Advertise your games, sure… but let it get to your head.
Sunset Overdrive is coming out later this year and so Insomniac has inevitably ramped up their promotion campaign. However, the nature of this promotion has had an adverse effect in making me more alienated to the game rather than hyped up for it. Much of the media for Sunset Overdrive has been underlined with a sort of tongue-in-cheek, brash attitude; which to be fair probably reflects the tone of the game and Sucker Punch as a team of developers.
But instead of coming off as cheeky and witty, I’ve found it annoying, awkward and a little bit attention-seeking. From their jab at Ubisoft (see below) and Call Of Duty, to Ted Price’s off-putting monologue at Microsoft’s E3 conference, I’m not liking the vibe that Sunset Overdrive is giving off, and it hasn’t been the first time that a game’s over-confident promotion has fueled my indifference towards it.
There’s a lot of reasons why this boasting in advertisement doesn’t work. Firstly, it never pays off. Every game that does this tends to over-promise and thus under-deliver. This in turn undermines the credibility of the publishers and/or developers who so boldly praised their game before release, which will no doubt hurt them in the future when they’re trying to promote their next game.
Secondly, it patronises gamers by not letting them be the judge of a game’s quality. All good promotion needs to do is tell us what the game is; we don’t need to know how “awesome” or “rad” it is, we can make that decision for ourselves based on the game’s actual constitution. This is why the gameplay trailer for Grand Theft Auto V blew us all away by literally telling us everything the game had to offer in a humble but by no means underwhelming manner. Mean whilst the gameplay trailer for Sunset Overdrive was too concerned with making unfunny jokes above anything else. Don’t get me wrong, developers are allowed to be excited, but they also need to be business savvy. It’s not their job to hype us up because, as far as I can remember, we’re pretty good at doing that ourselves.
Secondly, when a game compares itself to other games to make it look like the better of the two, it just comes across as tasteless. For years this has been tried and tested in the promotion of various installments of the Battlefield franchise. Whether it was the dumb tagline “Above and beyond the call” used for Battlefield 3 or the clip of a soldier punching a dog in the launch trailer for Battlefield 4, it’s a cheap and unfitting way to advertise any product in any industry, and the gaming industry is no exception. We get a lot of flak for being a divided community, what with the console war among other things, and it doesn’t help when developers and publishers add fuel to the fire.
Now I do understand that many of these types of promotions have, above anything else, sincerely just been trying to be unique and spice things up with what is probably a genuine attempt at tongue-in-cheek humour and entertaining media. However, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed all the same; and I feel that Insomniac’s promotion campaign is the latest of many to have crossed it.