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..did I say too much?

I meant to write a little on this subject a couple of weekends ago when I originally read this article over on Kotaku. Do game companies spoil too much about their games prior to release? Does saturation marketing for the huge titles means we reveal too much about our games?

Firstly I thought it was interesting to give a little insight from my personal experience, I can't really talk about the industry at large (having worked at one developer the whole time) but I can speak for how we interact with our friends in marketing...and honestly, I don't mean that with even the faintest hint of sarcasm.

You need to market your games, you can't avoid it, whether it is through community or viral effort for small developers through to the mega budget TV campaigns for World of Warcraft or Mass Effect 2, marketing is important. The question asked in the article is whether we are at a tipping point where we are running the risk of spoiling the effectiveness of the story-telling within the game by revealing too much. Now so far I count myself lucky, our marketing folks are usually involved in the process, and while I'd be lying if I said we always agreed, I think we generally reach good compromises that allow them to market the game effectively, and allow those producing the game to not feel that the experience is spoilt. Our marketing folk at least genuinely understand that we are better hinting at, or simply teasing about key elements rather then revealing them outright. Maybe that is different within the more corporate developer / publisher arrangements, but even when we have worked with larger publishers I have still found they are generally respectful of the production process.

I also think that on many occasions the issue is often just as much with those of us in production as it is anyone in marketing. You see, we are gamers as well, and we want people to like our games. We want people to get excited about them, we want people to want to play them, we really want people to play them and like them. Sometimes that excitement gets the better of us, and it usually takes a lot of self control to not reveal more about the project than we know we should. I have definitely seen developers reveal things that they would have been annoyed a marketing person revealed...I have even done it accidentally myself a couple of times. (just with really safe things mind! The real problem there is possibly revealing something that might get cut, or dropped before release...that never goes down well. It might be something you are excited about, but if it ends up being cut from the release you'll have dissapointed someone, somewhere, by mentioning it)

That's also because, as noted in the article, there is also a seriously insatiable desire out there for information. The public seem to want more all the time. There is that constant thirst for the latest news, and what's more, no news is suddenly translated into conspiracy theory and it is presumed that if you aren't hearing anything, it must be bad things that you aren't hearing...probably very bad, the game probably sucks or something. The internet is getting better at that all the time. Even the studios with the best reputations and track records get doubted if there isn 't a constant stream of reveals and information flowing out of them...hearing nothing is worryingly becoming something that is translated as a warning sign.

Maybe this is a chicken and egg situation, which came first? The desire for information or the willingness to provide it? Now that we have started and some people have decided that giving more is better, if you don't follow suit you better even have an undeniably great game game, or the best reputation in the industry. Perhaps it is a self fulfilling prophecy, which is why I found the article interesting in the first place.

Take TV shows for a similar situation. I have to admit that personally I have stopped reading some of what were previously my favorite spots on the internet because they post casting calls, set reports, rumours and leaked script info. They do detract from my enjoyment of the shows, they are spoilers, I would rather experience the shows without knowing what's coming. I already tend to avoid the interviews and video previews of a game I know I am going to play (which can be challenging these days, it was really hard to avoid the Mass Effect 2 coverage), so I know where I stand on the issue, I am fine with a little mystery, even if it means I make the odd duff purchase.

So what about you? Would you rather hear less or more about your potential purchases? Do you take a lack of news to be a warning of scary bad things, or are you willing to wait till you can try it for yourself?
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