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Hype Train is a slang term used to describe the high level of anticipation surrounding an upcoming release of a popular media franchise or an announcement of a new project, especially for video games, movies and TV series. In the video gaming community, the term may be used in a positive light to express one’s excitement, or conversely, to convey disappointment at a product that fails to meet high expectations.
The term “Hype Train” was used as early as November 26th, 2002 on the gaming review site IGN in a review of the Japanese version of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire which wasn’t released in North America until March 2003. Author Craig Harris explained that they received advanced copies of the game to “get the hype train moving,” noting that he had trouble navigating through it as he did not speak Japanese. His review also suggests that Nintendo products “print money,” which was later popularized in the 2004 Newgrounds flash animation Decline of Video Gaming 2.
Nintendo today sent us a copy of both Japanese versions of Pokemon for the Game Boy Advance, most definitely to get the hype train moving early. But it’s not like the game’s going to need the hype, since releasing the game is, essentially, a license to print money for the company.
By March 2004, the term had expanded outside of the gaming community, as evidently seen in a reply comment on a programming-related blog post, which noted that the popularity of programming language SmallTalk in the 1970s was “derailed by the Java hype-train.” Between 2004 and 2009, “hype trains” were discussed on a number of gaming sites and forums, including IGN, Go Nintendo, Joystiq, N4G and gamrConnect. In 2010, the term was again used outside of the gaming community on Bleacher Report in an article about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Bobby Lashley.
Later that year, in December 2010, a Spanish-speaking user of the Word Reference forums sought out a clearer translation for the term “hype train” in relation to video games, however, no clear answer was provided. In February 2011, Geekosystem investigated various “hype trains” that have been referenced in video game culture, looking at the purpose of cinematic trailers that do not feature actual gameplay. In late 2012, the term was also used as the title of an independent skateboarding film produced by Zack Dowdy in conjunction with the online skateboard zine Typical Culture.