The trend of announcing games with shorter hype cycles is catching on. I hope this becomes the method every developer embraces.
Over the past few years, Bethesda has been starting a trend that I love. Announcing and releasing their game within 4-6 months, instead of years in advance. I remember when the rumors of Fallout 4 were circulating for what seemed like forever.
First, it was going to be announced at the Game Awards but never showed up. Then it was rumored to be a cross-gen title so it wouldn’t take “full” advantage of next-gen hardware. There must have been 100 rumors of when and what Fallout 4 was going to be, but as we now know both of those rumors turned out to be 100 percent false.
Long hype and announcement cycles can create false narratives about a game. Good and bad.
This is what happens with modern video games. They have become so complex and so vast that the imagination of what someone wants and thinks it should be can run away from them. When a game is announced so far in advance it can be really hard to keep the hype cycle going.
As more time passes, companies try to bend the “truth” even more about what their product is. Stating small features as something groundbreaking or that will change the industry forever. This usually ends with features being not nearly as robust as promised, and sometimes leads to things just never full being implemented.
Take a look at No Man’s Sky. The prime example of announcing something too early. That game clearly had ambitious ideas that wouldn’t even be fully realized. What was promised about that title never even came close to what was shipped. The hype of that game was through the roof. Looking back on the trailers for that game, it felt like it was just one big lie in order to keep the hype going and to prevent people from forgetting about it.
Fallout 4’s short hype cycle sold me on the game more than the trailers accomplished too.
Fallout 4 felt different. When Todd Howard ended his extensive demonstration of Fallout 4 and said gamers wouldn’t have to wait long to play it. When the date 2015 hit I was legitimately shocked. How could a game of this size and magnitude be ready without hearing so much about it for so long? It just didn’t seem possible in the gaming realm. This was the same show that saw the first ever public reveal of Doom for the first time, and I still to this day think its one of the greatest hours in video game media. As a gamer, I couldn’t be more excited.
The best part was I got to play Fallout 4 before my mind ran away from me. Instead of trying to figure out what I wanted from this game after seeing the trailer after trailer. I simply got to play Fallout 4 and make up my own mind without the influence of whatever the marketing department was trying to sell. The game itself sold me on the game, and not the hype. Granted, I actually didn’t even care for Fallout 4, but I still played it because I didn’t have a 2-year hype cycle trying to sell me on things that weren’t entirely true. The shorter announcement to release cycle sold me.
Microsoft and Nintendo are embracing the shorter announcement to release cycles and Bethesda does it almost exclusively.
This trend continues to this day, and more publishers are embracing it. Microsoft does it with Forza, Nintendo likes to do it with Kirby and other smaller titles on their various platforms, and even Square Enix is embracing it with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Clearly, there is a trend of shorter hype cycles is happening more and more and I fully embrace it.
Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced almost 5 years ago. Creating this sense that it will never be able to live up to the hype.
Maybe its just me getting older and angrier, but when the opposite of this happens it can really sour me on a game. Look at something like Kingdom Hearts 3. As a fan of the series since its PS2 days, you better believe I will be there day 1 to buy my copy. But I have to admit, I am also totally worried about Kingdom Hearts 3 living up to the extremely high bar that has been set. In fact, I would say I don’t think its even remotely possible it will.
I still remember the debut trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3 at Sony’s E3 briefing when the PS4 was still new. When the title card went up on screen the inner child of mine said, “FINALLY.” Then the words “Now in Development” flashed and I immediately said to my friends in the room, “that’s one way to say its never coming out.”
The long hype cycle for Kingdom Hearts 3 has hurt the title in the long run.
As time passed with a trailer here and there I remember talking about games we were looking forward to on our podcast in 2014. I said would pick Kingdom Hearts 3 to be my most anticipated game. The issue was that it wasn’t going to release until 2018. I said it as a joke yet I somehow ended up being right. That’s even if Kingdom Hearts 3 does actually make it this year. Which I am 100 percent skeptical of considering we haven’t seen the game actually being played with a controller since its announcement 5 years ago.
This extremely long development cycle has hurt Kingdom Hearts 3 for me personally. Every piece of footage I have been shown looks stunning. Yet, with each trailer, I start to care just a little less. My opinion of this product is becoming negative simply because the longer they keep trying to keep me engaged with their flashy trailers and promise of new worlds, I am starting to wonder what the final product will actually be.
After 5 years it better be the most fully fledged Kingdom Hearts ever. With more worlds than I could of imagined and with combat and adventure that is unrivaled by anything in the series. Problem is, when you look at the trailers and media available, it kind of just looks a super clean and shiny version of Kingdom Hearts.
Obviously, I could be wrong, and Kingdom Hearts 3 could end up being exactly what the fans want. My point is that even as a long time fan, I am skeptical. Whereas if Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced in 2017 and available in 2018, I would be over the moon with excitement and much more likely to talk about it in a positive light. Instead of a long drawn out cycle of talking in a positive light to slowly becoming more and more negative over time.
There are many games that were announced too early by the evidence that they never released. Scalebound and Agent are just a few examples.
Kingdom Hearts 3 isn’t even the best example of why I hate this method. Kingdom Hearts 3 will come out. Unless something goes terribly wrong, there is zero chance this game will not release. The same cant be said for other titles. Fable Legends, StarCraft Ghost, Agent, Prey 2, Star Wars 1313 and Scalebound. These are all games that were announced, some seen actually being played, and never came out in any capacity.
What was the benefit of announcing Agent as a logo? I can’t think of a single positive reason to announce a product before its even a product. Even with the name Rockstar behind it, rumors stated that it started the concept phase in 2008. And then was announced in 2009 as a logo. Clearly, as we are here in 2018, announcing a game in concept phase was a huge mistake.
How about Scalebound? With no real evidence of what happened, it’s rumored that the project was in disarray and lacked a central focus. Which seems even odder considering the game started out as Wii game. You would think after all that time and then an investment from Microsoft would have ironed out basic things like concepts and what the developers should have been working on. But as everyone knows, Scalebound was canceled in early 2017, 3 years after its announcement.
Microsoft has already admitted they announced some games too early, and hopefully, that means they won’t make the same mistake.
Microsoft has already said they are looking into when they should announce their games in the future. Clearly, I agree with this mentality because I think it benefits everyone in the process. Microsoft, in particular, seems to of been hurt by announcing games too soon this generation. But Sony isn’t exactly benefitting either from announcing games way too early such as Days Gone.
Gamers, developers, and publishers all have something to gain from announcing games late rather than sooner.