Video Games' Greatest Enemy: Being Over-Hyped
With No Man's Sky recently releasing to a lukewarm reception after months of anticipation, do games suffer from being over-hyped?
Google defines hyping up a product as promoting something while "often exaggerating its benefits"; looking at the landscape of the games industry in 2016, this hyperbolising of what a game actually is quickly seems to be becoming part of the marketing campaign for almost all triple-A titles, which leads to a distortion of the facts and, instead, a strange, often misleading blend of what's real, and what the PR people behind the scenes want you to think is real.
Of course, this isn't always the case. Something like Uncharted 4, first teased at the PS4 launch event in November 2013, had a huge marketing campaign behind it, and one that, along the way, built up an incredible excitement from PlayStation players across the World; and it lived up to the hype built by Sony. Equally, the PR companies behind the games aren't always totally to blame: sometimes the vaguest tease can lead to the internet, with its trademark over-active imagination, a product of the millions of people browsing Reddit, IGN, Kotaku and other such sites every week, over estimating - or simply falsely estimating - what something is or can be.
So, when does it all go wrong? The most recent example and one still fresh on the shelves of gamers is, of course, Hello Games' No Man's Sky, which - after years of being pushed as this entity that would change games forever - disappointed many fans hugely, with critics reporting that, while the innovation is certainly there, the fun perhaps isn't. While this doesn't mean it was an anticlimax for everyone, the people who bought into what was being said about the game must surely have felt a surge of annoyance or perhaps regret as they realised No Man's Sky wasn't, perhaps, what they been lead to believe it was: solidifying the idea that it was, indeed, a victim of its own hype.
In fact, No Man's Sky is the third game in as many years I can think of that's followed this trend. Perhaps most obviously is 2014's Destiny - which, again, was seen as something that would change games forever. But, when people actually began to play, they found it had very little story, and the mish-mash of genres crammed together in an attempt to appeal to everyone had actually backfired, and the reason it hadn't happened before was simply because it doesn't work. Again, that doesn't mean people didn't love it, and don't continue to love it now: I hear that many of these problems have been resolved with the post-release expansions.
The other game that, on a more personal level, didn't live up to the hype - or at least what I'd built around it in my head - is last November's Fallout 4. It only takes a short browse through Gamotere to notice my love of the Elder Scrolls franchise. It perhaps stands as my single favourite series in gaming and, by extension, its developer - Bethesda Game Studios - will always hold a special place in my heart.
But, while the countless hours I've spent in Skyrim and Oblivion and the few I've spent in Morrowind solidify that love, I'd never touched a Fallout game before November. I thought Fallout 4 would be the perfect place to jump in: it sounded like a modern version of the series I'd seen billed as essentially "Skyrim with guns". After only a short time with the game - while I could appreciate what it was - to me, it wasn't that. I didn't get lost in the story as I had in Skyirm, or bathe in the intrigue of the war between the native-Nords and ever-imposing Imperial troops or simply have the feeling that I was in a truly real world. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the post-apocalyptic nature of the game, which is slightly less familiar than that of Skyrim or Oblivion, which could simply be a remote part of the countryside (admittedly, with a lot more Dragons).
Whatever the reason, my interest wasn't piqued, and I didn't feel like I had to rush back to my character in order to further explore the world and meet new people: the whole game fell flat as this image of something I'd created in my head to rival that of one of my favourites of all time just simply did not hold up.
Again, this is just another part of the danger of hype: no matter how much you try to limit the amount of time people have to think about and create false images of a game in their heads, as Bethesda tried to curb with the six months announcement-and-release of Fallout 4, people still can and, as is their right, still will. Of course, companies can't be expected to simply not talk about their game - not only are they, hopefully, excited for it be released themselves, they want it to sell to its full potential, not only meaning the blood, sweat and tears were worth it, but also that any future projects have the ability to be realised.
Hyping something up has become a regular part of the PR cycle for games: whether it be at E3, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, PSX, or the other, smaller, events dotted throughout the calendar. But, I think, the level it can sometimes extend to should be turned down a notch or two. Maybe a game should be allowed to speak for itself rather than the people behind it making false promises, or simply promise a feature that sadly is forced to change as the development reaches its end. I think there's a strong case to be made for the Fallout 4-style release of a game, even if it didn't necessarily work for me (and, I'm sure other people). The idea that we don't have years to stew on a game, and let it get out of control in our minds can surely prevent another Destiny or No Man's Sky occurring in the future. Although, I'm sure The Last Guardian and perhaps, as is looking ever more likely, Final Fantasy XV, have something to say about that.