PlayStation 4 just launched their biggest console exclusive of the first half of 2015, Ready at Dawn’s The Order: 1886. This PlayStation exclusive sets players into an alternate reality of a Steampunk-style London as a reincarnation of The Knights of the Round Table, now known as The Order. The game, first shown at the PlayStation E3 2013 Media Briefing, has been marketed as the title to showcase what the power of the PlayStation 4 can offer gamers visually.
However, with that being the focus, the marketing folks behind the PS4 seem to have forgotten to whom they are pitching: gamers.
Video games as a medium are unique among the entertainment sectors in society. It’s the only form of entertainment that you simultaneously consume and create the content you experience. However, one look at the marketing campaign from PlayStation and you would almost forget that The Order: 1886 was a video game.
The trailer posted above is the TV advertisement PlayStation ran for The Order. One only has to read the buzzquotes from various outlets to see what the PS4-team’s focus and priority has been all along. This was never about marketing a video game, but rather a “cinematic” experience.
Even though some would rather focus on the game’s length to point to a disconnect between PlayStation and what gamers want (and it would be a valid argument), no bit of marketing was ever directed towards how the game handled. At the core of any video game is its gameplay experience. If the game looks amazing (which The Order does) but handles poorly, in the end the visuals amount to nothing. And that is the crux of the issue. By prioritizing visual fidelity, PlayStation was so bent on showcasing the capabilities of the PS4, they forgot that those consuming the content would be gamers and not film critics.
In a poll on IGN, the gaming site asked whether those reading preferred gameplay over graphics. As of this writing, gameplay has trumped presentation (graphics) by a margin of 89% to 11%. On a site like IGN, which is constantly billed as the number one gaming site on the Internet, to see that kind of difference is pretty indicative of the audience the PlayStation folks are trying to capture. While the poll assumes you have to choose one or the other instead of a balance, in terms of how PlayStation has marketed The Order, it has been a very clear stance: one or the other.
The core gameplay of The Order: 1886 is nothing we haven’t seen before. The PlayStation game is a third-person cover shooter, a la Microsoft’s Gears of War, which also makes use of “quick-time events” to make the (very) frequent cutscenes “interactive.” In fact, one only has to look at the official PlayStation website for The Order to see, again, the disconnect with gamers. No where on the front page is how you play the game alluded to. No mechanics are detailed, unless you take a look at the few screenshots they have on the page from actual PS4 gameplay. But the “filmic” vision of The Order is dutifully portrayed.
Maybe Sony couldn’t market the gameplay and had to focus on what The Order did best: look amazing. But even from just looking at the visuals you see the disconnect right away. Restrictive cinematic black bars loom on the top and bottom of the screen, forcing a player to experience the rich detail of London through a forced letterbox format. While this does have the added effect of allowing the PlayStation 4 to push more pixels into a smaller area, in the end it showcases the core idea from the get-go: create a movie-like experience.
‘PlayStation 4’ Marketing of ‘The Order: 1886’ Shows Disconnect With Gamers
Cinematic black bars cover the top and bottom of the screen, showing the PlayStation developers focus all along.
Galahad squares up on an enemy in this beautifully detailed environment.
1886 London looks beautifully realized on the PlayStation 4. Too bad the setting was not given much focus compared to how it would be presented.
Gadgets supplied by Nikola Tesla highlight The Order: 1886. Such a novel concept was underutilized, however.
All of the focus on making the game look like a film has come at a cost as well. The game that was supposed to carry the PlayStation 4 through till Uncharted 4 releases has been receiving middling reviews. Most reviewers have complimented the visual style, but also been critical of the focus behind the game. Instead of having a great gameplay experience to compliment and even accentuate the amazing, beautiful visuals of The Order, PlayStation 4 fans are left with a lackluster game experience, which in the end hurts the consumer more than the developer.
[Images via PlayStation]