We all know the feeling of being super excited for our favourite game to launch. With the internet at our fingertips we are able to pour over screenshots, video previews, analysis and behind the scenes content from our favourite game studios. What this means is that we have everything at our disposal to build up massive expectations for upcoming games. Add to this the marketing machines across the publishing houses and you often see a perfect storm of hype. Many gamers are becoming a bit jaded about the whole hype thing, but regardless of how nonchalant you try to be, when a game you love is in the works all logic goes out the window.
The reason I am writing this is because there have been two massive game releases in recent months that handled their launch build up in different ways. One successful and one less so. Of course the quality of the end product is important, but the context that the game launches in has a major effect on its reception.The two games that I am talking about are Watch Dogs and Destiny.
Lets tackle Watch Dogs first. Watch Dogs kicked off with some awesome teaser trailers that showcased what was an amazing concept of a connected city and a mobile savvy hacker. The concept, early footage and marketing material around the game did a great job of building the hype to a massive level.
They then stumbled on their first hurdle when the game was delayed, however this did not lower expectations but rather heightened them, with the popular opinion being that they were adding more polish to the game to make it a fantastic launch. If you then add in the questions around graphics/framerates etc and we should have been a bit more skeptical. However, when the game launched it failed to capture the critical acclaim that it aimed for despite what I still think is an amazing concept.
So if you were to argue that the game itself was just not good enough, your argument would not be flawed, however my opinion was that it was still a good game. The problem is that we weren’t expecting a good game, we were expecting an amazing game. So if you ask the question; “did Watch Dogs deliver on the expectations they created?” the answer is no.
Let’s flash forward and take a look at the Destiny launch. Again a similar product, Destiny has a fantastic Sci-fi universe and back story mixed with the pedigree of Bungie (the developers behind Halo). The hype built instantly for Destiny from even before it was announced with “leaked” screenshots making their way onto the web. Destiny then benefited from a very strong marketing campaign across platforms such as twitter, Facebook and instagram that did a great job of building the hype.
However, one big departure point is the fact that Bungie opened it’s doors and took all of us with them on the journey to launch. Through weekly developer updates, behind the scenes content, great social community management and ultimately the Alpha and Beta demos, our expectations have been kept in check with a healthy dose of reality. It’s a fine line to walk between showing enough to keep potential customers grounded but still excited to purchase on day one, but one that Bungie and Activision executed perfectly.This is easily quantifiable by the massive day one sales of over $500 million that Destiny pulled in. Firing up the retail version of Destiny I knew what I was expecting and am thoroughly enjoying it so far. We still have a long way to go before our Destiny review is complete (as will be the case across the web) but so far, so good.
So that’s two big AAA releases on new-gen platforms, two approaches to marketing games and two very different outcomes. I can’t help but think that if the Watch Dogs team had spent less time on one-way marketing communication and more time on inclusive two-way conversation with their fans that they would have ended up in a very different place. What do you think – did the marketing approach influence the hype vs delivery debate or was it just down to the quality of the end product?