Life, The Universe And Gaming: A Game Is As Successful As Its Trailers
So, how’s that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looking hey? We’ve only seen a reveal trailer yet so we should definitely wait for gameplay first but it looks pretty sweet, doesn’t it? It’s got futuristic but believable warfare, it’s got wall-crawling Spider-Man style, and it’s got Kevin Spacey doing his Frank Underwood thing — how could it fail?!
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It bloody well ought to, because this has been the song of a fair amount of gamers since Activision revealed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, just over a week ago. Of course there have also been the usual crew of naysayers who would look at anything with the words “Call”, “of” and “Duty” and immediately write it off as a failure, with all the cynicism of an old man whose penis has started to fail him, not that it matters because he has aged so terribly that even paying for it won’t work anymore. He also cannot afford to pay for it. Basically, a lot of cynicism. But for every cynic there is a fan of the game already, some have even talked about placing preorders, and we’ve not even seen any actual gameplay for it yet.
In last week’s
shameless self-promotion podcast we discussed the new Call of Duty trailer and what it could mean for the series now that it has finally taken steps towards next-gen, which I guess is now considered current gen, which means I’m lagging behind with my Xbox 360 and hopes and dreams. Immediately following the trailer’s release on Friday morning, I put out an opinion piece, and in the podcast I echoed the sentiments expressed in that piece; that a reliance on Kevin Spacey to carry plot might actually occur and that would mean most of our really great moments in Advanced Warfare might come in the way of passive cutscenes, while the rest of the game would end up looking like a graphically superior Black Ops II with some minor modifications to the formula.
Cue the defence force. Immediately this opinion was taken to task and it became apparent that people are more optimistic than is typical for a Call of Duty title, at least, more than they were for Ghosts. And Ghosts didn’t even actually look that bad; it just didn’t look particularly splendid either. Mind you, I’ve not played it yet and I don’t feel a burning desire to do so. However review scores for Ghosts were about as average as the reception to each trailer.
And it was that upon which I based my argument in the podcast discussion, that most games are only really as successful as their trailers and gamers rarely ever need more in order to make up their minds about a game. Shall I elaborate? Thought you’d never ask.
Consider if you will, how many times you saw trailers for a game and immediately knew how excited or indifferent you would be about that game. Now consider how many times the final product proved at all surprising or different to what you thought you would feel for the game when it released. Not too much of a difference, nine out of ten times, is there?
Your mind was made up from the moment you saw trailers for the game.
As far back as I can recall, it has almost always worked this way. Sure there have been exceptions, the likes of Aliens: Colonial Marines (but I think it’s fair to call this outright travesty an anomaly given the lies the trailers told) and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag; the latter looked positively drab in trailers and the final product completely outdid itself. But for the most part… Dead Space 3 trailers looked average at best with human enemies, and failed to inspire. The final product looked average at best with human enemies, and failed to inspire. The Last of Us trailers filled us with awe and wonder at a desolate post-apocalyptic world and a compelling relationship between two characters. The Last of Us game filled us with awe and wonder at a desolate post-apocalyptic world and a compelling relationship between two characters.
And shitty stealth AI. Grand Theft Auto V trailers brought the internet to a standstill. Grand Theft Auto V’s final release brought the world to a standstill.
And the list goes on.
It’s only really in those anomalous games where significant changes have been made from the trailers to the final product that this comparison starts to break down, and immediately BioShock: Infinite comes to the fore with this. The trailers showed one world, the game showed another. Neither was particularly underwhelming but the mix of expectations versus reality was a bit too much for some.
For the most part, however, one might be able to create a hypothesis based on the reception of a game’s initial trailers: If the game receives massive amounts of hype and positive response when its first few trailers are out, it will receive massive amounts of hype and positive response when the final product is out.
Underwhelming trailers and the final product tends to also be underwhelming.
Whether this is a commentary on the mental state of gamers or not, I’ll leave for you to decide, but I definitely think that it’s a point of consideration when Call of Duty: Advanced Warfighter has only shown us glimpses of what we’ve seen before — not unlike previous Call of Duty titles in fairness — and House of Cards, and been hailed as something not just to look forward to, but deserving of a six-month-early preorder. I don’t begrudge Sledgehammer for this because that trailer did look quite impressive, but I must reiterate that this is a game that was announced with a press release that shamelessly stated as a feature, a three-year development cycle. I’ve never been one of those Call of Duty naysayers but even I popped an eyebrow upwards at that one.
With all of this said and done, I’d like to hear from you in the comments what you think about my theory. And with Watch_Dogs coming, let’s look towards review scores to see if the hypothesis holds true. Initially, the game’s first few trailers received massive hype and an overwhelmingly positive response. Since then things got shakier, with inferior console versions shown to the world and questions raised over the variety of gameplay. Should reviews be overwhelmingly positive, will my point have been made? My hypothesis would at least hold.
Let’s wait and see, shall we?