Show some restraint

Dear videogame publishers,

As a games critic (I hesitate to use the word ‘journalist’) I see it as part of my job to remain as fully appraised of the latest games and industry developments as possible. I frequent videogame forums to gauge buzz on current or forthcoming releases. I read news sites daily to remain well-informed of what’s out and what’s soon to be out. I read reviews and interviews. I watch trailers – oh, so many trailers.

That latter point? That’s a problem. Because there’s something wrong when I sit down to play a game and nothing that happens within the first four hours surprises me. Mainly because I’ve seen extensive clips from them, or read interviews where you’ve told me all about the game, leaving no stone unturned. Or perhaps, in more than one case, I’ve seen press releases announce details of pre-order bonuses or game features that would otherwise have made for very pleasant surprises during play. But you gave them away. In one case, I played a game where an apparently carefully-orchestrated PR campaign decided to drip-feed the identities of all the major characters in the months leading up to its release. This licensed game would have provided particularly excellent fan service had I not been acutely aware of precisely how far that fan service went.

Hey there, Nintendo. You avoided that game for a while, didn’t you? Not announcing games until a few months before their release, showing a few brief clips and letting a handful of journos write up previews while holding the best stuff back? Good for you. Except oh no, you’ve fallen into the exact same trap. Granted, the videos of Super Mario Galaxy 2 might only represent a tiny percentage of the finished game, but sixteen short trailers and a handful of longer clips isn’t going to make the game feel particularly fresh when it finally arrives – especially for a title which some are referring to as ‘Galaxy 1.5’.

And sure, I understand that I don’t need to watch every bit of media released before a game’s launch. But ask yourself this: what about those who have done so? What can they possibly have gained from seeing that many clips of the game in question? Is that sixteenth clip going to convince someone who’s watched the previous fifteen with a shrug of the shoulders?

Self-imposed media blackouts are clearly the way forward for me. But I don’t see why I should have to worry about that. Show a bit of restraint in future. Tease us, give us the key info, shove out a couple of trailers by all means. But leave a game’s best bits for the players to discover.

Kind regards,

Christopher D Schilling, esq.


One comment

  1. I agree with this. Demos are the worst offender, particularly in story-heavy games. There’s nothing worse than playing a demo for a narrative-focused game and starting the full version only to discover that you have to play through the whole bloody demo again too.

    I’ve seen a couple of alternative approaches to this. Some demos have saved the player’s position at the end so they can just pick up where they left off. This is an eminently sensible idea, and I don’t know why more publishers don’t do it.

    Heavy Rain’s demo worked quite well by opening with a scene that wasn’t in the full game (admittedly, nothing happened in it, but it set the scene nicely) and then two scenes which were neither right at the beginning of the game nor hugely spoileriffic for the narrative.

    I agree though. There are times when I (sometimes unintentionally) go into a media blackout for a game I’m really looking forward to. Spoilers suck. Spoilers suck worse when they rear their ugly heads before the game is even released.

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