It seems as though there has never been a worse time to be in charge of secrets in game development circles. It has always been a thankless task (increasingly so as the internet becomes more prominent in daily life) and because the newest generation of consoles is fast approaching their one year anniversary it seems that
now would be the time for everyone to keep their cards close to the chest. But approaching this year’s E3 it seems that not a day could pass without a crazy rumour sprouting or footage surfacing that which looked suspiciously like a press conference teaser.
As E3 finally came to pass there was little eruption of enthusiasm because almost all of the announcements proved to be no more than confirmations of rumours. The question that remains is; is it good thing for leading companies having their thunder stolen a week in advance?
Rumours leading up to the biggest gaming event of the year are nothing new, nor is the inevitability that, by virtue of hard evidence or sheer luck, some of these rumours will be true. What stands out in 2014 is just how many of these rumours turned out to be correct. Battlefield Hardline, Mario Maker, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat X and Bloodborne were all significant reveals that were leaked before a single executive stepped onto a stage. Although it’s true that many of last year’s reveals have since been delayed until 2015, it still seems as though there has been a lack of unexpected announcements and indeed of the five leaks listed, only one is a new IP. Of the numerous other leaks, most were continuations of existing franchises. This speaks volumes as to how the video game medium tries to use secrets without understanding their use.
Both first and third party companies spend time and energy keeping these anticipated sequels under wraps rather than trying to engage audiences with new and interesting ideas. The fundamental flaw is the belief that something is surprising because it is kept hidden as opposed to the notion that something should be kept hidden because it has the potential to surprise. Case in point is the fact that the most well received leak both prior to and during E3 has been Bloodborne, a new IP developed by From Software. Bloodborne incorporates mechanics prominent in other games such as the developers own Dark Souls series but has proven that it has it’s own identity ever since it’s initial internet leak when it was known as Project Beast. Alternatively, Battlefield Hardline, a re imagining of the
Battlefield series which relocates the action from a militarised warzone to a criminally infested city has received lacklustre responses from the games media at large. Games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat X certainly have their enthusiasts but games of this size were expected to be on their way whether they had been announced or not. Again, examples of secrets in lieu of surprise that serve to achieve little.
So why are these secrets being handled in such a fashion? Why are we being handed a glut of sequels when we have new consoles begging for games to give them some sort of identity and players who are craving new experiences? Because for all of it’s spectacle and grandeur E3 isn’t for critics or consumers. E3 is for those who profit from video-games. It’s for stockholders and retailers, the people who need to know that games have a future and that such a future pays. Conventional wisdom tells that although the start of a generation is the best time to birth a new series, old franchises will still sell. Why take a risk if you have a sure thing working out for you?
The simple truth is that video-games aren’t a medium, they’re an industry and that isn’t necessarily a dirty thing. But if this industry has successfully kept one secret it’s that video-games aren’t made for people, they’re made for money.