OVER HERE! HEY! LISTEN!
A plunging look into the world of gaming advertising
Nobody can underestimate the power of an advert. The world and everything in it has its rightful place purely on the basis of how pitch perfect a product can be sold to us.
Adverts are perfectly placed into their timeslots, planned months and months in advance to ensure the correct audience is viewing at precisely the right time. Kids toys and Disneyland holidays during cartoons. Bingo, make up, clothes and hair products during peak daytime. Beer, film trailers and other stuff MEN LIKE during the Big Match. It’s all so expertly crafted, so brilliantly designed to the nearest detail, shouting through the screen as it precariously gets louder as your programme is about to hit a break. We’ve all been there, we hate adverts. But we love them, we can’t live without them. Gamers, that’s us, know that better than anyone.
Game advertisements are positively the most common you’ll see. You may disagree, and admittedly I did too at first, but just think. Think about all those adverts for ‘Imagine Babyz’ that you skimmed past, dismissing it utterly as complete nonsense. ‘Just Dance 2’? I can’t count on two hands how many times I’ve seen that promoted in the last two weeks. Of course, being hardcore brings you to not care about these games, so you forget about the adverts entirely. I’m pretty sure right now Nintendo just stand in TV Exec offices with a gun to their heads demanding repeated transmission time almost every other advert. Near enough every new game that hits the Wii or DS gets their time to shine for us, you fear the worst when you hear that very deep throated American man say ‘PEGI 3’, look up in curiosity and see a super cuddly family drawing on their new uDraw Game Tablet (read: WiiPad) with the most sickening smiles on their face. You know if you have the time to sit in front of your flatscreen all day, you WILL see it another 20 or 30 times. It makes you die a little inside, you know that you’ll have to wait until at least 9pm plus to see that awesome advert for ‘Bulletstorm’, as that’s all you really want to play, when you think about it. Right? Did you BUY uDraw? YOU?! I’ll deal with you later.
Unfortunately, with the industry moving the way it seems to be right now, we may have no choice but to put up with this for a long time. Cast your mind back to E3 2009, when those dead hard chaps at Microsoft revealed Project Natal. The entire gaming world gasped in astonishment (well, mostly) and wonder. ‘What? How? But….WHAT?! I wantz it now..WHEN I CAN HAZ DIS?! PS3 IS PWNED LMAO!!!!!1!!’ was along the lines of the many comments I was reading following every report I could find online. We were imagining the potential, how it had a whole YEAR to become every gamers dream toy. A real, true step into the future of home gaming. Then suddenly everyone had an epiphany…
‘’Wait…what if?..No..would Microsoft be that daft? They wouldn’t release wave after wave of throwaway minigame collections and let others do the same? This is Microsoft, they’re all about the hardcore. We’re talking actually holding your freakin’ gun in ‘Halo’ and hiding behind your sofa so you can physically throw grenades from your own personally created designated safe spot. There ain’t gonna be no ‘Project Natal Sports’ here! Right?’’.
Of course, we know what happened next.
Cut to a year later and Cirque De Soleil are launching the device, now called Kinect. The worlds gaming media and developers are dressed up in light up green ponchos wondering what the frag is going on. Something is very wrong here and everyone knows it. At this point we’ve already seen Rare’s continuing efforts to bring themselves back to life with ‘Kinect Sports’ (DOH!), the ‘how-can-it-be-bad-because-its-free’ ‘Kinect Adventures’ and plenty other ‘games’ nobody ever wanted gracing this once wonderfully potential ubertoy.
Fast forward to late 2010 and the promo tour is well and truly underway for Kinect. You see green and yellow swirls everywhere you look and the words ‘YOU ARE THE CONTROLLER’ scrawled in so many different locations you start to think it’s a public service message instead of an advertising slogan. Pre-orders are through the roof and the queues are forming for those so absolutely desperate enough to get their hands on 130 smackers worth of brand new technology before anyone else. Have they played it before? For most, no. Have they been told it’s awesome and unlike anything you’ve ever seen? Of course. Are they going to buy it anyway because we’re a hardcore but undeniably gullible generation? Why, yes. BINGO! In a single day Kinect sells out absolutely everywhere, every household is only allowed a single unit as it’s apparently ‘GOLD DUST’ and should be handed out like health rations in an apocalypse. The gaming universe (and parents) go utterly insane for the newest, shiniest product on the market. They get it home, it’s opened for the first time. They plug it in, get it running, run straight into the tutorial and the penny drops..
‘’Wait…I have to move my sofa?’’.
