2014: The Year of Overhype

This year has been marked by scandals and outrage from within the gaming community. From King.com’s outrageous trademark acquisitions to the whole GamerGate debacle, this year will no doubt go down as one of the most colorful in gaming history. I, for one, will remember it for the array of highly publicized games that failed to meet the standards of fans due to overhype caused by publishers and developers.

We all probably have at least one game we regret buying this year. Whether it’s a game that you bought on a whim or one that you’ve been heavily anticipating for the last few months, we’re all guilty of purchasing a game and being disappointed with the end result. Should you, the consumer, feel guilty for hastily buying something that was promoted as the game to end all games, the holy grail of gaming, or even the second coming of Christ? No, but the developers and publishers should.

This would have been a cool event to watch in real time…had I spent enough time in the game.

Take Destiny for instance. Activision has been flaunting this game for the past year and a half as a true achievement in almost every aspect of game design (i.e. sound, multiplayer, level design). As more players got their hands on a copy from their local game store, they realized that although the game was enjoyable at surface level, it didn’t offer anything substantial that would keep the player enthralled for too long after reaching the level cap. Of course, fun is subjective and your opinions are your own, but there’s no doubt that a large amount of Destiny’s discussion on the internet has been about the game’s lack of plot and unbalanced item drop algorithms. This created an outcry from gamers claiming they had not received the game that had been shown to them for such a long time.

Earlier this year, WB Games’ new game Lord of the Rings; Shadow of Mordor was announced. For those unaware, LOTR games have not had a very good track record, and ratings usually tend to dip towards the lower end of the scale. Based off of that knowledge I, and many other people, had immediately written this off because of its shocking similarity to the Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham series. However, my feelings towards it instantly changed when the reviews for the game started coming out. With around sixty hours of playtime and a platinum trophy in my collection, I can safely say that this has to be one of the few games this year that I don’t regret buying. It was one of the few games where as I continued playing, my level of enjoyment kept increasing, and upon completing the map of Mordor, I leapt with joy after finding that I could travel to an entirely new area right after! What also helped was the fact that the game played and felt as thought the development process wasn’t rushed. During my total playtime I only experienced a few small bugs while traversing the world, but it was no where on par with that of Assassin’s Creed: Unity. 

It’s still hard to believe the makers of Gotham City Imposters created this game.

So what is making so many of these big budget games fail? I believe it’s because of the relentless marketing carried out by publishers that inaccurately shows the work and progress in a game that blatantly lies to the consumer just so they can have a profitable fourth quarter. Let’s take a look at Ubisoft and their recent actions considering Assassin’s Creed: Unity. For the most part, Unity is a highly entertaining game that I have already soaked dozens of hours into it, but even I can’t deny the horrendous technical problems that hold this game back from fulfilling Ubisoft’s marketing slogan, “Next-gen starts here”. For months, Ubisoft has been dropping a gameplay video here, a story trailer there, which did exactly what it was supposed to. All these early looks eventually convinced me that this next installment was going to be one of, if not the, best Assassin’s Creed game. Boy was I in for a surprise. Since the game’s release, none of the worst technical problems like parkouring inside of a roof or falling into the hidden void beneath Paris have been properly addressed or corrected. No doubt this has left a sour taste in gamers’ mouths that they will surely remember for a very long time.

It’s a real shame to see the path the gaming industry is headed. While there are lots of studios constantly innovating and trying to create the best user experiences, there are bigger, much more powerful companies that are hell bent on taking  money from consumers under the guise of providing a new  piece of media. It’s publishers like Ubisoft and Activison that are pushing their teams to produce bigger and better games that they realize are nowhere near completion, but still decide to ship because they know that no matter what kind of publicity they get, there will always be people who have been suckered in by their marketing tactics.

Admittedly, the source of my dissatisfaction with games this year can be traced back to myself. I overhyped myself on gameplay videos and press releases that obviously set my expectations to a very high degree. So far, 2015 looks to be a year full of new IPs and returning franchises. I myself am very excited for games like Bloodborne and The Order: 1886, and after playing them at Pax a few months ago, I can safely say that I’m highly anticipating these new releases.  I feel like this year has definitely resonated with gamers as well as the publishing and development teams. It has ironically benefited the industry by clearly showing video game creators the repercussions that can stem from the overly aggressive marketing push done to boost the profits of a game they know will not live up to the expectations of the consumers who fund the company year after year.

Conor Lorenz

Conor lives in a small house in Edmonds surrounded by anything technological.

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