Hype. It’s a word that is thrown around a lot today in general and seems to be used even more in the context of video game releases. Given the frequency with which this word is used it seems like maybe we should know its exact definition. Let’s go to Google and see what it has to say.
The definition of the noun seems relatively neutral. It’s when we look at the verb’s definition that we see an inkling of what might be a negative connotation. Finally, when we get into the examples of usage we see that hype really isn’t a good thing.
Hello Games, the creators of No Man’s Sky, has found this out the hard way in the last couple of weeks. In case you missed it, No Man’s Sky is a procedurally generated, sandbox, survival game that promised the moon and the stars and apparently delivered only some of what it promised. Its reception started with a ho hum reaction, quickly ran to accusations of false advertising, and as of this last weekend (August 27 – 28), mass refund requests.
I’m not here to join the crap storm that has befallen No Man’s Sky and Hello games. I bring it up because it’s just the latest example of hype gone wrong in what I like to think of as the “Age of Hype” in video games. The time when unscrupulous game developers and publishers took advantage of gamers’ good will and excitement about new games. Using it to boost pre-order sales by showing game play and features that were sometimes not even in the final product. Hell, even the quality of graphics have been hyped in games and then fallen short. (Watch Dogs, anyone?)
The thing is, eventually most everyone will wise up. For me it started around the time of the Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft. However, it wasn’t until around the time of Diablo 3 and the last Sim City game that I really learned my lesson. I was really interested in No Man’s Sky too. About a year ago though, the hype around that game really started to go full throttle. Or so it seemed to me anyway. I was in no danger of pre-ordering the game because of my a fore mentioned experience with D3 and Sim City. I was tempted to buy it on the day of release, though. Thankfully, some of the early reviews of the game made me rethink purchase on release day as well. I figured I would give it a few days and see what more people had to say. And based on what has happened in the two weeks the game has been out I’d say I made the right decision. It’s a shame too because I really wanted this game to be good. And I wanted to love it.
I adore sandbox games. I love the freedom, the building and the exploration. I also love the idea of space exploration. (It saddens me that mankind has not done more in that regard since we landed on the moon.) And to be able to do that in a game that has literally quintillions of planets seemed like a no-brainer for me. Unfortunately, it seems that the game play is all about just getting the resources to travel to the center of the galaxy. Land on a planet, mine resources until you have enough to move on, rinse, and repeat. Not for me, thanks. I need a bit more.
I hope that the anger around No Man’s Sky’s hype might signal the beginning of hype being reigned in by game companies. Or at least less belief in hype surrounding new game release on the part of gamers. Game companies need to realize every time you scream “FIRE!” or cry “WOLF!” and there’s no smoke nor wolf you lessen response just a little more. We understand that companies want to generate excitement around their products. Perhaps just do it in a measured and honest way?
So what do you think? Have you been burned by the purchase of an overly hyped game? If so, how did it effect how you purchased games afterward? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @MarsUller or @thegeekembassy.