It may shock you to learn this, but the video game industry is first and foremost a business – a business that generates hype to thrive.
Sometimes a game generates just the right amount of hype to justify huge interest, the game turns out to be great, and everybody goes home happy.
Sometimes however – be it through overzealous marketing or overexcited journalists/fans – some games end up crushed under the weight of expectation. That’s not say they’re all bad, but here are a few titles that could never live up to the hype.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is nowhere near close to a bad game, and had it been marketed as a £20 indie rather than a huge AAA release, things might have gone very differently for Hello Games.
The problem wasn’t just that fans and the press got super excited about the possibilities of a game that let you explore a near-infinite universe, but that Sony and lead developer Sean Murray did a crappy job of managing those huge expectations – hell, Murray outright lied about numerous features that would be in the game that simply weren’t.
Hello Games have been hard at work doing what they can to repair the damage and implement the missing features, but it’s a sad fact that hype killed one of the most interesting and ambitious games of the last ten years.
Fallout 4 is a good game – actually, it’s a fucking excellent game. Still, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a lot of fans were left a little disappointed by Bethesda’s first next-gen post-apocalyptic outing.
After the way Fallout 3 represented such a huge leap forward for the franchise, fans were perhaps expecting a similar leap in ambition from Bethesda. What we got, while good, was nothing more than a slightly nicer looking Fallout 3 with everything turned up to 11 (or… 111).
It didn’t help that the much-touted mod support (which was a big deal to console gamers) took so long to be implemented that most of us had already grown tired of our adventures in the Commonwealth.
Fable (the series)
The Fable games are all great fun, but they’re not even close to the intricate and absorbing odysseys that we were promised by one-man hype machine Peter Molyneux .
With Fable, we were told we’d be stepping into a world packed with choices and consequences, and things we’d never seen before in a video game. We were essentially sold the idea that no two player experiences with Fable would be the same.
What we got of course, was a string of binary moral choices that didn’t amount to much more than ‘good’ or ‘evil’.
When the first game didn’t quite deliver on its promises, Molyneux made exactly the same empty assurances about the second, and then third games in the series. While all are grand (if imperfect) adventures, not one of them can be considered close to the gaming revolution they were intended to be.
The thing that really pisses me off about the over-hyped bag of warm muck that is Watch Dogs, is that it put tons of gamers off of trying out Watch Dogs 2, which was actually a really, genuinely excellent game that fixed everything that was wrong with the first game.
And there was quite a lot wrong with the first game. Ubisoft promised us a dynamic and engaging open world, with hacking opening up all manner of new and exciting possibilities. Many of us envisioned a bold new contender to take the GTA crown.
What we got instead was a dull, empty world that felt about as lived-in as my attic. We got shitty driving, a lame story, and stilted, uninspired gameplay. It sucked, basically.
Seriously, if I only ever convince you to do one thing… forget about Watch Dogs and go play Watch Dogs 2, because it is so, so much better.
Another Ubisoft game. Say what you want about those guys but they know how to generate a shit ton of hype around new IPs – when The Division launched, it was a huge success from a sales perspective, boasting a hefty player-base.
So where did it all go wrong for the open world online shooter? Like Destiny, the game promised an exciting new way to play with friends, but it all ended up being just a bit… meh.
Don’t get me wrong, we all had a ton of fun with The Division for the first few weeks, but by the end of the first month annoying glitches, repetitive content, and rampant cheating put a hell of a lot of people off playing for good.
I think if Ubisoft had their way, we’d all still be playing The Division now. Unfortunately, it just couldn’t stand the test of time.
The Order 1886
A Victorian/Steampunk shooter developed in-house at Sony? How does that not sound like a fantastic game, and a rollicking good time for anyone who plays it?
The final product wasn’t bad, but what makes it such a crushing disappointment is that such a brilliant concept was taken and used in a game that turned out to be smack bang average.
Sure, it looked incredible, but it was far too short and had zero replay value – unforgivable for a modern video game.
Oh, and Quick Time Events? There’s no fucking reason they should be allowed in modern video games. I’m sorry, but it’s a damn lazy solution that sits between cutscene and actual gameplay.
Multiplayer monster mash Evolve had a massive presence at E3 the year before release, and the general press buzz was that it was gonna be one of the games to watch out for.
The idea of players teaming up to fight a constantly evolving monster (also controlled by a player) was intriguing, and many concluded that Evolve was all set to revolutionise online multiplayer. It didn’t.
Poor sales and a player base who quickly learned to take advantage of irritating exploits led to a game that frankly wasn’t anywhere near as much fun to play as it should have been.
Before No Man’s Sky came along, if you asked a gamer which modern release was the most disappointing, I think nearly all of them would have said Destiny.
A massive online FPS/RPG hybrid from the team that brought us the original Halo games, who were working with the publishers of Call of Duty? Holy fuck, how is that not the most exciting prospect in the world? It’s easy to see why gamers everywhere let their hopes get sky high for this one.
When it released in September 2014, many felt let down by the naff story and gameplay that was only okay, and often tediously repetitive. Not one anyone expected from the developer who once revolutionised the console FPS.
Still, Bungie has made numerous improvements to the game in the years since release, but that initial sense of disappointment will no doubt sting for a long time.
I do like Spore, I really do. It’s a game I played a lot when I was younger, so I can forgive it a lot of its shortcomings. With that said, as I’ve grown into a hardened cynical writer, it’s become painfully clear that Spore is not the game fans were expecting.
You can’t fault the ambition of Maxis and Will Wright (of The Sims fame). They wanted to make a game where you paradoxically played God and guided a creature’s evolution from single-cell organism to race of space explorers.
But what could have been a truly deep and rewarding game amounted to little more than a series of loosely related minigames, and an overall shallow experience.
It’s not that I’m saying any of these nine games are particularly bad – I feel I really do need to stress that for what I think is the tenth time.
In another life, where these games weren’t showered with hype and expectation, I believe we’d all be looking back on them very differently – it’s a shame, really.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.