Hype is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. With enough hype, a game can become iconic before a single image of actual gameplay is ever shown to the public. Hype burns hotter than jet fuel and spreads faster than a wildfire. Once the fashionable train leaves the station, there is no way to stop it. The inescapable lure of hype has been responsible for great and terrible things. As a hypeologist, I have seen communities achieve cultural dominance in the blink of an eye and self-destruct just as quickly, all in the name of hype. Perhaps the biggest story in the history of hype happened in the space between Cyberpunk 2077 and Elden Ring – when the hype died and was brought back to life.
It’s hard to overstate the damage Cyberpunk 2077 has done to hype culture. We’ve collectively been disappointed with highly anticipated games before, but never to this degree. Spore wasn’t exactly the technological breakthrough people were expecting, but it was still a well-received game. Duke Nukem Forever was a dud, but after a decade in development hell, no one should have been so surprised. No Man’s Sky is probably Cyberpunk 2077’s closest example in terms of disappointment, but a space exploration game from creators Joe Danger can hardly compare to CD Projekt Red’s open-world follow-up to The Witcher 3. Cyberpunk 2077 was a spectacular failure the likes of which had never been seen before, in part because it had such an incredible amount of hype behind it. Even if it had been released in a more stable state, similar to what it’s become today, there’s no way Cyberpunk 2077 would live up to the hype.
Globally, hype levels dropped to an all-time low following the release of Cyberpunk 2077. By the end of 2020, the hype was all but eradicated. People could no longer find the energy or passion to create games in their minds and hearts. For the first time ever, the gaming community embraced a wait-and-see mentality towards every game. Throughout 2021, several major games released to overwhelmingly positive reactions, but were totally hype-free until release. Deathloop, Resident Evil Village, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, even Halo Infinite – all great games, all practically uninspiring. It was clear that Cyberpunk 2077 had shattered players’ will to hype things up.
But if you listened carefully, the distant trumpet of a car horn could still be heard. It barely made a sound at first, but by the end of 2021 it started gaining momentum. As more and more people boarded, the sound became unmistakable. The fashionable train was back on the tracks and the passengers were all chanting a name. Ring Elden! Ring Elden! Ring Elden!
Everyone knows what happened next. Elden Ring came out and lived up to all the hype. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that Cyberpunk 2077’s failure made Elden Ring’s success even sweeter. Highlighting the bad game leads to utter despair, but highlighting the good game? There is no better feeling in the world. Elden Ring is a good game, maybe even a great game, but with the power of hype, it quickly rose to GOAT status.
Elden Ring is the pinnacle of FromSoftwares Soulsborne design philosophy and a reimagining of what an open-world game can be. It’s an important game that will undoubtedly leave a mark on gaming history, but its biggest contribution, by far, was bringing the hype back from the dead.
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