From the big cities, like New York and Chicago, to the smallest town in Illinois, game companies still manage to get their game across to the entire world and get their product sold. Fanboys and girls exist in all these places and companies need to get these people the gamer fix they need to stay addicted to their game of choice. The smart ones do this through a phenomenon known as hype. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines hype as “promotional publicity of an extravagant or contrived type.” Gamers who are all time fans of a franchise and newcomers alike need to have the necessary information to reaffirm their belief in their series or to convince somebody to pick it up for the first time.
Lots of companies use hype to represent their game in a good way that is both fair to the fans and makes their game look awesome. Some games like to get some competition between them to show that they are the best. They use words like “Most anticipated…” and slap some game review scores saying “buy our game these people say we’re great!” The most recent and prevalent is the war between the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. EA and Activision got into a virtual no holds brawl over whose game was better. BF3 sticking to its new destruction engine and large scale online gameplay while MW3 counters with its huge fanbase and 60 frames per second. Healthy competition can be used to breed a better gaming experience, but it can also reflect the company being overzealous in a poor light ( we’ll talk about that later).
Other games build hype by ending the game in a way that feels that there is something left to finish. Probably the best known example is the ending of Halo 2. The Chief, returning from High Charity to Earth on a Forerunner dreadnaught, is contacted by Lord Hood and is inquired as to what he’s doing in a Covenant controlled ship. He simply says that he needs to “finish the fight” and it just ends. One of the most anticipated (word correctly used) games of all time ends on a cliff hanger. Naturally, every gamer in the Sol system went absolutely bonkers. So when Halo3 came out, fans were foaming at the mouth to get their fix of their epic campaign resolution that they spent years waiting for. Grant it, they also wanted to get another whack at the addictive world of competitive multiplayer, which Halo was one of the pioneers. Another ending type brings a call to arms to the player to bring them over to the next game. The end of Mass Effect 2 portrayed this well on a large scale. The conclusion of the suicide mission brings with it the reminder that the Reapers are still on their way. Just before the game fades to the credits, you see the armada of genocidal death machines flying towards the Milky Way from their home in dark space. This reminds players that they are needed to help save the galaxy in the future and that future lies in the conclusion of the trilogy, Mass Effect 3.
Game companies can also help to raise the excitement for their game by releasing portions of their gaming experience one part at a time. The best example in recent memory is ME3. The Mass Effect series has always had a devoted fan base that would take every chance they could get on getting their daily dose of awesome. Bioware released trailers for multiplayer, interactive storytelling, enemies, and even alternative versions of these trailers that feature Femshep as opposed to male Shepard. In fact they actually released 5 trailers in one day. This way, gamers had some tidbits of the game to munch on while waiting for their (mostly) beautiful game to finally be released.
Tidbits can also be released in form of gameplay demos usually downloadable over your selective fun out of it. Demos mostly consist of a non-essential story section or a limited multiplayer experience. These can serve the dual purpose of both gaining new fans and possible buyers, and help to find bugs before the final release of the game. Some demos even offer transferable content to the full game or to another game entirely. This invites players to get the demo and play it and help people who are borderline on whether they want to download it.
Unfortunately, some corporations take advantage of the gamers by creating a lie of omission or just flat out lies. Homefront, was a game that, on paper, sounded amazing. A deep single player experience with a multiplayer that was a hybrid of Battlefield and Call of Duty was something gamers were happy to hear was hitting the shelves. The multiplayer trailer, in particular showed off a fight with close to a dozen vehicles battling it out on a city street. The problem was that this deep campaign was a little over 3 hours long and had a pretty lame overarching story. The multiplayer wasn’t much better since it felt like a Call of Duty 4 reboot with a vehicle purchasing system. It also only had two game types which, after a few days of playing, got very old. The epic battles of the trailers were mostly rendered impossible in actuality since you would be in an “epic” game when each side had one tank and one helicopter. Other games are just very selective about the info they release or just don’t correct any of the rumors going around that help their game. For example, Brink was known around my gaming group as a mix of Mirrors Edge and Borderlands. We really didn’t have much to go on which is why I never bought it. Unfortunately, the others weren’t as perceptive and, as usual, wouldn’t shut up about how good it was for the first few days. I decided to give it a chance and rented it for 2 days. By the end of the first day, the game was dry and I had already beat both campaigns, which would better be described as playing the multiplayer maps in order. Probably the worst idea for the company is just to not show gameplay at all. Dead Island’s announce trailer shows the hard to watch journey of a a family trying to survive against a group of zombies. The trailer attracted some attention , but had no follow up of gameplay. This was because it was completely contrary to the actual game which was more of a mix of Left 4 Dead and Fallout. The Dead Island could have helped get its true image out if they had showed showed more of the actual game or at least portrayed the real feeling of the game.
A company on another level of morally wrong entirely would be Electronic Arts. I’m sure there are plenty of nice people that work there, but they have done some marketing that has gone too far. When Dead Space 2 was about to be released, EA released a marketing campaign with the catch phrase “you’re mom’s gonna hate this.” Commercials show mothers reactions to some of the more gory and frightening scenes throughout the game. The intention of this ad was to attract underage gamers to pick up a copy of DS2 for the purpose of spiting their parents. This wasn’t even the first time these tactics were used by EA. Back in 2009, there were a group of protesters at E3 who were picketing the game Dante’s Inferno. They held signs such as “just say infer-NO” and “trade in your Playstation for a Praystation.” This appeared to be a simple voicing of a religious groups opinion. As it was later found out though (and confirmed by EA) they actually had hired the protesters to protest their game to raise controversy and help sales for their game. Crossing into somebody’s religious beliefs to help sell a game is beyond what I think is necessary for a company to do.
Hype can be a gamers best friend, or his worst enemy. It can lay you over between installments of a series, or fool you into buying something you won’t enjoy. Many gamers and companies play each other to get what they want out of their unreleased game and it creates a win-win situation. Just be wary and keep an open mind and to check all your assumptions so your awesome game does not cease to be so after a day.