Actually, no spoilers, but now that I have your attention.

I was reading Games Radar earlier today, and came across this interesting editorial by David Houghton: "Why Publishers Are Killing Their Games With Pre-Release Hype."

And it got me to thinking (Empty Chair: Uh oh...).

What is the proper balance that companies can take to hype their game while still not spoiling things for their players?

I think games media has generally done a good job of avoiding spoilers in their articles about games, unless it's clearly labelled as having spoilers. In fact, I don't even think they'll talk about the ending of Red Dead Redemption yet without a warning, despite it being a fairly old game (Houghton doesn't even mention it, just saying that a drunken friend told him what it was and he has never finished the game because of that). I know Game Informer is very cautious about spoiling games.

It's kind of hard to avoid that when the companies themselves are putting the information out there for all to see.

How many times have you heard (or maybe even you've said yourself) "I'm not watching any trailers or reading anything about (High-Profile Game) because I don't want any spoilers?" Companies are walking a fine line between getting consumers interested in playing their games and telling them too much. You get that with movie trailers as well, where it's often said 'the best parts of the movie are already in the trailers." But often they don't spoil the major twist of the movie. Sometimes, though, your game twist might be spoiled. Just a bit of gameplay footage may accidentally show something that consumers don't really want to see.

Maybe the gameplay footage shows you fighting somebody, and then when you pick up the game, that person is a friend at the beginning of the game? Wouldn't that make you stop and think? "Ok, looks like this guy's going to betray me at some point."

Houghton gives an excellent example of the Mexico trailer for Red Dead Redemption. I completely agree with him that it would have had much more impact if we had no idea that we would be going to Mexico for a major part of the center of the game. Sure, some of the gameplay footage could have shown Mexico, because without being identified as such, how would you know? It may just be a section of New Austin that you haven't approached yet. But this trailer was intended to whet your whistle for the new experience, and it became a player expectation instead of a surprise.

Companies are in a pickle, though. Just how much is too much to reveal? Games seem to be trying to emulate movies maybe a little too much. They're trying to sell the game based only on its story, and that's where you get into spoiler territory. How many story-based trailers do you need, really? Isn't gameplay supposed to be a major selling point in games? I realize that we all love game stories, and we're trying to increase the cache of games by making them mediums of art (Empty Chair: Do NOT go there!). But gameplay is important too, and I think game company hype should start concentrating more on gameplay and less on story.

They shouldn't ignore stories, of course. Stories are important. But if you start emphasizing gameplay too, you can have the same amount of trailers and hype and maybe, just perhaps, try to avoid story spoilers.

And come on, publishers. I know you are trying to reach out to fans directly and avoid the media filter, but do you really need so many trailers and "behind the scenes" videos and all of that?

Here's what Houghton had to say about Bioshock Infinite, which after finishing the game, I totally agree with (though I didn't actually watch any of these trailers, so it was actually all new to me):

"Take Bioshock Infinite for example. Despite Ken Levine’s pledge to not over-expose the game too early, between August 2012 and the game’s launch in 2013 we got 14 officially produced featurettes covering backstory, plot threads, entire character histories and story arcs, the skylines, the parallel universe mechanics, the later evolution of the civil war storyline, the Handymen, the Boys of Silence, the Siren boss fight and the Songbird. Simply, if you watched all of them pre-release, there was barely anything left by the time you actually got the game. And that’s not even taking into account the number of what would later turn out to be major environmental reveals lurking in the backgrounds of those videos. Or the raft of standard trailers we were delivered along the way."

Do we really need all of that? Who remained to be convinced by all of this? Who originally wasn't going to buy the game but then, after seeing all this crap, decided "hey, maybe I should check this out!" (Empty Chair: *reluctantly raises hand*)

Companies need to step back and take a look at their marketing practices. Otherwise, there will be more and more people who say "I'm avoiding all information about this game because I know I'll come across something I don't want to see." If that happens, what's the point of doing all of this in the first place?

If a trailer is put out in the wild and nobody watches it, does the game really exist?


Was going to talk about how we as gamers feel about spoilers, but I think that will be another blog