It can’t be easy being on a marketing team in the entertainment industry. You have to make sure that everything syncs up succesfully, from product placement to sponsors; you’re constantly making sure the people publicly speaking about this product aren’t putting their foot in their mouth, and you have to keep people genuinely invested in what you’re selling them. In this day of social connectivity, it’s too easy to lose out on potential customers if there’s even one glitch in the machine, and if you’re the one running it all, it’s the most stressful thing you’ll ever have to do in your life.
Nobody knows this more than people who work in video games. This isn’t to say that marketing a film or TV show is a walk in the park, but at least with those, the “easy” gig is picking out the parts of the movie that look interesting or instantly quotable to pull in the most people, which in turn will help to draw in the most opening weekend dollars or viewer ratings. At times, the marketing for a game feels more vital than the actual development itself. Marketing’s job is to hype the hell out of the game to as many audiences as possible, whether that’s through deals with the devil that is Mountain Dew, or simple TV ads that throw E3 awards on the screen like they’ve just puked up positive pre-release reception. Hopefully by the time release day comes around, people are tweeting like mad about your game and taking photos on Instagram of the game’s case in their hands and everything has gone according to plan.
Last week, 2K put up a website for something simply called Advent. Advent’s claim is that through gene therapy, they’ll be able to build a brighter future for us humans and make everything better for generations to come. But over the past few days, that website has slowly unraveled to reveal something of a lie. The Advent aren’t what they claim they are, the humans used in their promotional pictures have been missing for weeks, if not longer, and the ominous statement “We are still watching” repeats on the text. The website has revealed enough that Reddit users were able to figure out that this new game in question is a sequel to their 2012 game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a reboot of the classic turn based franchise from the early 90s. XCOM 2 has finally been revealed, I’m loving the hell out of all this. I’ve been trying to pin down what exactly makes this so great, and I’ve come down to two reasons: honest surprise and execution.
This a genuine question for you folks: when was the last time you were surprised that a game was announced? I mean without any buildup beforehand, the announcement or trailer just completely blindsided you like a frisbee to face. These days, that’s pretty much the equivalent of seeing a double rainbow. Being surprised about a game reveal is kinda hard in this day and age. We live in an age where Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games get leaked just weeks before their official announcement, and then sometimes weeks after the most recent one comes out. Sometimes retailers accidentally list the game and get everyone’s heads talking, or someone’s resume has been updated. Hell, look at Game Informer; the guys were all pumped up to reveal Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for their May cover as that Can’t Kill Progress stream was going on, and when that got leaked, they had to pull back their curtain.
At first with the initial Advent reveal, people were of two minds with Advent. It was either going to be a new IP, or more likely, a new Bioshock. The city itself looks like a an idealized merger between San Francisco and New York, albeit with more water given to the former and presumably less traffic from the latter. This certainly would keep with the theme of “perfection on the outside, ugly on the inside” that’s come with Rapture’s lavish 1960s lavish party turned slaughterhouse or Columbia’s even more racist version of Disneyland. Even the mission goal of Advent, which “strives to create a world free from hunger, pain, sickness and war”, would sound like something that a man would say if he had the mentality of Andrew Ryan, but was born in the near future and had the technology to make their dreams a reality. “Move in today and start living in the world of tomorrow!” and “Luxury for the privileged few is outdated.” sounds pretty Bioshock, wouldn’t you agree?