep the public aware of the game, leading up to it’s release. Social media often takes care of itself, with people creating fan communities and wanting to share their excitement for the games. Additionally, right before and after a game releases, people livestream playing, connecting the brand to real time events.
This approach has worked so well for video games (and other entertainment industries) that other companies are experimenting with it. Remember when Taco Bell let you pre-order their newest food item, the quesalupa, and made a huge deal about it. People livestreamed eating it, posted about it, and even made Youtube videos reviewing it. And it worked, for a little while.
As long as hyping up a game is successful, developers will continue to do it. Profitable businesses make decisions based on data that will get them the most money. So, if we want them to stop hype, we need to make the practice unprofitable.
Hyping up a game as a marketing strategy bears a frightening resemblance to another tactic: clickbait. Both get consumer extremely excited about something, but they often walk away disappointed. People everywhere are pushing back against clickbait, and the same will happen to over-hyped games.
Consumers have wisened up to popular clickbait tactics and it’s become much less effective. Some companies, like Google and Facebook, are even taking steps to devalue sites that utilize clickbait tactics. Because of this, clickbait is no longer a very good tactic and is being slowly forgotten.
A similar trend could happen with overhyping games. Already, many gamers are fed up with it and taking steps to combat it. The main goal of all this hype is for sales, specifically pre-orders and day one sales. Companies want gamers to purchase the game simply off of anticipation, and not make an informed decision based on honest reviews and real player scores.
The obvious way to fight back against hype is for consumers not to pre order games or buying them right when they release. By showing game companies that hype isn’t effective in boosting sales, they will stop using it as a crutch. Instead, sales should be based off of how good the game actually is.
This focus would prevent fairly good games from being overhyped, like No Man’s Sky, from getting abysmal scores and be remembered by the public as a bad game. So do your part to combat hype, don’t buy a game before the world has a chance to actually play it, and control your excitement when companies try to play the hype game.
Consumer of all thing geek. Ben spends his time playing video games, writing, pondering the Zelda timeline, and wondering when he will become a professional at all three. You can follow him on twitter @allen24ben