Whenever a new cool game title is announced, I search on the web to find its release date. This way I know when I can expect to get my hands on the game. It seems that I am not alone in doing this. After games are initially announced, often at one gaming conference or another, the web almost instantly fills with articles about it.
Every tiny little gaming related site on the web is keenly aware that there’s great interest in news about the new title. They quickly churn out some garbage article about it just to have something to capitalize on this interest. Too often, these articles barely make any sense at all. The unfortunate journalist who had to type it out had no more information than everyone else had at the same time. There are no scoops as the game studio carefully reviewed and released the exact same information to everyone. The only thing the journalist knows is that the article’s headline must contain the name of the game and “release date” and the text must contain a list of other keywords people are likely to search for.
An experienced searcher and consumer of gaming news may try to refine her search by appending “confirmed”, “revealed” or even “officially announced” to their search. Unfortunately, all she will get is the same list of junk articles in a different order. All the gaming sites have figured out that these keywords should be targeted even though they’ve nothing to add other than to append “not yet” and “still to be” in front of them.
These page-view grabbing garbage articles are frustrating to anyone trying to get some actual information. Even after the game has gotten an official release date, it can be hard to find it amongst the earlier birds who have dropped their shit all over the web. None of the major search engines seem to be able to weed out this trash.
After the E3 2014 gaming conference, I clicked through some 80 articles on “GTA V for Xbox One release date”. This was some six hours after the announcement that the 9-months old game would be re-released for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. All the articles were, of course, utter garbage. They’d nothing to say other than the fact that it had been announced that the game would be released on the new game consoles. As the game publisher, RockStar Games, has yet to announce the release date — some three months later — it was not surprising that even though the articles’ titles promised information on the release date, it was nowhere to be found. A very small selection of the articles speculated on the release date based on information like the one-year anniversary for the game’s initial release. Taking another look today, Google News search found 355 articles from just the last 24 hours. Again, the majority were utter garbage and a few were speculative.
I think it’s high time we reconsider how we fund journalism (and bloggers). The focus on mass-produced garbage isn’t helping anyone. Not the websites that publish them, nor the readers who must suffer through them, nor the advertisers who pay for the whole shebang. Page-views and advertisements are the wrong metrics and tools. They systemically fail to uphold and value quality. They promote quantity and little else.
The situation with new games’ release dates is just one reoccurring example I’ve been following. It is in no way unique to this topic. News on current events are just as filled with trash-actors as gaming news.
Dedicated gaming news sites have had their chance to corner the informational market. They’ve blown it again and again. From now on, I believe I will rely on monitoring games’ pages on Wikipedia to stay up to date on their release dates. Wikipedia only asks for 2,00 USD a year and then usually shuts up. I wouldn’t even have to continuously doubt what happens next … .