Hidden Marketing Movement: XCOM

By Adam Smith on October 4th, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

Very soon now, XCOM will launch. Much like a Skyranger emerging from an underground base it will cause people to point at it and go ‘ooooo, that’s spectacular’, of this I am sure. But unlike a Skyranger it won’t fly to a petrol station, unload a group of frightened human beings and then return home hours later with an empty hold and a pilot with a lament for fallen soldiers on his lips. Or maybe he just whistles nonchalantly and says he dropped them off at a party or at a beach resort. One without lobstermen. To celebrate the impending release, here are two videos. One uses footage of the game to make it look like a different game, while the other features lead designer Jake Solomon going undercover to sell the game. That’s the one to watch.

That video is nowhere near turn-based enough for my liking. Nowhere near.

This next one though? This is great.

I want to see Peter Molyneux doing similar guerilla marketing for Curiosity.

“You guys like boxes, right?”

“No.”

“Exactly. Then you’re gonna love tapping boxes.”

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115 Comments »

  1. Slinkyboy says:

    OpenXcom won’t disappoint. DO IT NAO!

  2. Splynter says:

    XCOM: “It’s like a sandwich of gaming.”

  3. kud13 says:

    And not a single Chrysalid was shown. Dissapointing.

    Also, once all the Skyranger crew dies, it’s assumed the pilot suicided from grief. That’s why they always said “X-Com ship lost” and it cost you a ton of points.

    On the other hand, this “I pay $60, and then Jake Solomon pays the other $60″ offer sounds like a steal. Too bad I don’t own a playbox.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Pretty sure I saw a Chrysalid, it got grenaded with the Cyberdisc

      You just didn’t see it wrecking peoples’ day

      • zeroskill says:

        Because they are nowhere near as threatening as in the original?

        • Strange_guy says:

          I don’t know about the single player but in a multiplayer stream where someone brought one along it didn’t seem very dangerous despite its vast movement, even ignoring the fact it died in one hit to a rocket targeting the other side of the wall it was hiding behind. 2 actions system means if you want to get next to someone and then attack them you need to know where they are, which makes them pretty pathetically weak when unsupported.

          • DigitalParadox says:

            To be fair, a single chrysalid wasn’t all that dangerous in the original either. It was the multiple chrysalids scattered and hidden throughout an area with plenty of civilians to turn into zombies that made them dangerous.

          • Ravenholme says:

            You’ve seen the video with the Chrysalids in it, right? The one where the developers take an advanced team into a Terror mission which has Chrysalids. They play it well, but it becomes very, very clear that Chrysalids are as nasty as they always were, and perfectly capable of wrecking your day.

        • Lemming says:

          Care to explain this unfounded comment?

          • zeroskill says:

            Yes I do care actually. In the original, the way Chrysalids worked, was that one Chrysalids basically could create an army of Chrysalids by infecting civilians and your own soldiers, they would turn into zombies, and once they were killed (and this is the main part) the zombies wouldn’t just die and be dealt with like in this game, but would spawn a brand new Chrysalid, which would then go again and infect more people.

            There is a reason why they were so feared in the original game. What you had to do is isolate every Chrysalid so it couldn’t reproduce or you would lose horribly. Now remember all maps in the original Xcom game where randomly generated, unlike in the new game. You would never know, once you spotted the enemy having Chrysalids in their ranks, where they will be coming from, how many civilians they already infected, and so on. This is why people where glued to their screens at 2am scared to shit. It’s why people loved the original game. Tension.

            From the developer video, this mechanic is gone. They just infect civilians that then turn into zombies. The cycle ends there. Couple that with low HP and the fact that you can just send Civilians off the map and there you go. It’s called dumbing down so the kiddies don’t get frustrated with difficult game mechanics.

            This is what i’ve seen from the developer video and I have to say it was rather disapointing for me as I like the original very much. I will stand corrected if they turn around and actually stay closer to the original mechanics, but what ive seen so far isn’t pleasing.

            Another thing i’m not fond of at all is the shooting mechanic, its basically hit or miss. If you miss, the shot just vanishes, Another shortcoming. No friendly fire or happy accidents. Boring. No sign of mind control as far as I can see, also ground missions seem to be linear, no randomization to it. Overall it looks just really dull. Shiny visuals though. Kids like that.

