The GTA V Hype Train

[drop2]The modern marketing machine for videogames is a sophisticated beast. I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies, nor do I particularly want to, but I think I’ve got a decent understanding of the broad strokes.

I know, for example, that if you’ve got a big enough brand you can pretty much release what you like, when you like and it’ll make a big splash with your core audience.

I know that it makes sense to announce that there’s going to be a formal announcement on a certain date.

That gets you two fumbles under the jumper of the promiscuous mistress that is hype.

I know a fifteen second teaser for a proper trailer that won’t be out for another week is enough to bring your most dedicated fans to a squealing climax. If your fans are real nutjobs, they might even film it and post it on YouTube, giving your campaign an extra degree of viral appeal.

While we’re on that subject, isn’t it odd that marketing people have invested so strongly in “going viral” in recent years? I mean, what other walk of life would something “viral” be considered a good thing?

“Oh, hello Trevor, that’s a nasty rash you’ve got there.”

“Yeah, it’s really painful and it oozes a greenish yellow liquid at night that smells really bad.  My wife’s left me and she’s taken the kids. They just couldn’t live with my grotesque appearance any longer. It’s going to kill me eventually, you know?”

“Really, Trev? That’s a shame. Still, with any luck, it’ll go viral and we’ll all get it, eh?”

“HAHA! Yeah, I hope so. God, it’s so painful, I really hope all my loved ones get to experience this! Let’s send them some scrapings in the post!”

“HAHAHA!”

“HAHAHA!”

Sorry, I got a little bit distracted there. Man, I hope Trevor makes a full recovery. No, actually, I don’t. We’re all better off without gawping morons like him and his friend who I couldn’t even be bothered imagining a name for.

Anyway, back on topic. I know something else about the modern marketing merry-go-round: it bloody well works.

GTA V Banner

This is all inspired by Grand Theft Auto V and its protracted teasing of images which were all building up to yesterday’s exclusive deal with GameInformer to put some actual information about the game in their magazine. I imagine that the deal is sweetened with some extra GameStop (GameInformer’s parent company) loving at retail but I don’t know that for sure and I think that’s one of the “intricacies” I’d rather not know about – the perception of game critics’ editorial/PR relationship is grubby enough at the moment.

Well, I’ve been growing increasingly cynical about the whole thing for weeks. You see, I really love Grand Theft Auto. I finally caved and bought my PlayStation 3 at the time I did specifically because I couldn’t bear not playing GTA IV any longer (it had been out for about a week). I spent countless hours with all of the previous games in the series on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 and although it wasn’t as maniacally fun as its predecessors, GTA IV occupied a large chunk of my life.

So the reveal video was very exciting. Just knowing that the next big GTA game was on the way is a bit of a thrill. Knowing that it’s going back to the west coast, seeing jetskis and helicopters, imagining motorbikes and gangs and bank heists. It was all very exciting. But the ensuing drip-feeding of a few images every now and then? A single piece of artwork once in a while? That has been tedious.

[drop]My cynicism has increased with every lonely render they put out. I’ve become more jaded with every single bit of block-shaded artwork that arrives. Oh, a car spinning its wheels. Lovely. A tennis club. Brilliant. A high powered rifle. Ace. A female cop arresting a woman. Good one.

It’s all so tedious and predictable and meaningless. It’s almost entirely without relevance. What bearing does one piece of artwork have on the game? Well, we dissect each one, we fantasise about its meaning and the details we can see in the backdrop.

Dogs! Bicycles! Jets! Parachutes!

For me, that lengthy cycle of carefully managed access to images and the speculation about what those images might mean for a game, which some of them have little actual attachment to, has been dull. But, and this is the important bit, it hasn’t quite been so dull that I lost interest completely.

Rockstar took me to the brink of hitting the snooze button before the alarm went off on GTA V. Now the cat has slipped its bindings and sprung forth, into the world: we know some things about the game itself. Sure, it’s still all carefully controlled on message generalities but it’s substantial information we didn’t have before. I’m sure the trickling of snippets of vague information will be back soon enough.

For now, though, there are real facts to think about.

And I’m excited all over again.

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24 Comments

  1. “I mean, what other walk of life would something “viral” be considered a good thing?”

    Bio-terrorism.

    • exactly, and that lot throw shit parties.

    • Sex parties I guess could be thrown in there.

      Your opinion on those will directly affect my judgement of your character, so be warned.

