From a marketing point of view, I can see why a given videogame’s official website is as useless as it is. (Case in point? Far Cry 2.) They’ve (“they” being the publisher’s marketing/PR department) commissioned a promotional site from a design agency and all they give them is a bunch of art files and placeholder quality copy. They say that it needs to be a digital brochure and that they need an opt-in exclusive section, probably just because they need to match any opt-in quotas related to their annual bonuses. Some of the art files will be reserved for that. The agency picks a Flash template, replaces and repositions some elements and drops everything in. I don’t know, maybe they actually go to more trouble than that, but that’s what it tends to look like.
Alright, all the facts that people may be looking for are going to be in Wikipedia anyway. Any and all screenshots are going to be available from countless videogame portal sites. If you have a technical problem, there’s always the official forums, and if you’re stuck, there’s always GameFAQs. It’s not like we’re helpless customers or fans here.
Far Cry 2 has actually had some thought behind it – the “Far Cry 2 Experience” section is relatively novel and cool and they’ve bothered to update the news post-launch. But what’s the point of the rest of the site? There is a tiny selection of art assets – which can’t be downloaded. There’s a couple of wallpapers prepared for download, but only in so many resolutions. There’s less information about the game’s features than what you’d find in the first section of any preview of the game. Basically, the site is not satisfying any of my needs.
So why would I go to an official website? To get the developer’s and/or publisher’s side of the story. Instead they use this one digital channel which they actually control to tell an abridged version of the same story they’re telling through other media. Give me something on the people behind the game! Give me cool anecdotes! Give me carefuly prepared art assets and let me use them! Let me be a fan! I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but I sort of expect these sites to be like DVD extras on a movie. You know I’m a fan since I came to your site, why don’t you treat me like one?
I’m looking forward to reading this post when the first game with my name on it is out there. There’s bound to be some blushing involved.