As far as major 2022 video game releases go, “Ragnarok” from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio reigns as one of the biggest fish in a conspicuously empty pond. Delays born of covid-19 and the legacy of “Cyberpunk 2077′s” disastrous launch have pushed heavy hitters like Bethesda’s “Starfield” and Nintendo’s sequel to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild″ into the distant reaches of 2023.
This context loomed over the lead up to “Ragnarok’s” release date announcement. Fans expecting news during last month’s Summer Game Fest were disappointed to see neither hide nor beard hair of PlayStation’s baddest, dad-est mascot. All the while, “industry insiders” of varying (and often dubious) reputation hyped up fans for a June 30 release date reveal.
The fuss prompted Santa Monica creative director Cory Barlog to ask fans to “please, be patient” on twitter.
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The June 30 reveal did not come to pass. Fans, in pursuit of release date information, began harassing Santa Monica developers, including cinematics producer Estelle Tigani and writer Alanah Pearce. The former described unwanted advances from fans on Twitter.
“Sending me [illicit pictures] asking for the ‘God of War Ragnarok’ release date will not, in fact, get me to reveal the release date,” Tigani said on Twitter. “To the people who are doing so, when did that ever work for you?!”
In response, Santa Monica posted a message discouraging harassment.
“Our fans inspire us, and we understand the passion and desire for more information,” the studio wrote. “But that passion should not be toxic nor come at the expense of any human being’s dignity.”
This sort of dynamic has played out around many hotly anticipated video games, even just in the past few weeks. After a trailer for “Return to Monkey Island” revealed that the PC adventure revival would sport a new art style, fans torched the comment section of game director Ron Gilbert’s personal blog. Eventually, Gilbert elected to shut down the comments on his post about the trailer, and said he would no longer share information about the game on his blog.
“The joy of sharing has been driven from me,” Gilbert wrote. “Play it or don’t play it but don’t ruin it for everyone else.”
As news and culture site Inverse points out, some of this is the natural outcome of the video game industry’s reliance on years-long drip-feed marketing cycles, which are amplified by an insatiable online content machine that demands fodder for Twitter feeds, YouTube videos and Twitch streams.
“This market of anticipation is used to benefit the publishers,” wrote video game trends writer Willa Rowe, “but leaves the developers to suffer the consequences.”