Why So Serious Video Game Trailers?

With Halo Reach right around the corner, Microsoft is in full-assault mode with their advertising campaign. Much like Halo 3, Microsoft is taking the route of live-action television spots rather than showing off the sweet sweet gameplay. While it definitely worked for boosting the popularity of the behemoth known as Halo 3, it now seems that these live-action trailers are being used as an industry norm for advertisement. While these trailers remain mostly faithful to their video game counterpart, are they really showing what matters? The gameplay?

For better or for worse, video game trailers have mostly remained as a mindless TV spot to satisfy the needs of the consumers. A TV spot that kept a mostly-constant reliability of showing off exactly what made the game fun (touch ups aside) the gameplay. Whether it be a horrendous 80’s Zelda Rap or Metroid’s FPS debut, these trailers always managed to let gamers know what they were getting themselves into by showing glimpses of in-game action, while also throwing in real life actors from time to time to add a different layer to the commercial.

In the past two weeks, instead of being shown gameplay gamers and consumers have been served two more live-action trailers for both Metroid: Other M and Resistance 3. Why yes, live-action video game commercials are nothing new, but the recent influx of these commercials seems to be a sure sign of things to come. Something that myself would prefer to avoid. While the cinematography is beautiful, it feels like there’s something missing, perhaps the actual product?

When I watch a commercial I expect to be made wanting the product, something that video game trailers have managed to do since my childhood. Now it seems like the industry has moved away from showing us what their product is and instead given us somewhat of a placeholder for what to expect. Nothing can be known about these games other than perhaps a little taste of the story, and while this is an important aspect of modern games, it seems a rather deceptive to avoid the actual gameplay.

Does it push game sales? Of course it does. But it’s not a good way to show the consumer just what it is you’re marketing unless they’re already in the gaming loop. Marketing is always somewhat deceitful, the purpose isn’t to raise doubts in the consumer, but when it means ignoring what it is you’re actually selling it becomes a bit of an issue for me. Please, feel free to make more commercials like these, they’re incredible, but make sure you get a little glimpse of the game in there. Just to wet my gaming appetite a little more.

These commercials are definitely a new route for the industry and I don’t see them changing anytime soon, especially with it’s wider market. But please, make sure you’re not losing sight of why we actually buy your games.

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One Response to Why So Serious Video Game Trailers?

  1. Bradley says:

    In my eyes, games now-a-days that use live-action spots in advertising are simply appealing to the gamers that have at least a slight interest in the game, by now, every gamer knows what halo is, and more than three fourths of those gamers have played halo, so they know what to expect. To me it just seems like eye-candy to get those that love the franchise amped up for the release.

    I write this as I pause my campaign game of Halo:Reach.

    This game is AWESOME.

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