By Skyler Lawton (@sky_guy127)
Now that everything out of E3 2018 has been able to marinate for a few weeks, it might be a good time to reflect on the industry as a whole. Recently, as a member of the Square Enix mailing group, we were asked to take a small survey about the company. The survey asked what sort of things the company could improve on and I instantly thought of the company’s standard of pre-maturely announcing games WELL before their release. This is where the idea of "Hype Fatigue" begins and Square Enix certainly isn’t the only culprit.
"Hype Fatigue" occurs when a game is announced too far in advance of the game’s actual release (anything more than 18-24 months) to build hype or awareness of the game to the public. Anything more than the period of 18-24 months is when the "fatigue" sets in. We live in a world that is changing at a very rapid pace, I’d even say break neck speed. Today’s newest innovation is tomorrow’s old news…and the game industry is not immune to this.
Announcing games past this window of 18-24 months in today’s industry does one of two things in my opinion. In one scenario, the game will generate so much hype in the beginning that people will be foaming at the mouth to get their hands on it. However, by the time companies release the actual games most gamers' interests and attitudes have shifted toward other games. Now, that’s not to say that the game won’t be successful. Rather, it may have difficulty launching successfully. Many games are slow out of the gate but pick up steam throughout their life (for ex. Fortnite, I bet most people don’t know that it wasn’t a "battle royal" game when it originally released).
"...By the time companies release the actual games most gamers' interests and attitudes have shifted toward other games..."
Most, if not all, of these games are announced to gamers without a timetable or release date. So our interest in a game turns into a rollercoaster ride. Our interest is super high for a period, then it declines. This is then usually followed by the developer’s release of an update on production and our interest grows again, but not as high as before, and then it drops…again. It becomes very cyclical and as these periods of high/low interest get dragged out, the fatigue grows to a point where gamers finally say, “Enough with the updates and just give us the game already!!!” For me personally it’s quite tiring. Titles like Kingdom Hearts 3, the Final Fantasy 7 remake, and Beyond Good and Evil 2 have been on my fatigue list for some time now. (Thank God KH3 has an actual release date now!) With all that being said, I believe they will be quality products at release (or, at least I hope so).
Another scenario, which is all too familiar with this industry, are the games that are hyped up so far in advance that gamers have HIGH expectations for a quality product but are completely let down at launch. Although I mentioned Square Enix earlier, they are, thankfully, not guilty of this because although their games take long periods of time between announcement and release, they always release a quality product at the end. This is a reason why I’m not worried about Kingdom Hearts 3 or the Final Fantasy 7 remake. However, I know my individual interest in the games peaked a long time ago and find myself already looking at other games such as the Resident Evil 2 remake that is releasing literally within 8 months of its announcement. Along those lines, Bethesda did the most unheard of thing ever when they announced Fallout 4 at E3 2015 then released the game IN NOVEMBER...OF THE SAME YEAR! Five months…that was all they needed. They generated the hype really quick, and just long enough to keep consumers interested in their product until the payoff a few short months later, before the fatigue began to set in.
Looking at games that I think might have suffered from this, my first thought is Bioware’s Mass Effect Andromeda. Mass Effect Andromeda launched in March 2017 after the hype train began back in June of 2015. That’s 21 months before launch and right in that 18-24 month period where I believe fatigue can set in. The game unfortunately released with many bugs and it took a lengthy period of time to fix. What should have been a great game at launch was a let down, and ultimately wasn’t even playable until everything was patched. (Luckily, I had waited to play it until it was fixed and it was pretty good!)
Another game, similar to this, was Duke Nukem Forever released back in 2011. The game was slated to be released WAY back in in 1998…13 years prior to its actual release! Although there were some legal problems that hindered its production, people knew about it and were waiting for it. Following the cycle of high/low interest, the fatigue set in and when the game finally released, it was a huge let down for the fans (some may go as far to say the biggest steaming pile of garbage at the time).
The reason I believe this could be a going concern for the industry is because consumers are demanding high quality products in as short of time as possible because of how fast the industry moves. There’s already talk of the next console generation! The industry has set a standard and the consumers are now holding them to it. Further, for a market that is as saturated as the game industry, consumer approval is huge and companies are fighting to earn their dollars. As previously mentioned, it’s hard to win the consumer over after their interest has shifted. The average consumer is going to make calculated purchases and if the interest has shifted, possibly because of fatigue, they will more than likely purchase the most hyped up game of THAT moment. This is of course unlike fanboys, like myself, who consistently purchase every game on launch day, even if it’s going to sit on our shelves for a long time until we finish whatever game we’re actually currently playing. It wasn’t until recently that I’d started to make my way through my own (large) backlog of this year’s games. As new games aren’t as prevalent during this time of the year, there’s yet some time until October to get through the rest…until they start piling up again.
Now, overall, I could be wrong on this whole idea of "Hype Fatigue." but it’s a thought that has come to mind recently. Personally, the longer the wait for a game, the more disinterested I become in it as the wait between announcement and launch grows. Does anyone else feel same about this trend?
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