Hype is a hard thing to manage in the gaming sphere. Too little word of mouth surrounding a title's release can mean a game arrives dead in the water — much like what happened to the recent "Ghostbusters" game meant to tie-in with the new movie that wriggled into theaters last month. If you muttered to yourself, "Wait, there was a new 'Ghostbusters' game?" you're not alone. The game snuck onto shelves just long enough for its developer, FireForge Games, to declare bankruptcy three days later.
"Ghostbusters" had some other problems outside a lack of press to keep it from success (including a high price tag for a low level of content and an apparent inability to break through the "games based on movie franchises are shit" barrier). But a public with even a slight degree of anticipation for the title might've at least held off that bankruptcy decision for another solid 12 hours or so.
On the other hand are the games with such high levels of anticipation that the hype machines surrounding them start to generate their own buzz, become their own story. "No Man's Sky," released just last week for the PC and PS4, is the latest example of untempered expectations for a video game spilling out into the real world.
On paper, "No Man's Sky" has a lot going for it. The game boasts a robust procedurally generated (i.e., environments randomly created on the fly as you explore them) universe to explore as a lone spacefarer, with over 18 quintillion unique possible planets to plant flags on. Early announcements about a game featuring a personally generated universe for players to explore sent imaginations running wild, dragging expectations along with them.
Which isn't necessarily a bad thing in its own right. Excitement is a natural reaction to something that seems rad. But as time wore on and it became clear that "No Man's Sky" wasn't going to be able to promise the world that many fans hyped up — lead developer of the game Sean Murray of Hello Games tried to temper expectations, explaining the game was more of an indie outing than a AAA title — online backlash welled.
But it wasn't so much directed at those making the promises as it was at those who were calling bullshit (though Murray did receive his fair share of death threats for announcing that the game would be delayed two months beyond its initial June launch date, per the established rules of internet etiquette). When the first reviews started rolling in describing the game as technically impressive but tedious and the randomly generated worlds and gameplay as repetitive, those who bought into the narrative of wonder ramped up the attacks, taking down reviewers' websites through DDoS attacks and (of course) issuing more death threats.
Angry internet brouhahas notwithstanding, the hype seems to have paid off in the sales department, with "No Man's Sky" entering at the top of the charts during its week of release. Games of its kind, those that promise unbridled exploration and the ability for the player to make a lasting change on the game world, are especially easy to buy into. But promises of wonder don't always equate to the real thing.
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