Why is it so difficult to announce a new video game?

Why is it so difficult to announce a new video game?

What is the right time to present a new video game to the public? In the midst of a gigantic festival dedicated to the medium, in which the largest publishers on the planet compete with huge triple A's?

Maybe in a quieter place like The Game Awards stage for example? Is it possible that the best choice is to avoid traffic and be ahead of the times compared to the big events? Or, again, should the waters calm down and surprise everyone with an impromptu exploit?

And above all, what is the best way to attract the attention of fans? While there is no single answer to this series of questions, and the industry's most celebrated publishers are constantly looking for new formulas to emerge in an extremely crowded market, there is one consideration that is very difficult to disagree with: Rockstar Games is the only software house capable of bending the rules of the game to its liking.

Because Rockstar is Rockstar, and the studio founded by the Houser brothers has always given a damn about the marketing and communication logic that they govern the industry. One day the cover image of the social pages changes, a week later a teaser trailer comes out, and within a few hours the whole world is hit by the earthquake of the new house game, be it a chapter of Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption.

Far Cry 6 has 'escaped' from the Ubisoft conference to earn a spot in the spotlight. This kind of freedom, however, is an achievement. It is not enough to adopt Rockstar's communication strategies to become a Rockstar: it takes years and years of success during which the expectations of fans have never been disregarded, churning out masterpieces capable of marking the growth of communities for decades. Rockstar Studios do not have to show or sell a video game, it is the public who madly want their latest creation, because by now an unbreakable relationship of trust has come to be created.

A relationship of trust that seemed to have also contaminated the orbit of CD Projekt RED until the launch of Cyberpunk 2077, a title that gave aspiring competitors another heavy lesson: just a single slip and you risk losing everything.

Announcing video games today is how to participate in Russian roulette. Choose a big stage and you will risk ending up overshadowed by another huge triple A project. Speed ​​up the times and there will be the possibility of dramatically breaking the timing of publication incurring inevitable postponements. Enter the market too early and you will quickly end up being forgotten. Late with the presentation and you will run into the ire of consumers.

E3 2021, as well as the Summer Game Fest 2020, now remembers the stew of Serie A football: there is an advance, then another, then comes the 12 o'clock match followed by the bulk of the games, finally comes the time for postponements and, why not, even a match postponed for a month.

Sony has confirmed its divorce with E3 and his change in communication strategy: no teaser, only State of Play. The most emblematic case is that of Sony, which seems to have now definitively divorced from the Los Angeles event. The most mischievous will say that the house no longer has the necessary cartridges to stage memorable shows like those seen in the past. Some analysts, on the other hand, argue that the company is no longer willing to increase the media sounding board of the competition by bringing its delicious first parties to the stage.

Regardless of the reasons that guided the choice of the Japanese giant , Horizon Forbidden West was extensively shown to the public well before the doors of E3 opened. Likely, Sony will keep a few more shots hidden in the magazine and will patiently observe the unfolding of the event and then unleash its blow like a predator, perhaps unleashing the first images of God of War Ragnarok from the hat at the appropriate moment.

Ubisoft has decided to separate Far Cry 6 from its presentation, while Techland, after two years of silence, has resurrected Dying Light 2, completing the trio of AAA productions that have voluntarily excluded themselves from the confines of E3. The question is why? And the most logical answer obviously lies in the fear of going unnoticed in the cyclone of announcements that will characterize the actual conferences.

There is a risk that publishers do not seem to take into account, however, and that of colliding with the short-term memory that characterizes modern video game consumers. Think of sensational hits like Fall Guys, Valheim or Among Us: if even titles of this genre, capable of monopolizing the streaming channels and the Steam rankings, end up disappearing without a trace within a few days, one wonders what it is. the fate of a simple pre-announcement.

Announcing a game too soon can end up like Scalebound: a failure etched in the memory of fans. The problem of "when" to announce a video game, on the other hand, should also be analyzed in a broader sense. Until recently it was not uncommon to see teasers of titles that would be released years later, and that were briefly revealed only to whet the imagination of fans. But the desire to dream has quickly given way to intolerance, and most publishers now seem to fear more than anything else the first confrontation with the public.

After a Kingdom Hearts 3 that was late for over 15 years, after the memes matured around Sony's teasers, after sensational cases such as that of Scalebound which hit Microsoft, communication management has become extremely cautious. Development times have expanded, and it is now clear that anything can happen in the post-reveal period, from the descent into development hell to even the dreaded cancellation.

All these concerns are leading to large dedicated stages. to video games to abandon the classic connotation of a "dream factory" to embrace the formula of mere advertising presentation. Overwhelmed by the weight of expectations, guided by the hand of marketing, frightened by the vastness of the videogame cauldron, the publishers have decided to run for cover, even taking apart the great E3 amusement park piece by piece.

Maybe we will no longer listen to orchestras committed to playing live the soundtracks most loved by fans. Perhaps we will no longer see Shigeru Miyamoto riding the stage dressed as Link to announce the genesis of a new chapter of Zelda. Maybe no celebrity will come to pick up the scepter left by Keanu Reeves at the center of the Los Angeles arena.

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Rockstar, to date, embodies the paradigm of perfect communication, but only because it is a perfect software house. Probably a certain date will be carefully selected on the calendar, in the same way that only the best segments of the gameplay are framed, those that are considered most suitable for seducing the viewer and capturing him in the pre-order network. And maybe it's only right that things go this way, because the announcement of a new video game has gone from being a moment of celebration to embodying a developer's worst fears.

So when you are announces a video game? Probably the correct answer is also the most obvious one: it should be announced when it is ready. Because it is true that Rockstar is Rockstar, but if it has reached a similar state of grace it is also because of the way it moves in the bowels of the market, waiting in the shadows and sipping every information and then surprising the fans so, suddenly, with a ready-made and bow-tie product on which it is possible to fantasize for a few months.

Choosing to avoid a big event is like admitting to having doubts about your project when compared to excellent rivals, while anticipating the times .. well, just look at Cybeprunk 2077, Beyond Good & Evil 2 or Scalebound to get an idea of ​​the possible consequences.

The late Steve Jobs had seen us a long way: when creative companies end up being guided only by the logic of marketing, and forget that their trend is linked to the quality of products in which they believe blindly, they are pains for all.

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