Don’t offend your audience with your game’s trailer. This shouldn’t need to be said; but Mighty No. 9’s latest trailer forces the issue. It has over ten thousand dislikes—and for good reason. Take a gander:
Don’t insult the things your audience loves
“Make the bad guys cry like an anime fan on prom night,” will go down in history as the worst line of video game advertising ever used. A top YouTube commenter calls-out this line and has over 1200 likes for addressing how cringe-worthy this line is. Considering how close Mega Man fandom ties to anime, it’s unbelievable nobody at Deep Silver stopped the press and said, “Hey this might not be such a great idea?” A normal trailer production process includes screening the trailer with intended audience members. Apparently somebody dropped the ball.
There’s a key lesson here for game devs: screen your trailers with your audience members before sharing it publicly, and ask them if there’s any parts they hate. If anything goes in the “hated it” category, toss it.
Don’t treat your audience like idiots from the 90s
“Hey you, looking at the screen, let me ask you a question: do you like awesome things that are awesome? Then you gotta play this game, dude. It’s freakin’ cool. And crazy addictive—like popping bubble wrap addictive. Check this out.”
Commit this section to memory. Never say these things. None of them. Bad. Bad.
Show, don’t tell
The narrator tells you what you’re watching like you don’t already know. “See that’s your dash move. There’s a short dash, long dash, jump dash, spiral, slide…” You don’t need to tell anybody about any of these things. We’re watching it, “dude.”
I still don’t know enough about Mighty No. 9’s absorption boosts, but the line of dialogue about them was the only thing in the trailer that piqued my interest—and it still didn’t tell me enough about them. Voice-overs can illuminate on-screen action, but this voice-over neglects anything important and only flirts with adding anything of value.
Prune your writing until only the essentials remain
If your trailer isn’t written by somebody with games writing experience, it shows. Industry veterans know when to rely on words and when to rely on visuals; it’s why we love games with perfect tone control. Chatty trailers can be fine (especially if you’re Supergiant Games), but anything spoken or written on-screen needs to add to the experience, not state the obvious.
Don’t make your Kickstarter backers hate themselves
Kickstarter backers for Mighty No. 9 saw this trailer and immediately started having second thoughts. “I’m starting to wonder if I should feel ashamed for helping to kickstart this…” Kotaku commenter, Sman X stated. This trailer should have leveraged the values and interests of their Kickstarter backers to gain a keen sense of what resonated with their intended audience. Value your community.
Study good game trailers
Devolver’s marketing team showcases some of the very best trailer practices, so be sure to look through their work. Today’s reveal trailer for ABSOLVER is a great place to start.
M. Joshua Cauller makes game trailers that leverage the player experience. He offers free consultations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his work at mjoshua.com, or sign-up for his trailer tips newsletter: