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Why Cinematic Trailers Shown At Gaming Presentations Negatively Impact Fans’ Experience

Why Cinematic Trailers Shown At Gaming Presentations Negatively Impact Fans’ Experience

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been noticing a lot of trailers don’t have any actual gameplay to show, specifically during E3 and gamescom. So that begs the question, why are companies so focused on using cinematics in their advertisements? When did those become the norm in the video game world? Does this lead to developers being dishonest? Let’s answer those questions and discuss why using cinematics is not a good idea for commercials.

In the late 1970s, families were the primary target for advertisements as gaming was in its infancy. In the 1990s, the “Play it Loud” mentality sprung up. Flash forward a decade or so later, and games were capable of being cinematic, having complex systems and exciting gameplay mechanics. The world became more connected, and demo discs paved the way for trailers to appear on the internet, it led us to where we are today.

However, it feels like every AAA game that we see that is a few years from release doesn’t have any gameplay to show, and forces the developer to tell us a half-truth. I’m tired of companies doing this, announcing their games too early so they have to cobble something together. With Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red promised features and didn’t deliver. Don’t be afraid to say things like, “footage not final” or “this is an early build product might change”, these phrases can help temper fans’ expectations.


Now it’s time to pick on Sony and Microsoft. There is a reason why the Xbox is almost always in third place. The Xbox team promises over 60 games at its conferences, saying it has the most diverse lineup in its history. More than half of which are just cinematic trailers, as seen with Starfield and Scalebound. PlayStation is guilty of this too; it fares better than Microsoft because of the God Of War trailer at E3 2016, but it didn’t focus enough on Persona 5 or Gravity Rush 2. Instead, those two games were only given a few seconds of airtime, with the more Western-focused titles getting the limelight. This decision hampered the amount of variety in the show, which I guess you could say about PlayStation as a whole.

Nintendo is a little different as it likes to let games sit in the oven for as long as possible. For example, the trailer for the sequel to The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was only about a minute and a half, but it still gave fans plenty to chew on and even raised more questions than answers. All these companies have problems, but at least Nintendo and PlayStation are reliable.

Let me take you back to a specific example. The Uncharted 2 E3 2009 trailer is a great trailer for one of the best shooters ever. It starts with a wide-angle shot of Nathan Drake walking through the snow with a train in the background. Then, there are more wide-angle shots of the game’s locales. The editors then used asynchronism to raise the intensity level. Following this, the editors used a technique called “cutting on action” so the viewer would feel the excitement of each shot. Later, the editors used marketing lingo to ensure people would buy the game. Lastly, a long shot of the train from the beginning, then fade to black, title screen and console logo. The best part about all of this is that there was no embellishment. Every shot in this trailer is actual gameplay; there wasn’t a single cinematic. More companies need to do this.


Some of you reading this may be thinking, what’s the big deal? Everything I’ve said here is subjective, but ask yourself, do you remember the initial Super Mario Odyssey trailer? The Breath of the Wild trailer from 2016? The Smash Ultimate Everyone Is Here trailer? Isn’t it time to leave cinematic trailers behind? Or should the Call of Duty ads that are more movies than gaming trailers stick around? I don’t think they should, but maybe if we devise a plan, we can find a solution.

I want less of a focus on misleading consumers and for developers to be honest about their products. I feel like there is an expectation in the industry that is always looking for the next big thing. If we just relax and stop demanding the next giant technological leap, events like E3 and gamescom wouldn’t feel so artificial. That doesn’t apply to everyone. Indie developers are the complete opposite because they have no other choice. Their restraint forces them to be upfront about everything, which is a good thing. I’ll also admit that in this capitalist world driven by trends and social media, it might be impossible for this pipe dream of mine to become a reality. I just wish big companies would stop lying to the very people who love and support them.

Jon Wilson

Jon Wilson

Staff Writer

Lover of dogs, video games, and Fall.

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