Publishers need to better understand their audiences before hosting insipid livestreams. While we’re hesitant to criticise companies too hard – after all, we’re not owed semi-regular broadcasts from the likes of Ubisoft, EA, et al – the reality is that these Nintendo Direct-inspired marketing drops are getting worse. It would appear none of these organisations understand their fans at all.
Take the Disney & Marvel Games Showcase from late last week. This promised big updates on upcoming projects from the multimedia juggernaut, and it was eye-opening just how much the firm currently has in the pipeline. But fans tuned in hoping to learn more about the Captain America and Black Panther project being helmed by Uncharted creator Amy Hennig; instead, they left with more questions than they went in with.
It's telling that a new Pokémon Go-style augmented reality title from Niantic closed out the briefing: this will no doubt prove big business for the fat-cats at Marvel, but it’s not the kind of reveal core gamers setting time aside on their Friday evening will want to see. Other major announcements, like a Tron visual novel from Bithell Games, were glossed over so quickly that there was nothing to glean from them.
Some had, understandably, tuned in to the Marvel showcase expecting updates on Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Marvel’s Wolverine. It’s not an unreasonable assumption, ultimately, but always seemed unlikely with Sony publishing those games. That said, if that’s where expectations are, then it’s the responsibility of the publisher to fill the time with projects of similar interest and value, otherwise what’s the point in broadcasting to begin with?
To be fair, we fully understand why firms are struggling to find the right balance: the games on display need to be exciting, and there needs to be enough information to whet the appetite, without dawdling and lingering for too long. That ain’t easy! Yet, French publisher Ubisoft committed many of these cardinal sins during its own livestream: it designated several minutes to upcoming pirate sim Skull & Bones, without actually adding anything new to the conversation.
Ubisoft Forward was an oddity overall: weighing in at just under 90-minutes – with a robust pre-show, too – this was a mammoth livestream, with large chunks of the running time feeling like filler before the firm got to the Assassin’s Creed information everyone had tuned in for. Even then, there was a lot of hot air from the likes of host Danny Wallace: we didn’t exactly feel like we came away with a deeper understanding of what to expect from the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage, not to mention Codenames Red and Hexe.
And when you consider that fans will have sat through several minutes of mobile games, including an enormous presentation of Rainbow Six Mobile, you have to question who the livestream is for? Yes, it’s potentially big news for Ubisoft investors that The Division is coming to phones, and we understand the publisher needs to draw attention to everything it’s working on, but these live shows leave a bad taste when it feels they’re stuffed full of filler.
There’s a very simple solution for the critics: just don’t watch them. But that doesn’t really solve the problem, does it? Ultimately, it feels like publishers are struggling to understand their audiences with their scheduled marketing livestreams. While traditional E3 press conferences had their low points, at least you had the pomp and ceremony and subsequent memes to fall back on. There’s none of that here: just minutes and minutes of needless screentime devoted to games that those tuning in are unlikely to ever play.
Sony’s yet to announce a PlayStation Showcase – in fact, the platform holder rarely announces anything at all these days. But we expect the manufacturer to have a better understanding of its audience the next time it does speak. Nintendo, too, seems to have an awareness of what its biggest, most vocal fans want. But the major third-party publishers, the likes of Ubisoft et al, just haven’t figured it out yet.
If anything, these regularly scheduled info drops are getting worse…
What are your thoughts on the state of publisher livestreams from the likes of Ubisoft et al? Do you enjoy these regularly scheduled info drops, or is the content getting worse? What can companies do differently to improve these presentations moving forwards? Sound off in the comments section below.