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Interactions in the Industry: It’s a Secret to EverybodyI’ve seen people question why so much information about unreleased games is spoiled via interviews, trailers, and gameplay presentations. Maybe it was that new Zelda 3DS XL I had seen incessantly inciting all of my brain’s “want” receptors but, for some reason, the quote “it’s a secret to everybody” rang in my head. To be more precise, it is a secret that everybody knows. Or, at least, I thought that everyone did.
The sudden question I saw in the midst of a slew of comments made me re-analyze my entire life and rework my belief-system from the ground up. Once I had reaffirmed the basics like “is the sky really there?” and “How wet is water?!” I went on to consider the reasoning for all the prerelease information. After a few minutes hard thinking, I came to solution: because they have to.
While the video game industry is still subject to an undue amount of scrutiny and ridicule by older forms of media, it has evolved and become relatively well-established. What used to be a niche and often times a bit “nerdy” (when the word was still an insult) hobby has become a natural part of many people’s lives both young and old. Beyond the proliferation of technology that increased performance and graphical fidelity, the amount of tech that made making games easier increased as well. This general growth is the reason for the current landscape that we see today.
As companies saw the profit available in the games industry and poured ever increasing amounts of funding into the production of titles, the games’ costs need to be offset by even greater profits. And as much as new technology might cost to implement, the growing attention to product advertisement became quite possibly the greatest money-sink. Hand-sculpted cinematic trailers and gameplay demos, advertisement art on website and gaming convention attendances, the cost of all these things are explained away by the “spend money to make money” philosophy. The money spent on pushing a product into its consumers’ faces until they submit and buy it is only worth the cost if enough people actually give in.
I can hear you muttering, “Damn it, Sam. What does this have to do with why developers and publishers are ruining the game for me before I’m even able to buy it?” The answer is: everything. Because it wasn’t just one company that had that brilliant idea, it was all of them. Look at it this way: compare a teacher using a microphone in a quiet lecture hall to a courtyard where everyone is screaming into megaphones. The level of advertising is more similar to the latter example. With so many companies giving away interesting tidbits of their games to fans and potential fans, other companies have to up the ante and deliver even more interesting tidbits. It was basically an escalating arms-race to see who could entice consumers the most before a game went gold and hit store shelves. How many times have you checked the internet only to be surprised by how close a game was to being released? [On a side note: things also were likely influenced by fans positively reacting to developers clueing them into the development process with things like developer blogs and previews.] The bigshots in the game publishing world have learned to toe the line so efficiently that fans can know just about everything except the ending of the game and sometimes even that isn’t safe.
This article isn’t to start a crusade, to crucify the people that deflowered your experiences of a new game before you could yourself. There is no one to place blame upon in this case; the market has just adapted to the pressures that were put on it. Much like the need for near-constant internet connectivity is becoming more than just an idea but a reality, the fact that publishers will likely keep this level of game disclosure as the status quo is a reality some need to reckon with. The only alternative is blacklist the title of games so it won’t be spoiled accidentally. Otherwise, people will just have to come to terms with the fact that games have pretty much become a “secret to everybody”.