The below video is a trailer for the recently-released game Prototype 2.
Have you seen this shit? More and more we’ve been seeing big games opt for extravagant live action commercials for their TV spots. Rather than trying to sell you the game based on, you know, the gameplay, many publishers have decided that this would somehow be a more accurate representation of what you’ll be buying. I have to admit, some of them are pretty damn cool. Sometimes they end up looking better than a lot of actual movies. But it’s gotten to a point where things have started getting out of hand.
As marketing budgets have increased, a general shift toward more cinematic-heavy advertisement has become pretty apparent. People are being sold products with minimal exposure to what they are actually like. It’s not false advertising exactly, but it’s shifty behavior at least on the industry’s part. Would you advertise your movie by putting on a rock opera version of it? As amusing as that might be, it would probably leave some people a little confused or let down after going to see the real thing. A game is something that you are primarily meant to play, not watch, or so I’ve been led to believe. If you want to sell me a movie, show me some highlights of the best parts, the parts that I’m going to be most excited to see. When I buy a new game, chances are I didn’t buy it because I can’t wait to see some more of that one cutscene.
TV advertisements are an important part of any successful marketing campaign of course, and they’ve become more and more useful as a tool to sell to potential customers as gaming has become more mainstream. Competing with movie trailers, which are often big and flashy, there’s certainly a lot of pressure to produce commercials that will catch your eye, but this can be done without resorting to just aping movies. It’s pretty bad when the only way I can tell that the commercial I’m watching is for a video game is that five second logo flash at the very end.
As I see these strange, out of place sensibilities show up all over the place, I get a sneaking suspicion about where they come from. Sometimes I wonder if the people behind these commercials would rather be working in some other medium. Are games becoming more like movies because the games industry has become the official dumping ground for failed Hollywood types? After all this crazy growth and innovation we’ve seen in recent times, do games really garner no more respect than Syfy Channel movies of the week?
Nintendo gets it right… most of the time anyway. Look at the recent TV spot for Kid Icarus: Uprising. You’ve got a short bit of cinematic to serve as the eye catcher, then into, and stay with me on this, REAL LIVE ACTUAL GAMEPLAY FOOTAGE! Boss fights, rail shooting segments, all sorts of cool special effects, and this is all stuff that you will actually see if you buy the game they’ve just shown you. They’re even nice enough to show you a 3DS so you know what you’d need to play it. In a little over thirty seconds I have a rough idea of what this game is about and whether or not it is something that will appeal to me. If I want more information, I’ll probably think to hit the internet.
Trying to sell a game based on anything other than its gameplay suggests that you don’t consider it the strong point of what you are selling, that you have to throw up something big, distracting and tangentially related to make people pay attention. Showing no gameplay footage whatsoever leaves someone unacquainted with the game in question with nothing to go on other than the emotions evoked by that commercial, and the people who make these things know this. Using Johnny Cash in that Prototype 2 commercial screams “you should feel sad now”; it’s cheating. Without relying on that music the trailer fails to produce any sort of feeling in the viewer. The shots are weird, the cuts are chaotic, the acting is cheesy, the choice of actors to play Alex Mercer is… questionable, and the effects turn cartoonish by the end. Set that trailer to Yakety Sax and suddenly you’re laughing your ass off.
Now excuse me while I go draft some lyrics for my rock opera version of Avengers. Shit’s gonna blow your mind.