Successful Game Trailers: The Secrets to Adverts

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Game trailers are typically one of the first points of contact between game studios and buyers. This means that they may never even have heard about your game until now.

And first impressions count.

If they are not impressed by what they see then they won't bother to follow it up in the future.

There are a number of Marketing Strategies that game creators have to consider in order to make their game as popular as it can be by the time of its release:

  • Keep people on their toes with screen grabs and concept art on social media
  • Any Merchandise they want to sell pre and post release
  • Physical adverts in Magazines and on Poster
  • Game Trailers

We previously explored Bethesda's Marketing Strategy with Fallout 4 and why that was so beneficial for the company and the game. You can read more about that here.

Now, we are going to focus on what aspects makes a successful, attention grabbing advert without spilling too much information to the target audience.

Why do you need a good trailer?

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The benefits that a trailer can give you immense. And here's why:

It's the best insight your audience is going to receive as your game is in development.

Concept art is great and so is information about the story but trailers deliver key material on characters, game physics, level design and so much more integral parts of the game that capture the audience.

Without the trailer, it will be a lot more difficult for players to understand what your game is about and why they should look forward to it.

The Graphic above gives the simple steps in which a trailer can better your popularity:

  • Having watched your ad, enticed enthusiasts will become more involved in watching your game develop.
  • The trailer will increase the anticipation of the game's release.
  • The more people talk and share, the bigger your fan base is. Getting these people to follow your social media accounts, check out your website and even join mailing lists will be much simpler.

A successful trailer seems pretty commonsensical right? You'd be surprised at how many people would overlook this key step in marketing their game.

Here's the bit we've all been waiting for:

The Secrets to Successful Game Trailers

We have devised a criteria which has proved necessary for creating an enticing and captivating trailer.

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Uniqueness

The first thing you have to think about when creating an advert is "What makes my game special?".

Find that key thing in your game that makes people want to buy it. If they feel that no other game has been able to give them that kind of gameplay before, they have a bigger desire to play it.

For instance, Skylanders was (and still is) insanely popular because players loved collecting the physical characters to use in the game. No other game, at the time, could offer that.

So what did they focus on in the advert? Of course, the collectable figurines.

Back in the 80s, Nintendo would focus on the fact that their consoles where playable at home simply because that was their niche. People, otherwise, could only play quality video games at the local arcade but Nintendo made video games at home possible.

Make sure to show off the feature in your game that makes you unique. 

Cinematic Quality

We mention this over and over again on our site because it's so poignant:

One of the main reasons we play games is for Escapism and a game that provides amazing graphics with realistic movement can make anyone forget about the real world.

If you can show off the level of immersiveness that your game can bring then great.

You'll know that a lot of the time, this is achieved by using animated parts in the trailer that isn't necessarily gameplay. Sometimes, people have gone to the extreme and have real life actors roleplay the game.

This can be great for demonstrating the depth and detail that can be used in the game but if it isn't similar to gameplay, then don't abuse. You should find parts of the gameplay that are just as dramatic and appealing and include those shots.

Remember: You don't always need animated, "not gameplay" footage inside your trailer.

Many indie games have proven that the scenes in their game are enough to show it off. If your game is a well-designed, well-thought out game, then it shouldn't be difficult to show this off with the gameplay footage.

Let's take a look at Inside's trailer:

The only scenes they have used are from within in the game. The shots at the beginning are just displays of their level design.

What made the trailer dramatic was its phenomenal use of sound design; these are all sounds that haunt you within the game as well as the daunting areas players are forced to walk through.

Story

The Story is what sells the game.

Okay, you might have a game with really cute n cuddly animals but if the story is about the animals eating each other then I ain't gonna buy it.

So really, the story is the cherry on top. The audience have been introduced to the world they can discover as well as all the characters they can interact with. But now it's time to introduce the characters journey, their aspirations, their challenges.

You don't have to give away a 1000 word essay on the story - that will probably spoil the game.

But you need to give hints as to why players should follow the protagonist; why they should help the protagonist complete their end goal.

You want to scratch the surface of the story and leave it to the audience to discover more about the journey. That way, you have more creativity with the trailer. If your looking to include all info about the story in the trailer, it won't give you anytime to show anything else.

A fantastic example is Blackwood Crossing

We are immediately introduced to a brother and sister. Having lost their parents (for reasons unknown to us), they are looked after by their grandparents but obviously, the big sister is the role model for her brother.

We know they're on a journey to somewhere when something strange is occurring that could be causing the brother and sister to be separated.

While giving us a quick insight into the lives and stories of the characters, we are left asking a number of questions: "Where are they going? What happened to their parents?" and so on.

The only way to find out is by playing the game. 

Music

Music is ideal for describing the atmosphere you will experience within the game.

If the game is a horror, you can expect the music to be jumpy and the chords and playing techniques on instruments to be unpleasant.

If the game is filled with fast paced fighting scenes, the music will be the complete opposite of smooth jazz. Instead, you'll hear fast and loud drums with more electro or rock instruments playing fast riffs and licks to keep up with the pace of the game.

The music purely depends on the nature of the game and it is important to pick the right one.

Listen to the music in RiME's's trailer.

