The Summer Hype Hangover
Video game conventions like PAX and E3 mainly serve one purpose: to get the game buying public excited about upcoming releases. The fact that you can get hands on time with games that are currently in development helps to build a buzz for both positive and negative experiences. The bad thing about E3, for gamers in particular, is the timing of the conference. Placed at the start of summer, E3 gets gamers everywhere really pumped for games that won’t be coming out until later in the year, or sometimes the following year. It serves its purpose as a hype machine, but the conference is ultimately a disappointment because of the dull summer months that follow. I’m not saying I want the placement of E3 on the calendar to change, I just want to come up with a few ways to deal with the hangover that follows the excitement.
If you’re like me, you have a pretty substantial backlog of games. The doldrums of summer is the perfect time to knock the backlog down to a more manageable size until the holiday (and now spring) epic release seasons. Then again, I don’t really want to play those “old” games. I want the new hotness that I just heard about. Yeah, the Wii U and Nintendo E3 strategy might have been a huge disappointment overall, but that doesn’t mean I’m still not excited for the company’s new console release. New console releases are always exciting to me but I’m impatient. I hate waiting for something that I’m really excited about, but I should know better. The saying “good things come to those who wait” isn’t entirely accurate. Sometimes the things you wait for are terrible. Other times, instant gratification is a magnitude greater than the feeling you get after waiting for something for a long time.
Imagine if instead of waiting (and hyping) Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, it was finished and on store shelves right after its E3 trailer? Could a game forgo the many months of hype and presentations around the world and still be as successful as it would have been if the game had been featured in magazines and on websites? Imagine the buzz that would permeate not only through the game industry but mainstream news outlets as well.
I can’t say that would never happen, but it is extremely unlikely. This idea might lead to a plethora of terrible games that look great when shown off at a press conference, but when taken home, play like garbage. If Star Wars 1313, a game we just found out about, was released after that awesome trailer a ton of people would have gone out and bought it. But then, as an industry, we would have to collectively wonder why there wasn’t more info on the game before its release. When a studio makes a movie and it doesn’t turn out as intended, that studio refuses to let critics see it before release. It is the studio’s way of trying to protect whatever investment it has made into the film. A bunch of people saying how terrible the film is could affect the overall box office draw. However, a lot of people now know that if a movie doesn’t have reviews before the release date probably means it isn’t a good movie. That expectation has been built because of past behavior. If video game publishers started doing this, the same effect would happen.
While it would be awesome if games came out as a surprise every once in awhile, the crappy games that tried to pull it off would overshadow the expectations of any of the games releases like this of being good.
I wasn’t and never will be a Sega fan boy. However, I can appreciate what the company has brought to the industry in terms of both games and consoles. If it wasn’t for Sega and the competition it gave Nintendo in the early 90′s, the landscape of the industry might be a bit different. I did admire Sega for what it did at the first E3. In 1995, the Sega Saturn was set for release in September of that year. Like usual, the system had already been released in Japan and people were paying outrageous import prices in America to get their hands on the latest Sega console. At that first E3, Sega CEO Tom Kalinske came out on stage and told everyone that the Saturn was on store shelves as he spoke. Talk about a collective surprise “WTF?!” emanating from the audience. The announcement overshadowed anything else at E3 and is still brought up today as probably the biggest surprise announcement ever at the conference.
Though Sega made a lot of bad decisions that ultimately led to the company to stop creating its own consoles, the marketing power of announcing a release concurrent with E3 cured any hangover before it had the chance grab a hold. It might only be possible for something that has already been released in Japan to pull off a huge surprise like this, but I would love for it to happen more often than it has. But then again, the more bombshells we get, the lest impact those surprises have. I think it’s clear I love to be caught unawares. By its nature, it has instant gratification built in. You don’t have to wait to be caught off guard.
I realize that I’m being unrealistic. I’m sure that there has been a ton of market research done by publishers that shows the opportunity cost of making that decision to take someone’s breath away. It probably doesn’t make business sense to not get the game out there in the press and build hype for it. I just want the ability to play these new games now and have to deal with my impatient self. I guess I’ll go get started on that backlog.