Gaming Hype: Examining the Failure of No Man’s Sky and Destiny (and What It Means)

Sometimes we hear about a game that sounds too good to be true. Sometimes we get excited seeing all of the trailers, developer talks, and other media coverage that accompanies the next big game. Sometimes we buy into the hype. Sometimes the game lives up to the hype. But there are a lot of times when it does not. 

Gaming hype is real. And it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and anticipation of an upcoming game that sounds amazing. However, you’ve probably experienced the disappointment that occurs after a new game is released and doesn’t meet the hype and expectations that have come from all of the coverage and promotion leading up to it. 

Recently, No Man’s Sky  and Destiny 1/2  have been games that launched with a tremendous amount of hype and failed to live up to it. Let’s take a look at how this happened and what it means.

No Man’s Sky

A few years ago No Man’s Sky  was touted as the next big thing. The first trailer for No Man’s Sky  didn’t necessarily set the world on fire. But, it started the proverbial ball rolling down the hill gaining momentum. The game looked like something we’d never seen before.

No Man’s Sky: Reveal Trailer

The first trailer showed us lush worlds filled with a variety of flora and fauna that could be explored as well as space flight and battles. It made boasts like “every atom procedural” and “every planet unique.” The unveiling of the game came at the end of 2013 and was then shown again at E3 2014 with this gameplay trailer.

No Man’s Sky: E3 2014 Trailer

People were beyond excited for the game and couldn’t wait for the game to release. We were seemingly promised a game to live and explore in for hours upon hours. Gaming websites were buying into the hype and letting us know about the immense size of No Man’s Sky.

IGN featured an article titled “Gamescom 2014: The Sun will burn out before you see all of No Man’s Sky.”

Similarly, one of The Verge’s articles about the game says “This is the most ambitious game in the universe.”

GameSpot’s YouTube channel has a video called “No Man’s Sky: The Biggest Game World Ever Created?” which is featured in their “The Next Big Game” series.

In conjunction with the media coverage, each year they released more trailers that showed a vibrant world with ships flying overhead and creatures roaming around you, then we seamlessly move into space to take part in an intense battle among the planets before flying down into the atmosphere of a different planet. As the trailer winds down we fly into the stars.

Then we got the launch trailer and the actual game in 2016. The launch trailer may have looked toned down a bit, but it still seemed to show an exciting game filled with adventure, combat, and countless worlds to explore.

No Man’s Sky: Launch Trailer

According to the game’s website: “No Man’s Sky  is a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy.” Sounds like Minecraft  in space to me. I—and many others—were hyped for No Man’s Sky.

So what was the game like at launch? What about the game contents? What about gameplay and mechanics? Did it live up to the hype?

The actual launch game seemed dramatically different than what we were shown in the trailers. We were expecting a game that was visually appealing, had epic space battles, and an almost limitless number of worlds and species to discover and interact with.

Instead, the space battles we saw in the trailer didn’t represent real world gameplay. In reality, the battles stayed in space and only included about 5 others ships. The planets seemed dull and barren, they were sparsely populated, and combat was unexciting. The gameplay was slow and repetitive.

The release version of No Man’s Sky  was nothing like what we were shown in trailers. It seemed like we were a misled.

No Man’s Sky: Launch Day First Look Stream

And then the reviews started coming out:

IGN’s Dan Stapleton reviewed the game at release and gave the game a 6 out of 10: “No Man’s Sky has sci-fi spectacle of strange new worlds on its side, but not much else. Its gameplay is underdeveloped and repetitive…”

GameSpot’s Peter Brown reviewed the game giving it a 7 out of 10: “No Man’s Sky is immediately a massive game with impressive seamless transitions from ground to space, and it will entertain your inner collector for a while. The more you get to know it, the more you recognize its fault…”

GameInformer reviewed the game giving it a 7.5 out of 10: “That ambitious vision is accomplished through one of the most sophisticated approaches to procedural content generation I’ve ever seen, in which entire ecosystems spring up across any one of millions of potential planets. However, No Man’s Sky rarely reaches beyond its vibrant world-building efforts to provide satisfying gameplay and story.”

All of these reviews point out the scale of No Man’s Sky  size and scale, but point out the flaws with the gameplay and content. How could we have known the game wouldn’t shape up to be what we expected?

Eventually, No Man’s Sky  got better and more people started to enjoy the game. Kotaku’s Gita Jackson wrote an article titled “No Man’s Sky is good now” back in August 2017, a year after the launch of the game. She cites the new content and tweaks to the game that makes it better, “There’s also a lot of new content—like base building, vehicles and joint exploration—but what makes a difference to me is that the core features have polish.”

