It seems that these days not a single game can be announced by its developer/publisher without it blowing up in our faces, clawing for our attention and more importantly, our money.
I’m all for a good bit of marketing, it’s fair game to get your product noticed. I prefer the ‘guerrilla’ marketing techniques myself, like when a publisher will scatter items that are relevant to a game’s release around a few cities, leading to a crazed man hunt for a piece of gaming memorabilia.
However, I’m not too fond of games being hyped-up beyond what they are. Obviously we can’t speak of hype without mentioning Bungie’s sci-fi shooter Destiny. It had a polarizing effect among critics and players, due to high expectations born from irresponsible reporting from gaming’s biggest publications after attending preview events, throwing around claims that it’ll be the next Halo or bigger and better than Call of Duty and that it’ll be the game of the decade – you get the picture.
But I don’t really want to talk about Destiny, I enjoyed it and thought it was money well spent, end of.
Instead I’m concerned about No Man’s Sky. It’s a game that’s coming to the PS4 and PC sometime next year. I am absolutely rocking with excitement for its release, but on the other hand I’m also a little bit anxious.
The game is an ambitious effort from Guildford-based Hello Games in England which started out as a four-man project, but has since grown to ten staff. No Man’s Sky promises an endless universe in which we can explore until our thumbs fall off, promising that everything in the game is randomly generated and nobody else will have quite the same experience as you will as the number of possible in-game planets eclipses the population of our humble little planet Earth. The amount of possible planets is supposedly 18 quintillion. You’d never even make it through 1% of them before you started pushing daisies.
It all sounds so good, it’s what got me pumped for game. The promise of finally being able to fly a ship from one planet to the other, land, have a poke around and see what’s going on then nip on over to another planet, maybe have a bit of a space battle on the way – it’s everything a gamer who grew up with Star Wars could ever want!
No Man’s Sky has even won awards. It’s not even out yet! Critics do get to have a little bit of hands on time, but nowhere near enough to form an opinion that accurately represents the game as a package. Instead they’re given an early playable build and are told that all the promised features will be in the final product, even if they don’t get to try them out.
Here’s a few of the quotes from some of the industries biggest publications:
- “No words to describe it. Poetry. And from a four-person indie studio too. This has rocketmanned straight to the very top of my Most Wanted list.”
– Alec Meer, Rock Paper Shotgun
- “Succeed or fail, No Man’s Sky is a clear bid to create one of those special games that defines a generation. Already, I can’t take my eyes off it.”
– Christian Donlan, Eurogamer
- “Wow. No Man’s Sky just stole the show at the VGX”
– Owen Good, Kotaku
- “Three coders and an artist working in a modest Guildford studio have suddenly found themselves creating one of the most talked-about games in the entire industry.”
– Edge, Edge Online
This is what gets players hyped up for a new game, seeing their favourite news outlets raving about how great a game is. Previews in themselves are fantastic and I’m all for them, when they’re presented honestly to readers. Critical analysis without any motive other than to inform is all I ask from previews, the second it starts throwing out “game of the year, revolutionary, game of the decade” and the like, I’m more inclined to tone down my expectations and put The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on DVD. If you ever feel you’re having too much of a good day, put that on, it’ll bring you right down and ruin your good mood. (Walked in on a friend watching it once, don’t ask.)
Point is, over-hyping these games sets them up to fail. Even if a game is only mediocre at best it can still enjoy relative success due to managed expectations, but when you’ve thrown all the superlatives into the mix then you’re creating a foul-tasting cake and feeding it to consumers. It’s not just gaming publications that are guilty of this either, it’s the publishers and developers who spend so much time pushing their product in our faces, promising we’ll love it, promising all sorts of cool features which sometimes don’t end up in the games, or worse, they’re in there but they’re total balls.
Please don’t be crap No Man’s Sky, if it is, Hello Games may as well send their C.V’s to The Games Cabin and design us a bloody logo.