To build up hype over a game, what do you think is more effective? We get them in the form of advertisements, cinematic trailers, gameplay trailers, demos (== early access [paid demo]), and other various forms of promotion.

How can a game hurt you this much? #TroyBaker you sly dog you. Worming your way into our heart just to tear it out.
How can a game hurt you this much? #TroyBaker you sly dog you. Worming your way into our heart just to tear it out.

I prefer gameplay trailers because I’m generally more interested in how a game plays, but it should depend on the game itself. Gameplay videos don’t make the most sense when you’re promoting a game with a heavy story, in which case having a strong narrative and a teaser is extremely important. Games like The Last of Us, Uncharted, Bioshock Infinite, and World of Warcraft have both gameplay and cinematic trailers, but unless we’re new to the series a gameplay trailer is unneeded. We already know the basics of the gameplay so try to draw us in with a teaser for the story. Just don’t go ham-fisting the entire story into a one-minute spot like most movie trailers today. You still want some surprises to be had when the player actually goes to play the bloody thing.

In this regard, Grand Theft Auto 5 had a very successful ad campaign because it not only created a hype-wave for the release to ride into its money pools, but because it sold the game to the player. We already knew what GTA is all about, but the changes in setting and environment, as well as the upgrades in visuals were personified in the trailers leading up to the game’s launch. It didn’t give away the multiple-protagonist storylines, the online play, the multitude of easter-eggs that are in every Rockstar Sandbox, but still piqued our sandbox instincts in imagining ourselves exploring and creating trouble in such iconic cities and landmark along the California coastline.

Other games like Mario Kart, Rayman, and Pikmin have a needless relationship to cinematic trailers. There isn’t much of a story to promote, but there is an intrigue in how fun the game will be. Being able to distance themselves from previous iterations of the game by showing what the new game has to offer is extremely important for games without a heavy story.

The idea of you was fun, but the variety was not. #CantStandTheHype
The idea of you was fun, but the variety was not. #CantStandTheHype

It’s when games don’t have a reputation yet. The player doesn’t have a clear sense of what the game is about, so having a game that encompasses both gameplay and cinematics matters. When Assassin’s Creed was announced, they first gave us a gameplay demo, which floored everybody with the possibilities of better interactive sandbox experience, but the cinematic trailer told us what the story had in store. Mirror’s Edge showed us a crystalline dystopia, but highlighted it with the free-running mechanic that thrilled our imagination with the scenarios that the game would place us with. Dishonored, like Assassin’s Creed, was highlighted with a gameplay demo around the same time as its cinematic trailer, which helped generate chatter around having a Thief-Bioshock hybrid and the type of antics that one could perform or combat that can be manipulated with the abilities that a medievalishsteampunk-Bioshock would try allow.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that no one form is better over another, though I mainly focused on cinematic and gameplay trailers, but it depends on the game and what you’re trying to get across to the potential player of the game. If the player already has an idea of the type of game you’re promoting or your game is more focused on its story, then cinematics are probably the way to go. Otherwise, a hybrid or gameplay trailer will do just fine.

It’s still baffling to see games with little information and there’s no gameplay videos to tell us what game experience we’ll have. This is more important in a medium that is selling us an experience and a challenge instead of just a story. Atmosphere, mood, tone, mechanics. Everything to help set itself apart from competitors and they choose to highlight the wrong things about many of these games.

Short and incoherent today, so sorry. Lack of sleep and writing on a plane == sloppy word spillage.


Anyways, let me know if you think that I have it all wrong, or if you want to contest anything. Maybe you think cinematics are better because you can finely tune the perceived experience since gameplay is can be too hectic to capture. Maybe you think the gameplay is all that matters because it’s a game and that’s what the highlight should always be.