Anyway, I digress. Maybe I shouldn’t single out Kinect. Yes the general consensus is Microsoft have failed to deliver the promises they made at E3 2009 regarding it’s true capability from the get go, however, it’s sold millions and they can take some kind of solace in that everything they said and did absolutely worked. It’s considered a device for the future. Many, like myself, picked it up on the promise of better software and hardware updates. It’s completely futureproof, so maybe it doesn’t need to prove its worth just yet. The reason why I’ve bought this up was the advertisements. Those horrendously suspicious adverts about the capabilities of the device. If I’m going to be picky, and yes, I am, the ‘players’ in them are far too close to the device, and there are too many people in the background for it work as brilliantly well as it does. All these oddly handsome people with pure white teeth having the time of their lives in their frankly absurdly big houses, (why are they standing so close to the device if their living space is so big?) beavering away at the dreadful ‘Kinect Joy Ride’ like it’s the best thing ever. It certainly grinds my gears, Tom…
I know what you’re thinking. ‘’It’s an advert, they have to push the ability of their product’’, but should it really be up to me to find out how screwed over I was once I did buy it? The adverts themselves make no apologies for their extrovert misinformation. At least Apple has the balls to throw a ‘Sequences Shortened’ at the end of every iPhone advert. It worries me that gaming gets a bad rep like this over something that could be so easily managed. Being a gamer isn’t getting any cheaper and these little problems don’t help us fight the corner. If you are about to get into gaming for the first time then maybe these hiccups should be made clear before purchase. Kinect is a great device, it’s just a shame that most who aren’t into gaming like we are and don’t think to look these things up first before they discover that what was promised in their advertisements just didn’t deliver.
When they get the adverts right, goodness do they get them right. The truly brilliant ones make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The ones that may not show any footage but don’t need too as everything you have seen building up to nothing more than a logo reveal, as a gamer, it’s excite time. Here are some I have picked out going back to 1996 for your viewing pleasure. Take a look.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME 3D: Robin and Zelda Williams Trailer. 2011
This is Nintendo doing what they do best. This wonderful advertisement, featuring legendary actor Robin Williams with a genuinely spectacular beard discussing why he chose to call his daughter Zelda, while seemingly narrating the wonderful game footage, tugging at the emotional heartstrings and giving a focus onto the heartfelt storyline running throughout the game. Plus his daughter is pretty hot. It’s a perfect Link. *sorry*
There was a second advert he made aswell, showcasing more of the games unique 3DS features, and it’s worth seeing just for his face right at the very end:
HALO REACH : ‘Deliver Hope’ trailer. 2010
A pure masterclass in advertising a videogame. If you’re a follower of the series, even if you’re not and you just know your shit, you’ll know that this is Bungie’s final ‘Halo’ game. If you’re aware of it before the advert begins, when it kicks in your draw drops to the floor the same time the tears do. Getting the raw emotion of the games storyline over in two minutes is an outstanding achievement, with the feeling of loss, hopelessness and heroic last stands all tied together in a beautiful soundtrack and truly amazing visuals. Somebody tell me why the Halo movie hasn’t been made yet?
CALL OF DUTY : Black Ops. 2010 : ‘Wont Back Down’ remix trailer. 2010
I remember exactly what I was doing when I first saw this. The football was on, and it was the dullest match of all time. An England game I think, we were awful as usual. During half time I debated whether or not just to switch over and catch a repeat of Glee just to cheer myself up, and then this began. I’m a huge CoD fan, and for its entirety I was utterly speechless. Full of stunning gameplay footage and featuring a pounding Eminem soundtrack, the now standard enormity of a CoD advertising campaign was well and truly on. Still one of the best.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: Teardrop trailer. 2007
I love this one. I love the spectacular music. I love the beautifully chosen visuals. I love the questions it raises about the game. I love the logo appearing at the perfect time. I love how Altair walks the streets while everyone and everything else is frozen in time. I love this advert. I love this game.
METAL GEAR SOLID 3 – SNAKE EATER: Japanese TV Spot. 2006
This one only aired in Japan, admittedly, but I remember somebody sending it to me once and me going slightly bonkers over it. An advert as strange but as brilliant as they come, featuring an older gentleman making his way through the woods as if he was Solid frickin’ Snake himself. An idea so well executed, it was criminal it never made it over here. Watch just for the split second scene he eats the snake on a stick in one hand with a full pint going on in the other. And the ironing scene. Complete genius.
WIPEOUT 2097: Original advert. 1996
‘WARNING : Cars do NOT fly’. I think this is one of the best advertisements ever, purely on the basis of that line. The footage from the game is horrible, and the scary dude looks far too much like the Demon Headmaster for me to warm to him, but my word. It’s THAT line. I’m sold. Game over, man. Game over.
Did you see a pattern emerging? Franchise advertising is interesting. Bungie and Activision, the two biggest players in the FPS ring, go two completely different ways. They know how to sell their games. Millions and millions get spent on development, so millions and millions must get spent advertising. Bungie know this better than anyone, as their ‘Halo’ adverts have always been of the highest standard (noteworthy mention : ‘Halo 3’ – The Museum), and as it’s all mostly live action. You get that raw feeling that the entire war on Reach, New Mombasa and then finally the Halo wars actually happened. The connection is already there, Bungie already have their audience due to their spectacularly successful franchise, so we as the hardcore lap it up and will queue up in the freezing cold at midnight launches to get our hands on the biggest Xbox game of the year, maybe the decade. The ‘Deliver Hope’ ad was enormous, and got people talking about Reach in a way I’ve never heard any other game spoken of because of the indescribable hard work that went into creating it. Bungie felt like ‘Reach’ deserved a stunning promotional tool, and it got it in spades. The game became the biggest in the franchise, selling millions and millions of copies and a couple million Xboxes in the process. The advert made to look like a film trailer, bridging the gap between the two art forms so completely, it had many questioning whether it actually was a movie or not. One day we’ll get our Halo movie, but for now, this is the closest we have and I couldn’t be happier about that.
