Game Hype And The Over-Promise Under-Deliver Complex

By William Usher 2012-05-09 17:22:12 discussion comments
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This seventh generation of gaming has been an interesting generation to say the least. Summed up in simple terms we've seen the revolution of gaming, the evolution of gaming and brand new kinds of marketing for games that have helped to make and break some franchises.

A recent editorial talks up the pros and cons of Planet Hype, a nickname for the sort of gorilla-style marketing bombardment that some publishers have been using to over-hype games that just don't deliver, also known as the Peter Molyneux complex.

The article, courtesy of RipTen, looks at the recent trend in the AAA game distribution arena that has seen some games rise to the occasion and break sales records (e.g., Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield) while other games have incurred bitter aftermath with the core gaming audience (e.g., Mass Effect 3, Fable, Too Human).

The unfortunate thing about it all is that the developers and the gamers are the ones who lose out in the end, because when the hype machine backfires gamers are left feeling like they've been on the royal end of a wallet enema while receiving little of anything noteworthy in return. Developers lose out because they're the ones who have to take the brunt of the bad press (even though most developers aren't the ones in charge of QA, DLC or release dates). This means that the developers pick up a bad rep to the studio name and it makes it hard to market the next title as something buy-worthy when there's a stigma attached to the studio.

What's more is that this Planet Hype complex seems to be getting more and more costly each year. Activision spends approximately $100 million marketing Call of Duty each year, obviously more than what it costs to produce the game itself. EA is also known for going over and beyond with marketing expenditure, racking up more than three quarters of a billion dollars in 2011 alone in marketing expenses. The crazy part about it is that even with more than 13 million copies of Battlefield 3 sold EA was basically trying to sell its way out of one expense or another, as opposed to posting profits all the way around.

That's certainly not to say that a company like EA isn't making money, it's just that with marketing trends and bloated expenses, mainstream gaming have turned into a completely separate business of trying to convince people to buy into the idea of the product rather than trying to sell the game based on its actual experience. A perfect example of this is how the Call of Duty brand carries enough weight all its own, and can sell millions regardless of what the actual game is.

Given the current trends in the way marketing and promotion works for most mainstream titles, it's doubtful that the overbearing, in-your-face, over-promotional tactic used for most AAA releases will go away anytime soon. But it definitely helps make you aware to beware of games hyping up promises and then under-delivering.
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