Sometime last year I made the promise to myself that I would stop trying to consume every piece of promotional material put out by the publishers. This included trailers, developer diaries, screenshots and anything else that came out of the hideous maw of the PR beast. It’s been a tough endeavor so far but I think it’s been worth it.
One of the main reasons I stopped partaking in this circus is that most trailers and screenshots for video games actually contain some pretty significant spoilers. You don’t realize it at the time because they’re out of context (and just a bunch of clips cut together), but you could be watching a really cool moment or a crucial plot twist. Movies are the same way, but games are so much more of a time investment.
The Mass Effect 2 launch trailer was a prime example of this, containing several scenes from the game’s climactic finale. Subconsciously, I found myself examining the game, waiting for one of those moments to pop up, and when they did it felt kind of diluted. I knew it was coming so when a certain big moment finally happened, I found myself thinking “oh good, I found it”, rather than enjoying the spectacle. The Saint’s Row the Third MW3/BF3 parody trailer also had a pretty big set piece at the end of it, but depending on what ending you chose, you might not have even seen it. True, you can replay the last mission, but going the “Gangsters in Space” route meant that you didn’t get to see the floating aircraft carrier advertised in the video.
Another reason I’m avoiding pre-release hype is that modern PR companies do a really good job of getting you excited for things that might turn out to be a steaming pile of crap. Again, this is something that movies have been doing for a long time (see the Battle: Los Angeles trailer which is better than the actual movie) but video games aren’t immune to it either. Battlefield 3 had a series of excellent trailers, masterfully crafted to hide the overbearing scripting and poor AI of the actual game. By focusing instead on the big explosions and the awesome graphics, the Fault Line and Thunder Run trailers managed to make BF3 look like a tight experiences as opposed to the mess it actually was. This is partly my fault for buying in to the hype, but when it came time to actually play the single-player Battlefield 3 campaign, this bit me in the ass. Hard.
I understand that because games are announced so far in advance of their release dates that publishers feel the need to constantly string us along, but I’m kind of getting tired of it at this point. Maybe if the industry started announcing games a year out as opposed to two or three (or more as was the case with The Old Republic, one of the biggest offenders) all these trailers would be a bit more bearable because we wouldn’t be seeing one new one a week. Mass Effect 3 has had a trailer almost every day for the past month, it seems like. Live action and elaborate CG trailers are all well and good, but pick one or the other. Don’t shove both down our throats the week before the game comes out.
Even gaming publications aren’t immune to my ban because they’re just as guilty for bringing us all this. They may pretend to be against it, and mock certain assets, but they’ve still got to make money. There are less and less critical voices in gaming because of all the ad money tied up in it and because of this every game looks promising before release. Heck, the game AMY, which was famously panned by critics just a few weeks ago, was getting positive previews. Assassin’s Creed 3 managed to get the entire GamerSushi staff pumped up for it by releasing select bits of carefully selected, juicy info. While I’m sure I’ll love the game, I don’t need a seven-month boner for it.
I really like the community here at GamerSushi because we all seem to be of the same mind about this. We post the trailers that we think are cool or that you guys would like to see, but we don’t go out of our way to find every single bit of marketing. I think this helps us stay focused on the discussion of gaming as a hobby and not an entertainment industry. It’s a very thin line, but I think we walk it pretty well.
What about you guys? Do you also avoid pre-release materials, or do you gobble them up? What hype train have you ridden only to have it derail at the end?