Home > newschool, video > Game trailers – friend or foe?

Game trailers – friend or foe?

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

It seems like you can’t call yourself a AAA title these days (you know what? I’m not even sure what that means, although I think we can safely rule out ‘three times as good as an ‘A’ title) unless you’ve got a massive-budget, zero-gameplay trailer to go along with it.

Like this one.

There was a lot of controversy after Dead Island’s stunning, voyeuristic look at a family’s last moments in the zombie apocalypse sent expectations of the final game skyrocketing in the wrong direction. The problem was it all focused on the failings of the game itself, with side notes questioning how such an epic mismatch in marketing tone could even have occurred. What was missing was the debate about whether or not the trailer itself, as a marketing tool, was a good (or even necessary) thing.

It was by no means the first, but its been followed by a number of high profile visual successes (notably Skyrim, SWTOR, Far Cry 3, and Mass Effect 3) – none of which gave any useful information about the games they represented. Gorgeous as they are, do they actually result in anything beyond a few minutes of excitement, some inflated expectations, and a correspondingly increased risk of disappointment and disillusionment with the finished product?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much enjoying watching them – as stand alone entertainment pieces they’re awesome – and if you’ve not seen any of the ones linked above, I’d advise you to check them out post-haste. Its just that a part of me is starting to wonder if I should be suspicious when people spend this much time and effort trying to sell me something, (and another, deeply buried part of me remembers how much another glossy trailer once resulted in sky-high expectations and subsequent heartbreak) so I’m forced to ask the question, do we need them?

Did you buy any of the above games simply because the trailer convinced you it would be awesome? I didn’t. Those I’ve bought, I would have bought without a trailer of any kind, on the merits of the game (or series, or developer) alone, whereas for those I didn’t want, no amount of well choreographed CG fighting could have tipped my hand.

More importantly, have we come to expect this kind of fan service (assuming, most generously, that that is what this is) as an integral part of the experience in the lead up to a massive blockbuster, or is it simply a necessary investment as part of creating a profitable product in an overcrowded marketplace?

Relatedly, how many of these games lived up to the expectations their clever marketeers created? I’ve got some thoughts on those I’ve played coming in a future post, but in the meantime, lets get a nice healthy flamewar happening in the comments.

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  1. February 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    beyondmarathon – I have someone I would like you to meet

    http://fateamenable.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/borderlands-2-buy-borderlands-2-all-the-time-buy-it/

    Your welcome.

  2. February 23, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Ta for introduction, pantshater 🙂

    I’m very much in favour of well-made, exciting trailers. They do exactly what you say; give me “a few minutes of excitement, [and] some inflated expectations”. These are inflated expectations I carry with me well up to release, and which give a big positive bias to my experience of the game itself. Call me easy manipulated, but massive hype leading up to a release is more than capable of enhancing my enjoyment of the game 😀 It’s almost deliberate; “I’ve been looking forward to this game for so long, making it into something in my head, that it’s damn well going to be that thing!”

    Even though I know it’s the case, as it turns out…

  3. February 23, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Ha! That whole “I’ve been looking forward to this game for so long, making it into something in my head, that it’s damn well going to be that thing!” angle is actually more powerful than I’d like to admit – at this point, I don’t think I could dislike Diablo 3, even if the entire cast of My Little Pony were patched in as compulsory companions on every quest.

    Its when you’re hoping a particular trailer will generate most of a game’s hype (I’m going to flog the Dead Island example here – again, because i’m lazy – but I’m sure there are others) that there’s enormous potential for disastrous missed expectations and angsty community feedback. (total tangent on the subject of community angst – should you decide to do a follow up to your ‘World is completely awful’ post, you need look no further than this whole Jennifer Hepler debacle. nothing will scare you more about exactly how unstable elements of the gaming community are)

    • February 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      heyyyy you said you would lay off the my little pony thing..

