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Will you buy an Xbox One X on November 7?

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No
Undecided


Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Multiplatform
PUBLISHER:
Microsoft
DEVELOPER:
Bungie
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
RELEASE DATE:
November 09, 2004
ESRB RATING:
Mature


IN THE SERIES
Halo Wars 2

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo: New 343 Industries Game

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Reach

More in this Series
RELATED GAMES
Gears of War
Halo 2
 Written by Troy Matsumiya  on December 08, 2006

Special: What did you dream? It's alright ? we told you what to dream.


Hype: exaggerated publicity; hoopla. An ingenious or questionable claim, method, etc. used in advertising, promotion, or publicity to intensify the effect. A swindle, deception or trick. (Source: dictionary.com)

Ah, hype ? nothing can get consumers foaming up into an excited lather more than good old fashioned hype. From hamburgers to Hummers and soda pop to NASA space programs, hype is used by marketing departments around the world to generate interest, support and sales for their products and services. And why not? It works (usually) and often feeds upon itself, providing one of the best bang-for-the-buck returns on your marketing investment dollar.

Hype can be fun; just look at the thousands of people who spent countless hours pouring over the quirky ilovebees.com website to search for hidden messages about Halo 2, or the often heated discussions in gaming forums about upcoming titles. Heck, every gamer (myself included) has gotten swept up into the hype machine at one time or another and enjoyed the thrilling ride.

But (you just knew there was a ?but? coming) once a product is finally released for sale, the true face of its hype is revealed ? and sometimes it can be quite ugly.

As consumers, we need to be wary of the hype machine if we want to make sound purchasing decisions. This is easier said than done since hype is essentially psychological warfare, with companies fighting in an economic battlefield for your hard earned dollars. This intensely competitive atmosphere often generates overly exaggerated product claims, creating over-inflated customer expectations and excitement which in turn can cause consumers to unwisely snatch up sub-par products or pay higher prices than normal.

The craziness around the PlayStation 3 launch is just the latest example of hype's powerful influence, but Sony isn't the only company guilty of feeding the hype machine. Other recent examples are the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360 exclusive Gears of War ? but no matter the product, consumers need to be aware of how hype's manipulative nature can, in some cases, adversely affect your decisions and opinions.

Hype can make you stupid. We've all seen the shocking news footage of grown adults literally clambering over each other for a chance to buy a PS3; the terrible shooting incident over another PS3; and several stories about fights, shoving matches and other acts of immaturity and selfishness that otherwise rational adults would normally never engage in. But the enormous hype combined with a severely limited supply and a mob mentality served to break down rational thought and create a senseless hording panic among some people. Enthusiasm for a product is great, but what we've seen with the PS3 has gone far beyond enthusiasm ? all for a product burdened with a high price tag, weak launch titles and a clunky piecemeal online service.

There has also been much resentment towards people selling their PS3's on eBay for upwards of ten times the retail price or more. This trend started last year with the Xbox 360 but is worse since the PS3 is in much shorter supply. The eBay sellers have been criticized as the epitome of greed and selfishness but I strongly disagree; quite frankly, if you can find someone rich enough and stupid enough to pay a huge premium for something they could buy normally if they simply waited a few short weeks, I say good for you. Special kudos goes to the seller who earned over $800 last year selling the empty cardboard box his Xbox 360 came in to a particularly slack-jawed moron. (Yes, sadly this is a true story and in case you're wondering, the seller clearly indicated that he was only selling the empty box and not the console inside it.)

Hype can make you blind. Not literally, of course, but hype can excite you so much it blinds you to a product's obvious flaws. A good recent example is Gears of War; it's a great game but many people are practically revering it like it's the Second Coming. Even your friendly neighborhood gaming journalists are not immune; just look at the dozens of eye-poppingly high scores out there. Granted, the game is well-deserving of high marks but it's far from perfect, as evidenced by the consistent complaints about the idiotic friendly AI, the occasionally flaky enemy AI, the often frustrating sprint/cover system, the somewhat repetitive gameplay, the surprising lack of multiplayer game modes and other blemishes. Yet these blatant flaws ? which in any other game would result in significant point reductions in its final rating ? have been hastily brushed aside. Why? My guess is the months of being told this will be the next best thing since sliced bread, so what's a few spots of mould here and there? But to be fair, we gaming journalists are human too and can get caught up in the excitement like anyone else ? and at the end of the day, our ratings are based as much on emotion and personal opinion as our objective evaluation of a game's merits. And sometimes emotion wins out over objectivity ? which isn't necessarily a bad thing (gaming is an emotional experience, after all) but it's something readers need to be aware of.

On the flip side, when a product does not meet our artificially inflated unrealistic expectations, we are sometimes unable to see the good things about it and end up overly critical of what is otherwise a decent product. This happened to me with Gears of War; I was expecting a single player campaign that would blow away the frantic non-stop action of Call of Duty 2 and a multiplayer fragfest that would embarrass Halo 2 and anything made by id Software. After all, that's what the hype machine was promising, right? So I was quite disappointed when it didn't meet my expectations ? so all of you Gears fans should be grateful I wasn't assigned the review (insert evil laugh here).

(Now, you're probably thinking, ?Hey! Gaming Target gave Gears of War a perfect score! Whazzup widdat, you hypocritical dink?? Yes, we did give Gears a perfect 10 and I stand by my colleague and good friend Nick Doukas' review, even though I don't necessarily agree with everything he says. As you can probably imagine, we've had some lengthy discussions about Gears, which were often punctuated by much chainsaw swinging. We're both right ? and both wrong. Our opinions are at such extreme opposites I suspect reality is somewhere in the middle ? though the fact that I own him in multiplayer is clearly indisputable, insert another evil laugh here.)

There are similar stories about consumers feeling let down by their PS3's and Wii's, both good products but unable to meet the huge expectations set by the enormous hype. This is a real shame since few things are worse than having your hopes and expectations dashed with the added insult of being several hundred dollars poorer.

Rage against the hype machine. So what can we, the humble consumer do to avoid being sucked into the mindless hype machine? First and foremost, hype will never go away so we need to keep things in perspective in order to make rational purchase decisions, not just for games but all products. This means staying firmly rooted in reality by keeping an open mind with a good dose of skepticism. Question the status quo; how can people say something is so good (or bad) when it's not even out yet? Are the specs and features confirmed or just a rumor? Are there alternative products out there that might be better and cheaper?

Stay informed; gather your product information from different sources, and try to objectively weigh both positive and negative opinions, previews and reviews so you can build a complete picture of what the final product is capable of delivering for your specific needs. This will help keep your expectations on a more realistic level, and if the product exceeds your expectations, then great ? you've scored a fantastic value for your dollar. If it underachieves, at least you'll know you weren't ?suckered? in by the hype (though admittedly it may not take the financial hurt away).

This doesn't mean you can't have fun with hype; many hype campaigns really are a blast to participate in. Just be careful not to get brainwashed by the overwhelming messages they are trying to pound into you, and you can both enjoy the ride and make a smart purchasing decision. Remember: you're the consumer ? you have the power over your spending, not some tricky marketing department.

Note: This editorial is solely the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Gaming Target or its staff. Well, except Nick ? he's a poopy-head.



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