Trailers in the gaming industry are the first step in building hype for a game. Often the trailer will come out as a teaser years ahead of the actual game. Nearly every trailer features zero actual gameplay and the vast majority are done in CGI with scenes having little or nothing to do with what playing the game will actually be like. When I watch a trailer the first thing that I do is try and identify what they’re wanting to accomplish. Are they showing me what the game will be like, setting up a story, introducing characters, or simply giving me some really flashy scene to watch and drool over?
Here’s where I ask myself whether or not trailers cause more harm than good. Let’s quickly evaluate a few trailers. Some of these are going to be from past releases and some will be for future releases. We’ll be able to compare in hindsight as well as identify similar qualities in trailers for the unreleased games.
Warhammer Online Cinematic Trailer – It’s a beautiful trailer. But it’s epic for the sake of being epic. There’s nothing in here that matches what the actual game was like. Characters are behaving in ways unlike they did in-game. You don’t have Shadow warriors running on rooftops or squig herders hopping inside their squig (this was even billed a feature for a while). This trailer got people excited. It caused more harm than good.
Allods Online Trailer – Rendered with some CGI and some in-game engine. Here’s a trailer that clearly defines what will be going on in-game. You have two sides that will be battling on air ships in the astral. While the game itself may have floundered this trailer certainly did not do it any injustice. I played the game to the max level and even went into an airship. The game was like the trailer. This trailer did well by the game.
Aion “Vision” Trailer – This one starts of so well by giving players a look at how the game will ‘actually’ change. However, it then quickly degrades into showing a bunch of stuff that looks nothing and plays nothing like Aion ever played. There’s not even room for believability here. It gives people this false sense of excitement for something that will never be like what’s shown. More harm than good for sure.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Teaser Trailer – I wrote about this trailer yesterday. Here we have a story being set up in the beginning with absolutely no expectations being put onto the gameplay. When the character in plate armor begins fighting skeletons, there’s a believability to the combat. I’ve seen combat look like this in Batman Arkham Asylum and God of War. It’s CGI but I’m betting not too far off the mark from what the game will look like. They’ve left me interested in the story, knowing there’s combat, but not set up to be disappointed.
StarCraft 2 Ghosts of the Past Trailer – Not once in the entire trailer was there ANYTHING close to gameplay. SC is a RTS game! However, the entire trailer is about the story. If you played the original StarCraft and have any memory of what happened in the game then you’re already connected to the trailer because you’re connected to the story. Blizzard has a magical ability to enchant the sense with their cinematic trailers that make the movie industry look like preschool. They’re usually always about giving you a glimpse at the story to set up how you should be feeling as you go in to play. If you’ve never played SC though and you go into the game thinking you’re playing something like this trailer… I really do feel bad for you.
SWTOR “Hope” Cinematic Trailer – Bioware’s trailers for Star Wars are starting to give Blizzard some real competition. They’re absolutely gorgeous. There’s some story being told here. I’m familiar with a lot of the history and story being told about the wars between the Sith and the Republic. At the same time, this starts to fall into the same problems that Warhammer’s trailer did and a little of SC2. The SWTOR trailers are a little too epic for the sake of being epic and if you have no prior knowledge of how SWTOR plays then you’re probably in for a disappointment. We’ll see.
I could go on for hours writing here with the number of trailers out there. Trailers are supposed to get people excited but there’s definitely a line. There’s a line for the people making them where they have to consider who is watching and what they’ll be expecting after. There’s also a line for those watching to know that what you’re seeing is most likely not representative of the real thing.
Choosing whether or not trailers cause more harm than good, I would definitely conclude that they do indeed cause much more harm. Regardless of how much responsibility is on the viewer not to get excited, it happens and it happens to me all the time. I know it happens to you too because I’m not the only one buying the games that turn out nothing like the trailers.
Trailers are only a single ingredient in this enormous hype recipe, but they’re usually the first and they’re always one that appeals to the senses most. I want to see more trailers that do a better job at either telling a story or providing us with more realistic expectations.