The Fifth Column: Waiter, There Is A Spoiler In My Soup!
The video game industry has developed into a multi-billion dollar business over the last few years. Like any successful business, a good marketing campaign is critical to its success. In recent times it seems that the marketing juggernaut has taken on a life of its own with an excess of screenshots and trailers being released well ahead of the actual game’s release date.
I like a good screenshot as much as the next person, I will even watch the odd teaser-trailer but I really don’t want to know about every character, each new weapon as well as game mode in its finest detail. However, none of these is as bad as the gameplay trailers which have become more and more popular in recent times. Do we really need to watch a ten minute video of someone playing a game, that we really wish we could be playing? I think not.
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Two games which I have been keeping a fairly close eye on are Gears of War Judgment and Metro Last Light. Gears of War is a series that I have followed since its inception. But despite this I was not too keen on jumping into the latest addition to the series. It somehow felt too soon after Gears 3 and I felt like I needed a break from the franchise. The Gears marketing machine, understandably, did not share my concerns and kicked off with a teaser trailer in June 2012 and gradually gathered momentum, with routine media updates up until the day of release. In the intervening months prior to its release you could learn about the new story, game modes and weapons. There was so much media released that I really ended up wanting to know less, rather than more about the latest Gears installment.
A good game marketing campaign should pique your interest, with enough detail to make you want more. The media avalanche which has accompanied recent game releases, really has me wanting less. With Gears, I instituted a media embargo after watching the first teaser trailer. If I was going to drop a few hundred rand on the game, I really wanted to maximise my return by knowing as little as possible about the story, weapons and gameplay. So far my embargo is intact and I don’t think that I have really missed out on any crucial information. I do know that Baird is the lead character, the story is a prequel of sorts and that there have been a few changes made to the multiplayer modes. This really is sufficient information for me to make up my mind about the purchase. I would probably be keen to know a lot more about the game if I did not intend to buy it.
The other game that I am following is Metro Last Light. Their take on the game trailer has been slightly different in that they have released a series of live action trailers in addition to the standard pre-rendered game trailers. The advantage of this is that the live action trailers are able to convey information about the game without actually showing any in-game footage. I also find that the live action trailers provide an immediacy and add a heightened sense of realism to the game which the standard format trailers really can’t match.The other advantage of the live action trailer is that you can still follow updated information about a prospective game without having to worry about learning too much detailed information about the game play and/or campaign storyline.
I know that I am not compelled to view any of the screenshots or watch the trailers, but given the volume of information that is released, it is very easy to stumble upon more information than you really wanted to know about a much anticipated game. If the marketing department is going to spend so much time on generating material, why can’t they do something useful like create a demo, preferably multiplayer and release it shortly before the game lands in store.
The marketing campaign is a critical part of ensuring the success of a newly released game. But the sheer volume of information which is generated prior to a game’s release really has the potential of creating a cacophony of marketing buzz which a potential buyer may be all too keen to tune out. The less is more approach definitely works for me and creativity is king. With this in mind perhaps we can campaign for more live action trailers and fewer gameplay trailers and screenshot dumps. Oh yes, and that demo thing that I mentioned earlier. I know it’s a long shot, but a gamer can dream right?