Batman: Arkham City: When Marketing is Ruining Your Game

The Penguin is in Batman: Arkham City, and is voiced by Nolan North. That’s pretty cool.

The Joker makes a return, along with voice actor Mark Hamill. But he’s not your primary villain: Hugo Strange is.

And Mr. Freeze is there. And The Riddler, who won’t just be an annoying prankster talking to you by phone this time, either. Plus there’s Catwoman. And she’ll be a playable character. Robin’s coming too, as playable DLC. And Nightwing.

Oh, and you know what happens to the Joker? He [RE-GODDAMN-DACTED].

Sorry. I’m stepping in where Rocksteady and Warner Bros. should, because obviously the company doesn’t know how to keep its mouth shut or play its cards close to the chest for its upcoming sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum. It seems like every few days, another detail spills out from the game disc to populate the Internet, and once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.

What’s painful is that nothing about Arkham City’s continual information overload is enticing. The campaign of knowledge actually turned hard toward spoiler some time ago. And that was before Kotaku’s frustratingly huge douchey headline about the game’s plot, assaulting players before they could make any choice if they want to know it or not. But as more and more and more and more details about the game come out, it feels like the game is being bled to death long before its release, in order to ensure that anyone who has ever even heard of Batman will find something to draw them in.

Look, I very much appreciate the way Rocksteady handles Batman, and more specifically, Batman villains. The developer and Warner Bros. should be proud that even the goofy ones are sinister and that all the characters are well-built. I can understand being excited to show off their version of The Penguin and other details about the game.

Some details are good, but exercise some restraint, guys. Please. Seriously.

It’s a case of marketing a game to death at this point. What do I have to look forward to if I’ve seen this Mr. Freeze trailer, this Joker trailer, this Catwoman trailer, read that Kotaku story (I couldn’t control my curiosity), and have been bombarded by the rest of the screenshots, Tweets, news stories and pre-order bonuses out there? What surprises are left to me? Without the fiction of Batman playing out in Arkham City, I’m afraid what I’ll be left with is a great many hours of punching dudes in the face. Not without its rewards, but not the experience I had with Arkham Asylum and certainly not the one I want to pay for with Arkham City.

Where did this idea that games need insane, long-reaching, years-running marketing campaigns come from, anyway? Consider the case of Hard Reset. The game released in late September. When did the marketing start? June 30.

And it was artfully executed, as well. Hard Reset’s developer, Flying Wild Hog, released a single screenshot for the game. It didn’t even say what the hell was in it (turned out to be an evil robot) or what game it was for. Then, a week or two later, it released a trailer, a release date, and a few details — an old-school first-person shooter, PC exclusive, great-looking graphics, and a month to wait on it.

Hard Reset got a lot of people excited, especially when they realized it was on the brink of release. It didn’t need a ton of details to sell it. And really, neither does Arkham City — we know it’ll be great. Any one of the trailers would be enough to entice just about anybody to pick the title up. But as it stands, we’ve been hearing about the title for like 10 years. I can name six villains you’ll encounter off the top of my head.

I’m Batman-saturated. I want to be excited for what I’ll discover in a game, not to just act out what I know will already be on-hand. I want Batman to be my puppet in my Arkham City experience. I don’t want to know the steps before I walk them.

So please, Rocksteady, Warner Bros., whoever’s making the decisions — if you have more to “reveal” about Arkham City before it comes out, don’t. I already want to give you my $60; don’t make me rethink it.

Next thing we’ll be fighting this guy: The Calculator.

Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw.

The Bat is back — check out our huge text and video walkthrough for Batman: Arkham City.

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11 Comments on Batman: Arkham City: When Marketing is Ruining Your Game

STiKFAS

On October 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm

This is why I’ve had to induce my own media black out and thanks to Kotaku’s poor redesign and layout I don’t go there anymore.

Caine607

On October 12, 2011 at 8:46 pm

“Where did this idea that games need insane, long-reaching, years-running marketing campaigns come from, anyway?”

My guess is, that because it now takes years and millions to develop these triple A titles, they try to keep their expensive investment fresh in the minds of everyone who has seen it as well as making it known to as many newcomers as possible. Thereby maximizing their consumer base.

