Hi-Fi Rush
Image via Tango Gameworks

Opinion: We’re Going To See More ‘Surprise Release’ Games and Why That’s Not a Good Thing

Hi-Fi Rush was GREAT ... but Let's Not Make a Habit of Doing Surprise Releases ...

I … am conflicted. Because when Tango Gameworks surprised everyone with what could be a serious contender for Game of the Year, my veins filled with excitement. Hi-Fi Rush took me — and many, many others — off guard, and yes … it was a remarkable experience. I fear, however, for what it’d mean for the games industry if more and more studios followed in Tango’s footsteps.

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An Abundance of Hype

It’s absolutely no secret that I believe an overabundance of hype is killing gaming. It might be a slow drip of poison, but if left unchecked, it could do some serious damage. I think back to 2016, when No Man’s Sky was the talk of the town. I remember how excited everyone seemed to be about the next massive hit from the developers of Joe Danger, and Joe Danger 2: The Movie.

Sure, now the game seems to have delivered on much of what it initially promised. But, while the initial release of No Man’s Sky was a disaster, much of it could’ve been mitigated had it not been for the hype that built up in the weeks and months prior to launch. The monumental expectations thrust upon a studio that had only made the console equivalent of mobile games was irresponsible. I’ll admit, Hello Games also has their share of the blame in that case, but as a consuming populace, we should’ve known better.

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Need another example? Take Death Stranding. Now — there’s no arguing that Hideo Kojima isn’t a mad genius for his work on the Metal Gear franchise. But, between Sony effectively giving Kojima a blank check to make Death Stranding and the Kojima stans enabling the endless, borderline inane trailers for it, only for the final product to be the video game equivalent of a sleep aid, something went wrong here.

I want to make it clear that I don’t believe hype is inherently negative. I don’t believe the answer to this problem is the complete annihilation of hype. In fact, that’s my main point here — if more and more game studios start surprise dropping these games without allowing for a natural buildup of hype, that’ll result in a total eradication of hype in gaming. I think we need a balance.

Hype in Moderation

It’s not necessarily gaming-related, but take the recent season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STONE OCEAN. In previous seasons, it aired weekly both in Japan and America (albeit much later, once the dub was complete). Thus, each week, the community both overseas and here at home were able to engage in discussions about what would (or wouldn’t) happen each week. It was a tradition affectionately referred to as “JoJo Fridays,” and it was viciously murdered by a company you may know … as Netflix.

Netflix rode in on a black horse and bought the license to not only air JoJo’s here in the west, but in Japan as well. It then went from a weekly celebration of all things bizarre to a triannual lowkey party to celebrate … uh … eh? Because it went from airing weekly to a batch of episodes being dropped all at once three times, those who cared binged it in a day then didn’t think about the series again until the next batch dropped.

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My point is thus: there is no quicker way to kill a franchise than to obliterate the fans’ hype. But, care not to overinflate their hype, either. If you mislead the players into expecting something that you can’t deliver, you risk overinflation. But, if you take away reasons for them to be excited, you can’t complain when your game doesn’t have a lengthy lifespan.

All this to say: if more studios follow in Tango’s lead, and surprise release their games, they will have killed the hype. It might linger for a month, maybe two months, but by time we reach the end of the year … are we really going to still be talking about Hi-Fi Rush? I certainly hope so, but there’s no guarantees.

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Author
James Herd
James has been playing games for as long as he can remember. His first game was either The Lion King or The Mask for the SNES. He has since grown into the biggest apologist for JRPGs and he wants to be Yoko Taro for Halloween.