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Hype and MMO's: A recipe for disaster?

Posted by Zayne3145 Wednesday November 26 2008 at 11:43AM
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It seems you can’t release an MMO today without the Hype Machine rolling out before it, spewing forth a screenshot here and a Dev interview there. A fine and vaguely defined line separates what is deemed acceptable marketing and that which could be classed as hype.

Most people would agree that hype is a dangerous tool, wielded often carelessly by PR departments. It is a sword that cuts both ways – and as we have seen in the case of games such as Age of Conan – not always for the good. It is prime example of becoming a victim of ones own marketing if ever there was one.

WAR is another casualty of hype. I have never seen a game surrounded by such fevered adoration, hope and anticipation. Is it really such a surprise that a game built up to such expectations fell short? I was reading posts by people proclaiming that it would change the face of the industry forever – that WoW would finally be usurped. Where are these people now? Have they ultimately done more damage than good raising their beloved game on a foundation of hype, only for it to become a funeral pyre fuelled by the flames of rejoicing Trolls?

Mythic and Mark Jacobs are not blameless in this debacle. They saw first hand the dangers of hype when Age of Conan stalled on take-off and yet remained not-so-quietly confident that WAR would not suffer the same fate. They continued to deploy the PR weapon of mass destruction, Paul Barnett; a man whose face should appear in the dictionary next to the definition of ‘Hype’.

We all know how that story ends; a game that ultimately did not live up to the extraordinary and quite possibly unachievable goals that it promised.

And then there was Darkfall.

As the dust settles from the explosive entrance of ‘The Big Two’ and their subsequent faltering, this not-so-young pretender to the throne has taken centre stage. Once nothing more than a little-known development by an independent Greek company, Darkfall has been raised on the shoulders of disillusioned players everywhere as the latest saviour.

The difference this time however is that the hype surrounding the game is purely player driven. Aventurine’s lack of promotion is widely documented. It is practically non-existent save for an obscure gaming convention and minimal foreign media coverage. You have to ask yourself: Are Aventurine consciously avoiding the hype? Have they seen what happens when you can’t deliver on your promises and tried to keep a relatively low profile?

This would not be a bad approach, were it not for the fact that due to the nature of the internet the hype is out of their control. Every official post by a developer, any screenshot, any snippet from a foreign website is immediately snapped up like a morsel of food thrown to a starving populace.

Was this part of Aventurine’s grand plan as some would have us believe? Or are they sitting back bemused that their once little-known project has suddenly been thrust to the fore – heralded by some as the ‘Next Big Thing™’.

Whatever their intentions, it is now out of their hands. The Fanboys are recruited, the expectations are very real, and the Trolls are lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on the twitching corpse should the game show even the slightest signs of failure upon release. (Failure of course being completely subjective and interchangeable for the purposes of Trolldom)

Have we reached a stage where no game is free from the dreaded hype? In such a stagnant industry where innovation and originality is so lacking, people are becoming almost cultist-like nomads moving like sheep from one game to the next. They are lured in every time by the hype, and every time it chews them up and spits them back out. The illusion shattered. The reality behind the thin veil revealed.

If there is a moral to this story, then it should be this: Do not fall for the hype, no matter how green the grass looks or how sweetly the siren-like Devs sing to you. If there is one thing we know for sure about this industry it is that it will lie to us. It is a business. It is out to make money. It both astounds, saddens and angers me that people fall for the lies time and time again. There are no ‘good guys’ out there wanting to make a perfect MMO. They are out to make cold hard cash.

If cynicism could be bottled, I would force each and every person to take it. It is our only deterrent against the hype. Lower your expectations. Question things a little more. Take off the rose-tinted glasses.

And above all remember: It’s just a game.
 

Balkin31 writes:

I think the fans are the ones guilty of over hyping games more so than the game companys. The company has every right to market thier game in an attempt to sell thier product. The fact that the latest MMO's have lacked any sort of polish is not the fault of over hyping, its due to just plane bad design and even worse follow through.

