There is little doubt that a very fundamental part of a gaming launch is the advertising and marketing from the development companies involved. The question is: With so much emphasis on advertising and marketing, is the hype meeting our expectations?
Diablo III - 2012
The development of Diablo III began in 2001 by Blizzard Entertainment (Publisher - Square Enix), and was officially announced in June 2008. The planned release would be on Windows and Mac OS platforms. The game would eventually be released in May 2012 after some lengthy time in development. Many fans of Diablo II had waited nearly 10 years for this 3rd installment. The anticipation and build up to its inevitable release was phenomenal. With midnight launches scheduled across South Africa, and to its subsequent opening day sales. Then came the post day launch issues, and the notorious “Error 37”. The Battle.net servers became highly strained by the traffic of gamers streaming online to have their first taste of Diablo III multiplayer. The server related issues continued for some time (approximately 2 weeks in most areas) world wide, whilst Blizzard worked hard on resolving the issues. At this stage, long awaiting fans grew more and more frustrated, and some opted to put the game down and walk away.
At this stage however, Diablo III had already set a new record for the fastest selling PC game with over 3.5 million copies sold in the 1st 24 hours of release. Not to mention being voted as the best selling PC game of 2012, selling over 12 million copies during that year. Critics alike tended to overlook the initial issues, and still gave the game favourable reviews, much to the relief of Blizzard and Square Enix, whilst gamers were less than impressed, especially with the game requiring an internet connection at all times.
The conclusion to the saga is that, while the game is still good, the hype around the game didn't live up to many gamers expectations when it was launched. So many of them failed to continue with the game weeks after release as some still experienced terrible connection issues.
GTA V – 2013
Rockstar sparked a gaming revolution with its Grand Theft Auto series, spanning a number of released titles up to and including GTA V. The company was quite familiar with controversy, with the game being linked to some violent actions from teenagers, and the development company being sued by numerous organisations.
The title was in production since 2008, shortly after the release of GTA IV. The initial proposed release for the game was expected in Q3 of 2012, but was pushed back until Q3 of 2013. Rockstar had first acknowledged the existence of the new title on 25 October 2011 via their official website and twitter pages, with the Take-Two Interactive, Rockstars parent company, seeing an increased share price of 7% after the announcement. Since the announcement, Rockstar had advertised and marketed the game through movie trailers, posters, and game play teasers. A great deal of money was spent on marketing the game and producing a hype second to none. Sales for the game broke records, surpassing Activisions Call of Duty: Black Ops II by $300 million. Within 3 days, the game surpassed the $1 billion mark, which took Black Ops II, 15 days to achieve.
Rockstar opted to launch the Single Player version of the game first, and 3 weeks later would launch its highly anticipated GTA Online, the Multiplayer component for the game. The game had received critical acclaim from reviewers the world over, reaching near perfect or perfect scores. However, GTA Online had connectivity issues from the start, again leading to many gamer frustrations, and a heavy flogging for Rockstar via their forums by the irate gamers. The connection issues lasted for 3 weeks, whereby Rockstar opted to “reward” gamers by presenting them with in-game cash of $500,00. Some gamers received their money, others (like myself) still have not.
The conclusion: Are you still playing GTA Online? I’m not. After completing the Single Player, and struggling to have a fair, pleasant online experience for about 3 weeks, which hardly materialized for me, I have stopped playing it altogether. For me, the hype certainly never met my expectations – even though the game received such amazing scores.
Call of Duty Ghosts - 2013
There is no doubt that the Call of Duty franchise has been a strong contender for franchise of the decade. With the combination of Infinity Ward as developer, and Activision as publisher, this game always had the makings of an exceptional title. I found a new love for the franchise with Black Ops II, up until I had my first experience with ‘Quick Scope’ from snipers. However, I enjoyed the game, albeit at an ‘arms length’.
Call of Duty: Ghosts made a surprise introduction via the official COD website in April 2013. I am not sure how long into production the game had been, but it seemed almost an ‘out of the blue’ announcement, although it seems the franchise has been pushing out titles annually. Again, no ‘expense’ was spared in marketing the game, even with the involvement of Rapper Eminem, and his new song entitled “Survival”. Pre-game launch trailers, in-game videos all featured around the web. Activision announced the new gaming engine for next-gen consoles and PC, and the subsequent hefty specifications for the PC version of the game. A major facet that had been lacking from the franchise for some time, namely the availability of dedicated servers, had once again been promised, post release however, this hasn’t been seen. Now more so, you are also unable to see your in-game connectivity.
The biggest issue for me is how Infinity Ward and Activision could explain the specifications on the PC version, only to deliver a game equally in design as COD Modern Warfare 3, which lacked any real polish and seemed to have deferred itself backwards from Black Ops II? It was almost the proverbial “Slap in the Face” scenario that gamers had to contend with. The single player was at best, mediocre! And whilst Activision shipped $1 billion worth of units, sales took a knock. Their reasons for this drop isn’t one of ownership, nor do they acknowledge anything pertaining to its failure to deliver up to its expectations, but rather stating that the reason for the drop in sales is due in part by the “upcoming transition to 8th generation consoles”!!
Of course there have been many games over the years that have surpassed expectations from all the hype it generated. Whether or not this is due to the time being spent developing, or whether gamer interest is highly considered. Whatever the reasons, big game franchises may overstate their hype and fail to deliver on highly expected titles. Many consider the Call of Duty franchise as already dead-and-buried, while gamers still hang on to a notion that it would be bigger and better than the last in the series. With so many other gaming titles due for release in 2014, once again a huge emphasis is placed on developers to market a game that actually delivers. A new title, considered to be the challenger to COD is Titanfall.
As I said, there are many games that have in fact lived up to their hype (Halo 3, BF3 etc), and have brought endless hours of enjoyment, but the fact is – some great titles have failed in respect of what they were promised to be. The question is; Do you feel that the hype of games in recent years, has met your gaming expectations?
I truly hope so, and these are merely the ramblings of a former COD fan hugely disappointed by a single title. This year I played the “Best game of my life” on PS3, namely ‘The Last of Us’ from the enigmatic creators, Naughty Dog. There was very little hype about the game, yet it delivered on every aspect of what I enjoy about gaming. So it can be done. Word of mouth advertising pushed this game’s sales, having sold over 3.4 million units, making it the fastest selling PS3 game after 3 weeks of release. Not bad for a title that had very little exposure, but doing more to deliver on its final game content, proving it can be done!
I would love to hear from you - do you think game publishers go overboard with advertising campaigns, or do you feel your expectations are met?
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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd