Jen Krueger: Pre-Hype Hype
On November 15, Reddit users discovered a mysterious website called Survivor 2299 that had cryptic text, messages buried in its code, and a clock counting down to December 11. With clear aesthetic references to popular post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland video game series Fallout, gamers got excited. It’s been more than three years since game publisher Bethesda released the previous installment in the franchise, and all signs pointed to Survivor 2299 being a precursor to the fervently anticipated announcement of a Fallout 4 release date. But on December 6, I was among a number of gamers disappointed as Survivor 2299 was revealed to be a hoax. Dashed hopes aside though, I was left wondering how a community that’s generally considered quite savvy was fooled by (or at the very least, enticed to seriously consider) a hoax that lasted almost a month. The answer I’ve landed on: we’re steeped in pre-hype hype.
Naturally, the debut of a major product or entertainment property is going to be preceded by marketing efforts to make consumers excited for its release. To get the best day one numbers possible, Apple and Warner Bros. spend a considerable amount of money making sure everyone and their brother know exactly when the latest iPhone and Batman movie come out. But while these companies and others like them may’ve once been content to start their marketing push just a few months before a product launch, they now begin tantalizing consumers much earlier, and with much less information.
I blame the teaser trailer. A few quick shots strung together or fifteen seconds from a single scene may not be enough to communicate what a movie is about, but it’s more than enough to make people start tweeting about how badly they want to see something. And if boosting anticipation is the goal, releasing a teaser weeks or months before the full trailer accomplishes that goal handily.
But the pre-hype hype hasn’t stopped there. A movie’s teaser trailer may be the first advertising general audiences encounter these days, yet within recent years studios have caught on to a way to create buzz for films even earlier, and amongst a more targeted demographic: the San Diego Comic-Con panel. Movies don’t have to be completed for studios to start talking them up to crowds at the show. Heck, some films are even promoted there before going into production, with simple information like casting announcements taking the starting position in the hype parade once occupied by the teaser trailer.
Not surprisingly, this mentality of conventions being the place to start generating hype goes beyond movies. Video game companies reveal far-off game release dates to fans at E3, the event that is to the gaming world what the San Diego Comic-Con is to comics. And of course, Apple’s new tech announcements are so anticipated that their press conferences are treated with the reverence of a convention, complete with save the date cards and the promise of live streaming for those who can’t make it. With an already assembled crowd representing the people most likely to enjoy a forthcoming product, why wouldn’t companies capitalize on the fact that a tiny tidbit is enough to get die-hard fans eagerly anticipating things they won’t be seeing for months?
Actually, to be fair, I should point out there is a movie studio that wouldn’t start up their hype machine at Comic-Con nine to twelve months in advance of a film release like so many others do. Marvel Studios starts even earlier. By announcing titles in the third phase of the plan for their cinematic universe, they’ve managed to create hype for films that are still years away from theatrical release. And though it seems unnecessary to start parceling out information years in advance like this, I have to admit I’m already pumped for Ant-Man and will probably only get more excited about it with each hype-bolstering move Marvel Studios makes until the movie’s 2015 release date.
Now if only Bethesda would take a page from Marvel’s book and give me a real Fallout 4 date to look forward to, even if it’s not in this decade.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold