In just over two months, gamers will finally get their hands on the much anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda. It’s the next chapter in the hugely successful Mass Effect series, so naturally you’d expect gamers to be studying every frame released and every nugget of information. But here’s the thing, EA and Bioware have barely told us anything about their upcoming sci-fi thriller. And that’s just plain worrying so close to release.
It’s part of a recent trend that’s surrounded AAA-gaming – the notion of secrecy and mysterious advertising. Bethesda have been doing it since the release of Fallout 4 back in 2015, not giving much information about their game but instead allowing the anticipation to build around a title based purely on fan hype. It’s also the tactic employed, rather infamously, by Hello Games in 2016. Mere weeks before release gamers were still non-the-wiser about what they’d be doing in No Man’s Sky. The core game play experience was treated a huge surprise, so gamers were naturally upset when the game they got didn’t match up to the mythical creature they’d been building up.
It’s a risky strategy for publishers to employ, in particular around games where hype can overrun the experience. There’s a lot for gamers to get hyped around, in particular when you remember the last Mass Effect game ended on such a bum note. This is an entirely new galaxy, new cast of characters and basically a new game. I’m honestly surprised EA are employing it so willingly for a game that’s going to be so different to its predecessor – when the risk of disappointment is much greater than with traditional new titles.
The big one for me though – we don’t actually know how different the core experience is going to be. We’ve been given a handful of trailers, more recently actual game play trailers, but in truth it doesn’t showcase any of the more intimate features that surround the title. How will dialogue work? What are the new races going to be like? We’ve seen lots of action, but that’s only a small part of the much bigger package. Given how key balance between all the moving parts in the game is – it would be nice to see those in more clarity.
It’s weird too because EA’s always done a good job in preparing gamers for the Mass Effect experience. Going back to the original where they very clearly defined what kind of game Mass Effect would be on the Xbox 360. They’ve never been shy about telling gamers what’s they’ll be doing in games, showing improvements and giving an idea of how the games have moved forward. It’s a big part of the modern gaming marketing push – we expect to be able to see that kind of information.
Of course there is the argument that this method prevents leaks. In modern gaming and with social media as it is, it never takes long for news to trickle through to those who’d rather not see it. For some gamers Mass Effect is about discovery and the journey to the end-game. It’s about learning the quirks and themes that underpin every character and locale. For these people. less is more and the eventual investment in the game will ultimately be proven worthwhile.
But for those of us who like to know what it is we’re buying, it’s not that simple.
The problem ultimately for me is that we’ve been waiting so long for Mass Effect Andromeda. Bethesda announced their games then released them mere months later – Mass Effect has been teased since E3 2014 and we know less about those games. EA don’t have the subtlety to make it work on such a scale, as Mirrors Edge: Catalyst proved last year. Sometimes you have to back your marketing with actual depth.
It also feels slightly disingenuous to hold key information just out reach just two months before release. I’m not saying Bioware should go crazy and reveal key plot points – but fill things out a tiny bit. Give us some game play footage that shows us the in-between bits that really make up Mass Effect. Hanging out on your ship, interacting with your crew. As it stands right now, the game seemingly lacks those and since those re the things I like most about Mass Effect as a series – it’s hard for me to get truly hyped.
In particular when EA are asking gamers to pre-order based on such little information. There’s a whole multiplayer mode we know nothing about – but features heavily in the pre-order incentives. When Mass Effect 3 released, there was a multiplayer beta announced that gave gamers a chance to try it out before committing fully. There’s every chance that could happen again – but why so much secrecy?
Ultimately I’m hyped for Mass Effect Andromeda and will likely buy it no matter what. But I really can’t shake this feeling that gaming marketing is shifting to “less is more” – which is really not the point of marketing. There surely has to be a better balance that can be struck, without compromising the information gamers need to make a truly informed choice. If the game players end up with is disappointing, many may look back at this period of quiet from the publisher and ask why they weren’t more upfront.