Marketed Art — E3 Game Trailers

With the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018 right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to take an in depth look at how games are marketed at the premiere game industry event. This year’s E3 is expected to bring awesome new video game content into consumer’s range of sight. With 2018 being a jam packed year for games, it would make sense that we might see some long awaited gameplay, demos, and new announcements.

So to get ready for this year’s E3 I’ve decided to take a look at how some game companies hype up their newly announced games, as well as what marketing strategies and rhetoric they use.

To start it off, let’s have a look at one of 2018s most anticipated releases Marvel’s Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games.

Marvel’s Spider-Man E3 2016 Trailer

This E3 2016 Trailer gave players a taste of the new Spider-Man game. It teased some enemies, some cinematic-gameplay, and ultimately left the audience wanting more details about this new game.

Fast forward a year:

Marvel’s Spider-Man E3 2017 Trailer

The E3 2017 Trailer, gave players what they had been looking forward to ever since the game was announced: gameplay. The trailer expands on everything that the previous 2016 trailer showed. We got a better understanding of Spidey’s personality, the demons, and how an ‘average’ mission would play out in the game.

The demo starts off with those cinematic views the first trailer promised, and within the first minute of gameplay, you can see the distinct cinematic and satisfying moves the player can pull off. Fast forward to the big fight scenes, the narrative cutscenes, and the signature Spider-Man web-slinging from building to building, and the IP of Marvel’s Spider-Man is upheld in every regard. Coupled with some quick one liners, and some story advancement, this trailer delivers an amazing E3 experience, one that is reflective of the game to be released later this year.

Now let’s take a look at a similar technique used for another E3 2016–2017 game debut. Only this time, the new game announcement doesn’t rely on years of an already existing IP like Spider-Man.

Days Gone E3 2016 Trailer

Days Gone’s announcement tries to get the viewer interested in the game’s unique setting and characters in this open-world action-adventure game set right after a global pandemic. It’s a two minute narration of the main character talking about what his experience has been watching the world suffer, and having to walk the broken road of the world, while dealing with all that he’s lost.

It is a pretty good trailer, but for me it lacks substance. While it is unfair to say that compared to Spider-Man’s reveal trailer I felt much more attached to all the cool cinematic abilities Spider-Man can do, Days Gone hopes to intrigue players with it’s exposition, without clearly showing what the player will actually be doing. But maybe that is just what they were going for in their announcement trailer…

Again, fast forward a year:

Days Gone E3 2017 Trailer

This trailer provides that missing gameplay substance that was absent from the 2016 trailer. Like the Spider-Man 2017 trailer, Days Gone offers a one-off mission about what it’s like living as a scavenger in this zombie ridden world.

Without going too in-depth, I think this one year announcement, next year gameplay trailer marketing strategy worked really well for these two games. What made both of them work so well was their reliance on cinematography, and getting the announcement trailer, the gameplay trailer, and the in-game cutscenes to feel so good to watch.

Now let’s look at some game trailers that differ from this formula.

The most obvious and successful being Nintendo’s E3 2017 surprise Super Mario Odyssey.

Super Mario Odyssey E3 2017 Trailer

Nintendo has been known lately for breaking conventional game industry rules in an attempt to differentiate themselves as a more ‘fun’ ‘toy’ company. I have always been a fan of the announcement trailer showing actual gameplay, but Nintendo tops this by not only revealing their mascot flagship game for their new console, but by showing a release date that at the time wasn’t even six months away! All in all a great experience for every game connoisseur.

But enough of these, big budget AAA games, let’s have a look at how indie studios get their game in the spotlight. Many games don’t get the luxury of filling a premiere game company sponsored press conference at the event. However, game companies have over the years made montages including short gameplay snippets of many upcoming smaller games.

Ooblets is a game that had an Xbox Conference reveal at E3 2017. The developer Glumberland has never released a game prior to their debut title Ooblets.

Ooblets E3 2017 Trailer

Ooblets was one of many games that exhibited at the Xbox show. From the few conferences I’ve been to as a developer: any time you can demo and have people play your game generates interest in it and provides a good time.

On a rare occurrence, indie games do receive prime time in the spotlight, like how No Man’s Sky partnered with Sony at E3 2014 to bring the game to a huge audience.

No Man’s Sky E3 2014 Trailer

Following the trend of teaser / announcement trailer, and then having a more gameplay focused trailer a year later, No Man’s Sky also appeared at E3 the following year.

No Man’s Sky E3 2015 Demo

The demo was a major success. Demo’ing a believable game live at the conference is a great experience for players and developers alike to witness. Unfortunately as we all might know, No Man’s Sky’s reception during release was incredibly mixed. As great as a procedurally generated universe sounds, unique and interesting gameplay is what keeps players around for the sequel! But hey, Hello Games is still developing the gameplay, so in the future, maybe we will get our amazing universe to play in!

No Man’s Sky Meme

Have a great E3 everyone!

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Joshua Gad

Game Designer with a Bachelor of Science. I talk about techno life and design ethics while I make games.