If you have a gamer in your house, you may have heard talk last week about something called E3. It’s a huge video game and technology expo held in California each June, and big companies like EA, Sony and Activision use it to announce their biggest new game titles.
To accomplish this, these companies traditionally hold press conferences that resemble those Apple presentations where Jobs / Cook stands out in front of a huge crowd of fanboys (and girls) and describes a new product while the faithful cheer. At E3, however, they take that relatively subdued “tech hype,” and give it a healthy dose of WWE flair. Imagine if Vince McMahon was in charge of the safety meetings at your work, and you’ll have a rough idea of how these things go.
Microsoft’s press conferences are always ground zero for this kind of hype. As I watched it last evening, I was once again struck by the sheer bravado of their language. Everything is the “biggest” and the “most” and the “greatest.” There is no room for subtlety at E3, and even during a presentation that held zero surprises (a Halo game that was so early that it should have been called “Halo: Tech Demo?” please.), the big M’s hype machine was cranked up to 11. It’s the tech equivalent of a monster truck show (“Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!”).
For gamers, the result is akin to “hyperbole vaccination.” Because we are expected to get excited by everything, we don’t really get excited about anything. We know that the games we see are often years away from release, and more often than not they are simply sequels that offer more of the same anyway (Call of …yawn… Duty…yawn…rocks..zzz).
Should game developers simply give up and cancel E3? They sort of tried that a few years ago, and it didn’t go over very well (though truth be told, it didn’t hurt game sales a bit). No, it’s hard to turn down a chance to promote your new products on the world stage. Should they take a cue from Apple and turn down the hype? Maybe, but if you pay attention to Apple’s recent yawn-inducing press conferences, you know that even the world’s most “innovative” company has officially run out of new ideas to talk about.
No, I think maybe game developers need to look to one of their own for guidance. Nintendo is perhaps the best example of a company that plays by its own rules. It used to take part in the circus that is E3 (with Reggie Fils-Aimé, the most hilariously bad spokesperson in history, yelling from the stage) but now hold their own events when they have something to say. More importantly, if Nintendo doesn’t have anything to announce, they simply don’t hold a press conference. It’s a revolutionary idea, really: only shout when you have something to shout about.
I wonder if the rest of us can’t take something away from E3’s hyperbole-infused light shows as well. Maybe if we do a good enough job in our businesses, the opportunities for legitimate hype will happen organically. For example, we create “success stories” for many of our clients to use on their websites. These are a perfect way to provide information about a successful project in a way that both humans and search engines can appreciate, but we’re not just posting content for the sake of posting content. I know that search culture encourages us to do that, but when we just spew text and video onto our sites without regard to its value, we start to look more and more like the fog-machine shenanigans that plague E3 every year.
Instead of hype, focus on providing information that your customers really want to see, even if that means you post new content a little less often. There’s a balance to be found, and good content is worth the wait.