With the recent presentation from Microsoft and upcoming content for the Xbox Series X, gamers were less than excited. Whether if you wish to say “I was expecting Xbox Exclusive titles!” or “These aren’t good games to showcase for your upcoming console!” many argued that Microsoft dropped the ball for not just this presentation, but to not strike at a time when Sony’s public relations wasn’t looking too good due to recent actions. Honestly, if there is one take away we should have all realize by now, it is to temper expectations going into one of these shows. Many thought we were going to see the PS5 console reveal, but it was the Game Developer Conference presentation talking about its features. We thought we would see what the various companies under the Xbox Game Studios were working on, but that won’t be until July.
We can say lots of things about what Microsoft could have done to “improve” of what they did, but that wouldn’t be addressing the actual problem. And this is a problem which isn’t exclusive to just Microsoft since plenty of other companies are guilty of doing this too. And what exactly is it?
This might sound like a no brainer, but over the course of this last generation, there have been a strong handful of games that have been guilty of using trailers to oversell the game that wouldn’t be coming out for some time. You can probably think of a few at this moment, but we are now at a point where it is beginning to feel like trailers are glorious lies that do more to lead you astray; Just like the fish and the hook.
Is this to say we should never have a trailer that doesn’t showcase any gameplay what’s so ever? No. But rather it is to say that companies need to start realizing that when you say “Gameplay Reveal,” people expect to see just that: Gameplay. A World Premiere reveal does not automatically make it gameplay.
In the case of Microsoft, however, their recent presentation was one that could have gone much better had they not called their presentation “First Look Xbox Series X Gameplay.” That or to state the following:
“Because we read the Interwebs, everything you see here will highlight the in-game experience, with actual gameplay captured in-engine to give you the best sense of what to expect…”
Apologies, but showing trailers of upcoming games isn’t “actual gameplay captured in-engine,” since we have a history of games that serve as red flags. in this day and age.
So it is fair to say that things can change quite a bit from the time a game is first revealed to the time the game launches. And yet, this is a tactic that seems to be a favorite out of Ubisoft. Chances are that if you were to look up “Misleading Video Game Trailers” online, you could probably find a fair amount of their games on the list. Whether if you felt like The Division did look too good to be true, or Watch_Dogs was reaching too far, there’s no denying that they have been guilty of overhyping their titles.
And then there’s Anthem.
Hard to imagine that we got Anthem back in February 2019, and how the game was probably the most disappointing games of all time. While we all know the story of the behind the scenes, the game does serve as a key reminder of why people will always be skeptical whenever you use the term “gameplay reveal” since apparently, you can also make something that doesn’t actually reflect the final product at all. So much so that even those developing the game didn’t realize that this was the game they were working until they saw it alongside the rest of us.
Is “Gameplay Reveal” a Cursed Term?
Depending on how we look at this, it could seem like it can be a bit too demanding to say, “Stop saying Gameplay Reveal when you aren’t showing gameplay!” Considering how those on the Microsoft staff have taken this feedback into account, it is fair to say that they will approach future presentations with a bit more cautious (or at least to use better wording). Again, no company is innocent here, and chances are you can point towards and form of media that use this tactic to hook you and make you realize the mistake by the time it’s too late. This is nothing new, but we are in an age where fans and onlookers are catching on much faster now.
In a sense, this is kind of the reason why many gamers find much more enjoyment in the Nintendo Directs than they do with either Microsoft’s Inside Xbox or Sony’s State of Play as the games shown there usually do get accompanied with in-game footage and thus, gives players an idea of what to expect when the game releases later on. And with trade shows like E3 canceled and the next generation of consoles is right around the corner, both Microsoft and Sony will need to be particularly careful with how they showcase their upcoming games. At least Microsoft has their first-party titles in the waiting still and could perhaps tweak those trailers with the proper titles, while Sony continues to maintain radio silence and waiting for the right moment to strike.
Should companies rethink how they “Reveal Gameplay?”
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As a quick side note: This article wasn’t meant to take a quick jab at Microsoft’s recent presentation. Again, just about any company has been guilty of this at some point or another, and it happened to be Microsoft’s turn. But to turn around and say “This is the best Microsoft has to offer?” would be a misjudgment since there is still plenty of time before the end of the year, and there’s still plenty to see.
And at the very least, if anyone is trying to make that claim, they would have to at least agree that this was a better “First look” than at their upcoming new console than there last one that was filled with TV, Sports, and the dog from Call of Duty Ghosts…