What is the hype really worth?

By Miles Hessinger

We all have at least one thing in common; we’ve been paying a minimum of $60 to play most games these days. There are no set rules or guidelines for what experience should cost what, or how much gameplay should translate to a full game: but it’s not crazy to expect developers to outline why a game is worth another three Andrew Jacksons…or five.

Games today seem to be generally over-hyped, but that’s just the surface of the underlying problem. The real problem appears to be potential players (us) see things in teasers or demos that really sell the game, but the final product falls short - what gives? It seems there is an extreme left and an extreme right to this subject. Either highly over-hyped or highly under-hyped. It comes down to simple business; these big budget games gotta sell. Understandable, really- I myself would never have heard of The Witcher 3 if not for a commercial on TV. But what needs to be addressed here is the over-hyping.

Let’s kick it off with the wildly over-hyped disaster that you’re almost assured to have heard about if you've gotten on the internet this year. No man’s sky is a prime example of over-hyped games. After it’s initial reveal in 2013 the spark of popularity that a space game with endless exploration kindled was set to never stop burning.

Leading up to its PC/PS4 release, rumors were strewn about that the game was lacking in promises - early leaked copies were beat in a matter of hours using exploits and review copies were reported to not being given out - but the warnings were not heeded. If you pre-ordered No Man’s Sky, you know where this is going.

Even after a day 1 patch, the game proved to be very limited. While the game held up its promise to the extensively massive world, it fell short on its promise of a multitude of features-notably multiplayer capabilities and a complex crafting system. This created such dismay from its audience that it was headlining news for weeks. Not only that but a comprehensive list of promised features, along with their respective sources, were posted to Reddit. If that wasn't bad enough, mass amounts of refunds were requested - even by those who knowingly went well beyond Steam’s refund deadline.

So then, how do you keep your target audience’s expectations within reachable distances? Well, you’ve got to know your boundaries. As a developer, you have to consider the limitations brought on by cross-platform releases and online capabilities; then decide what to keep if and when you exceed those limitations.

Last year, with Star Wars Battlefront, EA DICE had some pretty massive shoes to fill. The original Star Wars Battlefront series by Pandemic studios (R.I.P Pandemic) are one of the most universally beloved Star Wars games of all time. So when EA DICE took up the torch, expectations were sky high, and not by any fault of their own. Even if EA didn't make a single commercial the hype would be just as high.

When the game was released, the verdict was almost unanimous; Star Wars Battlefront greatly lacked content. It was a benchmark of presentation, being one of the most beautiful games ever made. Unfortunately, graphics and sound alone aren't enough to make a game worth $60 - even if it is Star Wars! The game was clearly made to be played with online with DLC, made even more obvious with the announcement of the Ultimate edition; being sold for cheaper than the original game.

You’d think EA DICE would learn their lesson right? Well, you must not be too familiar with EA, the kings of the DLC. Battlefield 1, which came out earlier in October has been receiving some pretty positive reviews, save for one common criticism - the lack of weapons. Many have already concurred that EA is saving them for DLC, just like Battlefront and Battlefield 4. At least they included a single player story this time, but It’s still very unfortunate; because man I want to buy Battlefield 1… but the full game, not the $60 early access version sold as a full game. But that’s another story entirely, moving on!

How about we hop into the positives and get a little change of pace going? Let's look at the games that knock it out of the park and undersell their games like it’s their job. First up, we have a legend in indie games of recent years; a gem I was lucky enough to get for free through PS Plus - Rocket League. Yeah, baby, that’s right, a genius idea for a game crossing over derby cars and soccer.

Rocket League is the brainchild of Psyonix, a company that came onto the scene in 2008 with their game Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars for the PS3 - essentially a prequel to Rocket League. Not many people have heard of this game but it’s still the raw root of one of the most successful indie games of all time. By 2011, a sequel was confirmed but off to a slow start due to lack of funding and pitching complications to publishers.

Two years later, a plan had taken shape; a free alpha would be used to help build a community and get feedback. Come 2015, Rocket League saw an official release on PC and PS4 with almost no issues. Rocket League absolutely took off, no pun intended. To this day, Rocket League has seen almost 20 million unique players. This is a best-case scenario example of a game that was completely undersold; this game was so worth the $20 it was sold for it’s nearly impossible.

And finally we look at an upcoming title that has a huge hype train but its team has done very well to keep its community from collectively losing sight of what to expect. Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee the spiritual successor to Rare games’ Banjo-Kazooie. This is an interesting story of a highly memorable franchise on N64, by one the most beloved developers of the time. Banjo-Tooie, the second of the series, ended by teasing the audience of a “Banjo-Threeie” but years passed and times changed and not a whimper was heard from the franchise.

In 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare and subsequently Banjo-Kazooie was back in business. Halfway through production for this new Banjo game, however, the team decided a platformer wasn't the type of game that was popular among gamers at the time. Nuts & Bolts was then born, set to be a cart racing / adventure game hybrid. After a massive critical response from fans of the franchise, the game - and what was left of its development team - seemingly vanished.

Ten years later, a scattered group of former rare employees reunited and announce to the world via twitter their intentions to create a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. In 2015, the official Kickstarter began and reached its goal in record time, 21 hours, the fastest video game Kickstarter to reach it’s goal at that time. Talk about hype, eh? Yooka-Laylee gameplay was debuted at E3 and it only further brought up the hype.

Now, the reason I believe this game will not disappoint is because it’s promising exactly what developers should promise. It promises elements that the devs KNOW they can put in. On top of fun, simple gameplay and nostalgic yet original characters. The E3 demo of Yooka-Laylee revealed it was exactly what the world anticipated, basically another Banjo game - Thank you Rare-dah I mean Playtonic, Ya done good.

While it’s very easy to get on the hype train for some of these new games, keep in mind, there’s no punishment for waiting until a game comes out to buy it - in fact, if anything there’s a reward for patience. Don’t let another No Man’s Sky grab ahold of your wallet, you are the consumer and you have more power than you think. When you hear about a selling point of a future game, wait to see it in action before deciding to spend a dime - If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

That’s all from me for now. Game on!