The Video Game Hype Machine

Early next month, Bioware's "Dragon Age: Origins" will launch, putting the exclamation point on over three years of hype. The title was first announced at E3 in 2004, and as of today there are 101 pieces of media associated with the game on GameTrailers.com, with over 3 million downloads, about 10,000 YouTube videos, both user- and fan-uploaded, and a full year of DLC planned out. The character creation tool for the game has already been released.

If you recall "Spore"'s promotional campaign, it was similar -- tons of gameplay video, the Creature Creator available months before release, and a huge amount of hype surrounding the game. For Triple-A titles, when it comes to releasing content, the rule is simple: Less isn't more, more is more -- often to a parodic extent.

Contrast this with the approach movie promotion often takes. From "Jaws" to "Cloverfield," movie promotions often try to avoid showing the monster -- often until the theatergoers are in the seats and the lights start to dim. Spoilers are tightly controlled, because the theory goes that if people know who Kaiser Soze is or what happens to Dumbledore, nobody's going to pay to see the film.

On one level, it's understandble -- watching gameplay videos of an upcoming title is by no means the same as seeing the big reveal of an upcoming film in a preview clip, and the consideration cycle for a $60 video game is much more complex than for a $6 movie ticket (or $12 on Madison Avenue). But video games develop intense fanbases years before their releases precisely because potential buyers are given the chance to see behind the scenes and become advocates.

At least in the short term, it looks as if movie studios are hoping to move in the opposite direction. Earlier this month, Mashable reported that Hollywood studios are increasingly including terms in talent contracts that forbid tweeting about projects in production. But rather than keeping a lid on information coming from a production set, studios should be looking to leverage their stars' followings in social media to build up advocacy for their releases. It may spoil some surprises -- but more and more, people seem to want those surprises spoiled.

Tags: gaming
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