Fans of hype, fans of gaming.

Hype in the gaming industry is a form of entertainment all its own, and history has shown that plenty of people LOVE getting wrapped up in the pre-release fanfare. This is not only something that consumes people in their search for information; it can also be big business for those who cater to that crowd.

Remember Diablo II pre-release? The super-slow info leaks from Blizzard, including releasing teaser or outright misleading screenshots? The countless fan sites that literally broke down every single screenshot, dev post, or movie frame by frame? How many mega-sites launched years before D2 was released, feeding on that info frenzy and no doubt making a pretty penny along the way? If you don’t remember it, just follow along as the same thing happens with Diablo III.

That frenzy did not hurt Diablo because, well, Diablo was an amazing game. For all its hype, it lived up to it and more. No backlash from the super fans, and everyone following the game got to play something great, perhaps even enhanced due to all their ‘insider’ knowledge and being able to finally experience what they had been waiting for all those months/years.

Pre-release and post-release are two different phases of a games life cycle, and success in either can lead to some profit, while success in both is not only rare, but also exponentially rewarding. If your hype machine succeeds in selling a ton of people on a pile of crap, and that crap had a modest dev budget, you can still turn a profit even though your actual game failed to ultimately deliver (AoC for example). At the same time, a quality MMO will EVENTUALLY get the attention it deserves; even if it takes a while for word of mouth to spread (EVE is perhaps the best example). And of course the genre’s most famous example, WoW, delivered on both a successful hype machine and a quality game (since ruined by carebears, obviously). The MMO graveyard is littered with failed hype AND failed game examples.

And just like the games themselves have different phases, so do fans. Some people only play the pre-release hype game, jumping from one game to the next, always feeding on the possibility that the next game is going to be ‘the one’, moving on from a previous game a month or so after release because it did not live up to their own self-created vision of what that game should be. Others not only ignore all pre-release hype, but give any MMO a good 3-6 months of post-release time before getting interested, knowing that what is promised or even delivered on day one is NOT going to be the same game 3-6 months later. Between the two extremes is the gray area, where fans might pick a title or two to follow pre-release due to a particular interest, but generally don’t engage in the long, drawn out process of following a project years before release and gobbling up any and all scraps of information.

At the end of the day, regardless of how effective the hype machine was, or how many superfan dreams get crushed at release, a quality title will attract its buyers, and more importantly, deliver a quality gaming experience for its target audience. After all, we are GAMING fans, and not news/hype fans… right?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Age of Conan, beta, Diablo 3, EVE Online, Mass Media, MMO design, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Fans of hype, fans of gaming.

  1. Sean says:

    I generally agree but two points:

    “And of course the genre’s most famous example, WoW, delivered on both a successful hype machine and a quality game (since ruined by carebears, obviously).”

    Ruined in what sense? WoW was never marketed and largely isn’t a PvP game and carebear, in its normal usage, doesn’t have a significance for it. If what you intend is rather the shift towards making content accessible to the lowest common denominator, there are many thousands of people who still raid at a competitive level and arguably the best of these, the European guild Ensidia, lauds Blizzard for the difficulty of many of their “hard mode” encounters.

    “At the end of the day, regardless of how effective the hype machine was, or how many superfan dreams get crushed at release, a quality title will attract its buyers…”

    I would like this to be true but sadly this is often not the case. On the console side one need only look at April’s NPD numbers to see two critical darlings, Madworld for the Wii and GTA: Chinatown Wars fail to find an audience despite near universal praise. Just ask Tim Schaefer what he thinks about the correlation between the content of a game and its sales figures. Hype and PR are in almost all cases absolutely crucial for a game’s success. This is especially true for big budget titles that must recoup their development costs early in a title’s sales lifetime or risk never making money at all.

  2. syncaine says:

    The carebear line is kind of an inside joke around here, as clearly one can’t mention WoW without taking a shot at it.

    The second point though, you are correct in that is how it is sometimes on consoles, with Ico being another good example. On the PC though, with the first month sales not being AS critical, good games tend to eventually rise to the top, and especially in the MMO genre, where games are built for the long term.

  3. Anne says:

    Sorry Sean, but choosing some fights to be harder then others doesn’t make a game good.

    Ensidia are happy, and so were others… Because their expections were the lowest they had ever been after pretty much having zero new raid encounters with the release of WOTLK. Anyone would be happy with cheap Fish and Chips after eating dog shit for months. And that is what happened with Ensidia and pretty much everyone who raided in WoW when Uld came out, the 3.1 feeling is wearing off now… And with 3.2 having no raid content (and more vehicles! gratz you can play mario kart in your MMORPG some more!) I have no doubt that real gamers will start to drop off… And Blizzard stuffed up in China, thousands of Chinese have gotten sick of waiting for WOTLK and are moving on to other MMORPGS like Aion.

    Having hard modes is FAR from going back to what WoW was. Hardmodes makes ONE aspect of WoW harder, when in Vanilla the whole game was for gamers instead of one aspect of ‘choosing to make a fight harder’. Everything else in the game is still easy, while the game used to be a MMORPG where it took lots of time, lots of teamwork, and lots of skill to get to the top.

    Ruined in what sense? In the sense that going casual means that complexity and depth can be removed from the game. Dailies are a smart way of making players to do grinds, quick fixes that are basically mini-games which players can repeat again, again and again. And the whole game is like this, easy quick fixes and hopefully people will start seeing that they are playing a Social Networking tool rather then a MMORPG that takes you on one epic long journey to MAKE new friends through hard work rather then just a game where you can play Bejeweled.

  4. Pwnrox says:

    This post is right on the spot syncaine. One more precision you maybe forgot to add is that a game that does not live up to its hype can greatly hinder the reputation and perhaps future potential success of the developping firm. I don’t think that Funcom is going to fool anyone when trying to buid hype for their expension pack or even their next MMO. That lays down the question of the community’s memory and forgivness potential.

    You also seem to underestimate the power of hype lovers. I was personally delighted to read the greenskin blog in pre/post release of War just because Snafgz got so involved into it, it was like nerd style psycho-drama. Blogger get soo personal and sensitive when it comes to their failed MMO honeymoon, its just plain fun to read.

    With that being said, I think your analysis totally obliterates Tobold’s theory of hype being a certain source of discontent. You are right / he is wrong …its sad but true

  5. Centuri says:

    Hype serves a purpose. The problem becomes when the devlopers and community folks themselves start to drink the koolaid as well.

  6. Thallian says:

    hype is an enigma wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a question. They seek to make something more exciting by obscuring real details and making it seem bigger and better than it is. A few companies give you the down low but I dont know if I call that hype, I call that “honest and usually ineffectual marketing” :P

  7. Martin says:

    I totally agree with you! I used to be a real hype-lover. And just between mmo’s like flies on shit. Too bad people build up these self-made expectations, because if you do that – There will always be “that little thing” the game didn’t have. Personally, when I started playing EVE Online, I settled down. I haven’t left New Eden since, and ain’t planning on doing it for a long time.

  8. Diablo says:

    I just started my own D3-Blog .. so yeah, I´m a fan of these hypes around a new game. Especially because it´s Diablo 3! :)

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