Dave

On October 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Great article. Nice to see that I’m not the only one who feels this way, its easily some of the biggest marketing overkill I’ve ever seen. They may as well just come over and play it for me too. I have no problems waiting for a price drop now, I’ll be buying games that still have some surprises left instead.

Oni

On October 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Although there has been a lot of information released about Arkham City the last few months, I still don’t think there’s much that REALLY spoils the game as much as you make it out to be. There are still a lot of unknowns to the game other than just “characters” and yes, while many of them have been announced and/or leaked, it doesn’t change the fact that we still don’t have any idea about (most of) their roles in the story. I’m certain there is plenty we still don’t know about the game that will only serve to make it that much better.

Garyn Dakari

On October 13, 2011 at 12:58 am

Agreed with Oni, although I didn’t read whatever that spoiler plot thing you mentioned.

KingOfArcadia

On October 13, 2011 at 6:31 am

Oh Hornshaw, you poor poor soul. Do you really think that Rocksteady has given up ALL of the cool details for the game? Really? You sound so convinced that all of the teasers are going to reduce the game to simply ‘punching dudes in the face’. I’d be willing to bet that by the time you punch your way to the end of the game you’ll be eating these words.

On another note, it appears that you must not be one of the ‘cool’ websites, otherwise you would already have your review copy on hand & know how foolish this whole article is.

/a very small violin plays sad music for you Hornshaw

AxBlaster

On October 13, 2011 at 11:31 am

lolol@KingofArcadia and his looking down on OP.

Look dude, I personally don’t give a tosh how much is waiting in the game, I also don’t wanna find out crucial elements of the plot, and I also feel it’s been ruined.

He wasn’t trying to say the game will be tosh, he’s saying it didn’t need this much media and revelation, and I completely agree. I really wish I hadn’t know about what happens to Joker, because that’s a peice of plot that should be a shock, as should the obvious end twist where it was fake all along.

basically, spoilers should come with a warning, and regardless of what you think,you can’t argie with that. Kotaku was indeed bang out of order for letting everyone know that twist without a warning. Not just the media that does this, but people as well, it infuriates me.

G.A.R.B.A.G.E

On October 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Hard Reset got people excited huh? lol

http://steamgraph.burstpixel.net/index.php?action=graph&appid=98400&jstime=1&from=1315890000000&to=

Hardly.

I’d say Arkham City’s marketing will pay off. Arkham City’s downfall Warner Bros. I’ll be ready to pick it up at $7.49 when it gets there, just like I did Asylum.

Ron Whitaker

On October 14, 2011 at 6:32 am

@Garbage – What got us excited about Hard Reset was the fact that we didn’t have to spend two years being smacked in the face with the game. That, and it was really fun.

It was never going to have a huge, long-term following. It’s a single player game with no multiplayer component.

Bob

On October 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm

What an uninformed piece of trash.

Realize that a game like Hard Reset was made by a small team and sold under a thousand units. The development costs for Arkham City is in the millions and WB must invest marketing dollars to earn it back.

Marketing for games is like marketing for films.

If you’re tired of getting “smacked in the face” with it, why do you go to sites like Kotaku or IGN? What are you looking for? Because 85% of all game media content is marketing.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm

@Bob,

Uh, what’s uninformed about it? OF COURSE Warner Bros. has sunk a ton of money into Arkham City and they don’t want you to forget about it for a second. Meanwhile, Hard Reset is made by a small team and didn’t have the advertising budget that was likely spent on Arkham City in a single day.

But the point I was making was the effectiveness of that marketing. FOR ME. Hard Reset’s small bursts of tightly controlled information made it more compelling than Arkham City’s info overload. FOR ME. I bought Hard Reset and have yet to pick up a copy of Arkham City. So I guess all those millions of dollars spent were ineffective. FOR ME. Arkham City might have overshot, and the result was my interest in the game turning from positive to negative. It’s a subjective opinion (given AC’s sales) about a marketing strategy.

Being “uninformed” factors into it not at all. Unless you’re referring to my being uninformed about…what? The need to over-advertise your game when you’ve invested a lot of money into it? I think you’re uninformed in this case — this was a marketing STRATEGY. Lots of games can stay relevant without exposing 80 percent of what you’ll see when you purchase the game. Film marketing doesn’t unleash everything that’s going to be in a movie before people buy it. Why should game marketing?