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The Ostrich Strategy

Jason Winter Posted:
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So much Heart of Thorns information this week! Where to start discussing it all?

Since I wasn't at the big press event or at PAX East, I, like most of you, got my information from secondhand sources, like our own Bill Murphy. I also skipped around a video of some revenent gameplay and early story action (which I now can't seem to find the link to in my browser history), and... well, that's about all I've done so far. I might get into a little bit more over the next few days, and then again, I might not.

This isn't to say that I'm not excited about the expansion! But something's changed in my consumption of video game previews and early looks since Guild Wars 2 launched and I gobbled up every scant bit of information I could, whenever I could. I suppose I could sum it up by saying I'm excited to play Heart of Thorns, but I'm not that excited for the promise of Heart of Thorns – which, right now, is all I've got.

The Waiting Game

There's nothing wrong with ArenaNet's marketing strategy. Their job is to generate hype and excitement and get people interested in HoT, and they're doing a fine job of it. But all their marketing effort doesn't get me any closer to my true goal. It's a little like wanting to buy something and knowing your paycheck isn't coming until Friday. On Monday, your paycheck is coming on Friday. On Wednesday, it's still coming on Friday. On Thursday... guess when it's coming?

Let's suppose HoT launches in July. Here's a breakdown of how much I plan to play HoT in the coming months:

  • March: 0 hours
  • April: 0 hours
  • May: 0 hours
  • June: 0 hours
  • July: 1 bazillion hours (can Raptr count that high?)

That'll change if I get into the beta, though even then, I'll be playing a kind of “fake” Heart of Thorns, not the real thing with my characters, whose progress I can save. I played a fair bit of the original betas and stress tests, though I still tried to “save” as much of the game as I could until I knew it would count. I was hesitant about getting burned out on the game before it even launched.

The point of it is, my options for actually experiencing the true Heart of Thorns experience until this fictional launch date of July are extremely limited. For all that I might read about upcoming features and other cool stuff, I won't be actually get my hands on it, for real, for another four months.

And my desire to actually play Heart of Thorns vastly outstrips my desire to read about it or watch videos about it. I'll certainly do some of that, especially official information from the GW2 site and articles and videos by people I know. (My regular guild for missions has about half a dozen YouTubers and other media folks from prominent sites in it, so I tend to default to their stuff.)

Like I said, this isn't just a Guild Wars 2 thing. I've been feeling this way a lot lately regarding upcoming games or MMO updates/expansion, more so than I did when GW2 first got on my radar, about four years ago. I read pretty much all the official stuff – sometimes more than once – but rarely looked at other forms of media. That's been pretty much my approach to most new games, that I find one or two sources I'll follow but won't dive headlong into the deep end of the pool until the game is reality.

Missing the Train

I know the common refrain is to say games are overhyped these days, but I don't think that's any truer now than it has been for quite a while. People were probably saying the same thing 10+ years ago when World of Warcraft was new and will probably be saying it 10 years from now when ArenaNet is trying to get us all jacked up for Guild Wars 4. (Subtitle: The New Quaggan Empire.)

Instead, I think there are so many games out there and so many different avenues for learning about them –  traditional media, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, official websites, etc. – and there are so many new games coming out that marketing seems like it's everywhere and it can be tiring to try and keep up with everything about everything. Some of us can even remember way back before the Internet was a thing and we only learned stuff about new games through, at best, a monthly magazine. It wasn't that companies didn't want to promote their games more in those days; they just didn't have the means. Now they do, and we opt in to pretty much all of it.

More often than not, I'll find myself thinking I've got a pretty good handle on a game only to hear someone say, “Didn't you know X about it?” where X is some obvious talking point that was a throwaway line on a dev blog or was mentioned offhandedly on the official Twitter months ago. Even just a few years ago, before the explosion of social media, there were fewer outlets for information and fewer games overall to keep track of, so I could gather up all the info I needed about the small subset of games that really interested me. Now, it's virtually impossible to pick up all the pre-launch details, even about something I love, so I don't make that much of an effort to try.

So I tend to take an “easy does it” approach to all the marketing effort for games these days, trying to “save” myself for the official launch of a thing. By that point, all of the previews don't matter – only the game itself. It almost feels relaxing, in a way, when a game finally does launch, that all the speculation and promises come to an end and I can judge a game based on what it's like, rather than what people – developers, media, or fans – are telling me what it's like. I know that some people feed off all that, and I enjoy reading (and occasionally writing!) about what-if's, but too much of it wears on you.

Finally, I've tried my best to avoid spoilers as much as I can, whether related to story or to gameplay. I like to go into a game as fresh as possible, with little to no knowledge of what's to come, ideal strategies, the fastest progression path, the best builds, and so on – at least as long as I can. There will be plenty of time to optimize my character later; for now, I'd rather just enjoy the sense of wonder I get from exploration and discovery and coming up with new things to try out, so I'll stick my proverbial head in the sand and pop it up occasionally when I hear something truly interesting approaching.

I'd like to know if you tend to consume media about upcoming games in the same fashion. Are you like me and you pay slight attention to it all, saving your energy for the bigger news, and the game/expansion itself? Or do you rabidly consume anything and everything out there?


Jason Winter