  2. Got all hyped for GTA4. I’ve barely played it. No doubt I will get caught up again and buy it Day 1, although i’ll try my hardest not to……. now where’s my debit card for that pre-order?….. :/

    I have however been putting a little time into mafia 2. I’m enjoying it so much that it’s even made me look at the GTA4 box again. Maybe, just maybe i’ll try it again.

    • I thought Mafia 2 was very average. Open world bits weren’t great and the narrative was a tiresome retreading of classic stories in a far less accomplished way than they’d been done a dozen times already in films.
      GTA IV did lose a bit of the lunacy of previous games, the combat controls were a bit clunky and the car handling a bit bouncy but at least the world was inhabited and there was plenty to amuse yourself with outside of the usual missions.
      I find it very weird that anybody could prefer Mafia 2. Still, takes all sorts , eh?!

      • I didn’t say I preferred Mafia 2 to GTA 4. I said I’m currently enjoying Mafia 2 that it’s prompting me to have another crack at GTA 4.

      • …..that sounds as if i’m being arsey. I’m not ;)

      • Well, I find you weird. HA! Didn’t see that coming, did you. Like a mafia hit, that.

      • Jeez, no need to bite my head off :-P

        only joking, I know you’re not the arsey type. So to speak.

        Mugsy, on the other hand, turns “being arsey” into an (hilarious) artform ;)

      • Aw, shucks.

        I did, in fact, prefer Mafia 2 over GTA IV, although I treated them as two different types of game rather than competitors in a genre. As such I think a lot of the criticism levelled at Mafia 2’s open world sections was little unfair: the game didn’t attempt to be an open-world affair, rather more structured and episodic.

        I think a fairer comparison to Mafia 2 would be the original Assassin’s Creed, where neither game encouraged deviation from the main story arc. The open worlds were just there to be used for sequences where freedom of movement would be required (in Mafia 2, car chases, in AC, the inevitable “running away because you ballsed it all up” bits).

        I won’t deny that I would have loved Mafia 2 to have been a fully-realised, open world game like GTA 4, but I don’t begrudge the game that it isn’t.

  3. Personally I’m ignoring any news story on GTA V and not to board the hype train so when I get it on launch its all brand new and exciting and I won’t have any predetermined view of the game.

    I’m really looking forward to it and I still think Rockstar are the masters of hype.

  4. I’m ignoring anything gta related. the hype train is worst than COD already and its out in spring, yes thats 5 months away.

    I wouldn’t mind if it was actually something new, but its GTA

    • Thats if its not dealyed again like GTA 4 was. 6 months if i recall.

      • GTA IV was delayed from October to the April so it looks like R* are being cautious with the release date and allowing time for any ‘slippage’.

  5. If it’s a game I’m really looking forward to, I deliberately don’t look at every screenshot/concept art/video snippet released, because I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.

    About the GTA V hype: I not only missed that train, I stayed at home and didn’t even walk to the station. Feels like I’m the only one who isn’t interested in GTA.

  6. I will never understand why people go crazy for images of a game a year prior to getting your mits on it. Honestly boggles my mind.

    • Really? Makes sense to me. I mean, the people who love GTA expect a certain standard of game, which excites them. If every iteration of GTA provokes this level of excitement, then the only barrier to achieving that level of excitement is knowing the existence of a new GTA. So, images are released which means another GTA is on its way which triggers the excitement response. Like a Pavlov’s dogs :)

    • @Roy It’s an age thing I think, I’m really looking forward to the game but I won’t be Knicker Jizzing over a few new pictures………might do when it arrives though :P

    • I’l be buying it, might pre order, not sure yet but images and knowing of it’s existence are hardly worthy of an uproar. It’s GTA…. of course there is gonna be a new one and it’s pretty much gonna be the same as all the others in scale and scope and cars…..and pretty much everything but storyline.

      Happy to just sit here and wait for it to get here. Pictures do nothing for me. I remember when they released the GTAV logo and the whole net went crazy over nothing. Just don’t get it.

      • Oh, strangely enough GTA4 was the worst of the lot (birds eye view included). Hope they have fixed a few things in that respect. THAT is information worth knowing and causing an uproar about not some picture of a banshee spinning its wheels.

  7. Excellent article.

    Dogs would be ace. Bit hyped now.

  8. This article is much ado about nothing.

  9. funny how many women they’ve shown in those comic books style pics they’ve put out, but after a decade and a dozen games, they still haven’t had a playable female character.

  10. CHOO CHOOO!!!…….. Im on xD

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