The game eventually got to a place where people were happy with their purchase and genuinely enjoyed the game. Eventually. But it never came close to living up to the hype.

Daily Players No Man's SKy

Looking at available information on SteamDB, we see Steam player count for No Man’s Sky. We can clearly see updates to the game as player count spikes during certain times.

Destiny 1/Destiny 2

Although Destiny  was the first game in what has become a series. Gamers felt like we knew what to expect from Bungie, the original developers of Halo. Bungie had a great track record of releasing beloved games for more than a decade; everybody loved Halo, surely everyone will love Bungie’s new game Destiny.

There was already hype brewing since Bungie was an acclaimed developer, and Bungie’s reveal trailer in 2013 generated a lot of exposure for it.  

Destiny: Reveal Trailer

The trailer shows this beautiful, huge, and immersive world that provides a unique gameplay experience by yourself and with friends. They seemed to be creating a multiplayer first-person RPG “set in a living world” where the gamer will have “the ultimate adventure that unfolds over the next 10 years.”

From the trailer, it’s not hard to see why there was so much hype for Destiny. And it helped to set our expectations for what the launch game would be like. It sounded like it was a twist on the successful MMO formula, where we you play the base game for an extended period of time and then pay for expansions to access new content.

It seemed like a World of Warcraft  in the shape of an online FPS where our characters would continue to grow and we’d have more and more content to play every couple of years.

On top of that, before the original Destiny  launch, articles started circulating around the internet after Reuters reported that CEO Bobby Kotick said that Activision Blizzard would spend $500 million developing and promoting Destiny.

Destiny: $500 Million Budget Media Coverage

Articles like Polygon titled “Report: Destiny Costs Activision $500 million to develop and promote,” started coming out in full circulation. It sure sounded like Destiny would be the most expensive game developed of all time, by a long shot. The sheer scale and dynamics of the game seemed like it would live up to the hype—they’re spending a ludicrous amount on it after all.

Even with Polygon publishing another article one month later clarifying that “The $500 million isn’t the cost to make a single game, it’s the cost to get a franchise rolling, in the public eye and ready to ship,” the hype train was already rolling. Either way, a lot of money was going into Destiny.

Destiny: Gameplay Reveal Trailer

So what was the game like at launch? What about the game contents? What about gameplay and mechanics? Did it live up to the hype?

In the original Destiny, you could play the entire story and be happy about shooting aliens while playing with your friends. Then you would run into an invisible wall with content clearly locked behind that wall. Eventually, that content unlocked when expansions were released, but those areas were closed off behind a paywall at game launch. Pairing that with the loot grind and limited/recycled content, a lot of gamers weren’t really happy with the way Destiny  panned out.

The multiplayer aspect of the game also wasn’t as easy and seamless as “group and play” that the trailers showed us. Sure, you can play with random people out in the wild, but you have to group up or invite your friends in game separately and then choose to take on specific in-game missions. The trailers and budget gave consumers a certain expectation going into the game, which didn’t really come to fruition in the final product.

Dennis Scimeca, at The Daily Dot, wrote a review for Destiny  titled “Destiny doesn’t come close to living up the hype” with the caption “What we got was not what was advertised” close to the top of the page.

Scimeca writes “Destiny borrows just enough from both genres to support an endgame built on recycling spent content over and over again. As a business proposition, Destiny is conceptually brilliant. As a video game, it cuts so many corners in pursuit of supporting its endgame that it feels unfinished and, in some cases, downright sloppy.”

They supported the original Destiny  with new content for two years and then released Destiny 2 in 2017. That’s how video games work though, we get a new game in the series every few years. We knew this was coming. It’s fine. Actually, it’s better than fine because new content in the shape of an entirely new game sounds awesome. People started to get excited for the potential of Destiny 2.

Destiny 2: Gameplay Reveal Trailer

People loved Destiny  after all the changes post-launch and eventually our expectations were met. Of course, Destiny 2  will pick-up right where the original game left off. Right? Not exactly.

Nothing you just did for the past three years with your character from Destiny  matters. We got a new game set in the same universe with new content, new story, and new characters. Destiny improved a ton over the course of its lifetime, but all of this progress seemed to be wiped out with the new launch.

Our expectation was that we would see dynamic improvements in mechanics, gameplay, and content. We got excited to see all the potential for Destiny 2, but, in reality, Destiny 2  suffered from the same issues that plagued the launch of the first game.