          • ScruffyLemming says:

            Erm actually the cycle does not end there, the zombies wonder around for a few turns but if you don’t kill them fast enough they do eventually turn into more Chrysalids. This can still happen offscreen and is still a major problem, I believe as well, that the difficulty you play the game on affects how fast the full transformation cycle takes.

          • Imbecile says:

            People who talk about dumbing down frustrate me – and clearly don’t do a whole lot of research, mostly because they are looking to reinforce their own prejudices rather than get answers. Scruffy Lemming rightly points out that the Crysalid cycle does continue, and as far as I know mind control is very much present.

  4. iZen says:

    Best PR movie ever! I’m so gonna buy this shit!
    “Its like chess with big guns against aliens! Well, no it isnt” lol

    • Gap Gen says:

      After seeing this, I have no choice but to preorder it twice. Amazing.

  5. Beelzebud says:

    Here is my question: Are there farm levels? I want to stalk aliens in cornfields again!

    Pre-ordered this game, and the wait is about to drive me nuts!

    • Captain Joyless says:

      Prepare to be disappoint.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        True to your name I see.

        • Dark Nexus says:

          I’m pretty sure he should have been promoted to Major Joyless at this point, if not Lieutenant-Colonel Joyless, for all of the joylessness he’s spread in the X-Com posts.

        • Captain Joyless says:

          Unlike most of you poor sops who PICKED your names, this name was bestowed upon me for my deeds. On information and belief, it was Mr. Meer himself who christened me.

      • S Jay says:

        No, I won’t disappoint.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Fine, I shall play Dissapoint.

          DISAPPOINT: “Nay, verily, for thou art mistaken if thou believest that there shall be levels of farms!”
          *Exit stage left*

      • Suits says:

        Looks like we have got some 2K Marin people here

    • Xardas Kane says:

      You know, from another, slightly different point of view this just might be the creepiest comment of the year.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Empirical Fact: It is impossible to describe the game STALKER to someone who doesn’t play games without ending the conversation sounding a little creepy.

  6. coffeetable says:

    From the makers of civilization, eh? Didn’t know Firaxis was a Sumerian company.

  7. mckertis says:

    “Jake Solomon going undercover to sell the game. ”

    That guy…is a great marketing person. Are we actually sure he wasnt planted into development by a 2k marketing division ? He knows how to talk to people, how to insert a personal nostalgic story into the spin, how to promise one thing and deliver something different…

    • Arathain says:

      I think he’s been a great public face for the game. He manages to be engaging without losing his sincerity. I think 2K and Firaxis have been quite bold to talk so publicly about the game’s development before its release, but I think it has paid off well, and is necessary given the unique pressures of making this game.

      I recently watched the PAX panel on the mistakes made during development, which I do recommend for those excited about the game, or who want to know more about the detail of game design in general.

    • JoeGuy says:

      He’s worked there 12 years, that’s quite the plant. He’s the head of his department, plus remember they originally had that scrawny quiet guy for the gameplay reveal and people didn’t like him. He survived about two interviews and i never saw him again. So they just said, go ahead Jake! It shows real confidence in the product and a real passion for the game. He knows his stuff and you get honest, almost fanboyish answers.

    • Makariel says:

      Since his credits also include Civ 3 from 2001 I really doubt he’s just some marketing face. He seems to be very passionate about X-Com and a likeable chap. The gaming landscape could definitely benefit from more people like him. A breath of fresh air compared to the slick marketing guys with faked enthusiasm who speak in a way no normal human would talk.

  8. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I wonder if they are worried that this game will bomb because it’s not shootery enough for consoles. It almost seems that way. I think based on reviews and word of mouth this game should sell well even on the playboxes. Which could be huge for Firaxis and huge for strategy games in general. Could also lead to the “consolization” of future strategy titles like we saw with shooters, but I think timing will prevent this, since the consoles are so old now.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      Depends on what they consider a flop.

      If they expect FPS type numbers or the numbers of an established console franchise.

      Definately, but the production on this game is likely much lower than those kinds of game, and the return will likely be smaller also.

      The only reason we even got this game is because they were willing to take a chance. If it was PC only, we wouldnt see this game. Lets hope the consoles dig it, or we wont see a sequel.

      Sad but true i know.

      • Tom De Roeck says:

        Bullshit. Civ isnt on console either, and they still make countless sequels. Please dont confuse other publisher excuses for this particular developer in its relation to its publisher.

