Gamer attention is practically a force all on its own. A giant, slobbering, gibbering monster that crashes into storefronts and servers and consumes with the rabid single-mindedness that can’t help but draw parallels to zombie apocalypses or global epidemics. The kind of rabid fascination humans have with consumerism is, in itself, a palpable force in the gaming community. So too is it the case with hype, the gelatinous monster that hangs over the halls of major game shows like E3 and Tokyo Game Show. It oozes down the walls and bleeds into the attendees, fanning the passions of joy and fury that seem to accompany every announcement, or missed announcement.
Part of that hype monster is a true, living, breathing beast hidden in the depths of the future. Trade shows do paint attendees and participants a picture of the future. Trailers and gameplay mete out information so players down the road will know which games might tickle their fancy, and which might not. They give players awareness that their consoles or games of choice may ring with new life in the future, or whether they’ll die cold, alone, left out, and ultimately left behind.
The other part of the monster is the one that lurks when the monster is well and truly in the dark, hiding behind the veil of uncertainty. Speculation is the human art that gives this creature shape, almost more so than the actual shape of the monster eventually proves to be. Every speculative thought, or shared conspiracy, adds onto the mass that makes the monster whole. A cataclysmic creature whose nightmares grow with every assumption. However, regardless of how dark and unseemly the creature may appear to casual observation, or deeply researched speculation, it’s amazing how different the monster could look from a different perspective.
Take the Playstation Vita, for instance. It’s a handheld whose power is bigger than its reach, and as a result, costs more money to develop for than most developers are willing to risk. It’s an investment that is liable to see little return, even for the major titles like Uncharted or Tearaway. As time goes on, and more trailers rise and come to fruition as fully realized games, it has become apparent that even Sony’s first party developers have left the Vita for greener pastures. There are even former exclusives to the Sony handheld that are losing their sequels, like the recently announced Tearaway Unfolded for the Playstation 4, rather than for the Vita as its prequel was. Which makes sense, given how poorly the title sold, even in the face of overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Looking in the face of this, it’s hard not to hear the distant ringing of the death knell, the sleek black handheld console having been born and sold in its funeral finery, as though this was the expected result. However, it’s not clear whether this monster is just the looming specter of an unpromising showing at the recent Gamescom, or a true funeral dirge for Sony’s handheld. According to Wikipedia, the releases for the months of July, August, and September show an interesting set of numbers, with the Vita offering a total of 26 titles over the course of the three month period, followed by 25 on the PS4, 16 on the Xbox One, and only 6 on the 3DS.
Admittedly, a casual read-through of the list would prove that a lot of titles on the list in general, much less those aimed at the Vita, don’t maintain the same appeal that major first-party and triple-A titles would have for the market at large. But that certainly doesn’t mean that the system is dead in the water. It means that there is still a viable host of games appearing for an allegedly “dead” system, and certainly plenty of appeal for consumers who already own the system.
Which isn’t to say that the nay-sayers are wrong about the Vita, only time will tell the true narrative of the rise and fall of Sony’s little handheld. It does, however speak to just how misleading the shape of the hype monster can be, and how much of its massive hulk and dooming face could actually be the musing of a panicked and flighty games community.
That’s the insidious shape of the hype monster, quelling gamers and enthusiasts alike into markets we may not otherwise buy into, or away from markets we may genuinely enjoy. The same could be said for the announcement of the Playstation 3 many years ago, where phrases like “Riiiiiiidge Racer” and “flip it over onto its weak point for massive damage” are still haunting in our collective consciousness. Gamers collective groans at the WiiU’s announcement in 2011 were numerous, with critics even suggesting the the WiiU would be unable to sustain itself after the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One given the lack of third-party support. However, in the passing of E3 2014, it’s apparent that Nintendo’s showing that year was easily the best of the show, and offered the best games of the of the year. All from a console that looked for years to have no hope of success.
We also see the hype monster appear in other forms, showing as beautiful titles that promise us the world and deliver for us nothing. Peter Molyneux is infamous for invoking this particular monster, promising on big things that he can never deliver on, but we desperately hope for anyway.
As a community, it’s hard to realize that we sometimes miss the forest for the trees, but the hype monster is a creature that refuses to relax or relinquish its hold on the gaming community at large. We have always been, and to some degree will always be, victims of the hype monster. However, it’s important for us to realize that even if the hype monster looks scary, big, and has it out for us, we might just be staring down the big monster that our heads create, not the one that actually exists.
There’s an adage in the stock market, simplest rule of thumb to follow: “Buy low, sell high.” However, as gamers, we need to realize that we might be falling victims to the opposite beast, which scares us into giving up on things we care about. Not just buying into the hype, but also selling ourselves low.