E3 2016 is over and done with. It was a pretty decent few days of reveals, news and previews. Watching the reaction to each conference is always interesting. This year, more than ever, presented a question. Do people value surprise and reveals over gameplay?
We all love to be blown away with a surprise reveal. The buzz of seeing a dormant franchise or new IP appear on those big screens. Social media explodes with people’s reactions, both good and bad. But as a whole, do we place too much value in trailers over gameplay?
Kojima’s latest game, Death Stranding, showed nothing. A brief trailer covered in confusing imagery. People went mad, lapping up every second, forming theories and speculating meanings. This is down to the name attached to the game, rather than the game itself. You could feature a video of Kojima eating a apple on camera and people would hail it as the second coming.
But what about the games with less of a name behind them. Not everyone has the pulling power of Kojima, which Sony are fully aware of. A simple trailer can go two ways. It’ll either make a impact, or fade into the shadow of bigger games. When looking at trailers shown at E3, it’s key to remember of what they’re apart. Quake featured no gameplay, but the brand name is a huge part of the modern industry’s DNA.
Prey’s trailer featured no gameplay what so ever. The rebirth of the franchise was met with a curious cheer. No one is sure what the game exactly is, but the concepts shown are intriguing. Bizarrely, a large number of people said Prey ‘looked good’. All we saw was a CGI trailer comprising of no gameplay what so ever. How do we watch that and then claim it ‘looks good’. We didn’t see anything to base a definite stance on. Its trailer was simply there to reveal and entice. Prey’s not the only game to receive such a reaction.
For years now, people have exploded with joy at almost every ‘big’ reveal. It’s natural, that is the whole point of most of these reveal trailers. But does it put us on a slippery slope to disappointment? In a age where we can re-watch trailers whenever we want, as much as want, it’s easy to get engulfed in hype. Sites and Youtubers often breakdown and analyse every inch of trailers. There’s so much extracted from even the shortest of trailers.
At this point in time, what do people get from trailers, what do the expect? Is gameplay a requirement these days? A whole bunch of trailers and TV spots for games don’t even feature gameplay. It almost feels like it has become second to dramatic impact. The switch in focus only seems to affect the Triple A titles, which makes sense. They need to sell well, appealing to the biggest market they can. Quickly capturing the attention of a wide audience often requires a touch of the cinematic. Some of the most well known video game trailers don’t feature a single second of gameplay.
With the ability the go viral, most trailers almost trick the masses into expecting a film announcement rather than a video game reveal. Dead Island was a prime example of this, even if it did mislead (be it intentional or not). Gears of War’s ‘Mad World’ campaign set a trend for favouring cinematic flair over gameplay.
The Halo franchise is probably the best example of the change in trends. Initially using a fair amount of gameplay footage in the first two game’s adverts, Halo 3 was a whole different ball game. High quality, almost documentary level, adverts rolled out in masses. Each advert/trailer told a story based on the game’s lore, complete with props and brief action scenes.
The ‘Believe’ ad campaign made Halo fans weak at the knees, as well as engaging everyone else. There was a sense of wonder and mystery produced by each one and half minute spot. No gameplay what so ever, there was only world building and some top quality work. Halo 3 went on to smash records, changing how video game trailers would be produced and marketed in the process.
E3 2016 was full of trailers that showed no gameplay, and that’s no surprise. As a industry, video games have been striving to be more like film year after year, at least in the West. Is it a bad thing? That depends on who you ask and where said games are coming from. Companies have tried too hard to be cinematic, creating confusion with what their game is. Battleborn is a recent example, trying far too hard to be big and flashy, while leaving people confused. Ubisoft’s obsession with presenting ‘cinematic gameplay’ at the likes of E3 has resulted in them showing games that look nothing like they do come release.
It’s a trend that tip-toes between the line of positive and negative.