All Aboard the Hype Train!

Georgina Howlett discusses all things hype, but is this gaming trend now overhyped?

Georgina Howlett
29th November 2016
Image Credits: Wikimedia, Flickr

Hype in the gaming industry is not a new occurrence, and nor is it surprising given the incredible fan bases which many games, consoles and developers have. It has almost become part of the package of any video game announcement, and as such there are divisive opinions on whether it has a good or bad impact on the marketing and reception of games.

Increasingly, it is thought that hype is having a negative effect on the industry. In the past few years alone, new and popular games have been given unrealistic and even impossible expectations to meet as a result of over-hyping, with Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky being perhaps the most recent and famous victim of this (but then again it was dishonestly promoted and most of the promised features weren’t included upon release, so perhaps it wasn’t the hype that was the issue). Similarly, developers and publishers seem to be feeling pressured by the hype for their games, releasing them early in order to meet demand but failing to complete and refine them. As such, some games are released half-finished, broken in mechanics or with features missing (again, No Man’s Sky with its game-breaking bugs and glitches, and absence of multiplayer, interstellar war, endless planets… I could continue but I won’t), which in the end only elicits more negative responses from fans and increases criticism for excitement around gaming at all.

Pokémon GO as a mobile game is equally victim and perpetrator of this; once released, it became apparent that the servers couldn’t handle the sheer number of players, the tracking feature didn’t function, and bugs were littered everywhere that caused Pokémon to disappear or the player to run across the map with no prompting whatsoever. Finally, at its core, long hype cycles in particular are being pinpointed as to blame for the negative reception of many games; prospective players, given years to mull over a game and predict what it will and won’t be, create unreasonable expectations that inevitably aren’t met. It is a vicious cycle that excitement for often great games results in said game not being seen as as great as it realistically is, as people expect too much and then receive too little.

Of course, though, hype for games isn’t entirely negative. It is, undeniably, good for the industry in the sense that it makes money. Hyped-up games are more frequently pre-ordered, special editions are more common, and on release day thousands flock to stores and online retailers to purchase the game. A lot of money is pumped through the system, eventually resulting in even more games, and thus the cycle begins anew. Hype creates good publicity that attracts a lot more people to games that are perhaps lesser-known, or not made by big companies. More and more indie developers of late have been able to enter the mainstream industry, with Toby Fox’s Undertale being an excellent example of a small-scale game that hit it big, and therefore it stands that the industry is more inclusive now of both established and new developers than it has ever been before. Most significantly, though, a lack of hype for games can (unfortunately) mean that great titles are overlooked and do not sell well. Often it is preconceptions and expectations which create demand, and so if a game is insufficiently hyped, it can also cause them to flop, no matter how good they are.

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