5 reasons I think gamers judge games prematurely

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Would you agree that it’s only once a game is out and you have actually played it, that you’re able to form a final and accurate personal opinion about that game? Would you agree that no amount of pre-release information, misinformation or hype should colour your thoughts about an unreleased game?

Would you agree?

Regardless, there are many reasons that we as gamers are quick to judge a game, and its prospects to entertain us, well ahead of that game’s release, and I’ve picked the top five that I think contribute the most to a negative (and positive) initial perception of an unreleased tite – would you agree?

No. 5: We don’t enjoy an initial showing of a game

This one, I think, is on the publishers and developers showcasing their games and it’s their fault for showing their titles to the world either when they’re not ready, or when the team doesn’t yet have a clear message for gamers to hook on to. It’s also up to us, however, to not jump to conclusions and consider a game to be below par simply because we didn’t like a trailer or batch of screenshots.

The marketing message here is very important for publishers to get right. Recent examples of unclear messages include the initial reveals for Splinter Cell: Blacklist (worrying fans with ‘too much’ action-oriented gameplay), Dead Space 3 (again, focussing heavily on the co-operative component of the game) and Far Cry 3 (where open-world shenanigans played second fiddle to a scene of a nude, writhing body).

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Screenshot 6

Sam Fisher not doing what he does best? Is stealth all he’s good at?

When it comes to early footage of a game, however, and these early messages from publishers, we need to keep an open, optimistic mind about the games in question and wait for further details, I feel. Any other recent examples of poor marketing messages that lead to an initially poor reception of a game that you can think of?

No. 4: We fear a change of developers for the game’s sequel

As development budgets continue to balloon (and will explode during the next generation of consoles), publishers see the need to outsource the development of a franchise sequel to another studio, not only to allow the team that created the original games to work on new projects, but also to trim down costs as well as groom a new studio for the future.

Naturally, this change in developer causes concern amongst fans of the original games because the new studio is seen to not have the correct expertise to handle development, or it’s thought that no other studio can ‘understand’ the franchise as well as the one that created it. But is this a real cause for concern?

Gears of War: Judgment Screenshot 1

Only Epic ‘gets’ the complex inner-workings of the Gears story and characters. Don’t even try, People Can Fly.

Lost Planet 3 and Gears of War: Judgment are just two examples of upcoming games that have worried franchise fans because of a change in developer, while the fact that Ninja Theory (and not Capcom proper) was creating DmC: Devil May Cry was being lamented right up until release.

Any other notable examples of new studios getting it right (or wrong, as the case may be)?

No. 3: We don’t like the addition or removal of a feature for an established franchise

If there’s one thing that gamers fear the most (but profess to welcome it with open arms) is ‘change.’ A change in a developer can cause forum riots, but woe betide the developer that dares to add a major feature to an established game franchise, or remove a well-liked feature from the series.

The addition of multiplayer to a game (either singleplayer-focussed or not) is always a hot topic amongst gamers as they debate whether or not an online component will add anything to the experience of the game, or if the development of that multiplayer portion is taking precious time and money away from the main campaign. But what if development is being handled by a separate studio, as in the case of Tomb Raider, and the publisher is investing heavily in the title anyway?

Tomb Raider Screenshot 6

Don’t you dare add an excellent multiplayer component to Tomb Raider, Eidos Montreal! Don’t you dare!

Gears of War: Judgment has also begun to worry Gears fans with some disturbing news about removed features, not least of which is the clever ‘Down But Not Out’ team-mate revival system, but shouldn’t we trust the developer with a weighty decision such as this?

Any other features that have been removed from or added to upcoming games that have got you concerned?

No. 2: We consider games based on a movie, TV show or comic book to be inferior ‘cash-ins’

With the release of a major movie or TV show, and with the building of a fanbase for a popular comic book (or even a movie based on a comic book), the creators of the various media will seek out ways to increase awareness of their brands and capitalise on that brand’s success.

All too often, however, the world of videogames is pulled into the gravity of a juggernaut property and we see a game based on a license. These games are almost always seen as ‘shameless cash-ins’ with ‘rushed development’ schedules, which can only mean that the end experience is poor, right? Not always.

Rise of the Guardians Screenshot 1

Titles based on movies make excellent kids games, too.

While there are scant few games based on licenses that we can point to as shining examples and outstanding videogames in their own right, names like Batman: Arkham City/Asylum, Chronicles of Riddick are mighty indeed, but if we travel further back in time we can see games based on Disney properties, as well as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, have all been able to instil us with hope for the future of these kinds of games.

Which games based on licensed properties have you enjoyed the most? Which do you think act as examples of how not to do it?

No. 1: We hold a predisposition to a publisher, franchise, genre or theme

I personally think the number one reason that gamers judge a game before it’s even been given time to make a case for itself is the fact that we all hold predispositions towards certain publishers, or a franchise of games. Of course, our interest levels in an upcoming game will also decrease precipitously if the genre or theme doesn’t appeal to us.

In the past, games from EA might have been eyed with suspicion but that role has now been taken over (primarily) by Activision, while annualised sequels from these publishers (and others, like Ubisoft) are always given a hard time leading up to release. The Call of Duty series is the most maligned of any in recent years, and entries to sports game franchises are usually approached with caution, even when the game truly is ‘the best ever’ version.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Screenshot 5

Isn’t there a place for some mindless blockbuster fun (and best-in-class multiplayer?)

Themes and genres always play a part in whether or not we’ll be interested in a certain game, too. Military shooters and strategy games lie on opposite ends of the spectrum and finding someone who enjoys both equally is a difficult task indeed.

Which games series do you think should take a break, and which franchise do you always look forward to?

Bonus: We think a publisher is ‘milking a franchise’

Similar to the fear of a game being a ‘cash-in,’ gamers often pour scorn on games that are thought to be ‘milking a franchise’ with new versions of the series that are seemingly unwanted by even the most hardcore of its fans. God of War: Ascension is but one of 2013’s upcoming titles that fans think has no right to exist, while the addition of multiplayer and a change in direction at the top of the development chain makes this game a triple-whammy as far as prematurely judging games goes.

God of War: Ascension Screenshot 4

Are you not entertained (by more games in the series you love)?

Final Fantasy and the recent spate of games based on the ‘XIII’ moniker could also be seen as titles that are ‘milking a franchise,’ but isn’t this just giving fans more of what they want? Do sequels based on popular games really deserve to be criticized so harshly?

But there are many more…

I’ve only listed five (well, with a bonus) reasons that we as gamers are so quick to judge a game before it’s released and before we’re able to form our own (accurate) opinion on an upcoming title, but other danger bells that cause general panic include games that are made exclusively for Kinect and PlayStation Move, as well as titles that are reboots or re-imaginings of classic games.

Of course, general buzz and hype is also a major factor, but this is built up by most of the reason I’ve listed above. Are there any other reasons you might judge a game before it’s released?

Will you try in the future not to let these reasons cloud your judgement? Will you keep an open mind and not shut down your willingness to accept that a game you originally perceived to be poor actually has a chance of being good, or even great? Or do you think these are all reasons enough to cull games from your list of most anticipated titles?