Though I’d rather not admit it, I’m a man who’s not entirely immune to hype. Last year alone I attended four midnight releases. In 2005, I showed up eight hours early for Revenge of the Sith. Recently, I've been getting pretty invested in the excitement surrounding my favorite baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. But as any sports fan will tell you, hype has a tendency to let you down — sometimes suddenly. These days, it seems that by the time a hot new title’s release date rolls around, I’m already sick of hearing about it.
Wow, I didn't know "leaks" came with logos these days.
It used to be that developers built hype by word of mouth. The first hot titles I got caught up in were probably the original Pokémon releases, and by the time I was playing them, they had already been out for about half a year. Back in 1996, the Internet hadn’t quite achieved the ubiquity and pervasiveness it has today. I suppose that yes, I was 11, but things seem to have changed dramatically. I used to go to the local game store and browse around until I found something cool or picked something up on the suggestion of a trusted sore-thumbed comrade. Now, I’ve got GameStop employees pushing preorders on me months before a title even gets a solid release date.
Back in February, IGN posted an article that did a couple of things for me — neither of which I’m sure were the intended results. The first result, laughter, came immediately upon reading the headline “New Assassin’s Creed Reveal in May.” This is what we’ve come to? When a game becomes a big hit, a sequel is an easy assumption. Instead of announcing a release date, premiering a trailer, and releasing the game, we now have a finely tuned hype machine. "Rumors” that titles are in production begin to crop up, followed by announcements announcing announcements, months of trailers, previews, viral ads, TV spots, demos, betas, and preorder badgering. The second reaction to this article, obviously, was annoyance.
I hope that for London's sake I still feel like saving them when this comes out.
The machine doesn’t stop there. I was willing to accept this new paradigm with begrudging semi-indifference until I found myself teased yet again by IGN this past weekend. When my eyes fell upon the title “Assassin’s Creed Revelations Outed,” I was pretty excited. Surely some careless employee had spilled the beans about the storyline or the gameplay or even just a detail or two about the setting for a game that I’m eagerly awaiting. But no, this article was not about an Assassin’s Creed sequel. It was simply the newest example of a little activity called “unintentionally desensitizing our readers to hype.”
Other than the title, the IGN article offered no new information, stating only that Ubisoft would likely reveal details about the game at a later date. Really, IGN? You don’t say! I’m sure once the business day had ended a dozen different sites had devoured and regurgitated the article a dozen times each. Needless to say, it left a sour taste in my mouth. But who’s to blame? Is it Ubisoft, who more than likely engineered the “leak” as a form of low-budget marketing? Or is it the journalists that keep begging for these scraps like a starving dog? Hell, maybe it’s my fault. I keep clicking these articles and buying these games.
Come, children. Buy into my hype. Preorder and receive three exclusive outfits!
In the end, we probably all share equal responsibility. I’d love for all everyone to dial it down, but I know that’s not going to happen. This is something that we’re all going to have to deal with on a personal level. We need to remember that marketing campaigns, juicy “leaks,” preorder bonuses, and hype in general have nothing to do whatsoever with the quality of a game. If you listened to the guy behind the counter at GameStop, you’d have thought that Homefront was going to be the second coming of Christ. Judging by the reviews, I think we all know that’s not the case. Sometimes hype can pay off. BioWare has been building buzz surrounding Mass Effect 3 since before the first installment saw release, touting the entire package as a trilogy. It was a risky proposition, but it's one that’ll pay off if the final entry delivers.
That's the exception, though. It's not the rule. With months and months before titles like these come out, I can only hope that by the time they hit shelves, I'll still want to play them.