Let’s Stop With the Secrecy

While listening to the latest episode of The Instance today, I got to thinking about how secretive the video game industry is. There are always hidden features, little selling points, that they dangle in front of us in a seemingly endless stream. The release of new information is always extremely controlled. I swear, some of these developers must have a pamphlet on the different ways to say no. An interviewer comes along and asks about mounted combat and we’ll please look forward to that in the future.

I get that the MMO industry is seated in the heart of big business. There are industry secrets to be kept, information to be manipulated, and information to be protected from would-be thieves.

But, the thing is, I’m pretty sure that most of the big failures in the MMO business can be attributed to secretive and over-controlled marketing. Take WAR for example. They had such a tight grip on how they promoted their game that people’s expectations were raised too high. Fall out. Or Aion. I’ll even admit to being one of the people that thought it would be second to WoW (and maybe it is, for all we know). But, when people forgot that it was primarily an asian grinder, bought the spin, and played, they didn’t like what they got.

The key both of those is that they maintained NDA through their betas. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Don’t be realistic before you buy, it really is that dream game, and please look forward to more information.

I wish game companies would realize that the time has come for open development. That’s what needed to make better games. If people could see a game during development, get regular and frequent updates from developers, take daily polls on features and ideas, those people are far more likely to invest and guide in the future of the games that really (not just hopefully) are the right fit for them. If developers listen, then gamers will get the game they want, developers and publishers will get money and, more importantly, stability– right off the bat.

But, they might lose the initial rush. Since, we’ll know. Right? So, unless it’s free to play, we’ll be making smarter decisions with where we spend.

It’s sad that the launch days rush means so much. Especially for MMOs.

Video game development is about pushing the limits and doing new and exciting things. It’s a shame that we’re so deadlocked into the breadcrumb marketing cycle of yesterday’s software firm.

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