Information Overload and the Removal of Surprise

E3 2012 was so disappointing. Behind all the flashing lights and booth babes, there really wasn’t much substance. Sure, there were some trailers and in-depth demos on some of the biggest hits that were to come out over the year… but what about the surprises, the big reveals? Out of everything shown, so very few games were actually announced. It’s great to know how the games we’re all excited about are getting along, but it’s far from the most exciting news a company can bring.

It’s the biggest gaming conference in the U.S., and no one had anything to wow the country but with more gameplay footage of the same games? Really, what’s going on here?

Skyward Sword is nice and all… but I already knew about that game!

Practically everyone knows the answer already, of course… the Internet. While that may be oversimplifying things, the convoluted World Wide Web has made it easier to announce any tidbit of news than ever before, and also harder to keep secrets. The evolution of the Internet has given millions access to an endless stream of information, and video games are no exception.

Remember when the Internet was not around in its full force? No? Okay, I’m old. But back in the day, gamers did not have this electronic luxury. We were confined to word of mouth and monthly gaming publications, drinking up what little information we could get. So, to us E3 was a glorious event; the one time of the year where the big companies pulled out ALL the big guns, aiming to wow us and surprise us with exciting new console announcements and triple A game reveals.

THIS used to be our go-to source for news and everything gaming related.

But then, computers started finding their way into every home, and the Internet turned from an AOL keyword filled club to a gargantuan mass of websites. Social networking via mySpace, and eventually Facebook and Twitter took center stage in many peoples’ lives. Technology, over just a few short years, has managed to integrate itself so completely into our lives that many would be unable to function without it.

Because of that, it’s very easy to obtain information on practically everything. Wondering how a friend’s doing? Check their Facebook page. Have an odd bump on your leg? Go post a question on Yahoo Answers. Need to know if a game is worth buying? There’s a website for that. Quite a few websites, actually.

So the question now is… why wait? People of this technologically saturated age crave instant gratification. They don’t need the booth babes and the flashy reveals; they simply want to know if and when a game is coming out. Therefore, most developers just announce games and release dates on their social networking accounts. Rarely do companies wait until a big event to announce their big plans–because even if they didn’t let everyone know via tweets, someone would just find out anyway from an internet leak or poking around site sources or copyrights anyway.

Remember when Atlus trolled everyone with their Gungnir/Growlanser reveals? All thanks to social media.

The developers and publishers see a double benefit in this. Firstly, they get to reveal new games to excited gamers at any time, which is beneficial to both sides of the equation. But, they also don’t have to spend time, effort, and money on trying to make their reveal really ‘wow’ everyone. Why bother when you can just post a status update and a picture and get the same results? Social media saves tons of time and money, leaving events like E3 to be little more than a glorified physical GameTrailers-like conference.

Are the old days of reveal parties and huge excitement gone? Maybe not completely, but it certainly is dying. I mean, when the day comes that the next entry of the frequently asked about Fire Emblem series is revealed on Twitter after the E3 event instead of during it, you know things have changed.

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