‘Fallout 4’ – 101 on How to Build Hype

After Bethesda’s E3 conference I have to admit I feel sorry for all the remaining companies over the next few days. That isn’t to discredit any of those companies, more so to highlight just how well Bethesda controlled their first E3 conference. They eased us in with some frantic gameplay for Doom, and although it didn’t do much for me, it definitely did a lot for their hard-core fans. The addition of SnapMap is certainly a nice touch and allows some creative freedom for their devoted fans. Then followed with Dishonored 2, something which got me very excited considering how much I enjoyed the first title. The new powers alone were enough to convince an already convinced buyer. Then of course there were smaller announcements like The Elder Scrolls Legends, their first strategy card game which I imagine will be similar to Hearthstone in a way.

After all this they teased the fans a bit before announcing the biggest news of the day and possibly for all of E3, more footage of Fallout 4, tonnes of new information and the much anticipated release date. Bethesda played their cards incredibly well. Within two weeks they have been the talk of the internet, well within the gaming world at least, ever since they started their 24 hour countdown on June 3rd. Everyone knew what it was for, especially when programmers found specific keywords in the website script detailing tiny bits of information. For 24 hours gamers were counting down every single hour just waiting to see the first trailer. Two weeks later and we now have so much information that online forums are losing their minds with all the content revealed.

Bethesda were very sneaky, and I am incredibly happy at how they unravelled this unique title. For too long we have seen countless triple A titles delayed, only to be pushed back again and again until we get a game which still doesn’t seem ready. Ubisoft have been major culprits with The Crew and Watch_Dogs being their biggest mistakes in the PR department. Gamers don’t want dangling carrots every time a new game is announced.  Everyone wants to see new games and find out everything they can about them, but they don’t want to wait for over a year only to get a game which is unsatisfying.

I will use Watch_Dogs as my prime example, a game which was announced at E3 2012. This is a game which started development in 2009, announced 3 years later, and released another 2 years after that. For months and months it was being hyped with all this insane advertising of their gameplay footage and trailers. It certainly looked like it was going to be an exciting game, but advertising can only do so much to make a game look good. While we still got a relatively entertaining game, the hype which had been built up for so long left many gamers unsatisfied with the final product.

We got an emotionless main character who was about as exciting as watching grass grow, and the storyline wasn’t much better. There was also a huge uproar about the downgraded graphics which were later found to still be within the game folders from E3, just not activated. We are seeing a similar thing with The Division, a game which I can’t help but get excited for. It looks like it will be a lot of fun within the open world post-apocalyptic setting but again, advertising can only do so much.

What Bethesda have done with Fallout 4 is a masterpiece in creating hype and getting people to positively talk about their product. They have offered a huge amount of the old gameplay people grew to love, while adding an abundance of new content. You can build structures; create our own power armour and guns with materials that we scavenge. You can build defences to protect your land which seems like will become its own mini-game within the open world. There is also an improved graphics system (well unless they pull a Watch_Dogs or The Witcher 3) but even then they have offered so much that people won’t be too fussed. The whole new world of Boston is colourful, unlike the previous titles which were very bland and unappealing. It also looks like they have incorporated some gameplay which had been previously added into their titles by the modding community.

Even if Fallout 4 is delayed, they have bought themselves the luxury to delay it at their own will. Sure people will be a bit disappointed, and it certainly won’t be taken kindly if it is delayed twice. But they have teased a game, announced it and plan to release it all within the span of 5 months. That is an incredibly short time-span for a game of this scope and for a title which was always craved for by gamers. Developers and publishers must take Bethesda’s approach into account and learn from it. That is not to say it is the way every game should be unveiled in the same manner, but it should definitely have an impact on how the triple A titles will be advertised.

The confidence Todd Howard showed when he was walking us through Fallout 4 was a representation of Bethesda as a company. Both he and the whole team know what gamers want, and they knew exactly how to deliver it and get people talking. I am convinced they will need to double their supply of those Pip-Boy watch collector editions, because after today everyone will want one.