Sunday, April 24, 2016

Video games: Why you shouldn't listen to the hype

Consider the recent online multiplayer video game Evolve. It was nominated for six awards at E3, at the Game Critics Awards event. It won four of them (Best of the Show, Best Console Game, Best Action Game and Best Online Multiplayer). Also at Gamescom 2014 it was named the Best Game, Best Console Game Microsoft Xbox, Best PC Game and Best Online Multiplayer Game. And that's just to name a few (it has been reported that the game received more than 60 awards in total.)

Needless to say, the game was massively hyped before release. Some commenters were predicting it to be one of the defining games of the current generation. A game that would shape online multiplayer gaming.

After release, many professional critics praised the game. For example, IGN scored the game 9 out of 10, which is an almost perfect score. Game Informer gave it a score of 8.5 out of 10, and PC Gamer (UK) an 83 out of 100.

(Mind you, these reviews are always really rushed. In most cases reviews are published some days prior to the game's launch. Even when there's an embargo by game publishers, the reviews are rushed to publication on the day of launch or at most a few days later. No publication wants to be late to the party, and they want to inform their readers as soon as they possibly can. With online multiplayer games this can backfire spectacularly because the reviewers cannot possibly know how such a game will pan out when released to the wider public.)

So what happened?

Extreme disappointment by gamers, that's what. Within a month the servers were pretty much empty, and you were lucky if you were able to play a match with competent players. Or anybody at all.

It turns out the game was much more boring, and much smaller in scope, that the hype had led people to believe. And it didn't exactly help that the publisher got greedy and rid the game with outrageously expensive and sometimes completely useless DLC. (For example getting one additional monster to play, something that normally would be just given from the start in this kind of game, cost $15. Many completely useless extremely minor cosmetic DLC, such as a weapon with a different texture, but otherwise identical in functionality to existing weapons, cost $2.)

In retrospect, many reviewers have considered Evolve to be one of the most disappointing games of 2015, which didn't live up even close to its pre-launch hype.

What does this tell us? That pre-launch awards mean absolutely nothing, especially when we are talking about online multiplayer games. Pre-launch hype means absolutely nothing, and shouldn't be believed.

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