How Over-Marketing Your Upcoming Game Can Be A Risky Strategy

Sometimes spoilers can’t be avoided. I still haven’t forgiven that scumbag school friend who spoiled the ending of The Sixth Sense to me before I even had a chance to watch it, but a regular criticism is that movie trailers now leave little to the imagination. It’s one thing getting spoiled by another punter, but another to have the ending of a film spoiled by a trailer.

The same holds true of videogames, and those looking at Pokémon news over the past few weeks will have seen that a few new Pokémon were revealed not by the trailers, but as a result of data miners eagerly hacking into the Pokémon Sun & Moon demo’s data and uncovering models for previously unseen Pokémon. But there is a large portion of the community, myself included, who didn’t want any spoilers to a game that was coming in a few short weeks.

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In short, the easiest way to avoid those kinds of spoilers when the data miners attack, is to avoid the internet or at least any discussions about certain games. However, not everyone can do this. Once you’ve dipped into the honeypot for a glimpse of the game early in the game’s development, the various algorithms that run certain parts of the internet will try to curate content to your tastes, or you simply run in circles with those who eagerly lap these things up. More spoilers and discussions about them can easily rise to the surface.

Since Pokémon Sun & Moon was announced there have been twenty trailers that list new Pokémon and detail new features, rounded off by a 3 part live action series to promote the game. On top of this, CoroCoro magazine published several reveals which were picked up (rightly so) by Serebii.net. The CoroCoro leaks are nothing new – I remember the ones as far back as the Hoenn region – but they never revealed more than a select few at the time.

Excessive marketing is nothing new, heck the exact same issues occurred during the marketing of Pokémon X & Y, only across fewer trailers, and all the Mega Evolutions introduced in Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire were the basis of the marketing campaign. It would have been somewhat okay if there were many more things that weren’t revealed, but The Pokémon Company have a habit of showing their entire hand with no tricks up their sleeve.

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The fact is these trailers and leaks bring hits, whether it’s those accidentally stumbling upon them or those actively seeking them out like moths to a flame. In the case of Pokémon Sun & Moon, Game Freak left much more data in the demo than they likely intended to, allowing for data miners to dive in and uncover more secrets. It’s not something I’m a fan of, but I’ve come to accept that these communities will carry on anyway regardless. Disappointingly, what the data miners discovered was that the majority of the new Pokémon in the game, as well as the Alolan Forms of older Pokémon, had already been revealed in the many trailers that were churned out.

So why does this bother me so much? To be blunt, it takes away some of the charm of seeing new Pokémon for the first time. I found that those few new Pokémon that weren’t spoiled for me by the trailers and data mining were a genuine surprise. Pikipek’s evolution line was one such example and I’d never have imagined what that would turn into. Part of me wishes I had more to discover, just as I did in the first and second Generations of Pokémon.

Pokémon games are far from the only examples of over-marketing, they’re just the most recent. Earlier this year saw a glut of trailers released for Mafia III, with almost thirty trailers released between E3 and its launch – of course, that still went on to be 2K’s biggest game launch. By contrast, Watch Dogs 2 also felt like it had a large number of pre-release trailers, and that was only around half the number.

Another game that sticks in my memory from when I was at One Hit Pixel was that of Hitman Absolution. Press releases were distributed on a weekly basis, eventually outlining practically the entire game. It got to the point where I would delete press releases as soon as they appeared. There are also two full level gameplay trailers I was able to easily find.

It’s all to easy for a game to lose its mystique, for too much to be given away for those who are looking forward to the game, and that’s the opposite of what they want to do. Game marketing is a kind of shouting match, as companies try to reach out and get the attention of as wide an audience as possible, but there’s a line that some games do cross.

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My request is a rather simple one: show less of your games in press releases (and for crying out loud, don’t leave such easy pickings for data miners). There’s nothing wrong with peeling the strap of garment over the shoulder, after all a tease is a tease and that gets gamers hyped; just don’t take that as a sign to bear all too quickly.

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4 Comments

  1. Absolutely agree. If there’s a game I really want, I often avoid seeing more than a couple videos on it.

  2. It’s often quite tricky to clean up your code for data miners. Actually, not so much tricky but an arduous process of making sure everything is in order so nothing is spoilt in the future.

    However, I do absolutely hate it. The data miners remind me of people who have a little attention in the limelight and want to “hack” something quickly to be the first. I know it’s only my opinion but I find it very sad to be honest. They can often spoil things which I’m sure millions of people would have been far happier to have a surprise or a lovely reveal from the devs themselves.

    Arses to them! :-\

    • I mostly agree, though I’d rather the developers didn’t spoil too much of it either. It’s certainly rarer for devs to do so, but it isn’t any less annoying when you finally play the game you’ve wanted to play for so long, only to discover no surprises because all the trailers showed you the vast majority of content.

      • Agreed, Dave, although it was the data mining that really gets to me when you mentioned it in the article. However, you make good points throughout. :-)

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