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Sunday, July 21, 2024

How soon before release should a game be revealed?

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Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
What should boomer shooters be called?
If you were a videogame, what kind of game would you be and why?
What do we want from Fallout 5?

The @FutureGamesShow Twitter account asked this question as a poll, providing three options: 1) You can play it now! 2) Three months out… 3) As soon as it’s a project. You can check how the numbers broke down on the tweet, but let’s see what you think. 

How soon before release should a game be revealed?

Here are our answers, plus some from our forum. Future Games Show is also running a competition for folks in the UK and EU, who can win a Streamplify bundle including a microphone, webcam, and ring light. You’ve got one week left to enter.

Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I think purely as a consumer, if I wasn’t a journalist, I’d be perfectly happy with publishers announcing stuff like three-to-six months before launch. Less lead time means less time for online communities to whip themselves up into a frenzy before launch, less time to wait if it’s something I’m really excited for, and less super thin, pointless marketing beats just to pad out the preview cycle. 

But at the same time I think the layers of secrecy in this industry are often absurd. There’s a lack of transparency around games development that gives players a distorted view of how things work, and negatively impacts the lives of studio staff—often for the sake of games we all know are being made anyway, thanks to regular sequels and leaks. So another side of me wishes we were a bit more like the movie industry—less secretive and less hung up on the initial announcement of a project as a big deal unto itself. 

Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: Two years, max. For the love of god, I wish they’d stop putting out 20-second pre-rendered trailers for stuff five years in advance. It’s just kinda tiresome.

Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: The rational part of me only wants to know about games a few months ahead of time for the same perfectly good reasons you’ve all given. The other part of me has been a Dragon Age fan for 12 years and has spent eight of those waiting for the game now titled Dragon Age: Dreadwolf. I don’t like the tiny Hansel and Gretel scraps of information leading me on a painstaking journey through the Wilds to Morrigan’s mum’s cottage, but that part of me was happy to find out back in 2020 that the next Dragon Age game was happening instead of waiting for that confirmation until, well, a year or so from now probably.

Chris Livingston, Features Producer: I like a bit of anticipation, speculation, a good teaser, a proper trailer… I’d say six months is a great amount of time between the reveal and launch, but even hearing about a game a year before it comes out is usually okay.

It does seem weird when something is revealed years before it comes up, but thinking about it from the developers’ perspective, it would be kind of weird, maybe even a real problem, to work on something for years without ever telling anyone what it is. Once there’s a reveal, at least you can mention it by name. It might be something of a relief to finally be able to admit what you spend all your time working on.

Andy Chalk, NA News Lead: A month or two, tops. I’m tired of the extended hype cycle, I’m tired of developers creating games “in partnership with the community,” I’m tired of knowing every little detail about a game before it’s out, and frankly I’m tired of watching developers and publishers clown around with Big Secret Stuff only to have it leaked all over the internet like a blown brake line three days before the embargo.

It is possible that I’m not doing a great job of separating my consumer self from the guy who writes about videogame news for a living, I will grant. But honestly I’d be happy not knowing about them at all until one day I wake up and get clocked in the face with * N * E * W * * G * A * M * E *!!! I miss the days of walking into a shop, browsing the shelves, spotting something and thinking, “Holy shit, what is this?” I just don’t have that sense of intrigue and excitement anymore. Is the endless parade of hype and info better for me as a consumer because I’m more aware of what I’m spending my money on, and less likely to sink it into something I end up hating? Maybe. But is it better for me as a gamer? Absolutely not.

Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: In an ideal world I’d like to know as soon as a game’s being worked on. Avoid all the hassle of secrecy and rumors. Just get word out there and I’ll pop it in the back of my brain, probably forgetting about it a month later.

We don’t live in an ideal world, though. We live in one where internet fandoms are absolutely bug-fuck and froth themselves into a frenzy of anticipation over the tiniest bits of information, then storm and roar and fall in a rage on whatever disappoints them. In this world, yeah, minimizing that with something like the five-months-ahead-of-release announcement schedule Fallout 4 had seems sensible.

From our forum

ZedClampet: I don’t mind reveals that are years out, but I prefer them to be just a few months out like the Fallout 4 reveal, if I remember correctly. That seems really rare, though. But I actually got more excited about Fallout 4 just because it was releasing pretty soon.

Pifanjr: I’m fine with reveals years in advance, but don’t expect me to actually get excited until maybe 2 months before release. Even then, I’ve experienced enough broken promises from developers/publishers that I my hype won’t reach its highest point until the game has already been released and I can see what other people are saying about it.

Brian Boru: Years AFTER release, when:
♣ Whichever bugs are going to be fixed, have been—and I can decide if I can live with what’s left.
♦ The DLC trickle has finished, and there’s a real ‘Complete’ version.
♥ Mods have been updated for the final version, so I know if I can avoid the usually horrible intro half hour, and what bugs, UI and balance issues have been solved by the community.