In his review of Destiny 2  with PC Gamer, Tom Senior says:

“If you’re after an infinite action RPG then Destiny 2 is a few DLC packs and expansions away from that, but if you’re after a regular light dose of beautiful sci-fi shooter fun, the perfect post-pub co-op jolly, or the game that will have your fireteam shouting in joy at your monitors when a raid boss goes down, Destiny 2 is a very well-made shooter and one of the best co-op games on PC.”

People thought Destiny 2  reverted some of the great changes the original game made over its lifetime.

Paul Tassi, with Forbes, wrote an article that outlines five things that existed in the original Destiny  were absent from the sequel. Destiny 2  didn’t really add up to a sequel, it was more like a sidestep in development. The game didn’t look that much better and had some of the same issues as the original game.

What Can You Do About the Hype Problem?

What can you do about the hype and playing what will “surely” be the next big game on release? Don’t buy into it. With No Man’s Sky  and Destiny  as examples, unfortunately, there is no real way to know how a game will play for hours on end regardless of all the hype surrounding it. You can only wait until it has been released and people have an opportunity to actually play the game.

But gamers are in a bit of a bind. Game developers are always going to focus on releasing awesome looking demos and promoting their game; after all, their goal is to have people buy their game. Gaming websites are going to try and cover the hottest games. It’s hard to miss the hype.

And we love the hype. We look forward to game reveals, trailers, developer interviews, and media coverage. We get excited for new games that seem to offer an amazing experience, and we want to play them as soon as possible. If you are entrenched in the gaming world, you’re likely checking out sites like IGN, Kotaku, PC Gamer, and Reddit looking for information on the hottest new game.

But we need to set better expectations for ourselves. Thankfully, those sites and many others often get games to play before launch. Being patient and waiting for reviews can provide us with information about the game in its entirety, in a way that game previews and game demos can’t.

Find a reviewer that lines up with your own views and expectations of a game at launch and then read everything they write. If you value their opinion they can give a better picture of a game than the demos, interviews, and media coverage can show leading up to launch.

It may be hard—we all want to buy into the hype—but it’s important to keep everything in perspective leading up to a game launch. Just remember, if you’re patient and have low expectations, instead of disappointment, you may end up being pleasantly surprised with the next big game that comes out.

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Gaming Hype: Examining the Failure of No Man’s Sky and Destiny (and What It Means)

Sometimes we hear about a game that sounds too good to be true. Sometimes we get excited seeing all of the trailers, developer talks, and other media coverage that accompanies the next big game. Sometimes we buy into the hype. Sometimes the game lives up to the hype. But there are a lot of times when it does not. 

Gaming hype is real. And it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and anticipation of an upcoming game that sounds amazing. However, you’ve probably experienced the disappointment that occurs after a new game is released and doesn’t meet the hype and expectations that have come from all of the coverage and promotion leading up to it. 

Recently, No Man’s Sky  and Destiny 1/2  have been games that launched with a tremendous amount of hype and failed to live up to it. Let’s take a look at how this happened and what it means.

No Man’s Sky

A few years ago No Man’s Sky  was touted as the next big thing. The first trailer for No Man’s Sky  didn’t necessarily set the world on fire. But, it started the proverbial ball rolling down the hill gaining momentum. The game looked like something we’d never seen before.

No Man’s Sky: Reveal Trailer

The first trailer showed us lush worlds filled with a variety of flora and fauna that could be explored as well as space flight and battles. It made boasts like “every atom procedural” and “every planet unique.” The unveiling of the game came at the end of 2013 and was then shown again at E3 2014 with this gameplay trailer.

No Man’s Sky: E3 2014 Trailer

People were beyond excited for the game and couldn’t wait for the game to release. We were seemingly promised a game to live and explore in for hours upon hours. Gaming websites were buying into the hype and letting us know about the immense size of No Man’s Sky.

IGN featured an article titled “Gamescom 2014: The Sun will burn out before you see all of No Man’s Sky.”

Similarly, one of The Verge’s articles about the game says “This is the most ambitious game in the universe.”

GameSpot’s YouTube channel has a video called “No Man’s Sky: The Biggest Game World Ever Created?” which is featured in their “The Next Big Game” series.

In conjunction with the media coverage, each year they released more trailers that showed a vibrant world with ships flying overhead and creatures roaming around you, then we seamlessly move into space to take part in an intense battle among the planets before flying down into the atmosphere of a different planet. As the trailer winds down we fly into the stars.

