Until Dawn Deserved Better From Sony
Until Dawn is frustrating, mostly because it feels like it’s under achieving. I’m not talking about the game’s quality, it’s easily one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long time, it’s more on the side of it’s release. The window in which a game releases can make or break it, regardless of quality. You could create the greatest game in the world, but if barely anyone sees it, it’ll never be truly appreciated.
I love Until Dawn, I love the story, the twists, the unpredictable plot, the atmosphere, it’s a utter joy. After finishing the game I found myself utterly compelled to talk about it more and compare notes. What choices did you make? What did you do at this certain point? Who died? How did they die? Who lived survived. It’s been a long time since I was so eager to talk about a single game at length.
Until Dawn has sold surprisingly well (at least in the UK) to the point where my local GAME store had sold out of copies. I say surprisingly mainly due to the sheer lack of marketing the game received. On average, a video game release in the UK will at least have the odd TV spot or news paper advert, perhaps even a cheeky sponsorship on a low rent TV channel, Until Dawn had (mostly) none of that. The only TV spot I ever witnessed was around 4AM, bizarrely during the broadcast of a UFC event.
Truth be told, I hadn’t heard much about Until Dawn since it’s quick cameo at E3. For a PS4 exclusive, something Sony normally gets well and truly behind, the silence surrounding the game was profound. It’s not like Until Dawn was a indie game, or even a small game with no ‘star power’ behind it. With a voice cast boasting TV and films stars such as Hayden Panettiere, Brett Dalton and Rami Malek, the cast is familiar to modern audiences.
Until Dawn also play hosts to two film veterans, both of which put on fantastic performances in the game, in the shape of actor Peter Stormare ( Fargo, Big Lebowski) and writer/director Larry Fessenden (known for Habit and mentoring various directors such as Ti West).
Until Dawn released in late August, only a few weeks prior to Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. The late August release date has baffled me for some time, even more so with it being so close to Metal Gear Solid 5′s launch date. For a game that neatly ties pretty much every element of modern horror cinema together, Until Dawn felt like it was the perfect fit for the Halloween October window. People are always looking for a scare on Halloween, be it streamers, average players, even casual video game players, they all want that scary thrill.
It’s a selfish thought, but I can’t help but feel that Sony missed a trick in missing that Halloween window. Sony also dropped the ball over not making the most of the horror fan base. If there’s a fan base that eats up fancy editions, it’s the horror fan base. Until Dawn felt like the perfect game to release with a fancy special edition, compete with a replica big box VHS case, and Blair Witch Project-esque fake news paper materials. But alas, all we got was a steel book with a trivial piece of DLC.
The reaction to Until Dawn has been positive, mostly. Word of mouth has seemingly became it’s greatest ally, filling the void that the lack of marketing created. Even with Polygon trying their hardest to hate it, while failing to understanding some parts of it, Until Dawn has earned it’s self a reputation as a enjoyable video game experience. I can’t help feel that, with some more faith and marketing from Sony, Until Dawn could easily of made a much bigger impact. There’s still a number of people who don’t know what exactly the game is, or even that it’s out. Marketing is important, as is the release window of a video game, Sony simply screwed up.
Until Dawn’s unpredictable nature, tied with characters I actually wanted to survive (bar Emily, but that’s kinda her point) is what makes the game work so well. The presentation is sublime, sucking the player in and forcing them to become naturally invested. The butterfly effect system may be part truth-part-gimmick but it feeds into the feeling that my choices matter, and it’s my fault when someone lives or dies.
It’s not all doom and gloom on the marketing front. It’s hard to mention the clever in way in which the trailers presented various plot elements, resulting in people thinking they knew what the game’s core concept and plot was about. Anyone who has finished the game will be able to appreciate the deceptive skills displayed by the trailer, a classic staple of classic horror films.
I suspect Until Dawn, along with Bloodborne, will be a modern day exclusive I will look back on fondly for years to come. Marketing may of failed it, but a bright future surely awaits Until Dawn’s legacy and it’s developer Supermassive Games.