Opinion: Worth The Hype?

Hype is one of the key elements to the success of a lot of industries. Publicity, promotion and press releases surround products to get the attention of the public, making huge claims about the benefits of owning the advertised item or what it can provide for people.

The games industry is no different; in fact it could be one of the industries that benefits most from hype. Let’s be honest, promotions for the major titles starts early. There are months of screenshots, teaser trailers and interviews all providing us with little bits of information, though in some cases no new information is present, just the promise that the game will blow you away.

I can’t blame game companies for doing it because they invest millions into their projects, and they will promote the games as positively as possible to recoup their investment and make a profit. If they don’t then, like THQ, they’ll go out business and someone else will fill the gap.

There are hundred of reporters, like me, who will pore over interviews and press releases to see if there is anything worth reporting. The hunt for that news is, dare I say it, exciting. It’s what got me interested in journalism in the first place.

However I do feel that hype also has a negative effect on our reporting, and that’s the impact it can have on reviews, and how any deviation from giving a hugely hyped game a near perfect score can somehow be construed as wrong.

A couple of examples come from some EDGE reviews. They gave Killzone 2 a 7/10, one of the lowest scores for the game. For some reason this score was seen as “surprising.”

No review score should be surprising.

That implies that there is an expected score for a game already in mind, influenced by the hype. A review should not be an advert for a game, it’s meant to be a critique. The job of a reviewer is not just to find a game’s good points, but its bad ones as well; it’s not there to buy into the hype and give a game an expected high score because the game’s developers and publishers pumped a lot of money into the PR machine.

The hype can blind us to the flaws of games because reviewers and reporters can get sucked in to the belief of greatness just like anyone else. It’s an area that we as reporters and reviewers need to work on. Given the cost of modern gaming, our reviews should be impartial as possible.

I feel that we as writers need to try and remove ourselves away from the hype and approach the situation just like any journalist or reporter should approach a story, and that’s with objectivity. Of course in the real world that’s a lot harder because people in general are quite easily influenced, but it’s a lesson that needs to be learned by all reviewers.

[drop2]The Last Of Us is a game that has received a lot of press time from every game news outlet, including us. It looks like a good game with an interesting story, but we won’t know how it pans out until we’ve played it. The pre-release excitement is healthy for developers Naughty Dog, because it means potential sales. That hype has largely come from Naughty Dog’s reputation as a great developer, something that’s recently been fuelled by Uncharted.

However I don’t think The Last of Us should be able to piggy back off the success of a different franchise, even if it is from the same developers. What if it turns out that The Last of Us isn’t as great as we want it to be, or is awarded a less than perfect score? The pre-release hype may manifest itself into readers saying the reviewer is wrong (it happens) or the score called “surprising” by another publication, just like Killzone 2.

I also ask our readers to take a step back when reading a review of a game you’re excited about. Remember that excitement comes from a well done advertising campaign. When you read a review don’t say a reviewer is wrong because you disagree with the score, ask yourself why you think it’s wrong. Also read a variety of reviews so you can pick up on the good and the bad, to make a more informed decision about spending your money. Reviewers, myself included, will miss something that another reviewer will notice.

Hype is a necessity for the success of any product, that’s a fact. Making the audience think about a game means it’s in their mind and a potential sale for a developer. However, as I’ve stated, hype can also be an element that may influence writers when it comes to reporting or reviewing a game. Yes I believe objectivity is key to reviews but staying out of the hype is a task that needs to be worked hard upon to make sure that objectivity remains intact.



  1. “No review score should be surprising”. I have to disagree.

    With previews, hands-on and demos, reviews can indeed be surprising.

    • With you on this one, Davs. Reviews can always be surprising as there is a natural mean/average to all of the scores when we collate them (think: Metacritic). Someone can review a game and throw in way too many/few points and suddenly we’re looking at something that’s surprised us and not always in a good way.

      Edge’s hipster attitude – for want of a better phrase – has become very passé to many people (including myself). Sure, the industry needs tempering from time-to-time but that is something the industry needs to work out, not just one magazine. Anyway, digression aside, a lovely article and one that’s fascinating to think about.

