For Immediate Release
If you tend to follow the pretentious British music scene, you would be aware that, for the second time in as many albums, Radiohead have released their newest album digital only, with absolutely no pre-release hype. The first thing we heard about it was two days ago, and now it’s on my hot little computer, coming from the speakers.
Whether or not you care about music, a question is there, waiting: why don’t more games do this? Not even this, release 2 days after announcement, but why do they insist on massive hype waves, years and years of anticipation building up to flawed, nowhere near monumental games?
The massive hype window for games, which usually begins a year before the game comes out, is good for some games, worse for others. It goes both ways, too. Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is a game that started advertising last holiday season in serious, concrete ways (there was no video that did not come with a trailer in the opening minutes. None. It was the advertising equivalent of catnip), and still hasn’t been released. I cared about it when they announced it, because it looked pretty rad. Now? Now they’re lucky if I give it a chance for less than $30, because the hype has died completely. To go the other way, inFamous 2 was announced a month or two ago, yet there’s little buzz for it, because I’ve never met anyone who truly loved the first title.
A quick release window would help some games more than others. Final Fantasy XIII, for instance, would have been a better game devoid of expectations. A quick release removes expectations, but also limits the audience: in inFamous 2’s case, the audience won’t be too much beyond the people who’ve played the original, which is possibly a good choice, but won’t lead to monumental sales. But for a big franchise, something like XIII, it would allow it to come to release without a lot of preconceptions. Especially for a title released during the Spring or Summer, I feel like it could offer a lot of potential to the right company: Square Enix’s major franchises, Bioware, something with a built in fan base, but that is going in a different direction than expected. To return to Radiohead, both of their albums released this way defied how fans expected them to sound: In Rainbows was relatively a return to their rock roots, while The King of Limbs is decidedly more experimental. This describes Final Fantasy XIII perfectly: a movement away from expectations. Would it have done better if we hadn’t been given the chance to build our own version of the game in our heads? Possibly not in sales, but definitely in reception.
It’s an interesting consideration, in any case. I don’t know who would consider releasing a game without a massive wave of publicity, but I think the time is approaching when that will happen, and it’s something that could catch on. And, frankly, I think it’d be a good choice for a lot of developers and publishers to consider.