Then we got the launch trailer and the actual game in 2016. The launch trailer may have looked toned down a bit, but it still seemed to show an exciting game filled with adventure, combat, and countless worlds to explore.

No Man’s Sky: Launch Trailer

According to the game’s website: “No Man’s Sky  is a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy.” Sounds like Minecraft  in space to me. I—and many others—were hyped for No Man’s Sky.

So what was the game like at launch? What about the game contents? What about gameplay and mechanics? Did it live up to the hype?

The actual launch game seemed dramatically different than what we were shown in the trailers. We were expecting a game that was visually appealing, had epic space battles, and an almost limitless number of worlds and species to discover and interact with.

Instead, the space battles we saw in the trailer didn’t represent real world gameplay. In reality, the battles stayed in space and only included about 5 others ships. The planets seemed dull and barren, they were sparsely populated, and combat was unexciting. The gameplay was slow and repetitive.

The release version of No Man’s Sky  was nothing like what we were shown in trailers. It seemed like we were a misled.

No Man’s Sky: Launch Day First Look Stream

And then the reviews started coming out:

IGN’s Dan Stapleton reviewed the game at release and gave the game a 6 out of 10: “No Man’s Sky has sci-fi spectacle of strange new worlds on its side, but not much else. Its gameplay is underdeveloped and repetitive…”

GameSpot’s Peter Brown reviewed the game giving it a 7 out of 10: “No Man’s Sky is immediately a massive game with impressive seamless transitions from ground to space, and it will entertain your inner collector for a while. The more you get to know it, the more you recognize its fault…”

GameInformer reviewed the game giving it a 7.5 out of 10: “That ambitious vision is accomplished through one of the most sophisticated approaches to procedural content generation I’ve ever seen, in which entire ecosystems spring up across any one of millions of potential planets. However, No Man’s Sky rarely reaches beyond its vibrant world-building efforts to provide satisfying gameplay and story.”

All of these reviews point out the scale of No Man’s Sky  size and scale, but point out the flaws with the gameplay and content. How could we have known the game wouldn’t shape up to be what we expected?

Eventually, No Man’s Sky  got better and more people started to enjoy the game. Kotaku’s Gita Jackson wrote an article titled “No Man’s Sky is good now” back in August 2017, a year after the launch of the game. She cites the new content and tweaks to the game that makes it better, “There’s also a lot of new content—like base building, vehicles and joint exploration—but what makes a difference to me is that the core features have polish.”

The game eventually got to a place where people were happy with their purchase and genuinely enjoyed the game. Eventually. But it never came close to living up to the hype.

Daily Players No Man's SKy

Looking at available information on SteamDB, we see Steam player count for No Man’s Sky. We can clearly see updates to the game as player count spikes during certain times.

Destiny 1/Destiny 2

Although Destiny  was the first game in what has become a series. Gamers felt like we knew what to expect from Bungie, the original developers of Halo. Bungie had a great track record of releasing beloved games for more than a decade; everybody loved Halo, surely everyone will love Bungie’s new game Destiny.

There was already hype brewing since Bungie was an acclaimed developer, and Bungie’s reveal trailer in 2013 generated a lot of exposure for it.  

Destiny: Reveal Trailer

The trailer shows this beautiful, huge, and immersive world that provides a unique gameplay experience by yourself and with friends. They seemed to be creating a multiplayer first-person RPG “set in a living world” where the gamer will have “the ultimate adventure that unfolds over the next 10 years.”

From the trailer, it’s not hard to see why there was so much hype for Destiny. And it helped to set our expectations for what the launch game would be like. It sounded like it was a twist on the successful MMO formula, where we you play the base game for an extended period of time and then pay for expansions to access new content.

It seemed like a World of Warcraft  in the shape of an online FPS where our characters would continue to grow and we’d have more and more content to play every couple of years.

On top of that, before the original Destiny  launch, articles started circulating around the internet after Reuters reported that CEO Bobby Kotick said that Activision Blizzard would spend $500 million developing and promoting Destiny.

Destiny: $500 Million Budget Media Coverage

Articles like Polygon titled “Report: Destiny Costs Activision $500 million to develop and promote,” started coming out in full circulation. It sure sounded like Destiny would be the most expensive game developed of all time, by a long shot. The sheer scale and dynamics of the game seemed like it would live up to the hype—they’re spending a ludicrous amount on it after all.

Even with Polygon publishing another article one month later clarifying that “The $500 million isn’t the cost to make a single game, it’s the cost to get a franchise rolling, in the public eye and ready to ship,” the hype train was already rolling. Either way, a lot of money was going into Destiny.

