Assassin's Creed Valhalla's Livestream Was a Tedious Way to Reveal An Exciting Game

While the Assassin's Creed Valhalla reveal tried something different, give me a 4-minute-long trailer over an 8-hour-long stream any day.

Last week, we were hit with a full-on trailer for the newest Assassin’s Creed titleAssassin’s Creed Valhalla. When the trailer released, the DualShockers Discord channel exploded with a discussion on Valhalla, all because of the cinematic footage that was shown. It gave us a taste of the world, some snippets of possible gameplay options (like moral choices), and best of all, a flat-out hype reveal of the hidden blade. This trailer gave me and likely hundreds of thousands of other fans out there what we wanted – an actual announcement of a game that we knew was coming for some time.

Except that wasn’t the first announcement for the game; that came the day before in the form of a stream in which artist BossLogic painted a picture of the upcoming game’s setting. While I was writing for the site, I would check back into our Discord to see people talking about the ongoing Assassin’s Creed stream. As it crept into the late afternoon and people were still discussing it, I realized the stream had been going for five hours. It wouldn’t be another three until it actually ended. I ended up tuning in for a few minutes at a time, but I didn’t leave with much more than I came in with. And that right there–leaving a game’s reveal with just an idea of what it may be–is what made this stream unsuccessful, in my mind.

“To me, a game’s reveal should either be a sudden, out-of-left-field jolt of excitement or a long, slow burn.”

Don’t get me wrong; I think the concept of the stream done by BossLogic and Ubisoft was brilliant. Watching an artist work is always interesting – seeing a picture come together and tell a story in real-time is genuinely valuable. But like Professor Oak says, “There’s a time and place for everything, but not now,” and that counts double for this reveal.

To me, a game’s reveal should either be a sudden, out-of-left-field jolt of excitement or a long, slow burn, something including an ARG for fans that really want to get to the bottom of things. I’ve found that most game reveals fit into these two categories, and that’s because they’re effective. Dropping a bomb of a game on fans out of nowhere sends them into a frenzy; I’d know, it’s been done to me. But that steady drip of information over a long period–an experience stretched out over weeks containing different tidbits of info–that works just as well. Valhalla’s reveal fits somewhere between these two; a single surprise stretched over the course of a day. The common denominator between these two types of reveals is what makes them both entirely effective: content.

A game’s reveal has to include something of substance, something for players to grab onto and theorize off of. You know a game’s reveal went well when there are 10 different threads on Reddit harping on about how one small piece of information actually reveals an aspect of gameplay that hasn’t been announced yet. The most recent example of a reveal like this isn’t in the form of a game, but a character for Overwatch, Sombra. The ARG leading up to her reveal included codes hidden in trailers, small in-game details, and so much more. But the most iconic reveal in my memory was for a game that didn’t even exist.

I am a massive fan of Fallout. I’ve spent countless hours in the series’ irradiated worlds, and back in late 2013, there were rumors of a new title in the series coming out – a fourth Fallout game. The rumors started with the discovery of a site: thesurvivor2299.com. The site would display encrypted codes, and play others in morse. I ended up joining a group of fans following this ARG, decoding what we could and piecing together what had happened to this survivor. In the end, the entire ARG was an extremely convincing hoax. That “reveal” had me on my old phone during numerous high school classes and rushing home almost every day just to make sure I was up to date on the latest developments. On the downside, the entire thing being fake jaded the hell out of me.

But that reveal, even as a fake, felt more effective than the one done for Valhalla. It fed information in an addictive fashion, and for some reason, Ubisoft saved that part of the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla reveal for last. But why not dump info on fans earlier?

That’s the question I find myself struggling with. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what decision led to the announcement of the latest entry in a 13-year-old AAA franchise with a workday-long stream. Again, the idea itself is cool, and I’d love to see other streams of artists working on Valhalla. But for a game reveal, I felt like I’d been served an appetizer when I should have gotten the main course. There simply wasn’t enough content.

“While that smattering of info may be good enough for some starved Assassin’s Creed fans, I have a feeling most got what they really wanted the day after the stream.”

If you want proof of this, think about what you took away from each event. From the trailer, we got to see the settings, characters, activities in the game, and more. We got a fleshed-out picture of the world that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes place in. Compare that to the art stream. If you watched the whole thing (rest your eyes for a while if you did), you came away from it knowing one thing for sure – the game has Vikings in it, a message that would have been passed along more efficiently if done first through a trailer. And while that smattering of info may be good enough for some starved Assassin’s Creed fans, I have a feeling most got what they really wanted the day after the stream.

Ubisoft; I don’t want to tell you how to do your job. Your company is massively successful, due in equal parts to your amazing titles and the number of special editions you offer for each game. But I digress. Assassin’s Creed is a revered franchise, with dedicated fans around the world. It’s doing them and this series a disservice when your game’s reveal has one, face-level thing to say. While the idea of a stream may have seemed good on paper, in this application, I feel like it missed the proverbial hay pile and splattered on the cobble.

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Otto Kratky

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