Suit vs Monkey: Gamer Edition
Sometimes it seems video game commercials are the most compelling thing on television (or online for that matter). A well-crafted trailer can be so enticing, you can’t wait to shell out 60+ bucks, bring that game home, and dive into another reality – if you’re a gamer that is.
We wanted take a look at some of the best, most-compelling campaigns, so two of our resident gamers Amanda (Suit) and Cam (Monkey) took up the challenge.
Sega Genesis - Blast Processing 1992
Back in the 90’s, if you played video games, you were in one of two camps; you either owned a Super Nintendo or you owned a Sega Genesis. The two camps argued vehemently about which machine was superior.
Technically speaking, the Super Nintendo was the superior machine. So Sega, rather than try to compete on a level where they couldn’t win, came out with incredibly edgy ads which slammed Nintendo and made them seem incredibly uncool.
Sega’s marketing department learned that the Central Processing Unit (CPU) in the Sega Genesis had a faster clock speed (7.67Mhz) than the Super Nintendo (3.58Mhz), and in around 1992, they released a commercial which claimed the Sega Genesis had something called "Blast Processing".
This commercial featured a drag racer with a TV showing Genesis games that were very fast-paced such as the Sonic The Hedgehog series, and compared them to a slow truck with a wooden TV showing ‘kid-centric’, slow-paced Nintendo games such as Super Mario Kart. The idea here was that Sega had something that Nintendo didn’t and, because of this, their games were better than those on Super Nintendo.
The truth is... it was made up. There was no such thing as Blast Processing. It was simply a marketing term invented to promote a ‘feature’ of the system that was nothing more than a higher clock speed on their CPU.
This was the first instance in which I remember an ad misleading children into believing in something that wasn’t there.
Oblivious to anything too technical, as a child I was pulled into Sega’s campaign trickery. I remember being terrible to my Sega – Yes, I cheated on my beloved game system and played my friend’s Nintendo. But all of my mother’s hard-earned money went into my Sega, Sonic, Disney and other wonderful games because my Sega was SOOOO much better than my friend’s Nintendo.
I don’t agree with the fact that Sega blatantly lied to their consumers, but have to admit it worked. I was taken in by their campaigns, and to this day I still own a Sega Genesis with ‘Blast Processing’ or so I still say. As for the creative idea, morally, I’m not okay with it. But at the time it was a way for Sega to compete with the leading gamer device.
Dead Island – Trailer 2011 (Warning: Gore)
I still remember when this trailer came out. I had spotted it online and instantly loved it, but better than that, all of my friends (not marketers and not all gamers) loved it too, and were already sharing the YouTube link with me.
I had, and still have, a real love for the move from in-game video to theatrical storytelling for game trailers – games are entertainment, after all, and half the fun is the story (well at least for us girl gamers). This story was told so differently than many other trailers – you get the complete story arc of one family in a zombie apocalypse, in reverse. It’s horrifying, but leaves you wanting more.
Dead Island really stuck out with my friends and me, and the reception it received in the gamer community was amazing – until the game finally came out and it didn’t quite live up to expectations.
My response to the trailer was so strong, I purchased the game solely based on the advertising – very few games have compelled me to do this on their release date. Typically, I like to research games and check out fan reviews before I spend my hard-earned cash, but the trailer for this ad was so captivating, I skipped my more thorough approach.
It was a digital "Don’t judge a book by its cover" lesson that I haven’t forgotten.
Gamers are a fickle bunch when it comes to game advertising. There are a lot of gamers who hate it when a trailer is made of nothing but pre-rendered footage. Footage that shows nothing of what the actual game play is like.
And there a lot of other gamers who hate it when a trailer is comprised of ‘in-game footage’ because they believe the footage is staged, showing an unrealistic depiction of what the game is actually like.
All gamers agreed, however, that the trailer for Dead Island was amazing. Even if it was comprised of pre-rendered footage.
The reason the trailer was so compelling was not only due to its editing – it was told quietly, backwards and in slow motion – but also because it tugs at the heartstrings with the story of a helpless family with a little girl meeting their horrifying demise. A likely outcome for many if such a thing really occurred.
It quickly made the rounds in social media with even non-gamers making comments on the video. The original YouTube link has almost 12 million views and even prompted people to do ‘remixes’ of the original video, playing the original trailer’s sequence in reverse.
The game sold over 4 million copies, likely due to the trailer alone, as the game was just average, and riddled with game stopping bugs when it was released.
Gears of War – Trailer 2006
This trailer is genius! Instead of the gunfire and monster roars that we’ve all become so accustomed to, and complacent with, they used an amazingly moving song to pull in the audience. Even non-gamers fell for this trailer.
I have never played Gears of War because the FPS makes me a little too dizzy, but watching this trailer and listening to the beautifully compelling song made even a semi-gamer like me want to jump on an Xbox and shoot some monsters.
As I said, I love the transition from in-game play to theatrical trailer for upcoming games. I believe they do a really good job of piquing the interest of gamers and those you want to become gamers. A theatrical trailer that is engaging, hints at the storyline, and sticks with a person are perfect for new and less seasoned gamers like myself.
Sometimes all you need to make a great trailer is a good song. Sony did it with their PlayStation 3 teaser video in 2006 that used Brian Eno’s Ending (An Ascent) as the background music.
Microsoft and Epic Games did it in 2006 as well with their Gears of War trailer.
Using a cover of Tears for Fears Mad World (the one recorded for Donnie Darko), we see the protagonist, Marcus Fenix, in a decimated city. He escapes something that is chasing him only to be presented with a bigger threat. The song played in the background fills the viewer with a sense of despair, as if the situation Marcus is in is unwinnable.
This trailer broke the mold of how most games were marketed at the time, using lots of in-game footage of explosions, car chases, etc. Game trailers then focused on showing the action one would encounter in the game. Gears of War, however, injected melancholy into their trailer making the viewer feel sad, rather than pumped for action.
Back when the idea of a "viral video" was still a new concept, and social media didn’t really exist, this trailer made the rounds in a super hurry. People were trading links on chat channels and via emails.
This trailer was so successful, it set the tone for the trailers of the future Gears of War games.
God of War: Ascension - "From the Ashes" 2013 Super Bowl Commercial
Lastly, although it’s been awhile since the Super Bowl – you know, that thing with where you kick the ball and get a strike and whoever gets a birdie wins or something – here is a moving trailer that caught me and everyone I was with during the event.
How does this trailer resonate with you?