Destiny: Gameplay Reveal Trailer

So what was the game like at launch? What about the game contents? What about gameplay and mechanics? Did it live up to the hype?

In the original Destiny, you could play the entire story and be happy about shooting aliens while playing with your friends. Then you would run into an invisible wall with content clearly locked behind that wall. Eventually, that content unlocked when expansions were released, but those areas were closed off behind a paywall at game launch. Pairing that with the loot grind and limited/recycled content, a lot of gamers weren’t really happy with the way Destiny  panned out.

The multiplayer aspect of the game also wasn’t as easy and seamless as “group and play” that the trailers showed us. Sure, you can play with random people out in the wild, but you have to group up or invite your friends in game separately and then choose to take on specific in-game missions. The trailers and budget gave consumers a certain expectation going into the game, which didn’t really come to fruition in the final product.

Dennis Scimeca, at The Daily Dot, wrote a review for Destiny  titled “Destiny doesn’t come close to living up the hype” with the caption “What we got was not what was advertised” close to the top of the page.

Scimeca writes “Destiny borrows just enough from both genres to support an endgame built on recycling spent content over and over again. As a business proposition, Destiny is conceptually brilliant. As a video game, it cuts so many corners in pursuit of supporting its endgame that it feels unfinished and, in some cases, downright sloppy.”

They supported the original Destiny  with new content for two years and then released Destiny 2 in 2017. That’s how video games work though, we get a new game in the series every few years. We knew this was coming. It’s fine. Actually, it’s better than fine because new content in the shape of an entirely new game sounds awesome. People started to get excited for the potential of Destiny 2.

Destiny 2: Gameplay Reveal Trailer

People loved Destiny  after all the changes post-launch and eventually our expectations were met. Of course, Destiny 2  will pick-up right where the original game left off. Right? Not exactly.

Nothing you just did for the past three years with your character from Destiny  matters. We got a new game set in the same universe with new content, new story, and new characters. Destiny improved a ton over the course of its lifetime, but all of this progress seemed to be wiped out with the new launch.

Our expectation was that we would see dynamic improvements in mechanics, gameplay, and content. We got excited to see all the potential for Destiny 2, but, in reality, Destiny 2  suffered from the same issues that plagued the launch of the first game.

In his review of Destiny 2  with PC Gamer, Tom Senior says:

“If you’re after an infinite action RPG then Destiny 2 is a few DLC packs and expansions away from that, but if you’re after a regular light dose of beautiful sci-fi shooter fun, the perfect post-pub co-op jolly, or the game that will have your fireteam shouting in joy at your monitors when a raid boss goes down, Destiny 2 is a very well-made shooter and one of the best co-op games on PC.”

People thought Destiny 2  reverted some of the great changes the original game made over its lifetime.

Paul Tassi, with Forbes, wrote an article that outlines five things that existed in the original Destiny  were absent from the sequel. Destiny 2  didn’t really add up to a sequel, it was more like a sidestep in development. The game didn’t look that much better and had some of the same issues as the original game.

What Can You Do About the Hype Problem?

What can you do about the hype and playing what will “surely” be the next big game on release? Don’t buy into it. With No Man’s Sky  and Destiny  as examples, unfortunately, there is no real way to know how a game will play for hours on end regardless of all the hype surrounding it. You can only wait until it has been released and people have an opportunity to actually play the game.

But gamers are in a bit of a bind. Game developers are always going to focus on releasing awesome looking demos and promoting their game; after all, their goal is to have people buy their game. Gaming websites are going to try and cover the hottest games. It’s hard to miss the hype.

And we love the hype. We look forward to game reveals, trailers, developer interviews, and media coverage. We get excited for new games that seem to offer an amazing experience, and we want to play them as soon as possible. If you are entrenched in the gaming world, you’re likely checking out sites like IGN, Kotaku, PC Gamer, and Reddit looking for information on the hottest new game.

But we need to set better expectations for ourselves. Thankfully, those sites and many others often get games to play before launch. Being patient and waiting for reviews can provide us with information about the game in its entirety, in a way that game previews and game demos can’t.

Find a reviewer that lines up with your own views and expectations of a game at launch and then read everything they write. If you value their opinion they can give a better picture of a game than the demos, interviews, and media coverage can show leading up to launch.

It may be hard—we all want to buy into the hype—but it’s important to keep everything in perspective leading up to a game launch. Just remember, if you’re patient and have low expectations, instead of disappointment, you may end up being pleasantly surprised with the next big game that comes out.

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