Illustration by Trevor Robertson
For those who follow video games like I do, you will notice that Respawn Studio’s futuristic metal-bot first-person shooter “Titanfall” has been headlining all gaming blogs. The beta version, a small version of the game that the public can test out, has been building hype and excitement around this new franchise.
I, a gamer who only has a Wii U, have also fallen victim to this hype. And it’s not even coming out on my console! But you bet I’ve been tossing around the idea of dropping $500 for an XBox One, or around $200 for the outdated 360, so that I can play it once it comes out in March.
Of course, I’m not going to. I’m not that fiscally irresponsible. But this massive PR push has affected the niche of gamers like myself.
I’m not here to just talk about “Titanfall.” I’m here to talk about how media producers use hype, and most of the time it fails.
We all know about the notorious flops that come out on a yearly basis. These are the movies, TV shows, games, etc. that the general public is pumped up to experience. But because of the high expectations that are set by the public collective consciousness, what comes out on the other end doesn’t hold up.
Case in point, this year’s Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks versus the Denver Broncos. The #1 Offense versus the #1 Defense. Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning versus the Legion of Boom. The Broncos were the top scoring offense in NFL history. Some even called it an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. And what did we get? For some it was the most boring Super Bowl in recent memory.
Other recent “flops” have been, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” the “Star Wars” prequels, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” and even “The Matrix” sequels.
And why are these “flops?” They have strong and die hard fan bases who are particularly outspoken. Just by a glimpse anyone can tell that these are coming from recent properties.
It can be a re-envisioning of a popular IP or a sequel. The original “Star Wars,” “Matrix” and “Indiana Jones” movies were so spectacular that living up to that standard proved to be impossible.
“Buzz” is a word marketers are looking for when they go through their process. By creating this buzz they are making news worth reading to the public. They are hoping everyone will be talking about it, this is one reason why movies are being released on Thursday night instead of the traditional Friday evening.
If people are talking about it, they have done their job. This creates higher expectations for the soon to be released media. Millions of dollars go into the PR machine to excite people for upcoming “events.” Get on the bandwagon now or be left out is the message they’re sending.
For the average moviegoer, the reviews that hit Rotten Tomatoes or IGN either sell us or don’t on what we go to see each weekend or what we pick up at the local retailer. If the reviews are consistently bad around the board, then the piece of media is dead on arrival. On the other hand, if they are good it will be just another factor of the rising buzz.
Where there are high hopes there are also huge disappointments. I’m sure most of the audiences sitting in front of the first few screenings of “Man of Steel” were anxious to see the re-envisioned DC Universe riding on the coattails of Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. Although the film got a 76% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the general consensus of “Man of Steel” months later is that it was a disaster. I don’t share the same sentiments, but then again I’m not a comic book fan, just a movie fan.
We put too much trust and faith in the creators and powers-that-be with our precious fandoms. But, to me, it’s like giving a child a fragile toy and asking them not to break it.
Sometimes the studios don’t break it. Sometimes they don’t totally screw up. I don’t think anyone can disagree that Joss Whedon did the impossible with “The Avengers.” Or that Christopher Nolan did injustice to the “Dark Knight” trilogy. Fanboys everywhere wish for these kinds of successes. I don’t believe that anyone with devotion toward a franchise wish for failure. Yet, that’s the essence of being a fan: being vocal in the successes and even more vocal in the disappointments.
It’s hard to be a fan at times. We want to be passionate and the advertising executives contribute to our thirst for exceptional entertainment. The problem is that it gives us higher expectations than they probably deserve. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to go cold turkey from the media hype.
What I am saying is to take the hype with a grain of salt. Lower your expectations. So even if “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” or J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars VII” or even “Batman vs. Superman” are the most detestable pieces of garbage, the sting of disappointment won’t hurt as much.