Wed Nov 26 2008 12:58PM Report
Conley writes:

Hype sells product. When you sell an MMO, it is better to have someone who won't like youre product to buy you're product, spend 50 bucks +1 month subscription on your game and then leave in disgust, then be honest to them in advance and have them not spend a single buck on your game.

Personally I think that both AoC and WAR on their own are solid titles, but that WoW really spoiled the gamer and their expectations. Comparable to Nintendo in the early 90-ies, Blizzard has set the bar so high on polish and production values that it's nearly impossible for other game developers to compete.

Wed Nov 26 2008 2:21PM Report
ElendilasX writes:

Conley i really cannot agree to your post`s second part. WoW havent rised bar so much. But WAR and AoC failed on their own. I played both for few weeks.

AoC has really intrigued me in their Cities Sieges/Building. Ha! I remember building my guild city... All building inefective.. Pure waste... Easy money farming at low lvl.. PvP bugs like string shot(or smth like that) who effect lasted till you die, so if you were meele you was just meat...

WAR. They done pretty good, but when i see that they still cant fix items from launch... I dont know what to say.. Why the hell meele warriors need +ranged damage? RvR also doesnt succeeded...

 

In conclusion I think they should have extended betas.. Havent announced realease dates.. Polished games to near perfection/perfection. But they think (or so seems for WAR and AoC): we better launch this shitty game now, get some money from hype and finish it later...

Wed Nov 26 2008 3:23PM Report
Death1942 writes:

i remember following Lotro in its early stages.  it was very different to the game we see today and that hurt alot of those following.  however this was all done a year or two before the release, they did not hype it and hardly marketed it.  around 2 months before the release we suddenly have a rise in Advertising, 2 months however is short enough to stop any negativity or over hype from killing the game and, Lotro had 'one of the smoothest launches'.  a few years on and it has a very healthy player base and is doing fine.

 

over hype (TR, AoC, WAR, Darkfall) creates flops, careful and planned hype or luck creates hits (WoW, SWG, EQ)

Wed Nov 26 2008 3:57PM Report
Ascension08 writes:

Funcom hyped their game, but honestly, most people hated Paul Barnett because he was a hyperactive British man. WAR's hype came from the fans, as with any popular game, and there are many fans because WoW increased the MMO playerbase. After 4 years, many people are tired of WoW so naturally WAR was appealing.

WAR released too early, but can recover. In 6 months to a year (especially after 1.1 and the oRvR changes planned for the end of 2008/beginning of 2009) people will slowly come back, wondering how the game's doing. Hype can throw any game on one hell of an overreacting and over-dramatized roller coaster before launch and for a few months after launch. People have way too high expectations in most cases.

I can't comment on anything about Darkfall since I honestly don't care, but it looks like they actually are coming out with a game...but from what I've seen from the fanboys, it'll fall short of their expectations.

Wed Nov 26 2008 4:06PM Report
Deewe writes:

Interesting article, I agree with you.

There is one thing stronger than hype it's community.

It's where all MMO really failed as socialization is dead in all late MMOs.

Wed Nov 26 2008 4:34PM Report
Deewe writes:

Bump ;)

Wed Nov 26 2008 4:34PM Report
Malagarr writes:

I have to agree with Balkin31 here.  It's the fanboys, not the game developers who are at fault here.

WAR delivered everything it promised it would.  I note you didn't cite how quickly the WotLK content was completed in your article...something that should have been the primary focus of your thesis, rather than WAR.  But even Wrath gave the community everything it promised it would.

The problem is that some people (apparently, you're one of them) have entirely unrealiastic views of what an MMO should deliver.  These people are mostly the folks who are new to the MMO genre, having begun playing them in only the past few years.  Those of us who've been around awhile know just hom far they've come.

But back to your thesis:  Is hype a recipe for disaster with MMOs?

The answer is yes and no.  If a game is hyped too much by the production company it will fail to meet expectations.  Period.  If it is not hyped enough, it will fail to sell.  Period.  This is a fine balance.

WAR was not overhyped.  Darkfall was not overhyped.  AoC was not even overhyped.  Wrath is the only game this year that I can honestly say was being overhyped, but even then, it's not truly failing to achieve what it promised. 

