The video game industry has gotten so big that it is hard for a big AAA game to be developed and released without a huge fuss. Marketing and hype for big games plays a huge role in the development cycle nowadays but how far out should consumers be seeing teaser content for a new game? The VGU staff discusses their opinions on the topic.
Can somebody…anybody…explain to me why we need to find out about games so far ahead of time before their release? Is there really a good explanation on why we know The Last Guardian exists even though there is no hope in sight of it ever seeing the light of day?
The most recent example of course is Final Fantasy XV, which originally titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, was revealed back in May of 2006. Having been in development for this long, surely the crew behind the game are almost done considering how much limelight it’s received since the new consoles have launched right? Nope. Just last week, we were told that Final Fantasy XV is about 55% developed…which again…is after eight long years. Does that mean that the game was less than 7% done when they teased it?
So how early is an announcement to me? I would say that the game better be a guaranteed release no later than 9 months post reveal announcement. I get excited knowing what games are coming out ahead of time, but it’s difficult to care too much about a game that has a launch window a year and a half away and then a good possibility of it being pushed back from there. It’s becoming more and more ridiculous how quickly publishers are to announce games without having the development behind the game far enough to back up the potential release.
So as a note to publishers: STOP. It’s not worth hyping your game up for too long only to have it not live up to expectations. It will only lead to disappointment due to the high hopes of people who would expect games that spend more time in development to be superior to those with far less time under their wing.
In gaming, the marketing blitzkrieg of early development announcements has proven to be a double edged sword, as early development teasers generate certain expectations in gamers for what the final product is going to be. The nature of creative development is tumultuous, and often leads to many scrapped ideas that are missing from the final product. If these features were demonstrated in the earliest demos and stage presentations, this is guaranteed to create a strong backlash from the audience, as these materials actively generated anticipation in their audiences based on elements now removed from the final product.
Even worse is when teased games disappear entirely, unceremoniously scrapped over development cycle problems, leaving fans bewildered over why they they had ever been excited in the first place. For this reason, teasing any game years before its announced release date is too often a slippery slope that creates false expectations for the game in question, and actively deceives the consumer.
Consider the earliest trailer for Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006 (now retitled Final Fantasy XV). This teaser offered no game play or promises of a release date, but did promise an aesthetic look, tone and theme along with the proposed release for the Playstation 3. After jumping forward eight years(!), the game has been completely redesigned and moved from the Playstation 3 to the Playstation 4. Beyond the improvement in graphical fidelity, the overall tone and visual style of the game has been dramatically altered from its initial announcement, looking nothing like its original trailer. The name change from Versus XIII to XV was a slick tactic by Square-Enix to differentiate this product from that original announcement, but it does not change the fact that we, as consumers, are not getting the game that Square-Enix originally showed us back in 2006.
This isn’t an isolated example. Killzone 2, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Alone in the Dark and even newly released games such as Watch_Dogs all demonstrate the same principle in action to varying degrees. These games were all in the earliest stages of their development cycles, yet the developers and publishers of these games made the active decision to create teaser material for them in order to drum up anticipation.
In my opinion, teasers and trailers should only be shown when the game is over halfway completed. This prevents the larger scale deception that early trailers and demos sell for games that have barely entered the earliest stages of alpha testing. The very nature of game development makes it impossible for a game to fully deliver on all of its promises, but when teasers and announcement trailers promise outlandish features and innovative experiences, audiences put their trust in the developer’s and publisher’s hands. By removing the earliest teaser trailers/gameplay demonstrations and realistically presenting material that is indicative of the final product, developers and publishers show faith in their product and a more honest presentation of what consumers can expect from the final game. Games will always change from development to release, but by releasing trailers and demos later in the development cycle, the publishers and developers limit the amount of features lost in the interim.
With gaming continuing to grow, early teasers and demonstrations become more and more common. With this trend unlikely to stop, always approach these early marketing materials with reservation and scrutiny. After all, I’m still waiting for the chance to watch a tree grow in real time.
Editor in Chief
The question of when to start releasing teaser content for a new game is one that is muddled by a few different sides that are all affecting the process of game development and marketing. The first side is the side of the publishers and developers who want to build hype for and market their new game. Marketing teams spend lots of time and money trying to make sure that the incredibly expensive endeavor of a AAA game release in today’s market doesn’t go unnoticed. The hype train usually starts pretty early with a teaser that comes sometimes years before the actual release date and doesn’t really reflect how the finished product will turn out.
The second side of the problem comes from impatient gamers who can’t wait to see what developers and publishers are working on and want to see it as soon as humanly possible. They pressure companies into showing off things that they don’t want to show and sometimes hack and then leak plot details, screenshots, gameplay and more to further mess with the normal launch cycle.
If you couple those pressures with the third-party pressure from companies like Microsoft or Sony to have something to show off at big press events like E3 and you have a recipe for a lot of hype and, most likely, a lot of disappointment. Gamers get upset when a game is shown off as one thing and actually develops into something else and it has caused a lot of the “AAA resentment” that has come from major releases in the past like Watch Dogs and Destiny.
So to answer the actual question of the roundtable, I believe that a teaser for a new game (one that actually shows something significant like gameplay or story) should be released within a year of the proposed release date. I understand that game delays happen so it may end up being more than a year from the actual release but don’t put out a trailer this year with only a fraction of the game complete and a launch window of two or three years down the road. It will build up hype that can’t be met and the game itself will likely change enough to warrant a lot of vitriol from gamers.
That’s what the VGU staff had to say but what do you think? How far out do you like to see trailers and promotional material for a new game? Let us know what you think in the comments below.