Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Purpose of CGI Trailers

I absolutely love a well made trailer.  Whether it was made for a video game or movie, I admire the skill it takes to create a hook and throw it out and catch someone so deeply, so impulsively that they reel themselves in.  It's an art form, and the artist must know their craft to be successful.

I was starting to create this article, and I began to "google" how much it actually costs to create a CGI trailer, and alas, I found a thread created today discussing my very same topic over at  I confess this to you, in case you find a certain similarity in train of thought, but nevertheless it was founded independently.  The inspiration for this article actually came from a list of favorite MMO trailers from Massively.  I recalled many of them with a mixture of disdain and pleasant nostalgia.

Nearly every MMO released over the last couple of years has made them; World of Warcraft, The Secret World, Warhammer, Rift, DC Universe Online, SWTOR, even Wildstar has a trailer.  ArenaNet has decided to approach advertising in a very different form than most other games. 

You may have noticed, there's a distinct lack of any CGI trailers for Guild Wars 2.  Instead of a blitzkrieg of CGI effects in a costly show, the company chose social networks, conventions, in-game footage, stylized art, a blog, and even the betas to advertise their product.  Some of the aforementioned companies have used some of these for brief purposes, but I think Guild Wars 2 was advertised by these mediums to a far greater extent.

Players have definitely moved away from their support of CGI trailers, and their reasoning is quite sound.  These trailers are epic, they are grand in scale, and devastatingly beautiful.  However, they almost never provide greater insight into the game, and are almost always deceitful in nature.  They are used to lure you with all of the false expectations and lost hopes of a Justin Bieber fan.  (I actually had to look up his name to ensure that I spelled it right...xD)  Many have even argued that the large amount of money spent on these advertisements, could be spent to improve the real product instead.

I agree with the majority opinion in this case.  However, if companies changed their agenda, and changed the purpose of the trailers to something different, they still might be worth it.  Instead of using them to sell your game, you use them as a reward to your players.  You don't leak them to the media, you let people discover them in-game after major accomplishments.  Sure, the first round of players will place your trailers on Youtube the moment they discover them.  By changing when and why you do it, the current of opinion merges with your own.

Instead of the backwards momentum of player angst over deceitful advertising, you change it.  You turn the momentum of the river back on itself, to forward your progress.  The players start to do the advertising for you, and the shear amount of joy for discovery bolsters your results.  The company is seen as a hero, one that fights for the players, rather than the one that appears to steal your money.

You keep your cards close, your gems locked away until the moment is right.  And then you play your hand.  With any luck, you change the game.  You change the way it's viewed by players.  You don't actually divert from your intended goal, but you transform the opinions of your players.

The MMO industry is above anything else, a service.  The company that shows everything in the beginning, fizzles out and begins to die early.  The ones that stay around are often because the people who created them are far smarter than the rest of the crowd.  They are the masters of both deception and reward, and they certainly know how to play you.  The next time you see a CGI trailer, instead of asking yourself was it good, or even whether it was worth the money, ask why they are showing it to you. You might find an interesting answer.


  1. I've heard rumors of a GW2 trailer being seen in theaters the past week, presumably one we've seen. With a game that looks as good as GW2, you don't need CGI to make it look like it's something it's not.

    I'm still bitter about blood elves in WoW, namely the armor - not even the box art was an accurate depiction.

    1. you mean how the ingame armor didnt match the cool magi funk look of the trailers? or something else?