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INSIGHT - Top tips for making a kickass trailer

INSIGHT - Top tips for making a kickass trailer

In her second regular column on PCGamesInsider.biz Failbetter's marketing chief Haley Uyrus shares her top tips for making a fantastic trailer for your game

Trailers are an epic tool of games marketing. They’re an all-encompassing way to get people interested and the easiest way to explain your game without someone actually playing it. They’re also one of the few times you can convey how it feels to play your game and set the emotional tone. Plus, trailers keep working for you even after you’ve finished them and when you think about them strategically you can stretch their worth.

What should you include?

If you’ve ever talked to a marketer before, you’ve probably heard the question “What’s your objective?” With any marketing activity that question should be what drives it. The same should be true with your trailer, but you’ll probably want to include:

  • Gameplay or story so players can see what your game is about
  • Any unique selling points (USPs) so players can see why they should play your game over someone else’s
  • A call to action so they know what they should do next to play the game (follow, wishlist, play now etc.)
  • A release date if applicable so they know when they can play it
  • The game’s branding and your studio branding so they know who you are and how to remember you
  • And where they can play your game, which you can show through store logos or a web address
  • When should you release a trailer?

Launch trailers are the most obvious choice, but any milestone is usually a good candidate for a trailer—so the game’s announcement, preview stage or its launch. If you’re doing crowdfunding or early access, then that opens other options too. For example during Sunless Skies’ early access period we’ve created a new trailer whenever a new region is added to the game.

Each of these stages will have slightly different messaging and calls to action behind them.

1 - Game Announcement:
This is your introduction to the players and can be the most mysterious. At this stage you’re mostly selling the idea, so you can afford to be coy.

2 - Midway / Preview Stage
This is where you’ll want to expand on some of the USPs of your game. Depending on the length of your runway before launch, this is where you’ll have time to dig a little deeper into what makes your game stand out. Leave them wondering what the next announced feature will be. Though it’s important to make sure that even if you’re focusing on a specific aspect of a game, that players will still be able to understand what they can expect from the full game, too.

3 - Launch
This is your opportunity to put the hype train at full speed. Use everything you’ve learned from the previous trailers, interactions with your fanbase, and the response from press to craft a tight trailer that showcases the most enticing bits of your game. Leave them thinking “OMG, I need to play this NOW!”

And when should I release my launch trailer?

After speaking to other devs and marketers about their preferred release date for launch trailers, it seems the verdict’s still out on the best practice. Popular choices for a launch trailer include: on launch day, the day before launch day, a week or two before launch, and even a month before launch. The variety here will have to do with varying objectives as well as the notoriety of the studio itself.

If this is your studio’s first game or your studio is still pretty unknown, the safest route is to send the trailer out to the press within a week of launch, but with an embargo on the trailer for launch day. This is helpful in two ways:

1 - Sending it to press in advance allows them time to prepare their news piece and get things approved. It also gives you a little wiggle room to follow-up with them and makes sure you’ve secured cover for launch day.

2 - Embargoing it for launch day increases the impact of your media hit on launch day, which will feed the algorithms and hopefully increase your game’s visibility. Also by having your trailer go live on launch day, that means if people do want to buy your game they can do so immediately. Always do what you can to make it as easy as possible for people to find and buy your game.

Where should I release it?

The usual places are of course, on your YouTube channel, website, store pages, and pinned to the top of any social media channels. However, this is also a good place to think strategically about how you can make your trailer work harder towards your objective. Is this an opportunity to build your relationship with a targeted publication? Offering an early exclusive to your trailer can be powerful and be great for increasing your reach. If you’re making a trailer for a Kickstarter, can you share it with your fanbase ahead of time? Can you chop it up into bite-size gifs to use on social media?

If you happen to have a marketing budget for ad spend, putting money behind your trailer can also be an effective way to increase your visibility. Also as many platforms like Facebook and YouTube/Google are competing against each other, video advertising when targeted well can be surprisingly cost-effective compared to other types of advertising.

What analytics are important?

When you lay out marketing objectives, it’s important that there are measurable outputs. It’s not wholly important to be a Google Analytics wizard, but it is important to measure the success of your campaign so it can inform the decisions you make next time around. If you were aiming for wishlists, then click-through rates will be important. If it was more for visibility, then of course views.

It’s also good to check how long people watched it before clicking away. General practice for game trailers length is 30s - 60s, but if digital marketing teaches you anything it’s that people have short attention spans. Hooking people in that first 10-15 second mark is key.

After the launch of our first region trailer for The Reach, we could see that more viewers clicked away during those beginning moments than we’d like to, so for our second trailer, we made it a point to start with a burst.

Common Pitfalls

  • Managing Expectations: There’s a reason AAA trailers have ‘not actual gameplay footage’ warnings. Regardless of the cinematic tone of your trailer script, make sure that players will understand what they can actually expect when they play the game
  • No Impact: Using your objective to build a compelling message throughout the trailer will ensure it’s not just a flat video of gameplay footage. Check out Derek Lieu’s incredibly insightful PC Gamer piece and also his blog for more on the craft of making trailers.
  • Confusion: Always make it as easy as possible for people to find and play your game. Make sure you include relevant dates, store pages, websites etc

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