        • Hug_dealer says:

          I’m not confused about anything.

          I am simply making an educated guess.

          • socrate says:

            there is a bunch of x-com game that are being made just for pc…your education is a bit flawed…and game that sell well don’t mean they are good,its a misconception by the industry that usually make sequel and blame some other thing rather then realizing the game was bad in the first place

        • sysdefect says:

          I would like to inform you that the original Civilization was in fact on several consoles (and they were consolized!), and Firaxis also made Civilization Revolution, which is console only and “streamlined” for consoles.

          • Tom De Roeck says:

            I know it was. and it sucked, and failed, and both. Still, we have Civ 5, a product that is mainly PC.

            So if you have a mainly PC developer like Firaxis, dont you think they have a different agenda than other more console centric developers?

  9. Prokroustis says:

    That second video is gold..

  10. njursten says:

    Loved the undercover video!

    But in the launch trailer, why did they put their barracks on the other side of their command room? Seems like it’d be a bit annoying to have all those soldiers running through all the time.

  11. MythArcana says:

    I’m not getting it because I’m not getting it. I’d rather play the first two X-COM games than this console crap.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      and you wont be missed.

      The fact that you cannot enjoy a fun game is reason enough for us to not even care about your opinion, or regard it with anything but a fleeting shrug.

      Perhaps if you had something legitimate to complain about and or discuss. Perhaps people would understand your point of view. Instead you simply make yourself out to nothing but complaining, ignorant, biased tool.

      Good day.

    • Smashbox says:

      ahahahahahaha

    • JoeGuy says:

      You know that game worked on console too right? PlayStation to be exact. Please tell me you have considered that?

      • Hardlylikely says:

        The United Front Of Gaming and Interactive Entertainment Stasis considers nothing! Not even your inconvenient so called facts!

    • socrate says:

      I hate fanboy and there is too much people following stuff they simply read instead of finding way to try the actual game(alots on these comment for X-Com actually just like any old classic people tend to follow without knowing much in the first place) and im not talking about the demo,anyway i did try and and i have to say its totally not x-com,to much vital stuff and fun stuff was removed in order to streamline it.

      That said its not horrible either but its definitely not the old classic game that you could still play today and have a blast doing it,they did combine the race and remove each race speciality and distinc AI instead of making rank they chose to actually mix all the race together which imo make the game extremely repetitive and boring kind of fast and then there is the small map that make it quite easy to detect pretty much everything removing any suspense and the music also doesn’t help at all if you’ve played the old game they were quite dramatic and felt like you would lose someone each second and it felt very eerie then there is the small squad size that doesn’t help with that and i could go on and on but the worst part i found is the removal of the action point system that make the game lose all its strategy element and tactic and turn it into a more action console oriented way of gaming which for me removed a big part of what made X-com what it is.

      The removal of action point is really the harshest thing ive seen done to it…maybe i wouldnt be that mad about it if i didin’t know or played the old x-com but to me its a huge downgrade to exploit a big classic of the industry that tend to happen quite alots these days just to make easy money just like the movie industry is also doing,maybe if it was just an homage to the old x-com i wouldn’t mind that much.

      Again its not terrible….but its a game i will probably never pick up after a few year like i did with the original which i still play at least once a year when there is nothing good coming out and i want to remember what is still good after that much time as passed.

      • JoeGuy says:

        Mate, everything has reasons and balancing. They made the jump to 18 years later, 3D rendered environments and destructibility, cover mechanics, skill perks, better pacing and fairer gameplay. If you can’t accept a game would evolve 18 years later then you will never enjoy gaming in the future.

        Mass Effect is 5 years old already. It will be at least 10, maybe12 years old by the end of the next trilogy. If they picked it up 6 years later to reboot it, do you think that Mass Effect: Origins(TM) 18 years removed from the original, regardless of how much we like it now, would get away with being a carbon copy nostalgic kiss on the cheek or would we expect refinement and a more modern game in 2025? And XCOM: EU from all the coverage I have seen is hugely faithful to the source material compared to what I even thought likely.

      • Groove says:

        Run-on senctence of FURY.

