The Hype Machine – 7th Generation

September 15, 2008

The rumor mill has stuck again with an insider source from Blizzard Entertainment stating that the development of Starcraft 2 will be postponed until the release of Diablo 3. Blizzard had announced Diablo 3 a year after Starcraft 2, which was speculated to have come out some time in 2009. Knowing Blizzard’s track record, I would put money that these games may not even be out until 2010 though I am sure the final produce well be worth it. This isn’t new for developers to postpone release dates, but seeing the latest models of Nintendo and EA announcing games within a shorter release window I am wondering what effect these press models will have to the gaming-world Hype Machine.

Hype can be a wonderful thing enticing the gaming community for products that they know doubt yearn. Showing the game early can help developers present material for the press to spread the word and also gain feedback on improvement towards the game and public response. Of course it is also a great marketing tool. This week, The Force Unleashed is released and I can already tell that this will be a divisive game. It has all the geekdom of the Star Wars universe and has drawn criticisms over its monotonous combat system and uninspired level design–this was gathered from the current reviews I’ve read. But the game will sell like gangbusters because it has just enough of that arcade playability and “wow factor” to pander to the masses. This was exactly the case with Assassin’s Creed which proved to be one of the biggest hits of 2007.

This past year, EA and Nintendo seem to be taking the Apple route by announcing a game only months prior to its release. Being a long time PC fan where games are announced years before release, this is a welcome change. It also shows the amount of faith EA has placed on new franchises such as Dead Space. Of course, both these games are a huge risk as the foundation of the product is already set in stone and there is little a developer can really do by game test and tweak as much as possible. Too Human, which had a arguably poor early showing probably benefiting from being previewed early in terms of the game’s development. I believe the controversy has more to do with the vocalic Dennis Dyack, god love him. The game’s success is a whole other story.

The problem with this new Hype Machine press model is that it is basically finding success for this model is grasping straws. It is a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? But it will be interesting to see long time developers and distributors decide which model works best for the product. It is clear that no one wants a Duke Nukem Forever, but I don’t believe companies want to reveal their hand too early. Personally, I can wait for products such as Alan Wake or Half-Life Ep. 3, but the convenience of having Mirror’s Edge right around the corner is a major step in the ways companies advertise and push their new games.


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