For whatever reason, the video game industry loves itself some countdown clocks. Are you a big video game publisher who wants to hype its new first-person shooter, “Sir Shoots-a-Lot” to make a big splash? Set up a countdown clock at “www.heshootsalot.com” and pay some college kid $50 to submit a news tip to a gaming blog that there’s a mysterious countdown clock over at a new website registered to your gaming company. Bam, instant news.
This might have been a cool way to make big announcements once upon a time, but this week “Final Fantasy” publisher Square Enix used a countdown clock to hype a trailer for “Final Fantasy XIII.” Everyone already knows the game has been in the works for years; it won’t even be ready for Japan until late this year. So the big announcement was what, exactly? At least save your countdown for when you’re ready to announce the release date or something.
Other than a brief hiccup, Square Enix’s countdown at least went relatively smoothly. A recent clock launched by “Halo” developer Bungie had to be pulled mid-countdown because of a miscommunication between Microsoft and Bungie about the best time to announce “Halo 3: ODST,” otherwise known as the most blandly named game on the planet.
Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to look back at the endless parade of countdown clocks for even the most minor of announcements and laugh at the silliness of it all. But given gaming news sites’ propensity for treating the fact that in 36 hours there might be news as a significant development in its own right, we may be stuck shaking our heads at each breathless report, like sports fans watching the 3,000th bucket of Gatorade dumped on a coach who pretends to act surprised.