The music accurately depicts the story of someone commencing a long but rewarding journey. While having to overcome problems in order to make their way, they are surrounded by a beautiful landscape which invites players to explore.

The music screams optimism to the watcher. The boy has somewhere he needs to go and is determined to get there.

Humour

This one is very much dependent on the game and what message the developers want to get across to the audience.

A game like Inside, which we saw above, definitely wouldn't suit a humorous trailer.

However, the humourous trailers can sometimes be the more memorable one.

If a game is quirky with unique actions and a humourous story, then it is definitely inline for a funny trailer.

Check out this video for BattleBlock Theatre:

This is only to announce that the game will be available on Steam yet they have captured PC Gamers perfectly.

Announcing frame rates and graphics not visible to the human eye as well as 5 simultaneous Oculus Rift Support, what PC Gamer wouldn't want to try this game!

One youtuber commented: "Looks like my computer can't run this..." due to the technology that would be required to support 1000000000p resolution.

This definitely got people talking about the game.

Even if they weren't as interested in playing it, they shared the trailer anyway just because it was funny. The developers immediately got the brand exposure they needed.

Having concentrated on the humour, there was less info about the story and objectives but that's okay as it made viewers want to find out more at the website. We were still introduced to characters, level design  and hints as to how the game is played.

In this case, there wasn't as much need to focus on the story as players had been enticed.

Speaking with Derek Lieu, Trailer Editor for BattleBlock Theater, he gave his own insight on why he believed their trailer was the success that it was:

"We think it became successful because it simultaneously shows the game’s sense of humor, and uses it to target the Steam user audience.

The trailer ostensibly makes fun of aspects of PC gaming culture, but at the same time it shows the audience that it’s in on the joke; people enjoy it when their very specific interests are acknowledged."

The humour used in the trailer particularly appeals to the target audience thanks to its relatability. Having this trailer jokingly mock PC Gaming, it made PC Gamers relate to the trailer more and want to watch. 

Derek continued:

"What really took this idea to the next level was the amazing writing, narration and audio editing by Will Stamper.
 
He took a bullet point list of ideas, and filtered it through the voice of the game’s narrator to provide the backbone that made the trailer funny and entertaining despite the fact that the gameplay isn’t featured as prominently as it is in a typical trailer."
 
If nothing else, the key takeaway is to know the audience, and have the trailer reflect the spirit of your game.

Call to Action

This is where you make your fans. 

They've just watched your trailer and are gaining interest. Some may be immediately sold on the concept however, others may need convincing.

If you want to keep them interested, you give them a call to action.

This is when you tell them to check out your website, your social media, more videos on youtube etc.

That way, they can find out all the possible information they need to know. They have the opportunity to find out:

  • A written description about the game.
  • A possible release date.
  • Info on other games you've released.
  • Awards you've won.
  • Platforms the game will be available on.
  • Plenty of screenshots.

By having a call to action, you won't have to overload the audience with information in the trailer. You can save that info for the website.

Like I said, the trailer scratches the surface of the game to create curiosity within the audience.

Here's a screenshot from the Super Mario Odyssey trailer. You can see in the description there are a number of links for you to follow the game as well as follow the developers.

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Another great thing they have done is created hashtags for people to share their enthusiasm for Mario - an excellent way to alert others and increase the level of anticipation amongst players and industry influencers.

Examples

The best example that always comes to mind for having a brilliant advert is Battlefield 1.

It ticks every box on our check list (well, except for humour) with high marks.

It proves itself as a terrifyingly realistic FPS that you would never believe is based on real events judging by how inhumane the scenes of war are.

The game throws you straight into WW1 and also teaches you about some of the fights you didn't even know happened.

We are given hints into the characters and various stories to play as well as the different weapons and vehicles available.

And the music is timed perfect with the scenes. The advert doesn't need typical horror music to make the game look horrific.

On the complete other side of the spectrum is STRAFE.


STRAFE is the 2017 FPS that allows you to "shoot hordes of things in the face" in the style of a retro, 90s video game.

That's of course why the kid is using a dinosaur of a computer in the ad. But if you think the computer is nostalgic, wait until you've seen their website.

They opted to use actors to make their advert hilarious instead of solely relying on animation and gameplay. They worked brilliantly in showing off the 90s vibes that the audience can experience - showing off their unique feature.

They equally succeeded in convincing that the game is intense. Villains so powerful they can melt the players face! (Yes, I know this is just special effects).

They hilariously used the mum to explain what the game was about so that the viewers could learn more.

They also showed off the unique feature of the game being that the levels regenerate everytime so that every experience is different - a neat feature for a "1996 video game".

The fast action pace of the game is accompanied by modern, fast paced music.

Once again, ticking every point on our checklist, STRAFE has an effective advert. And they have plenty more where that came from!

Conclusion

Having a trailer is essential to promote your game and increase your fan base. Each of the following points (except humour) are key things to think about when planning your ad.

  • Uniqueness
  • Cinematic Quality
  • Story
  • Music
  • Humour
  • Call to Action

You don't have to go into an immense amount of detail in order to complete each point; scratching the surface of some and focusing more in depth on overs will still have you achieve the trailer your game deserves.

Satisfying each point on our checklist, you'll find yourself creating a successful game trailer.



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