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?

Let’s discount the practical reason. Yes, most games need to go gold and be made in retail form, first. So, they need about a month of time, for practical production reasons. This doesn’t cover every game, but…it’s rare for a game to hit that window and then announce its existence.

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.


  1. Shizm

    The hype is created with the announcement.


    Oh but I have to wait four months for it?

    In the culture of internet and immediate response, saying you have a new product and that it will be available…in…x number of months…because we’re waiting for the release of a physical product…is stupid. Hype gets diluted, lost in the wash of a tidal wave of daily information.

    Radiohead capitalized on this. When they announced WE HAVE NEW MUSIC, the hype sustained itself. Not because it was one of the biggest bands in the world, but because the wait for this new music was less than a week. It was a WE HAVE NEW MUSIC announcement, and YOU CAN GET IT IN FOUR DAYS. We’ll make CDs and shit later.

    One could argue, I think, that the turnaround time for a band like this and an average game studio is approximately the same. In Rainbows was from 2007. So we waited 3 years for this stuff.

    Theoretically, a game studio could say no more than “we are working on a new project” when asked for comment. Then, boom, WE HAVE A NEW GAME, and you can download it IN THREE DAYS, from Steam, off XBL, whatever.

    To take a Radioheadish game studio…Bioware. Can you imagine…DRAGON AGE 2 OUT THIS WEEKEND. Oh dear little Jesus, the Internet might implode.

    • Tom

      Yeah, I feel Bioware is most capable to do this. They have a legion of fans of the *company*, not of the specific products, so people would jump on something they made, and…even if it’s not downloadable, but them saying, “Hey guys, we expanded Dragon Age 2, it’ll be here in 3 weeks” that’s…a short enough window that we’d be talking about the announcement up until the game came out.

      It’s tough to think of anyone else who could do that, but…oh, maybe the former Call of Duty guys. The trick is to try to capture a moment, and then throw it out there. And, honestly, while I thought doing it in a slow period would work better, actually it makes a lot of sense to do in the fall. An announcement that we would be playing a *major* title from a *major* publisher in three weeks would ignite the gaming press. People would be jumping out of buildings, on fire.