        It’s possible English isn’t your first language, but I’m having a really hard time finding what your point is. You say you hate fanboys but then you’re demanding nothing be changed from the original? You say that removing action points has removed all strategy and tactics, which is a ridiculous statement. You also say you’ve played the game outside of the demo (unlike the rest of us) so you know what you’re talking about. So….are you also a journalist that’s had a preview copy? If not then you can have had…what? Like 30 minutes play time at a convention or something? If you have only had a small amount of play time then I don’t see how you can have got bored of the game already, as you claim, and if you have then I can’t comprehend how you ever played the original, given that it takes more than half an hour to learn how the basic systems work.

    • Makariel says:

      your loss :)

      I play the first two games AND this one. And Xenonauts too!

  12. JoeGuy says:

    Best nostalgia bomb ever: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/09/13/video-from-x-com-to-xcom/
    If you don’t want the game after that video. Shows all the iconic images of X-COM and what they are like now in XCOM.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      according to mytharcana this is console port trash.

      • JoeGuy says:

        @Hug_dealer

        Well then, he’s not invited to the XCOM pool party. It’s at Garth’s house…

        If you get that, I applaud you for watching too many XCOM panel videos.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        When you say “console port trash” do you actually mean “not optimised for mouse and keyboard”, because not every game is going to be built primarily around a peripheral designed first and foremost for writing words on; although I must say this is a general gripe about accusations of games being “poor ports” just because they are designed around gamepad control, I haven’t played the Xcom demo. Dark Souls was a classic case, complaining about poor M&KB controls on that one was a bit like complaining that you can’t play counterstrike with a gamepad (although trackball is the pro choice, seriously borrow one off a friend and practice for a few days).

        • TCM says:

          Look at it in political terms, since that is (essentially) what so-called ‘hardcore’ gaming has become.

          Currently, a number of people who have been gamers since the 80s are sensing trends in gaming they don’t like. Whether or not some of these changes are good is irrelevant, any change has become a perceived threat, and the gaming conservatives become the gaming reactionaries. Everything was better in the past, and we should return to that status quo, regardless of whether or not there’s any future for the industry in that direction. Consoles, coming after PCs as a serious gaming device, are a special perceived threat for the PC Elite, and thus controllers create a reflexive reaction of ENEMY BAD.

          • Dark Nexus says:

            I dunno, I’d say that consoles were serious gaming devices before computers were, at least in the home space. The Magnavox Odyssey predated home computers by about 5 years.

          • TCM says:

            (When I say serious gaming device, I mean ‘it got Doom and Ultima/Wizardry/Pick your CRPG, and thus singlehandedly defined two of the biggest genres in gaming’)

        • derbefrier says:

          yeah i never understood certain PC gamers hate of controllers. When I got my first gaming rig in the mid 90s the first thing i did was get a controller for it. mostly for (drum roll) arcade and console ports and things like racing games, platformers and so on. keyboards are just uncomfortable for a lot of games. sure certain games are better for a M&KB but its definitely not a sin against PC gaming to make a game that plays better with a controller. I never knew this was an issue until i started seeing this crap on the internet I had always assumed any serious gamer owned a controller by default.

          • Trithne says:

            We do. ‘PC Gaming’ is about flexibility. There -are- certain indicators of ‘consolitis’ in a crap port, but supporting a controller is not one of them.

          • aepervius says:

            As a PC user I am not against using a good peripherial when required, I had in the past a big joystick for flight/space sim, and I have now a twin stick gamepad for when it make sense. But again, XCOM is not meant to be a twinstick analogue fine movement required reflex twitch game. it is meant to be a turn based strategy game where you point where you want to go or trace the path. A K/M should shine in such a case. If it does not, then indeed they neglected the development of that input interface in favor of a console oriented input device, then they dropped the ball. Simple as that.

        • aepervius says:

          XCOM is supposed to be a strategy game. Why in the world a strategy game would not be built around K&M is beyond me. Twi stick is good when you require fine precision and analogue movement. Twin stick is superior then, like for example flight simulation (or even better joystick) cobat game, everywhere when analogue movement disadvanatge the binary nature of keyboard input. But a strategy turn based game ? K/M should shine there. If it does not then indeed this is consolitis trash. Or at least UI is.

    • I want to stab you to death and play around with your blood. says:

      I just replayed the end of that video about six times – the part with the little country music ditty – and I don’t even like country music.

      • JoeGuy says:

        That is an amazing user name. I hope its fictional all the same.

