Rockstar Games formally announced Red Dead Redemption 2 this morning coming in late 2017 for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, and while that's great news, it's not what I want to discuss today. Instead I want to congratulate Rockstar's social media team on a masterful campaign designed to get the gaming community talking about the game all week long with a series of teases and piecemeal information releases that tell us nearly nothing at all about the game beyond the fact that it exists (cue every gaming website on the planet screaming their CONFIRMED!!! headlines followed by the empty "Developing...").
It all started this past Sunday when Rockstar released an image of their logo against a red background. No title, no text, nothing more. Just the logo. The community kicked into overdrive with firm belief that a Red Dead Redemption sequel was imminent. Proposed titles were kicked around. Estimated release dates were pitched (with some guessing that the game would arrive as early as next month in a burst of armchair marketing and wishing really hard). Timeline placements were considered; would it be a prequel or a sequel? Alternate timeline? Remastering of the previous game? All of this from a red background and a logo.
On Monday the company released another image, this one of silhouetted characters against the red background. Now the community really fired itself up speculating on who these characters were and comparing them to character profiles from the last game. Was the center character's hat the same kind of hat that protagonist John Marston wore in the last game? Maybe if we zoom and enhance we'll know for sure! On and on it went all day long and into the night.
This morning the next image appeared, this time with a proper announcement along with a tease for an actual trailer coming in two days. Rockstar can pull this off because of their renowned pedigree for high quality gaming experiences, but admittedly it really irritates me that the community discussion is now clogged with days of Red Dead speculation and dubious confirmations when all we know for sure is a title, a release window, and the two consoles on which the game is slated to release, and for the past two days we didn't even know that. Now we get another two days of articles cranked out for hits based on no useful information about the game. This is turning into a week's worth of unbridled enthusiasm that will drown out most anything else worth reading or discussing (the Nintendo NX could break through this, as that has a self-sustaining hype machine of its own).
Rockstar isn't the first publisher to do this and they certainly won't be the last, and maybe it's a sign that I'm getting older or just wiser to the way things go, but all of the endless hype for every large profile game that comes along has me burned out on excitement and speculation. I want to see the trailer and I want to play the game, sure, but I am tired of the sneaky teases and the grand reveals and the release dates for announcements for trailers. When the game is out I will happily play it and talk about dissecting every last thematic moment and stunning setpiece, but until then I'll be off occupying my time with actual fun things I can enjoy right now rather than hoping and dreaming about The Next Big Thing that is not yet finished and not ready for the kind of discussion that the teases generate. It's great for the marketing department, but I see the tease campaign for Red Dead Redemption 2 after years of watching similar hype cycles for games come and gone (few of which deserved all the fuss in the end) and I just feel numb.