Gamer Mondays: Ads for Future Ads

September 23, 2013 | By | 1 Comment

As a business, video games present a giant risk for both publishers and consumers. While we may dislike the possibility of plunking down sixty bucks on a game we end up disliking, though, the greater risk falls on game companies — no one wants to pour millions of dollars into a sales bust, even if it becomes a critical darling. As such, they must market their games intelligently.

A method that’s proven effective over the course of this past console cycle is the teaser trailer, where companies give us a nice little heads up that some cool info is just around the bend. Huzzah!…except that the publisher is really just begging us to think about their game for more than the length of the video they need to shill.

We’ve seen it before, and it won’t let up anytime soon: A single image, a video under a minute long, or a flustered executive asking us to please (please!) be excited for their upcoming games. One fairly recent example was Warner Bros. teasing a new trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins back in May. They released a 41-second teaser, of which only 10 seconds were dedicated to showing Batman fighting Deathstroke; the rest was all logos and release date information. Having to wait four days for the full thing wasn’t even the worst part — they wanted us to return to their Facebook page (LIKE LIKE LIKE) to do so. All for a prerendered video that used zero gameplay footage.

Sometimes you’ll see trailers for something promising, only to get the rug pulled out from under you. As a fan of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I was excited to post the trailer for The Fall. Not only did it end up being an iOS game — we don’t cover mobile games here on Stealthy Box — but I personally can’t stand to play first-person shooters on a touchscreen-only device. Everything about the full reveal made feel like I was played for a sap.

Not even the savviest companies are immune to the practice. As of this writing, Valve just started a three-part reveal that will take course over this week. Today they announced SteamOS, with a second announcement coming in two days and a final announcement two days after that. No one doubts Valve’s ability to innovate, but plenty of people are still confused. Why leave open a week-long window for misinformation to spread when you could squash it from the start? It’s unsurprising that they want to build hype, but they’re Valve — people would be jazzed either way.

These teasers are advertising, of course, but not for their respective games. They’re ads for full trailers and social media pages, and we happily play along for a longer look at the games that we want to play. When did we become so easy to manipulate?

Think about the times that you’ve a publisher’s Facebook or Twitter page tell you that it’ll release more promotional screens or videos when it reaches a high enough number of Likes or follows — it’s an empty threat. Can you imagine a reality in which a marketing department refuses to show off the game because not enough people clicked on a button? They’d be fired in a heartbeat.

Sadly, we’re unlikely to see this practice change. News sites will always post teasers because they get traffic, and people will continue to like and follow corporate accounts to get another hit of the new hotness. We have to stop lapping up every little thing that publishers feed us and tell them to get back when they actually have news to give us.