On the rare occasion that my wife and I get to go out to a movie these days, one of our favorite traditions is to “judge” film trailers in hushed voices amongst ourselves after we see each one. It’s usually just a quick “Wow, that looks cool”, or “We definitely have to see that”, or “I know it’s not out, but we need to own that movie NOW.” As far as I can tell, that kind of reaction is pretty normal among friends and couples, as we sift through trailers as an initial pass to see if we want to experience that movie or not.
What I can’t imagine is if a guy stood up during the trailers, and after each one proclaimed in a loud voice, “That’s just a trailer! It’s not the full movie! It’s just hype! Don’t buy into it! You can’t judge the movie by these three minutes! It’s probably going to suck! How dare you get excited by it!” We’d hate that guy, and he’d probably be stoned to death by raisinettes within seconds.
Yeah, dude, we’re not idiots. We’ve been around the block a few times, rented a few movies, and generally know that you can’t always judge a movie by its trailer. But does that mean a trailer is worthless? That it can’t present a sneak peek in the best possible light to make us want to see it? That I should never, ever get excited?
Spinks has a great article about how to enjoy hype over at Spinksville, and I feel that we’re pretty much in agreement here. It’s no new statement on my behalf that I like to look forward to games and enjoy the buildup to release. As she said, it’s part of the hobby, and once you start down the path of deep cynicism, you might as well just forget about ever liking a game ever again.
What I don’t get is why there needs to be an equivalent to my fictional movie trailer cynic who always posts comments in any thread that discusses a recent trailer. I don’t understand the purpose of that. Are there people out there who honestly think that we don’t realize that it is a trailer? That the company is deliberately putting their best foot forward? That we shouldn’t take everything they say as the literal truth?
I don’t get why there’s such anger toward trailers at all, or why the theme of being upset that a MMO studio is promoting their game prior to launch is churned up again and again — same story, different day. If you’ve been burned, you’ve been burned. It happens. It doesn’t mean that everything that follows is worthless, and that you should never love again. I don’t particularly buy into the vague argument that companies can promote their games, just not hype them. Seriously, where’s the line there? What constitutes hype and not hype? How do you define that, as it’s an extremely relative term that changes depending on who you talk to and how they feel about a game or the genre in general?
And I think it’s absolutely silly to get mad at companies for doing what they need to do for their game to get the best possible start. Yes, they shouldn’t make wild claims that they don’t back up in their games, and they should make a great game that’s well-tested and -polished. But it’s essential for companies to market their titles prior to launch, and it does them no good to be reserved and quiet while doing so. This isn’t just MMOs, it’s everything everywhere. If you’re not bold, if you don’t offer something different, if you don’t wow the crowd, if you don’t dangle a good deal — you might as well pack it in right now, as you’re going to fail. A great game with zero marketing is a dead game these days.
Trailers are a great part of marketing, and a welcome tradition. I think it’s fun to have someone try to get my blood pumping with heroic music, action scenes and strong quotes. I love developer podcasts and articles and interviews. Over at Massively, we know that statistically speaking, only a few games will really “succeed” in any measurable way, but that doesn’t mean we deny them the chance to make the best possible first impression by getting snarky that their trailer is “all CGI” or that a developer says something outlandish like “We want to challenge tired conventions in the industry” or “This game will be centered around a story-driven experience”.
I just don’t know what goal that guy has in mind when he (or she) stands up to tell us how silly and stupid we are for liking something as fluffy like a trailer. Maybe that we’ll all start spitting on companies for having the audacity to promote their game? Maybe that we can eventually shame companies into being completely quiet until they shyly release a title and then stand back so that we can judge it without any preconceptions?
You got me, brother. I’m at a loss here.