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#1 Edited by AssInAss (3218 posts) -

Gamasutra - What are video game previews for?

Finally, someone wrote an article about why video game previews are in a rut right now and feel like PR exercises. It's all so controlled a process, there's barely any subjectivity to be had. Enthusiast press (not journalism) is just creating hype cycles for the developers, previews all have to be positive because it's too early to pass judgement. Mostly highlighted recently by how baffling Bungie's Destiny preview event was:

But the event raised more questions than it answered. Nobody really saw a game. The result: Seas of "previews" littered with careful language like "apparently"; and notations of all the details the company refused to clarify, couldn't, wouldn't, didn't say.

The result was mammoth features from most enthusiast websites packed with quotes like "social and cooperative" (join the club!) "design-controlled" (what isn't!) "shared world" (yes?). "The goal of any advanced technology is to seem effortless," quotes one website.

Wouldn't the developers rather be working on the game than creating specific preview/E3/vertical slice builds?

But is all that cost worthwhile to the publisher as budgets skyrocket and staff cuts are everywhere? Is the lost time worthwhile, for devs who are tasked with frantically cobbling together stable pockets of preview build, pre-rendered trailers, media rehearsal, when they might rather be making their game?

Look at Aliens Colonial Marines, Halo 2, Bioshock Infinite (that's a developer commentary on the making of the E3 demo), and any other E3 scripted gameplay demo that feel more like long trailers. Do these help us, the eventual consumer or feel like disappointments when we find out most of it doesn't look as scripted or awesome when in the actual game?

It enforces our role as glorified community managers for the products we like (the fact so many games writers become community managers speaks to the common closeness in roles).

DING DING DING! (most of 1UP's writers, Jeff Green, etc).

Some websites buck this trend as mentioned in the article like Gamasutra, RPS (Cara Ellison vs Crysis 3, it's absolutely hilarious), and now Destructoid after the Aliens CM fiasco.

But this is Giant Bomb, I expect the responses to focus on who the writer of this article is, surprised she writes good-to-great articles (ever picked up an EDGE magazine?) despite her behavior on that one E3 podcast.


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#2 Edited by davo (143 posts) -

Personally, I find previews to be nothing more than a reminder that games exist. Colonial Marines is a perfect example of a completely pointless preview. We're all aware of the so-called finished product...

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#3 Posted by Zekhariah (700 posts) -

Previews are entertaining content, and put people more on notice that something is coming out in terms of being a better announcer. E.g There will be a new Killzone, that will look a bit better than the old one, at some point in 2013.

They are a terrible purchasing decision basis (even if I do it sometimes - that comes more from knowing that I'll disregard reviews than anything else).

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#4 Edited by sdharrison (519 posts) -

Born Broken: Video Game Journalism Coming of Age: The Movie: Based on the Novel: Based on True Events

But yeah, previews suck. But have to be puff pieces otherwise the journo just doesn't get invited to preview it. Done deal.

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#5 Edited by FFFFFFF (76 posts) -

It asks if they are worth it, mentioning how tight time and budgets must be, but that hype cycle is what sells games. It must be worth it. The bulk of a games sales are usually within the first week, before anyone is sure about the quality.

Whether it's worth it to the audience? It's a symbiotic relationship for sites that run a lot of previews and the publishers, but don't forget that people click on them. They must want them too.

Are they actually good for us and how we perceive these games? Probably not, but until it effects the money, no one is going to care.

Using the Aliens example. If everyone is let down by Aliens, that means they know what the Aliens game is. That's mission accomplished for the marketing and the game sold much better than it deserved to because of it. So why would that change?

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#6 Posted by audioBusting (2215 posts) -

I thought it's just good marketing, especially since video game sales peak really early. They need to raise the awareness as soon as possible.

Now that I think about it though, I wonder which causes which? Maybe the sales peak early because they frontload the marketing?

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#7 Posted by sdharrison (519 posts) -

I love when my friends that don't really follow video games actually get exposed to commercials or hype.

"Dude, Dante's Inferno looks INSANE!!"

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#8 Edited by AssInAss (3218 posts) -

I'm surprised this article hasn't caused much buzz. Maybe people just know the reality now and we're just preaching to the choir by now about this.