No, in the end, the PR guys can be blamed for failures on rare occassions, but more often than not, failures are due to unrealistic expectations by fanboys who then hype the game to anyone and everyone they meet, prior to launch.  Those people are the ones to blame, imho.

Wed Nov 26 2008 5:43PM Report
Pelagato writes:

omg... i want to bump this blog 10 times.. because is so true!!!!!... wondering why still here, I said something about hype and such in some thread and got busted...

Wed Nov 26 2008 8:33PM Report
daltanious writes:

To me War is not causalty. Wow is my no1 of all times ... even if (for now) War lags pretty behind on second place. Despite said this (imo) War is better then all the rest put together. Great game, even if I'm now back to WOTLK. :-)

Thu Nov 27 2008 3:49AM Report
Arawon writes:

The cure for Hype..is to get burned  by the hype..repeatedly....as I have.It's like getting bit by a poisonous snake....repeatedly. After a while you get resistant to the HYPE venom.Another step....pull other things into your life and become less mmog centric.I'm reading a great book right now.Living in the southern United States I get outside in the sun...fresh air and relative warmth.I enjoy ...life.

Thu Nov 27 2008 7:53AM Report
Vistaakah writes:

War was massively overhyped. In the early development states Mark Jacobs was quoted as stating "In order for WAR to be a huge sucess it will have to be more then evolutionary in design. It will have to be revolutionary in design. What we got was a WOW clone with crappy capture the flag style RVR dynamics. Nowhere in development did i ever remember reading about scenarious in this game.

No i didn't follow it to the T but i did follow it enough to see that it was supposed to be full scale war that was PVP driven. Guess what its neither. WoW never set the bar for polished games. Anybody that remembers its release can tell you different. It was buggy and non working. At least WAR worked out the gates. War can not be brought to life without a total revamp and well thats not going to happen.

Thu Nov 27 2008 6:49PM Report
Daimyo21 writes:

To whomever said to blame the players for hype:

You must lack self-esteem or something bud.  We are the consumers. Every AC vet, UO vet, SB vet, and DAOC vet knows that WAR was a crap MMO  from the start when they introduced that joke of a RvR tug-of-war system not to mention unlootable player items, and to say us vets hyped it up?? 

You wanna know who hyped WAR and AOC up?  Fresh WoW players.  Some descending from the SWG failure, or the late SB joiners that didnt get a full taste of that game.  9 million + subscribers from WoW.. hype was built up from these MMO players because of what kind of dogshit they were found in WoW.  That in their newbie eyes, they saw AoC or WAR being this really good game, when they hadnt even got a taste of the past. (AC, UO, DAOC, SB).

 

To conclude this, Mythic sold out with WAR, Daoc was a great game made from the heart of gamers.  Venture Capitalist and marketing devs followed with WAR..  Simple as that.  As for DF, it doesnt need hype, it doesnt need a huge player base.  The devs for that game stated this millions of times.  They were once gamers and devs from other games like UO and AC.  They stated that if their game becomes popular, theyll open servers to compensate for the amount of players that join.  Have you seen any advertisement from them at all? banners or commercials? We'll see once the game comes out if they need it.  150k subscribers in the last 3 months say they dont.  Who knows, but its the MMO vets dream if this game comes until we see another like it soon. (maybe mortal online)

Fri Nov 28 2008 4:34AM Report
Evasia writes:

Trolls and vapor shouters have over years hyped Darkfall not fans or devs and whats your point, Darkfall cant be comepared to AoC or WAR there big budget projects with a big hype machine behind it thats mostly pushed by those games PR themselfs.

This is not the case with aventurine they never have hyped there game ever.

And no matter what happens its for real Hardcore only game to follow and hopefully play, it cost nothing to follow such game(dream) hopefully it just come true:)

Your blog was not bad written and saw not realy any trollies or flame in it, but its just not good becouse of wrong idea of what and how Darkfall is .

Its for small nich market devs always knew this and still to date know this for hardcore only.

Now go write about the big themepark boys dont bother with indie hardcore games becouse your blog was wrong about that.

Fri Nov 28 2008 8:21PM Report

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