The games industry today is all about big announcements. Gone are the days when a few months of previews and some cool screenshots were enough. Now, if you haven’t got 14 years of teasing, an ARG, a live-action short film tie-in and a six-hour press conference with fun fair and dancing girls, your product might as well not exist.
One problem. With big companies and big announcements come big logistics and big mistakes. With the recent bungling of Gears of War 3’s announcement just the most recent example, we decided to take a look back at some of the biggest hype whiffs the industry has yet expelled.
The Sega Saturn
Bungled because: It was way too early
It’s 1995. It’s E3. Nintendo’s N64 is a year away, the PlayStation is coming in winter, and Sega’s Saturn is expected in Autumn. The next console war is about to begin, but Sega decides on radical action. In an attempt to win from the off with a pre-emptive strike, it drops the surprise announcement that the new machine is finished and will be immediately available. Like, right now. So go and buy one.
The problem? The third-party devs key to any console launch hadn’t had time to prepare for the machine hitting, putting the Saturn immediately on a back foot it never recovered from. Oh, and with the Saturn’s $399 price tag revealed, all Sony had to do – at the very same show – was mention that the PSOne would be £100 less. Pro-tip: Never release an expensive machine the very same day your biggest rival details a cheaper, better one and expect mega-sales.
The PSP Go
Bungled because: Qore got too excited to wait for E3
New PSP rumours are traditionally as rare as flame comments on an Activision story, so it’s never really a massive surprise when a new model turns up. As such, everyone was pretty much expecting a handheld hardware reveal at E3 2009. What Sony wasn’t expecting though (probably), was for its own Qore digital magazine to splurge the announcement early.
The June edition of the downloadable mag contained all the PSP Go deets, all ready to follow up the machine’s reveal at E3. The problem? The June issue went out early, reducing what was already the worst-kept secret of that year’s show to a revelation akin to Hilter being ‘a bit of a wrong ‘un’.
Bungled because: Everyone knew it was coming way in advance
Since the original iPhone, Apple hardware announcements have always been a big deal. Prompting excitable speculation and hateful derision in equal measure, the company’s prospective new tech always gets the internet babbling at itself. And when the clues as to the nature of that prospective tech are strewn all over the world for all to see? Even moreso.
Potential trademarks were registered under false company names (which everyone knew were registered to Apple). Web-sites were registered for those potential trademarks (and everyone found out those sites were registered to Apple). Insiders and analysts typed like Shakespeare-spouting monkeys, and not-at-all-telling cease-and-desists were sent out to press deemed to be doing a little too much digging. In short, no-one was surprised when Apple eventually announced the iPad in January 2010. Though to be fair, not that many people were impressed either.
The PS3 price-drop
Bungled because: No-one in or out of Sony knew what the hell was going on
In mid-2007, the PS3 needed one thing and one thing only. A massive price drop. Gamers wanted it. The industry wanted it. But Sony denied us one over and over again. Eventually though, a drop of one-hundred glorious dollars was announced, and lo, the world did rejoice. For a bit. Until Sony totally screwed it up.
Sony Europe’s David Reeves quickly revealed that the price cut was more of a garage sale, intended only to clear out 60Gb machines so that they could be replaced with the once-again-600-dollars 80Gb version. Then Sony US denied the claim, saying that all was hunky-dory in CheapPS3 Land. Then Kaz Hirai confirmed it again. And it turned out to be true. And everyone was sad. Especially those who couldn’t get a 60Gb model (cheaper and with better backwards compatibility, hardware spec fans) before they rattled out of shops, despite Sony US’s earlier claims that there would be plenty around for a long time to come.
Halo 3: ODST
Bungled because: Microsoft dumped on Bungie’s long-teased announcement
Bungie likes its elaborate teasers. Bungie likes its cryptic clues. Microsoft though, doesn’t really seem to care about them. Following the epic ARG Halo 3 I Love Bees, Bungie set up all kinds of arcane preview malarkey on its website in the lead up to ODST’s planned reveal at E3 2008. Cryptic phrases, instructions and terminology were everywhere, as was a mysterious little character called The Superintendent. Fans scoured, fans got excited, and everything was set up for the big announcement.
One issue: The big E3 announcement didn’t come, because Microsoft decided at the last minute that overall things were a little too well set up, and that it didn’t need to show off a new Halo game at all. After all, it had Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Final Fantasy XIII, Lips and You're In The Movies to show off (let’s ignore that a bunch of them were multi-format and two were casual novelties no-one really cared about). Yeah, there was no advantage in showing off a new entry in its biggest franchise whatsoever. Sorry Bungie. But y'know, cheers for all the classy teasing work. A for effort.