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Is the Industry Overhyping Games?

Discussion on how publishers release information on games far before their release date comes around.

Last week, a 15-minute video of Bioshock Infinite's e3 demo was released, showing to the general public just what people saw at the show that was so jaw-dropping.  It's been on everyone's minds, and at this point is probably one of the most anticipated games in the gaming community.

I've done nothing but avoid it.

It's not because I'm disinterested in the game.  In fact, I'm the opposite.  I thought Bioshock was one of the best games of 2007, and I have full confidence that the guys at Irrational Games will do a spectacular job with it.  But it's not even going to be released in the next six months, so why should I pay any attention to it?  Why hype myself up for something that's so far away?  I face a similar problem with Mass Effect 3.  I enjoyed the last two games in the series, but I just shrug my shoulders and say I'll start caring once it comes along.

I guess one reason is that I've already felt burned by a couple of major releases in the past few years.  Super Smash Bros. Brawl had a website that updated every single day leading up to the game's release, and me and every other Nintendo fanboy were eager to find out every last piece of information.  As a result, by the time the game had finally come out, we already knew everything there was.  Similarly, the announcement of Metroid: Other M, along with the fact that it would be developed by Team Ninja excited me, only to realize this game was a ways away.  Plus, the game wound up being a huge disappointment for me, but that's another matter.

For some reason, developers are getting it into their heads to hype games way before they are released, instead of just letting us entertain ourselves with what we already have.  When Batman: Arkham Asylum was near release, a video was released of someone playing through the entire game.  What's the point?  If anything, people can just watch that instead of buying the product.  Why spoil the story details for Uncharted 3 months in advance instead of just letting us see for ourselves when the game comes out?

I think a big problem is that a lot of the games I've mentioned are sequels.  Bioshock, Mass Effect, Arkham Asylum, Uncharted, Elder Scrolls, etc.  We already know that the teams responsible for these games are trustworthy, and probably won't switch up the gameplay too much.  If anything, I really should congratulate the Call of Duty developers for doing it right: they don't reveal details on the next game until a few months before release, just in time to get buzz going.  I also believe that I'm far more likely to watch footage on a new game if it's a new IP.  Catherine has been on my radar for a while, and while it's developed by the Shin Megami Tensei guys, it's so different from that series that I really have to see for myself whether or not it's something I want.

Another reason I think publishers need to cool it is that everyone is competing for our attention.  In between all the trailers for games coming out next year, I had no idea that Shadows of the Damned had been released in the meantime, another new IP that you really need to see for yourself in order to judge.  Of course, another big problem emerges when it comes to hype.  Duke Nukem Forever partially has itself to blame for hyping its audience before the game was anywhere near completion.  We've lost games like Starcraft: Ghost and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, thanks to companies trying to inform audiences on games nowhere near completion.  It looks bad when companies announce a game, only to quickly reveal that the game has already been delayed (hello again, Mass Effect 3.

To close, I would like to point out that I think this only applies to the games themselves.  As far as technology is concerned, the earlier, the better.  This serves a multitude of purposes.  It lets developers not necessarily "in the know" to prep themselves for the eventual release.  Speculation on the capabilities and use of the technology can also influence the games being made as well.  As far as consumers are concerned, consoles or accessories like Kinect are more expensive than games, so we like being able to make up our minds well ahead of time.  Nintendo, if you announce a new version of the 3DS before the PlayStation Vita comes out, I just might change my mind on which handheld to get.

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