So this year we have seen 2 games which have been highly anticipated and heavily advertised, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars before they were even released, when they were however the games received lukewarm acclaim or worse, and left gamers more than a little salty. I am of course referring to Watchdogs and Destiny. Both of which are far from bad games, they just aren’t the revolutionary and genre defining titles that the hype had built them up to be.
Watchdogs was in essence a lie, similar to the lie that was Aliens: Colonial Marines although not as cataclysmically dreadful. The vertical slice footage that announced the game’s development was sublime in terms of graphical fidelity, it looked like the next generation that people were dreaming of. Yet dreams rarely reflect the reality, the released game looks no better than your average open world actioner, and in some aspects was downright terrible (the draw distance and model pop in spring to mind). However many gamers will jump at the chance to shout that graphics don’t matter so it doesn’t follow that a lack of graphical fidelity was the source of the outcry.
In reality it came down to consumer expectation, Watchdogs was a new IP, it was very aggressively marketed and built itself up to be the next big thing. This hype that Ubisoft put so much money into building did generate a large number of preorders, however it also allowed word of mouth to get somewhat out of hand. The ability to influence the world by hacking computers sounded really cool, so when players didn’t know the intricacies of the system, they inferred from the hype that it would a be a revolutionary mechanic that would enhance their gameplay beyond anything they’d ever seen. Then they told their friends this, then their friends made a comment on a YouTube video, etc etc. The inflation of the already exaggerated marketing raised the bar beyond reason and when it turned out that Watchdogs was just an average cover shooter with a couple of interesting mechanics borrowed from other games and genres, people were fuming. Interestingly this didn’t apply to GTA V, a game which also received an outrageous amount of marketing and hype, however because it was a sequel, there wasn’t expectation for completely new ideas, consumers were content with more of the same but shinier and with a few new bits.
Destiny is a different matter, its reception has been on the whole much better than Watchdogs, despite a woefully underdeveloped story and quests so generic Activision want to make sequels of them. That said it has borne the brunt of some hefty criticism from scorned fans who wanted the “revolutionary” game that Destiny most certainly is not. Again it comes from the hype train however this time there is a sense of developer expectation, Bungie have made naught but Halo since 2001, and Halo was a revolutionary game in its time, and the series remained one of the best first person shooters on the market well after the franchise went to 343 Studios. To the consumer, Bungie meant quality, Bungie meant epic sci-fi, Bungie meant innovative gameplay. Destiny only really meets one of those criteria and then only just, quality. Destiny’s saving grace is that the core gameplay (actually running about and shooting people) is really fun, and it rescues the experience from the otherwise mediocre sea of MMO features. As you are mostly doing the running around and shooting, to most players (dare I say more casual), the mediocrity is much less apparent, although how much of Destiny’s positive feedback is merely fanboyism it is unclear. It has also been seen that Destiny had some worryingly good story cutscenes removed from the game, perhaps due this is due to the “10 year game” idea but it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that much of the story is going to be sold to us as paid DLC, something that, quite rightly, riles up gamers no end.
The hype rain spreads from the trend in the industry to push for preorders, both Watchdogs and Destiny may have held far more acclaim had they been announced closer to their actual release date, Destiny was announced a year and a half before its release, Watchdogs was 2 years before its release, and why? Well; Destiny was announced because Sony wanted to say “look we got Microsoft’s signature dev team on our side as well now” when they announced the PS4, and Watchdogs was the posterboy for the next-gen. It’s ridiculous so much money has gone into convincing people to buy the game without really knowing what it’s going to be. My advice would be to stop preordering games, it will save you money and you will know whether the game you are considering buying is any good by the reviews (especially on this site) that come out in the week of release. Don’t listen to the hype, wait until the game is in the hands of someone who doesn’t have a pay cheque from the publisher in their pocket before you put down the £40/$60 that the game costs, it’ll keep your finances far more healthy and derailing the hype train would be no bad thing for the industry, as it will encourage more transparency during the development process. In an ideal world we would have clear ideas of exactly what a game will be like from a reliable source, allowing us to make informed decisions. That should be the end goal here.
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