Whether we like it or not, marketing is the driving force behind not only games, but also movies, music, entertainment in general. Even though producers, designers, talk about the craft and art into making a game, a lot of decisions, like the main character, come from marketing. Life is Strange had a hard time finding a publisher because the game had a female protagonist, for example.
Its main motivation is to bring awareness to a product, service, or a person, after all, it doesn’t matter if you created the most revolutionary game ever, if nobody knows about it. And unfortunately, sometimes campaigns are built around lies, and information that are way out of proportion or greatly enhanced, with a famous example being the infamous Watch Dogs Reveal.
Being announced as the first next-gen title, it had jaw-dropping graphics, unlike anything we’ve seen before on console. A vivid and heavily populated world, infinite gameplay possibilities, touted as a revolution in open-world games. And it really looked like a dream, you playing an action game in one of the biggest cities in the world, serving as a playground so you could hack everything.
And as we all know now, the final result was far from what it was demoed, unimpressive graphics, a Chicago that felt lifeless, and very limited hacking. Now we see the damage it has caused the brand, affecting its sequel, Watch Dogs 2, sales. With low pre-order numbers, its first week of sales being 80% smaller in the UK, and a general perception that it doesn’t matter how great it is, with rave reviews, consumers still feel betrayed and are waiting before any purchase decision. Something that can harm the future of the franchise, all because of a poorly planned strategy, that may have its brand damaged permanently.
No Man’s Sky was this year example of how an unexperienced studio can destroy its reputation with overblown remarks. Revealed at the VGX Awards in 2013, it became known as the future of games, with beautiful, unexplored worlds that would be procedurally generated. No planet would be like the other, with species to discover, minerals to retrieve, trade, traveling through uncharted galaxies in your ship, it would be ground-breaking, or so we thought.
And what happened? A Molyneux level of exaggerations. Worlds that had nothing to do with what was displayed in various events, that after visiting a few you felt like you’ve seen everything. Repeated textures, that would only change color from planet to planet, empty spaces without the lush vegetation and fauna that was promised. An uninspired game, that felt bland, with a boring soundtrack and trips that would take hours in real life, filled with bugs that affected the experience.
The damage was huge to the game, its brand, and the studio as well. With a huge backlash, gamers around the world feeling deceived, terrible reviews, and a level of hate towards a title like we rarely see. Hello Games has been radio-silent about its problems, with a “hack” (we’re not sure yet) showing a message of Sean Murray claiming it was a mistake. And the consequence of it all is that this franchise is as good as dead, and a studio and a creator that may never have a chance to release another title.
Mass Effect 3 was one of the most expected titles of 2012, the finale of this amazing trilogy, the last moments of your journey with Shepard. All your choices would directly influence the ending of great story, that captivated gamers around the world. And despite being a great title, that had everything to be an unforgettable experience, ended up infuriating players.
Endings that didn’t feel different, with a simple change of color depending on your last choice, with them being very similar, no matter how you played the first 2 games. An uproar of disappointed fans erupted around the internet, reaching such massive proportions, that Bioware later released a free DLC expanding the endings. But the damage was done, and a series that had to be amongst the greats, until this day has a stain, that has created a careful approach to what gamers are expecting of Mass Effect Andromeda.
Last but not least, Dead Island, a game who had such an emotional and impactful trailer, that everybody felt that it would change the face of zombie-themed experiences. For a moment, it felt that it would bring games to a whole new level. A narrative that would treat the zombie apocalypse with a much more complex, sophisticated style, showing how it altered society, how it destroyed families.
As it turns out, Dead Island really was just another shallow game, without any of the impact expected, lackluster characters, a thin story, and a brand that never reached the level of respect and success expected. All due to a deceiving trailer that didn’t reflect the final product in any way whatsoever.
Marketing is a wonderful tool, it can introduce us to things we would never know otherwise, bands, movies, games, books, but we have to be very careful about it, so we won’t fall into the trap of a well-designed lie. And companies too, given that consumers are becoming more conscious every day, with pre-order sales decreasing every year, franchises having a hard time continuing after they felt misled. Showing signs that they won’t accept everything that’s thrown at them, no matter how beautiful or incredible it looks.