Loud crowds, chunky Xbox conference wristbands, loads of hype, and false hopes amidst the shooting of brown and grey–This, my friends, is E3. Well, it is not entirely E3, of course, but it just about sums up the gist of this gigantic marketing scheme. Indeed, the heart and soul of E3 seems to be inflated about game developers and publishing executives coming to the stage and presenting themselves as if they are accepting an Oscar. It is no wonder then why Nintendo decided last year they wanted no part of the press conferences. Instead, they moved to Nintendo Direct and the highly effective Treehouse. What is the point of me mentioning all of this though? Well, the point, my dear readers, is that E3 is both the best and the worst tool for the gaming industry, and I’m about to tell you why in one sentence. E3 markets failures. Now hear me out, I am not saying E3 is a bad thing, nor are the games shown within it bad, but it markets games to fail. At the same time, it also markets them to succeed. How could this be true, though? How can something succeed so handily and fail so terribly at the same time? The answer is in the presentation.
Harkening back to my previous feature, The Hypening, hype can kill a game by raising expectations to astronomical levels. Such is the case with E3, the unending hype machine. You see, whenever you watch any E3 coverage, you can notice a few things: One, that almost every game displayed is not showing non-scripted legitimate gameplay. Two, often the games displayed receive praise for just showing up. Granted, it is a bit more complicated than that, but in its purest form, that is how it can be perceived. True, some of these games are playable as demos and give a taste of how the game will play, but demos are just that: demos. They can be the best or the worst part of the game, and sometimes not even part of the game at all. And that, my friends, is completely genius. Detestably genius, given that it allows a game to be marketed the way people actually want to see it. A notable recent example is Wolfenstein: The New Order. When shown at E3 the past few years, developer Machine Games displayed what appeared to be a boring, modern shooter reboot of the series because they let us see the prologue of the game. I’ll be honest; when I saw this I did not have high expectations for the game. However, once the game released, I found that it unjustly flew under the radar and was a very good game. In retrospect, does this mean that the game suffered or benefited from E3? It could be looked at both ways.
The game received a good amount of negative backlash upon its initial showings, and as such; it did not get a large amount of people wanting to buy the game. Instead, the game ended up going unnoticed by many because of its shoddy performance at events such as E3. It’s a shame to be sure, but it may have worked for the best. It set many people’s expectations of it low enough for them to be surprised of the final product’s quality–myself included. As such, the game ended up falling into more of a niche game territory, in the vein of last year’s Metro: Last Light. Neither took to the forefront at E3, and only the fans of the series were still holding hope for it. As such, they both went unnoticed by many even though they were generally well-received critically. In fact, to look at the Metacritic page, one would find that neither of them received lower than a 60. I would say that is more than serviceable. On the other hand though, they paled in comparison to games like Titanfall. Is it because Titanfall is just a better game? Not necessarily. In fact, one could argue that Wolfenstein and/or Metro are better games in general, and they may not be wrong. So here’s the double standard: Those games at E3 that get tons of hype and cherry-picked demos seem to have two fates: They either are crippled by the hype but sell tremendously because of the marketing from the show, or they succeed both critically and commercially. (Granted, this is the goal of a company, as sad as it seems.)But, is their critical and commercial success because of all this? Maybe it is. It is indeed plausible that amidst the glorious E3-tinted glasses, a game could seem far better than it is, and it causes someone to overlook a game’s major flaws unless they are outright terrible. The overlooking of critical errors is not the same though, as the internet bashing a critically praised game because it is simply good and not an underdog. There is an major difference.
Some games are legitimately “overhyped,” but the majority deserve what praise they get. Then there are those that don’t receive the praise they are given. E3 itself is partly to blame for that, as a majority of the buildup behind a game does come from the marketing at E3. But nobody cares because of how well E3 does work for marketing. Let’s be honest here. Most people that see a game at E3 and think it looks great will buy the game regardless of what they say. I know many people that do, and I am sure you do, as well. But these are also generally the same people that either find the game to be godly or hate it beyond belief. Still, it means the game will sell. E3 practically is a parade for copies to be sold, and amongst the cheering of the press, you can feel the money in the air. It is not a game journalist’s job to market a game for a company, but oftentimes, they do it anyways. Even if they give their legitimate and honest thoughts about a game from E3, their recaps and subsequent analytics on the press conference can be summed up as such: Common Misconception. It is a parallel though. The journalists need to be more clear and the readers must be more realistic. Many people take the journalist write-ups to be vessels of marketing and as such use them to increase their anticipation for the game, but the majority of the time they are just that–recaps. Creating anticipation is almost unavoidable when writing about E3 as every article draws more attention to the games, but it doesn’t necessarily help when there are journalists saying things like “Believe the hype.” In the end, E3 creates its own market by spawning legions of excited players and journalists (a.k.a., consumers). Thus shines the brilliance of E3’s marketing scheme. A giant monster of a convention that is meant to be “for the industry” but gamers can stream and watch. For better or worse, it is the best way to conceive hype and to self-market games–Ladies and gentleman, please give a warm welcome to the E3 Marketing Machine.
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