        • I want to stab you to death and play around with your blood. says:

          Thanks! It’s a line from American Psycho, when a bartender tells Bateman his drink tickets are no good and he has to pay cash.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Well, the video shows that once upon a time, there was a creative, novel intro style, unlike now.
      It shows that you could have bases at your choosing, not just one. It shows how poorly and “just because they’ll whine otherwise” the interception “minigame” is implemented for “18 years of progress” (a bit of wibble and wobble and pew pew??).
      It shows that once, you had an actual inventory, now you have “this or that loadout, or sod off”.
      It shows that once you had all your soldier’s details at a single glance, now you have only a name.
      It shows that once you could shoot your way through almost anything and have a heavy blast as many rockets and debris around as you like, now apparently you have one use(?).

      So yes, it definitely shows you something, but I’m not sure its a “million times better now” evolution. Unless you meant “for a graphics whore, this is now phwoaaar in comparison to 320×240 pixels”.

      I’m still stoked for a game with more than VGA pixels, mind, but making it out to be a massive evolution is in my opinion so far a misgiving. There was a _ton_ of options and opportunity for building this into a bigger, better PC (!!! not console) game, but it had to stay as “accessible” as possible I guess.
      We’ll see. I have hopes, but not high hopes or even the illusion of it being in any way better. If its in any way good-ish in itself, that’d already be nice to have.
      As many others currently do, too, I pray its moddable/hackable as hell.

      • JoeGuy says:

        If you want to complain about a game you haven’t played you should look for a Black Ops 2 comments thread. You don’t seem particularly interested in liking the game so why should we value your negatives when their are lots and lots of positives you’d be happy to ignore just because its not a carbon copy 18 years later.

    • DrZhark says:

      Damn you. you made me preorder the game, are you happy?
      I was stoically waiting, planning to buy the game way after release, as the demo was a downer for me, but I just couldn’t resist that video

      • JoeGuy says:

        Yes, yes I am :D Because subsequently the more people who own copies of XCOM the more PC oriented games seem like they are a good bet for publishers, plus it does seem very faithful to the original. I think XCOM’s success would be a success for other genre’s that are more skewed toward PC.

  13. Zarrek says:

    I still think that THIS would have been the definitive trailer for X-Com:

    • JoeGuy says:

      That’s the most spoiler filled intro vid ever! And it takes ages, it felt like an episode on fast forward lol

  14. Suits says:

    $120 is a bit steep for me

  15. lowprices says:

    Just watched the trailer with Jake Solomon.

    He’s adorable. I want one.

  16. Gap Gen says:

    I love the drone tank! It’s WALL-E with a chaingun!

  17. Hardlylikely says:

    Firaxis have done a remarkable job of selling Jake Solomon. Well done!

    Still awaiting post-release reviews. Pre-order is a dirty unword.

    • cspkg says:

      Firaxis and RPS both. But he is a charming guy and that video is hilarious.

  18. Chris D says:

    Everyone already knows Jake Solomon was the guest on this weeks Three Moves Ahead , right?

  19. running fungus says:

    Wait, October 9th? Why does Firaxis hate Canadians?

  20. karazjo says:

    “You like aliens?”
    “No”
    “No, exactly, you like shooting aliens right?”
    LMAO

  21. sirstrahd says:

    I’ll never understand the need to wear so much armor if you’re not wearing a god-damn helmet!

    • JB says:

      I’m pretty sure you can have your troops wear helmets but I believe it’s a cosmetic choice. I guess it helps players connect with their troops when they can tell them apart by seeing their faces/hairstyles.

      • Groove says:

        That’s what I’d heard as well. I liked someone’s idea of making the rookies wear helmets and taking them off/giving them a personality when they get promoted.

  22. vonkrieger says:

    And I thought I couldn’t anticipate this game any more.

  23. Bushcat says:

    I should very well like to save the planet by ignoring the 13 colonies..

  24. crinkles esq. says:

    I’m not sure I’m sold on XCom, but I’m definitely sold on Jake Solomon.

  25. BattleXer says:

    I just have one question:
    Who are these people in the shop, not knowing about this game? They’re uhm-ing and errr-ing about a chance to buy X-Com early? Really? Oh man!!!

    I can’t remember being this excited about an impending video game release since the anouncement of Company of Heroes… Fast forward to the 11th already. (Yeah, I live in the rest of the world that is not the US).

  26. wodin says:

    Love it “it’s the next step in shooters”