This gamerblogger is always amused when the Halo Nation finds themselves up in arms. When our expectations are not met to the letter, we can be quite the angry mob. The torches are lit. The arcades empty into the streets. Internet town halls sweat under the threat of flames. Fingers get pointed. A hastily designated village idiot is slapped around for good measure. Ultimately, corporate overlords at the top of the food chain are condemned. That is their burden.
It can be a show as entertaining as the game itself, as the politics of fandom play out on many stages. This week, the spark that ignited the keg of fanboy rage was a marketing stunt that was unceremoniously pulled from E3. After weeks of being teased with the subtle dropping of clues on Bungie.net, we were all set to be briefed on that weird little superintendent character that was infiltrating Bungie lore. In the end, the powers-that-be decided that we just hadn’t earned it yet, baby.
The response was predictable. Rumor and innuendo became vitriol and witch hunt. Desperate attempts were made to unearth the truth buried within reckless comments made my marketing executives. Frustration was expressed in every medium from poetry to song. The rage provoked by being left at the altar of E3 made the complaints about the fees for downloadable content look like a shrug and wince. Whether the move to yank the plug was wise, or not, will be realized – much like the identities driving the new game – in time.
Of course, while comical, this tidal wave of disappointment was understandable. Bungie has always displayed a mastery of the marketing process. For that, they deserve credit – and sympathy. The unveiling of a new game from their development foundry can be more suspenseful than the conclusion of a mystery novel. Beholding an announcement from The Maker has become a component of the gaming experience itself. From movie trailers to alternate reality games to television commercials… The revelation of the now-eponymous bubble shield was the most exciting moment of one Monday night of football.
Why would Microsoft FUBAR what promised to be a great marketing campaign? Who knows? Well, they know. And it’s for them to sweat. From their unapologetic comments, it seemed that they pulled a punch that didn’t need to be thrown at E3. Unless one was a loyalist to Solid Snake, one would have to admit that competition in the gaming industry is far from stiff right now. In the field that appeals to mature gamers who crave next-gen multiplayer titles, the Xbox is like a competitive team goosestomping its way through a social playlist with impunity. If Bungie has an ace up their sleeve, it may be better played during a busier news week… like PAX… or the next time SONY lowers the price of their Blue Ray doorstop. Again.
As fans, we are the most willing breed of consumers. They call us the Early Adopters. We will eat when the feast is ready. Not before. Anyone who was disappointed by the fact that we were not sold to is not likely to need the hard sell anyway. Our dollars are guaranteed. If anything, the most recent cycle of fan-driven editorials about the lack of hype only adds to that hype. We are left wanting more. There is no better news story than a line around the block. We dance at the end of the strings of our puppetmaster.
Was that the desired effect? It certainly doesn’t seem so. Pissing us off doesn’t seem to be the agenda at work last week. Yet, we seem more ravenous than ever to Keep It Clean – whatever the hell that means. These are good problems for The Maker to have.
For those of you who just won’t part with your outrage, here is a silver lining… The good news is that something awaits us in the wings of the grand stage play that is the gaming industry. We have something to which we can look forward. For any gaming community, that is an asset more crucial than oxygen. Such curiosities keep fansites alive. Such prospects keep clans staffed.
Now that our old friend The Master Chief is chilling in “wake me when you need me” status, we need a new carrot dangled in our path. Gamers are forward-looking people. They aren’t like the baseball fans that crunch statistics for a game that is older than a century. A gamer craves that which is next. For this gamerblogger, I am happier about the existence of that carrot more than I am frustrated by the schedule for its serving – so long as it does not spoil.
While we played Halo 2, we all knew we were waiting for Halo 3. Years of matchmaking and campaign speed-runs were a necessary prelude to Finishing the Fight. Ironically, aside from the alterations to the Infinite Pistol, the feature of Halo 2 that was most-often bemoaned by its “fans” was the abrupt halt at the end of the campaign. Many armchair-critic gamers failed to realize that hanging off that same cliff was the very thing that kept them engaged for so long.
Sometimes, the wait is the most important part in reaching a destination. All will be revealed in good time. For that, friends, let us give thanks.