      The Last of Us comes from a very good stable so will hopefully be of good stock. It doesn’t mean Naughty Dog may not slip up but it hedges all bets when we see not only their current form but their pedigree over two generations of consoles.

    • While I get the point that was made in the article, with pre-release hands-on time being the norm these days (or even just delayed international release schedules) you can very well be surprised when reading a review. I’ve read two 10/10 reviews for Ni No Kuni a while ago and I was not surprised in the slightest. I pretty much agreed with everything those reviews said. Then I read the Polygon review and they gave Ni No Kuni a 6.5/10 and I was shocked.

  2. I think naughty dog hype is worth it though, they haven’t made a bad game to date so all their hype is worthy (I know you didn’t say they bad developer) just saying using them as an example is a bit off.

    But overall I agree though, the hype train sometimes doesn’t always live up to expectations, I mean look at resistance & cod vita both had a massive hype till the review came through. At the end of the day that number at the end of a review brings all that hype to a halt point

  3. I jumped on the Hype train of a few games and was quite let down. Not because the game was crap so to speak, but because I had let myself get carried away by the hype created by trailers, PR, and indeed in threads in TSA’s own forum.

    GTA4, Red Dead Redemption! I’m looking at you!

  4. Hype is a double edged sword. It can lead to a huge number of pre-orders and/or day 1 purchases but if the product doesn’t live up to it and people feel “burned” by their purchase it can put them off from purchasing another product from that company. It’s not just a games thing. Remember when the iPhone 4S was announced?
    At the moment I’m pretty hyped about Ni No Kuni and I hope it lives up to the hype…

  5. If I know I’ll be getting a game anyway like Skyrim I try to avoid all info so as to not spoil any surprises.

  6. I had an issue an issue with Edge’s review of Killzone 2, not because of the score they gave it per se, but because many of the criticisms they gave the game were identical to those in Gears of War 2 i.e. weak narrative (which I disagree with!), poor structuring and lazy characterisation, yet Gears was given a 9.

    My also issue was that the next review was for Fear 2, which was given an 8. Which I just do not understand. At all.

  7. Ever since DA2, i’ve tried to avoid boarding the hype train. The last time i got into the hype was Skyrim and that was a bit of a disappointment. I have found that by picking up games that i’ve not listened to the hype about tend to be a better experience. Such as Bulletstorm, tis a very fun game and doubt it lives up to the hype thus i’m not disappointed. It also prevents me from being disappointed by a game,Mafia 2 is a 6/10 game and i remeber the hype making it out to be a GTA set in the 40s-50s clone. However, some publishers don’t need to lift a finger to generate hype. Look at GTA5, Rockstar have only released a few bits and bobs which did generate a lot of hype for a while. Overall, you should avoid buying into the hype to avoid disappointment as the game rarely lives up to the hype.

  8. Maybe its my love for Public Enemy but, I don’t believe the hype. Its fabricated, an illusion, it doesn’t exist and is basically a lie to convince people to buy. At least pre-launch hype is, post launch hype can actually be society going crazy for something, but pre-launch hype is just marketing. Take The Last of Us, sure people are excited for it, but Naughty Dog is controlling everything you see and hear about it. Its not genuine hype, its manufactured and controlled. For it to be true hype it needs to be uncontrollable, like anarchy. Take MW1, true hype. Every time you signed into PSN/XBL everyone was playing MW1, but EVERY CoD since has tried to capitalize from MW1 hype. I think its safe to say none of the CoD games after 4 were better, but they all sold more because of the hype. Pre-launch hype is about getting people excited for something they didn’t want, it tricks people. Although todays AAA game production is good, it seldom lives up to the hype it creates. For every GTA theres a Too Human, Duke Nukem, and a dozen military FPSs that are forgotten about. Hype can also create controversy, look at Mass Effect 3s ending, Skyrim DLC, “No Russian”, “Hot Coffee”… I think this (well written) article hits the nail on the head, people should be cautious of pre-launch hype. It can create biased reviews and disappointment more often then not. If a game is good all it really needs is honest advertising.

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