Your new game rocks and it’s time for the world to know about it. You need a catchy trailer, but you”re not entirely sure where to start.
What should the trailer say? How much animation vs. gameplay? What cinematographic techniques to use to make it more engaging? Should you make the trailer yourself or have a pro do it?
Here are a nine actionable tips to get a great trailer, without paying expensive production-studio fees. Also check out the profiles of leading video editors, and animators who can help you with your game trailer.
Nine tips for better trailers
1. Pick the right format
Are you trying to hype up a launch, get people to try the game, sell do.w.n.lo.adable content (DLC) to existing users? Different objectives lead to different formats:
Infinity Blade II announcement trailer
Objective: get people excited without revealing too much.
Format: super short (~30s), no intro, more cutscenes than gameplay, little text (launch date), minimal call to action (follow)
Infinity Blade II launch trailer
Objective: persuade viewers that they need to try the game ‘right now’.
Format: longer (~60s), short intro, more of the gameplay, positive reviews, strong call to action (buy/do.w.n.lo.ad)
DLC release trailer
Black Ops 2 DLC release trailer
Objective: tell the fan base about new features that they can upgrade to.
Format: long (>1min), focus on gameplay and DLC features, dev interviews of interest to fans
Announcement trailer: super short (~30s), more cutscenes than gameplay, little text (launch date), minimal call to action (follow). Aims to get people excited without revealing too much.
Launch trailer: short (~60s), more of the gameplay, positive reviews, strong call to action (buy/do.w.n.lo.ad). Aims to persuade viewers that they need to try the game ‘right now”.
DLC release trailer: long (>1min), focus on gameplay and the new features, content of interest to fans (eg. dev interviews). Aims to tell the fan base about new features that they can upgrade to.
2. Aim for content variety
You want your trailer to be visually varied. For that, make sure to tap into all the content types at your disposal: gameplay, cutscenes, animations, live-action, interviews, text:
This trailer relies primarily on live-action footage.
Live-action is rare in game trailers but shouldn”t be overlooked as it can make your video stand out.
There is staged live-action, such as this Minecraft trailer. And there is more candid live-action, like team interviews.
This trailer is one long animated sequence.
Of course, you can make a custom animation just for the trailer. In this case, the trailer is pretty much one big animated sequence announcing the plot.
This trailer uses mostly cutscenes from the game.
Cutscenes make for very interesting content, after they”ve been remixed and edited down into a short peefy sequence.
This trailer primarily uses gameplay.
The gameplay usually needs a fair amount of editing to fit the trailer format (see below)
Let”s not forget that not all content is visual. A voice-actor recorded soundtrack, is a tested & proven way to tie everything together.
This trailer uses a fair amount of stylized text.
“Text” is indeed quite helpful to re-inforce certain points. Pay attention to how the text is styled, as you don”t want the text to ruin the aesthetics of the game.
Live-action: live-action footage is rare in game trailers. Mainly because it”s often not the medium that game developers are most comfortable with. But done well, live action will make your trailer stand out, and engage beyond the traditional gamer fanbase.
Animated sequence: Of course, you can make a custom animation just for the trailer. In this case, the trailer is pretty much one big animated sequence announcing the plot.
Cutscenes: Cutscenes make for very interesting content, after they”ve been remixed and edited down into a short peefy sequence.
Voiceover: Let”s not forget that not all content is visual. A voice-actor recorded soundtrack, is a tested & proven way to tie everything together.
Text: “Text” is indeed quite helpful to re-inforce certain points. Make sure to stylize the text – you don”t want your game to look like a word document.
3. Nail the intro
You don’t have much time to make an impression and set the tone for the rest of the clip. You want to start with the message that clearly sets your game apart.
Straight-into the gameplay
Straight-into the gameplay
The “Black Ops 2 Revolution” trailer starts directly with some gameplay from the new DLC package. Exactly the kind of content that black ops fans want.
In the GoNinja trailer, the intro is a short animated sequence that sets-up the plot. The intro succeeds in communicating that the game is a fresh take on the ninja theme with cool art.
For “contre-jour”, the long titles intro works well. The cute music and the poetic motion graphics keep it interesting, and it sets the mood for the rest of the clip.
Long plot description
Long plot description
For “angry birds”, most people already know the game, and it makes sense to focus most of the trailer on the characters and the plot.
Straight-into the gameplay: jump right in! This is best for situations where users already know about the game, and you want to emphasize new aspects of the gameplay (eg. DLC releases)
Brief set-up: Start with a short animated sequence, usually made of remixed cutscenes, to set the stage and quickly establish why the game is great.
Long titles: You can delay things a few seconds with titles. Combined with the right soundtrack it can help build anticipation and give a cinematographic feel.
Long plot description: In this case, the intro takes up almost the entire length of the trailer. Great if you have an animated sequence of fantastic quality that tells an interesting story, and if viewers are already familiar with the gameplay.
Bumper or no bumper? A bumper is a short branded animation at the beginning of your video (and sometimes at the end of your video as well). Done well it gives “gravitas” and “polish” to your trailer, done wrong… it can bore and drive viewers to drop off.
A bumper is probably more useful for out-of-context situations (eg.: someone stumbles on the video on YouTube), but less useful if they are already on your app page in an app store. Maybe make two versions of the video?
No matter what, don’t make them too long – imagine some really impatient kid watching your trailer and wanting to get to the real stuff. Keep them short.
4. Supe up your gameplay
Don’t hesitate to add zooms, freeze-frame, slow-mo, lens-effects to your gameplay. Adding those cinematographic effects will help a lot. Especially if your game doesn”t have a lot of camera movement.