Yes this article was orginally a post in the Gamespot forums, but i decided it would make a good journal entry, so here it is.
Reputation plays a big role in whether or not the consumer buys the game. Just look at 2004: most of the top selling games are sequels or are cookie cutter games. I think people should give something they dont know about and is a new concept a chance. Such as Grim Fandango: a game that was one of the all time best but hardly sold any copies. This was either because nobody new the game existed, or because it was a style of game that somebody without previous experance with older pc games of the same type. On the other hand some new style of games with original concepts have sold very well. Is it because of good advertising or just by word of mouth. More likely it is a combination of the two. But in my experiance it is more because of word of mouth and reputation.
True advertising helps to start the ball rolling but reputation is what carries the title into stardom. All games' populality is because everybody starts playing it, so you go to the store and but a copy to fit in. Admit i now you do it Halo became so popular (at least in my city) because if you didn't have a copy of the game you would be a loser. Halo wasnt advertised much before the game came out. Yet is was the most have (and top selling) xbox title of the year (and every year after, untill halo 2.) It is still selling a ton of copies now even though halo 2 has came out. This is because people want to experance the first game in the series before they buy the sequel(not the case with half-life 2 mind you). With halo, it became know as the only good game for xbox.(whether that is true or not)(people are now starting to realize its not).
I think the best advertising a game publisher can do is to build up the anticipation for the next big sequel. In the cases of both halo 2 and half-life 2, it helped sell copies of the first game long after it came out and long after games without a sequel do. Also, with all the anticipation, anyone who doesn't buy the new big budget sequel when it finally comes out is going to be a real loser. Nobody wants to be that right?
Such is not the case with games of multiple sequels though. Such as Final Fantasy. It has so many games in the series nobody would want to have to spend time playing all of those games that come before the new one. That is why Square has decided to stick with developing their new games with to important tie to the past games in the series. You dont have to play Final Fantasy 1-11 to understand Final Fantasy 12. Final Fantasy's success at this point in the series is more dependent on reputation. They dont need to do much advertising because everybody already has heard of the series. The challenge for square comes in getting all the people who have heard of the series but regarded it as not their style of game (rpg) and getting the fans who dropped out in the middle of the series to start playing new Final Fantasy games again.
Final Fantasy 7's success was a big part of the ps1's success. Great advertising helped sony establish the most popular console in the world. Reputation played a big role in this as well. Everybody was talking about how good the ps1 was. "If you dont get the console your a loser." "Ps1 is loads better than N64." And so on.
In short, the advertising of a game may help get the new game on the market. Or it just could be somebody picked up the game liked it and everybody gets the game because its the cool thing to do. This is most often the case whether or not the game had good advertising beforehand or not. The repuation of a game goes a long way toward people willing to buy the game and people saying the game is good(or most often the best game ever: which they've said a hundred times before).
Luckly, and the whole point of this long article, is that the game has to be good and appealing before it startes to earn a reputation. Most often the games that are the best are also the most popular and freqeuntly played ones.