Should A Game Get Two Rides On The Hype Train?

Should A Game Get Two Rides On The Hype Train?

Along with the paid alpha/beta and Early Access trend comes the dilemma of spacing out announcements and managing hype. But here’s an interesting question: After the initial Early Access promotional period, should we be giving it equal or greater coverage on the game’s actual release?

You would think a game’s release is more of a big deal.

But when it comes to Early Access games, it seems rare to hear anything at all beyond the initial “you can pay for it now” stage. Indie devs now have to be pros when it comes to masterfully feeding media information pieces at a time, to control the news cycle. But this only really works if interest is high enough. We can’t all be Tim Schafer, with outlets jumping at the chance to publish our latest quote.

The fact is, news outlets follow certain guidelines. When a game’s release comes around, usually a significant period after it was made available, it’s not “news” anymore.

It won’t benefit from launch benefits such as actual reviews — which writers and YouTube videographers might have been holding off to cover, only to later decide the ship has sailed. And it raises the question of whether a game might actually experience less sales because the hype train peaked too early. It’s a hard thing to prove, but we can definitely say the willingness to cover most games is lost after initial contact.

Perhaps it’s a tradeoff with the benefits of receiving funding before a game is finished. It’s a hard and long road to make a game without help right until the end, revealing it to the world in a controlled and polished state and making a big impact. Even harder, if you’re trying to do so on multiple platforms simultaneously, lest a 2048-like clone beat you to it.

Yet some games clearly deserve that extra coverage — specifically, those which are very different by the time they come out. The amount of changes to Rust is noteworthy, and it will be a vastly different game by the time it’s released. The same goes for my beloved Frozen Endzone, which listened to fan feedback and actually swapped its two modes, making what was at first a secondary game mode and making it the primary. It’s a better game for it.

It’s like how Team Fortress 2 now is a completely different game to when it was released. Not many major gaming outlets did an official “review” of the new Team Fortress 2. But shouldn’t they have? As we’ve noted here on Kotaku, the plethora of updates to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has strengthened it immensely. It deserved to be panned as an unimaginative Source clone when it came out, but now things are different. Doesn’t it deserve a 2nd look? Shouldn’t history reflect that it changed course, and in the end, served its fans quite well?


  • My issue with coverage around Early Access trailing off is that once a game actually gets to a half-playable state, you don’t always hear about it.

    I’d like to know how DayZ is going (I know it’s not early access specifically, but you catch my drift) but I wouldn’t specifically go searching for info about it.

    • …but DayZ IS early access specifically.

      On the DayZ front… it’s still far from being complete. You’re still better off playing DayZ Epoch on ArmaII.

    • I’d like to know how DayZ is going (I know it’s not early access specifically, but you catch my drift) but I wouldn’t specifically go searching for info about it.

      And you wouldn’t find much useful info if you did. It can extremely hard to separate the Early Access, pre-Beta, Beta, etc coverage material from the current material. It’s a bit like trying to find a World of Warcraft review. If you’re not actively playing the game you can get a real weird picture of the state of the game today mixed with the state of the game three years ago.
      It’s made even worse when a game like DayZ experiences a huge spike in popularity and a lot of chatter. On top of the old data flooding out the new, you’ll also hear a lot about the game today from people who haven’t played it in months.

  • Coverage should coincide with peak(s?) in expected sales activity – because then they are of most value to the prospective consumer wanting to know more.
    Early access makes that simple premise very murky. But so does something like a steam sale – a deep discount could see the biggest spike in sales since release.

    Edit: I acknowledge that this is purely for coverage as an aid to sales activity. Coverage that drives sales activity is a very different matter.

  • Depends on the game and circumstances that surround it. Instigating an arbitrary rule over just not covering something or still covering something despite unique circumstances or lack thereof is ridiculously short-sighted. I would have thought this had a pretty simple answer.

  • Maybe just do a monthly/2 monthly article on how the top early access games are travelling ?

    I think it is also up to the developers to get the word out on how the development is going

  • The problem I find with coverage during Early Access is that the game’s flaws (due to its incomplete state) are generally what you’re hearing about as they tend to be the most newsworthy occurrences. While they may be completely fixed and the game polished until you can see the bits reflected in it at release, people have already formed the opinion that it is a buggy and unplayable mess. Personally, I’m only interested in the news worthy and revolutionary Early Access items. I’m already flooded by new release news so hearing about games that aren’t even complete yet is just more noise to filter out, leading to me possibly missing things that I should be paying attention to.

  • I’d actually love to see a regular “What’s new” type article that highlights how previously released games are faring post release. So many games change significantly with DLC and patches, yet a lot of the time we don’t hear even about it. Gaming news shouldn’t be restricted to just what’s on the release schedule when there’s a significant number of people playing titles that have been out a while. Let us know if it’s worth dipping back into games we might have previously shelved for whatever reason.

    There’s no reason they couldn’t throw this out every so often on the slow news days. God knows it’s better than reading trashy reddit-GIF articles.

  • I guess that’s where we look to you, junglist. If you think it’s newsworthy in it’s own right for a title to have another look-in, I’m gonna trust your judgement as someone who has the knowledge and experience to make that assessment..

  • It’s a hard thing to prove, but we can definitely say the willingness to cover most games is lost after initial contact.

    I don’t think it’s too hard to prove, considering how many games follow the pattern. =P Games get one launch. They can call it a beta, alpha, early access, retail launch, etc but they rarely get another shot at it. A first impression is probably the best way to describe it. Final Fantasy had to crash, burn and rebuild with an absolute giant backing them, and even then you can question how successfully they pulled it off.
    It’s very hard to get people to separate that first impression. You can remind people the game exists and that it’s launching, but you can’t get them to just forget their past experience with it.

    For my money if you want a second hype period you have to release a sequel. That’s why we’ll continue to get yearly releases on sports games that could be handled via paid DLC upgrades. Although even critically acclaimed games struggle to get hype going strong on sequels. The third game can experience a boost if the second managed to solidify the series in the public mind. A forth is usually a hard sell unless the game has established itself as a brand beyond any one game (your FIFAs, Need for Speeds, Zeldas, etc).

  • They can and do get a second bite of the cherry, but I don’t really think they should. Either out of some sense of ‘fairness’, or my own experience of completely diminished interest the second time around. Like some kid who bowls you over with an acrobatic trick, then expects you to be equally as surprised every time you come around and they trot out the same old trick.

  • I’m surprised there’s been no mention of Minecraft. I honestly can’t remember its official release. I remember all the early beta stuff though. I remember new things getting added and completely changing the game.

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