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Riding the Video Game Hype Train to Nowhere


There is definitely something to be said for a moving, cinematic trailer. A trailer that really pulls on the old heartstrings is a rarity in the land of video games. It should come as no surprise, then, that the recent one for Techland’s Dead Island has successfully raised some eyebrows. But what is it that people are being sold here? Is this a conceptualization of a video game or a short film?

Over at Wired, Jason Schreier warns people to be careful not to get caught up in the hype. After all, the trailer was seemingly produced by Axis Animation and not Techland. He goes on to say that they’ve tied the emotions invoked by the death of a young girl to a product that might have a tenuous relationship at best with the content of trailer.

To back this up, he briefly mentions Final Fantasy XIII’s impressive level of hype due to the cinematic trailer released long before it ever appeared on shelves. As we know all too well, Final Fantasy XIII was quite disappointing when released. In some ways, the trailer only served to set the game up for failure. If you raise the bar of expectations past what you can deliver, it shouldn’t be too surprising when fans are displeased with the end result.

But Final Fantasy isn’t the first franchise to oversell their newest thing as the absolute best ever. If any game truly lives up to the title of most overhyped in recent years, Killzone 2 takes the cake. All Points Bulletin comes in as a close second, but only because there were signs of its impending doom before release.

Killzone 2 was billed as the “Halo Killer.” Whether this was an intentional marketing ploy or something that circulated across the various tubes of the internet and became synonymous with the game is hard to tell. Sufficed to say, Killzone 2 was not a “Halo Killer,” so to speak, though it did well for itself. It seems likely that the excessive hype actually harmed the game in the long-term. The buzz surrounding the game quickly died down after release and can be blamed in part on the reality of the game versus the proposed fantasy of what it could have been.

Not that the term has fallen out of use or anything. It seems like whenever the latest FPS is being brought to market, someone invariably determines that it shall be the next killer of Halo. Because, as we all know, Halo requires being killed. Perhaps, instead, it should henceforth be referred to as the Call of Duty Killer in parlance. Oh wait, that’s already a thing.

You would think that the gaming world would have learned after a little lesson called Daikatana in 1997. The “John Romero’s About to Make You His Bitch” ad borders on the ludicrous and has entered the history books as the way not to advertise a game. That said, it’s an obvious attempt to hype a game—that came out three years later, mind you—based on its creator. Did it work? That’s hard to say. It certainly hyped the game long before it came out.

One guess as to how well Daikatana did when it finally came out. (Hint: It starts with an M and rhymes with fiserably.) As the above article points out, it probably did more harm than good to the game, developer and John Romero.

So what have we learned, then? Apparently, as a whole, not too terribly much. That said, perhaps we really should temper our exuberance a little bit and be pleasantly surprised by the outcome rather than disappointed by our unrealistic expectations. Keep in mind that Techland’s claim to fame currently rests on the broad shoulders of one Call of Juarez.

And, really, is that a Halo Killer?

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