The Hype Machine - Managing Expectations

By Chad Awkerman

August 24, 2009

We’ve all been a victim of it at some time or another – the Internet hype machine. We heard about a game we’re excited to see being developed, whether it’s the next title in one of our favorite franchises or a brand new IP that appeals to us, and we get excited. As development progresses, we hear about things being worked on for the game and, perhaps, some game features are promised which end up not being in the final product.

If you know me, you know I never miss an opportunity to poke fun at the group of people I once belonged to – the over-zealous World of Warcraft player. Granted, I always tried to take things in stride and never flew into a nerd rage on the forums like most of my peers, but still, there were things that got under my skin. WoW players are a prime example of taking everything they hear – or, some believe, everything they want to hear – and believing it to be absolute, unchangeable fact. For example, the developers at Blizzard will communicate that they’d like to try to do this or that in the next major content patch. A couple months down the road, when what they thought would be in the patch isn’t, or if they changed their mind on something, the forums would erupt in malicious talk, branding Blizzard, its developers, its community managers and even the janitors that clean the halls at night all liars. Why? Because of unreasonable expectations.

Gamers have to realize – and many do, I’m not trying to generalize here – that time, development costs, red tape and simple change of heart come into play when creating content for any game, whether it’s a new IP, a sequel to a hit or an MMO. What developers and players want or what they hope will happen, is not always what is delivered. If I read an interview or see a press release detailing a list of features a game will have, I usually try to take it with a grain of salt, especially if the game was just announced or is early in development.

I think, by managing our expectations, we would enjoy games more. Instead of picking up a game with high expectations and then being sorely disappointed and running to some random Internet forum to endlessly complain about it, we’ll actually be able to enjoy the game more. A prime example of this would be Fable 2. The first game was enjoyed by a lot of people, and when the second one game along, the developers promised a lot of things that didn’t make the final cut. Fast forward to release and many fans were disappointed and were very vocal about how much the game “let them down” and how they will “never” play another Fable again. Myself, I didn’t follow the game much at all. I wasn’t enthralled by everything Peter Molyneux said because I really didn’t pay attention to much of it, not that it wasn’t important at the time, but just because I didn’t own an Xbox at the time and simply wasn’t looking to pick up the game.

When I finally got my 360, the game I bought along with it was Fable 2. I absolutely adored that game. I loved almost everything about it. I ate up the DLC. I want to play it again, but haven’t found the time. Did I care that some things that were promised didn’t make it into the final game? Absolutely not. I think Peter Molyneux is a genius, to be honest. Sure, he talks big, and by time Fable 3 is due to be released, I’m sure the same people who bitched about Fable 2 will be back complaining about the many things that were promised never saw the light of day. But, if we manage our expectations, perhaps by time the next game comes around, we can spend more time enjoying the game and less time whining about what’s missing.

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Now, this isn’t to say that developers talking big before a game is released couldn’t garner them rightly-deserved ire from gamers. A good example of this is Haze. Boy, was that game hyped up. Before release, it was thought to even be a Halo killer. When the game came out, the title received a poor reception from critics and gamers alike for things like inconsistency, poor level design, horrible AI and an awkward story. A Halo killer it was most definitely not. Gamers were disappointed and, I’m sure, the developers were disappointed, as well. Even with all its failings, I would still stand by my ideal of enjoying a game for what it is, instead of what it is not. That is, however, more difficult to do with certain games when they’re so obviously wrong that its hard to see the good through all the bad.

Ultimately, this ideal is hard to uphold. I find it difficult, especially for new games in franchises that mean a lot to me like Final Fantasy. I’m not going to lie, I have high expectations for FFXIII. But, I’ve never been disappointed by a regular, numbered, single-player Final Fantasy yet. Never. I doubt FFXIII will break the mold.  Perhaps, come this fall, we can keep more of an open mind as we’re playing new IPs (Borderlands, for example), sequels (Assassin’s Creed 2, etc.) or any other game.   I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that its different for everyone and with every game, but, as a community, I think we should focus less on what was promised – what we don’t have – and more on what we do, and enjoying a game for what it is, instead of what we wished it was.

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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