What a reveal that would be! “Look everyone, our game doesn’t mostly suck any more!”

Colif: Reveals are only surprising if its a new IP. Otherwise its almost a given everything will get a sequel. I think a year or more before its due is too soon… looks at Skyrim 2. Duke Nukem Forever (lol). I won’t include early access as you can play them… otherwise Star Citizen says hello. I feel Diablo 4 was too soon as its not out until next year… so I can just go back to ignoring it again.

Alm: I always love a reveal. Shadow drops are very exciting but any time I feel hype if it’s something I’m interested in.

Kaamos_Llama: 3 months before sounds pretty good, at that point they’ll have it working and you’ll be able to see gameplay. I don’t really like to follow things too closely or play betas, a general idea is enough and then keep the surprise intact.

So many great games already out there and easy to find surprises that I find I don’t really get hyped up by new game marketing unless its a sequel to something I really, really loved.

mainer: Given those choices, I’d go with 3 months, though I think it’s exceedingly rare to see a reveal that close to release. The best game reveal for me was Fallout 4 as @ZedClampet mentioned. It was revealed around June of 2015 and then released in November of 2015 and I was so psyched for a new Fallout game and knew I could play it in just a few months, and that’s extremely rare these days. Plus, it had one of my favorite promo trailers:

Frindis: I used to love finding out everything about a game, even if it was a couple of years before the release. Now I am more interested in getting them as soon as possible and around the 3-month mark & what @ZedClampet referred to with Fallout 4. Fallout 4 was how it should be, straight down to the core of giving something to the gamers without having to milk every goddamn penny! Here is hoping Obsidian Entertainment might just do something similar with their upcoming RPG game: Avowed. Not heard any news for a long time, so it would just be perfect for them to say: Coming this Christmas!

Johnway: Personally I would like reveals for games when they are ideally months out to finish or at least a point of absolute commitment and in the works. What I DON’T want to see are trailers to hype (announcement trailers) or trailers with no ingame footage and just movies.

Too often I see games too early and it either dies or it changes from all recognition from the initial game and makes the previous hype/previews an absolute waste of time. Beyond good and evil 2 I’m looking at you. Do we even have a game or has money just been wasted hyping nothing?

DXCHASE: I like reveals within 3-6 months before release. If it’s something I want, it gives me the right amount of time to plan on making time for it when it releases. Destiny 2 does a pretty good job with this.

Doing something like what CDPR did with Cyberpunk? No way, that was probably the worst approach to releasing a game I’ve ever seen. They started teasing it what? 7 or 8 years or something like that before it released? Nah, anything over a year or so I can do without. I guess maybe if its a remaster of a classic, I dont mind knowing a long time ahead of time because its something I already played. (Gothic remake/Mafia remake for example).

Now if the game industry could only normalize not putting a release date out so the anxiety of pushing back release dates goes away. Nothing more annoying about this than seeing a game being advertised (like cyberpunk) and having the date get pushed back several times. Just say its in development until its actually ready to be released.

WoodenSaucer: The Elder Scrolls VI is the one that frustrates me the most. Do you guys realize they made that announcement over 4 years ago, and they still haven’t even started on it? 

But I’ll say this, at this point I think TES VI will come out before Metroid Prime 4, which was announced 5 years ago, and we’ve never heard a word about it since then, except that they had to scrap it and start over with another developer.

Kovanen: Typically 3 – 6 months, but prior to a properly finished release. None of this, it’s got a million bugs & glitches but we’ll fix them as we go along for the next 12 months.

I’d be interested to see games not be revealed and announced. You login STEAM one day and there’s a “Today’s Releases” page with the new games and nobody knows a thing about them. Obviously it wouldn’t help with the marketing aspects, but would definitely have some fun surprises.

Sarafan: It actually doesn’t matter that much to me. Usually I always enjoy a reveal of a game that I’m waiting for. However I don’t like when a game comes out a few days after the reveal. There were a few examples of that (e.g. Fallout Shelter or Gwent: Rogue Mage). This doesn’t build a proper hype and is simply less entertaining. If I’m waiting for a game, I like to watch some trailers before it’s released, read about the gameplay, see screenshots, discuss all these things with friends etc. When a game is released almost instantly after the reveal, there’s no room for that. Developers that release their games instantly resign from a free marketing campaign.

Krud: Depends on the depth of the reveal and how much work they’ve done on it already. If it’s still in the concept/planning stages? Don’t even tell us, because not only might it never come to pass, but its form may change drastically between the initial pitch/presentation and the release product. If you’re mostly done and are polishing? A year is fine.

Just don’t drop a trailer with what looks like a finished world two years in advance, or in the case of TES6, four or more years before the release.

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