      • February 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

        Honestly, that doesn’t sound like something I would say.

  4. MattyMattMatt
    February 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I love a good trailer, be it for a game, movie or increasingly, a novel. Actually, love is probably not a strong enough word. The level of excitement they instill, the way they get my heart pumping….it’s probably closer to raging sex.

    In my younger days, yes, a good trailer would have raised my expectations ten-fold but thankfully i didn’t choose my games based on trailers, rather developers or universes the games were based in. Now-a-days, as trailer production qualities have reach Hollywood movie proportions, it’s become even more important to not be fooled by them, to separate them from the game somewhat and treat them just as a piece of entertainment.

    The thing with Diablo 3, Gus, is that you’ve played 1 and 2 and enjoyed them. You know what the gameplay is going to be like. You know, generally, what the story is going to involve and that’s right up your alley. Finally, it’s Blizzard – i am absolutely convinced they shit gold irl and I’m sure, so are you. They wouldn’t even have to release a trailer for their games for us to pick it up (but thankfully they do!).

    To quickly answer your questions:

    1. No. Like you, i typically buy based on developer, series, universe it’s set in, word of mouth, gameplay and so on.

    2. Yes, I have definitely come to expect them. Not only that but, depending on the developer, I’m also expecting a certain quality of trailer too. I don’t think it’ll be long before live action clips featuring “popular” actors/actresses will become the norm. As for whether they are created purely for the fans or as some marketing gimmick – i think we all know the answer to that. 😦

    3. Tricky question for me. It depends on the genre. If we’re talking games, then I like to think I’m never fooled by flashy trailers. Gaming is a serious time investment and so requires that little bit more thought before committing to a game.

    For movies though, i have to admit, it’s a completely different story. Give me a movie with so-so actors, a so-so story but a flashy trailer….yea, I’ll probably end up seeing it. haha. 🙂

    Anyway, speaking of trailers, I just watched this one. Just to be clear, I’m already getting onboard this when it comes out so this trailer has not affected by decision but DAMN, if it isn’t rad. Love the music and the language (“joy puke” lol)

    Borderlands 2: Doomsday official

  5. February 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    True words about Diablo 3 – even though the series pedigree is only 2 games long, there’s a consistent level of quality (and no real massive disasters at any point) to reinforce it, so I have no real worries there. Its definitely a balancing act for new IP/smaller developers though.

    The Borderlands 2 one is an interesting example – you can tell they know exactly what their target market is, and they’re not really going out of their way to attract anyone outside of that – I love the boldness of it, although its going to age poorly. I estimate we’ve got a cool six months or so before the term ‘WUB WUB’ goes from being stupid and irritating to stupid and irritating, but also not ‘ironically’ ‘funny’ (regardless of how you feel about the music itself). Although I found it an entertaining experience, I did start wondering exactly how many minutes of slightly different guns shooting slightly different monsters I needed to see. I’ll end up getting B2 anyway, because I enjoyed the action of the first (for about 60% of the game).

    To your point about celebrity’s in game trailers – its already been done recently by either Battlefield 3 or CoD, in that trailer that had jonah hill and sam worthington in it, so you may be right 🙂

  6. March 1, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Last update on this one, I promise 🙂 So yet another ME:3 trailer has turned up, this one all live action goodness. Again, it doesn’t tell you a lot about the gameplay, but its definitely tugging the ol’ earth patriotism heartstrings. I’m not sure if its just because I’ve spent too much time studying this evening, but I swear there are overt references to both the london riots and the vancouver riot kiss in here…

    *update. Sigh, I fail at embedding clips in comments. You’ll have to trek on over to youtube I’m afraid.

    **double update. Or do I… (victory music)

  7. March 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Ok, yet one more – and this one is off topic a bit, as its neither trailer nor game related, but THIS is how you do fan service… (its part 2 of the Hobbit location shooting teaser)

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150720773691807

    Brilliant.

  1. February 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

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