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The Art of Video Game Hype in a Post-Pandemic World

While many things have changed over the course of this year, thanks to — you guessed it — the ongoing pandemic, one of the biggest shifts has been in the growth of hype for video games.

Video games has always been a place of intense fandom, for good or for ill, and while it certainly wasn’t the birthplace of this fandom, one of the key elements stoking the flames of hype has always been the yearly press conferences seen at the Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E31. It’s the birthplace of memes, seen all across Reddit, Twitter, and gaming haunts like ResetEra and its progenitor NeoGAF, but it’s also the place where games are showcased, highlighted, and most of all, teased for the upcoming year or years to come.

I’m certainly not above the hype myself, having breathlessly covered these press conferences here or sharing my own thoughts on Twitter, but the excitement and joy that these events have brought fans over the years has certainly been something to take in.

Heck, even Nintendo opened their flagship store in New York on the day of these events, so fans could lose their mind together in person. A video I’ve found myself revisiting during the Time of COVID-19 is that of fans reacting to the reveal of the most recent Smash Bros game, a true “Audience reacts to Avengers: Endgame” of its time:

What’s interesting however, is how post COVID, video game developers and publishers alike, have shifted with the lack of E3, and lack of in-person gatherings. Many have gravitated to Summer Game Fest, a series of streams hosted by head of The Game Awards, Geoff Keighley, a man used to creating game hype himself.

Microsoft and Sony have, unsurprisingly, continued to follow the path of Nintendo and their incredibly successful Nintendo Direct series, with Microsoft hosting Xbox Games Showcase events on the road to the release of the Xbox Series X, and Sony alternating between Direct-esq State of Play events, or a major one off streams a’la the very hyped, and very well received PlayStation 5 “Future of Gaming” reveal2. Even indie games have gotten in the act. Looking at you, Wholesome Direct.

What’s particularly interesting, however, is the relative innovator of the space may have accidentally defined its future, with Nintendo thus far having revealed two, highly anticipated titles…just by sharing them on Twitter, in Paper Mario: The Origami King and the forthcoming Wii-U remake, Pikmin 3: Deluxe.

Some have argued that this is because of Nintendo’s inability to produce a proper Nintendo Direct, but I’m not sure how true that is, given that they’ve always at best, been a series of trailers cut together with some fancy graphics and occasional talking head moments.

Instead of wondering what games are coming, who’s developing what, we had two great looking titles (and since one has already come out, that delivered in and of itself), and we didn’t spend an entire year or two chasing the next teaser, hint, or wink from the developers.

If anything, I think that this sort of anti-hype is exactly what gaming needs right now.

Why stoke the fires of the ongoing fan debate, when you can just drop the reveal, the trailer, the name, the date, and no longer do we sit wondering “ANIMAL CROSSING SWITCH WHEN”.

Heck, Batman: Arkham developers Rocksteady Games might even agree with me, having finally confirmed their long-rumored Suicide Squad game today with a simple Tweet…

What say you, dear reader? More hype, or just announce?

  1. Which, in and of themselves, always felt like a take on the Apple press conferences showcasing the next line up of MacBooks, iPads or iPhones.
  2. Coincidentally, Apple’s own WWDC Keynote this year kind of felt like a hybrid of their pre-existing press events and a Nintendo Direct.