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Why video game hype is a great and terrible thing

Hyping up a game is normal. Every time a new game busts onto the scene, teasers, trailers, tweets and more are sent out to generate excitement. If the hype builds too fast and too quickly, often the game swiftly loses its ability to live up to expectations.

Subverting the dangerous hype

Take the Half-Life series for instance – hype had been building for a sequel for over 15 years, with fans getting more and more excited. They theorized, debated and fought over what the game would be like if and when it finally released. It reached a point where the game – if it ever came out – had no chance of living up to the hype, and would inevitably be met with disappointment and criticism.

So Valve made a smart move and instead released a game under the title of Half-Life: Alyx – an exclusively VR prequel to the events of Half-Life 2.

Half-Life: Alyx Announcement Trailer

Alyx hit Steam on March 23, with reviewers and players alike praising the game for its gameplay and VR FPS elements. The game coming out to positive reviews was a good sign for Valve. If the game had been released under the title Half-Life 3, the hype associate with that title would have subjected Alyx to a completely different type of scrutiny.

Even a small change like naming it after Alyx Vance makes it seem like a different game, while essentially keeping the hype alive. For all intents and purposes, Half Life: Alyx IS Half Life 3, but naming it Half Life 3 could have very well killed it.

Half-Life: Alyx Is NOT An Absolute Nightmare – This Is Why

Apex Legends avoided the dangers of hype altogether by shadow-dropping. The lack of promotion didn’t slow down its growth either, as it quickly went on to surpass Fortnite in popularity for a few weeks, which was an impossible feat at the time.

Hello Games made players say goodbye

No Man’s Sky is infamous for the promises made but not kept, which drove players away in droves after launch. CEO Sean Murray promised features like multiplayer, space battles and butterflies – my favorite – and delivered on none of these at launch. Actually, funnily enough, there’s a community-made spreadsheet detailing everything promised, and whether it’s made it into the game yet or not.

The Spreadsheet of promised features in InternetHistorian’s No Man Sky Video from NoMansSkyTheGame

I specify “at launch” because a lot of the promised features and more were added to the game over time. It’s been pretty smooth sailing ever since, and No Man’s Sky in its present form is a decent experience actually.

The Outer Worlds was pretty much everything we wanted

Hype is a good thing if managed properly and expectations are set appropriately. Any AAA game that has come out in the past five years or so can prove that. Let’s use The Outer Worlds for example. Obsidian promised free reign over the game for players with player choice taking center stage. They delivered on this promise and more, and the game was heralded as one of the best releases of 2019.

Now all we can hope for is some DLC…

The Outer Worlds - Official Launch Trailer

Hype all on its own doesn’t kill games. In many ways it’s a positive thing, and publishers certainly try to harness it for their gain, stoking buzz around their upcoming games to set them up for success. In turn, players start to get excited which makes developers feel good about the project. This in turn drives the company forward to create the best game they can. That’s how it should work, anyway. And if everything goes well, everyone ends up happy, which helps create future buzz for the next project.

Like so many other things, whether hype is boon or a bane to a game’s success really comes down to the execution.

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Kevin Dewan

Writer for SQUAD, runs after things a lot. Won't BM you to your face. Okay with losing as long as it's funny.
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