In recent years, the idea of having a big mysterious countdown clock has become more and more fashionable among video game marketing teams. Countdowns can be fun, but when the countdown only leads to a teaser trailer or an announcement for a game that isn’t set to be released for a year or more it only leads to disappointment. Getting fans excited is one thing, but creating all this buildup for nothing more than a 30 second video or the title of a game is going a little too far. There have been some cases where the countdown felt more warranted, but all the mystery always seems out of place.
There were just recently two major countdown websites in relation to gaming, and both were odd in their own way. Let’s first get the more controversial one out of the way, that being the presumed Fallout teaser site which was eventually revealed to be a hoax. You may say this can’t be held against the industry since it was a hoax, but if teaser sites with random countdown timers hadn’t become such an expected thing this site ruse would never have been successful. It also didn’t help that Bethesda failed to make it clear they weren’t involved until after the thing had been going for weeks. There denials could easily have been taken as the coy non-answers developers usually offer whenever any kind of rumor crops up.
The other recent countdown was for the slew of Persona related announcement Atlus made. Atlus made the countdown more meaningful by putting on a 45 minute live stream, but was the secrecy really necessary? They could just as easily made an announcement stating that they were going to be putting on a live stream on the date provided rather than creating a teaser website with nothing but a countdown. By offering no information other than a countdown, fans had no idea what to expect. Making matters worse, because no one knew beforehand that they were putting on a lengthy show, viewers thought the initial announcement (Persona Q on 3DS) was the whole purpose for the show and started getting upset that it wasn’t Persona 5. The Persona 5 announcement eventually did come, but if fans knew ahead of time that the show was going to be 45 minutes long, they may have actually enjoyed the whole thing rather than getting worked up about games other than Persona 5 being announced first.
The unfortunate fact is that video games have extensively planned and rigidly structured marketing cycles these days. Developers and publishers have every single bit of information on a detailed release schedule, and they want every announcement, no matter how minor, to be an event. While it can sometimes be fun to wonder what is going to be announced or what your favorite developer is planning, more often than not it winds up feeling like the fans are just being jerked around. I would much prefer developers show some respect for their fans and just say when they are releasing a trailer rather than create all this faux mystery and suspense.