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All Aboard the Hype Train! The vicious cycle of marketing

by on October 3, 2014

The last few years feel like the slow transition of video game publishers focusing on marketing more than game development has changed gears. Whereas the build-up was slow, creative and methodical, most of it feels like a checklist of certain criteria to hit. Tell them about the game revolutionizing the industry for years to come? Check. You’ll be the odd one out if you don’t play the game? Check. Every video game site having endless advertisement in every crevice of the site? You bet!

Bludgeon you over the head until you’re caught up in the hype? Check.

See, I’ll admit a fault I have; when it comes to a major game title’s heavy coverage, I’ll start following it. There’s two reasons behind that; the first being I genuinely am intrigued by what I see. Based on the previews, impressions, and trailers, there’s something promising. Or, the other reason; my inner cynic wants to be proven  wrong about a game that’s looking terrible.

There’s one theme behind both reasons; I just want the game to deliver on its promises.

Finally, the game comes out, and as I play more of the game I come to the startling realization; the game fails on delivering its promise. Where’s the promised immersive, epic story line? What about the innovative gameplay? Apparently it decided to check out right before the games were shipped out. The hype train derailed the game from ever reaching its destination.

I know I’m not the only one; you can read it in various forum boards and blogs. Hell, I’m sure you could even find it in the ‘ever-colorful’ YouTube comments sections of game trailers. There’s an increasing consensus that something’s off with video game marketing.

I feel like the problem is the disparity between the intentions of the developers versus the execution. Maybe it’s just me, but more often than not it feels like there’s a dichotomy between wanting to create a creatively risky game versus business practices.Gone are the days where a developer could take giant risks and live to see another day. Developers have to play it safe in order to meet the sales quota just to break even. They have to rely on popular game mechanics because they know it will sell better.

There’s data out there, I know it. I’m sure if I went looking for it, I could show you the frequency of more money in a game’s budget going towards PR than development. Right now, I’d rather not think about it because it leaves me feeling defeated.

Hopefully we’ll see a shift; maybe it might take another video game market crash, who knows. I just hope it doesn’t reach that point, and I hope that at some point publishers will remember what made games fun in the first place. Otherwise, the only train coming is the hype train, and I’m not sure I want to keep boarding it again.

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