One of the most common--and cost-effective--marketing tactics employed by game companies is the so-called "drip campaign." As perhaps most famously seen during hype tsunamis prior to the Halo 2 and the Xbox 360 launches, the method calls for the gradual release of small hints about a big-name game property. The steady stream of informational bread crumbs leaves fans of said property hungry for any news about the game or console in question, leading them to seek it out on their own--instead of having to be told about it with expensive ads.
For those eager for more news about the next Metal Gear game, the drip campaign currently being orchestrated by Konami must feel like water torture. As Xbox 360 Metal Gear Solid rumors swirled on May 13, the financially conflicted publisher teased a May 18 announcement in a two-page advertisement in Famitsu, Japan's top gaming magazine.
When May 18 rolled around, though, the teaser site revealed a countdown clock ending at 6 p.m. PDT on May 21. Given that the teaser site bore the fox logo of Kojima Productions and what looked like the number "5," speculation that a Metal Gear Solid 5 announcement was imminent went through the roof.
The fact that series creator Hideo Kojima himself hinted at a "Next MGS" in the final slide of his 2009 Game Developers Conference presentation only provided more fuel for the rumor firestorm. Said conflagration had buckets of metaphorical kerosene flung upon it this afternoon, when word came that a "new Metal Gear" game would shortly be announced for a PlayStation platform.
This evening, though, those awaiting a Big Announcement about a new MGS title were left wanting. At the appointed hour, the teaser site gave way to...another countdown, ending at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26--the day after the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the US. The background for the site also changed slightly, going from a field of dead grass under a cloudy sky to a wet field of damper dead grass under a rainy sky with the odd lightning strike.
Requests sent to Konami asking about whether this was the last countdown had not been answered as of press time.
[UPDATE] Over the course of the evening, the site began teasing the letter "E" and the number "3" after lightning strikes, raising suspicions that Konami will make an announcement at the June 2-4 Electronic Entertainment Expo. On Thursday, the publisher announced that its own E3 press conference will be held at 3 p.m. on Wednesday June 3. (GameSpot will cover the event live.) The site is also flashing the letter "S" and the number "5," sustaining speculation of an MGS5 reveal, as well as the number "9" and a lowercase "e"--which could also be the Japanese character for "snake."