What about ‘Call of Duty’? It’s all about real game footage in their ads, which is brilliant. You could argue that, just like film trailers, they throw in all the very best sequences (base jumping off snow peaks, Vietnam plane crash flying overhead) so you’re not left with much to surprise you when you actually start the game itself, but come on. There are so many to choose from, in ‘Black Ops’ especially, that the ones chosen don’t even scratch the surface. There are no tricks here, only really rather clever editing to keep you guessing (what is that ship in the sky for?!) and of course, the Eminem soundtrack that seems synonymous with the franchise now after his song (capital T for TUNE) ‘Till I Collapse’ was also used for the Modern Warfare 2 promotion. What about the flipside? Do Activision really need to put a Bungie-level amount of effort into their adverts? CoD is the biggest franchise of the last 5 years, their installed fanbase will pick up everything they release no matter how good it is and spend an utterly obscene amount of money on DLC for those all important four maps that Treyarch didn’t deem good enough to put in first time round. Cough, sorry. That’s a different story for another day. There are no live action sections; it’s all gameplay, with a logo at the end and the date of release. Simple. I imagine the only real expenditure was securing the licence for the soundtrack, and to Activision it would have been as noticeable as dropping a penny down a street drain. The fans want footage of the game, they want it to blow every other shooter out of the water in the space of one minute. They want a release date. That’s exactly what they get, and that’s what makes their adverts so appealing. No bullshit, just the facts. YOU WANT THIS GAME, DON’T YOU? Yes, I do. Give it to me.
Certain games need advertising, of course. We as the ones who check game websites every day and buy the magazines know about the release dates of games months before the adverts begin, and we already make our mind up if we want the game or not before the promotional wheel starts. The smaller, non-‘Event Games’ will always get lost in bottom shelf hell if they can’t prove to us they deserve our hard earned money more than Bungie, Activision or EA do. We all know the story of ‘Okami’ and how it sank without trace despite being one of the best games of this generation. I loved it, adored it infact, I tell everyone who cares to listen – even those who don’t – about its genius and a few of my friends have gone out to pick up at wonderful prices only to be blown away. Did anybody but industry hardcore know anything about it? Nope. And that’s a criminal waste. ‘Mirror’s Edge’ is another example. It’s brilliant, and like ‘Okami’, unique and utterly original. An advert was produced for the game, seemingly doing everything right in terms of promotion, but nobody cared. Are the original games always doomed to fail? Of course not, every franchise has to start somewhere. Look at Assassin’s Creed. A perfect name as it pulls on the violent alter-ego gamer inside you, the advert (see above) was breathtaking and the game almost flawless. It sold millions and spawned books, clothes, even movies. Why can’t other new games reach this? Is it purely on the quality of the games? Are we so fickle that we won’t buy a great new game unless it’s shoved in our face on a daily basis? Well, normally yes. Times are tough and if you look at the charts, gamers are sticking to what they know. A new ‘Halo’, ‘Call of Duty’, ‘Assassin’s Creed’ or indeed, the mighty ‘FIFA’ franchise will take out everyone else almost instantly in the blink of an eye as people trust them. They know they will get quality, quantity and it’ll be games that their friends will also have. Of course, every game has its flaws. But Joe Public won’t care about the wrong textures, minimal XP, online lagging or the delivery of dodgy dialogue. The adverts will tell them a game is great, so they will get it. We’re a far more unsympathetic bunch. We’ve been hurt before by games that were meant to be awesome and sucked, so tread carefully. I have the power of Twitter, forums and a comments section. I can tear your whole goddamn building down with my keyboard. And I’m not afraid to do it if you hurt me again. OK, maybe that’s too much. They have to step it up.
Advertising is essential to our working universe. As our industry gets bigger and broader in its appeal, our adverts will change. Wii, Kinect and Move have changed the perspective of gaming advertisement forever and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The smiling faces of every man, woman and child playing ‘Brain and Body Training’, JLS and Jedward throwing us Wii and DS games. The only console that has seemed to escape this is PS3. Their ‘Killzone 3’ ad deserves a special mention. All footage, can you use Move? Yes, but you don’t have too. It’s spot on in my book. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we’ll be able to tell the difference between Wii and Xbox daytime adverts, and everything will go back to normal. OK, it won’t. But we can dream, right?
Play what you want; it’s up to you now. Just play nice, yeah?
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