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Every two months I'm rounding up some of the best indie game trailers and discussing what I think makes them good or bad, and effective or ineffective in marketing their respective game.

Kert Gartner

February 13, 2014

7 Min Read

I make indie game trailers, and as a result I watch A TON of trailers. I try and digest as many movie, book, AAA game and indie game trailers as possible to see what other studios are up to and make sure that my work keeps up with the latest and greatest.

Every two months or so, I'll be rounding up some of the best game trailers and discuss what I think makes them good/bad, and effective or ineffective in marketing their respective game. (Check out the Nov-Dec roundup here)

If you all find this discussion useful, please let me know and if you want to get the jump on these posts and follow which trailers I think are cool, you can subscribe to my "Awesome Game Trailers" playlist on Youtube.

There were so many cool trailers these past two months, I wish I could have covered more! If you want some more awesome trailer inspiration, check out the trailers for OlliOlliClassroom AquaticGNAH!Jazzpunk, and Heli Brawl which follows my "Just add Dubstep!" rule hehe :)

Octodad: Dadliest Catch Launch Trailer

This is one of the most emotional indie game trailers in recent memory. Pair that with a super catchy theme song and a game with an anazing premise, and you've got something special. There's a lot of cool things going on here, so i'll pick out a few of my favourites:

Awesome intro and hook in the fist 10 seconds! One of the things I discovered in doing research on online video engagment is that almost 20% of your audience will stop watching after 10 seconds. Your intro is super critical to roping in the viewer and taking them on the journey through your game. This trailer has a super funny intro, and gameplay starts right at the 10s mark. Perfectly executed!

The trailer does an amazing job at showing the absurdity of the gameplay and the serious undertones of the story. One of the things that could have killed the tone and vibe in the 2nd half was the voice acting, but fortunately it's fantastic. 

One small critisim is I'm not totally sure about the final shot after the end slate where the guy in the mall says "Hey Kids, Wanna learn about sharks?". I Completely understand the need to put something funny there to lighten things up since you don't really want to leave the viewer feeling down after watching a trailer for your game. I almost wonder if some people will miss that moment since it happens almost 6 seonds after the end slate. 

I wonder if Young Horses did some focus testing on a version that left that shot out and saw how viewers reacted leaving the trailer on a more somber note. I'm not sure if that would have been the right thing to do, but it might have been be interesting to explore.

Like: The amazing song by Ian McKinney. Great emotional arc and story. A++ Would watch again!

Things I'd do differently: I would have loved to see a more subtle or gradual transition beween the "happy" and "sad" sections of the trailer. When the music changes tone so drastically, it's a little jarring and takes you out of the moment. If they had the resources to create a custom music track specifically for this trailer, I think that could have been a bit more successful. 

That being said, the fade to white between the two sections is very smart. If they had chosen to fade to black, i'm willing to bet that a lot of peple would have stopped watching at that moment. Fading to white is an intersting way to keep people's attention through that transition since you subconsciously assume that there's still more to come...

Broken Age Act 1 Launch Trailer

This is a unique trailer for a game that was developed in an equally unique way. The angle they chose here was to showcase the game in its various stages of development by using some of the footage created for the behind the scenes documentary.

Generally speaking, I think this is a pretty good approach for a game that was developed so openly on Kickstarter, but this is a fine line to walk.

If I was an outsider who had never heard about Broken Age, I might be confused about why Tim is talking about "big companies choosing what media you get to watch" and why the opening shot is him showering himself with money. The closing shot of him standing at GDC 2013 kind makes this trailer feel like it's about Tim Shafer's journey creating the game rather than the actual game its self.

That being said, I do think this is a good trailer overall!

Like: I really love the use of some of the elements of the BTS videos. Broken Age has a lot of star power behind it, and by using those scenes of Wil Wheton and Elijah Wood are a perfect use of that. 

Things I'd do differently: The into and end of the trailer kind of feels like it's more about Tim Shafer's journey making Broken Age rather than the journey of the characters within Broken Age its self. 

The text cards at :45s and 1:30s have way too much text in them which makes them difficult to read and comprehend. When using these kinds of quotes, I always try and shorten them down to as bare bones of a message as possible. In this case, I think these longs sentences could have been condensed into: "Gorgeous, Nolstalgic, A new Era for the Point and Click Genre" and "Delightful, Beautiful, Utterly charming!" with their associated review scores. The quote at 1:41 could do without "I truly think" and the message would feel a bit more impacful as well. 

Threes "GIF" Trailer

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time i've ever seen a GIF used as a launch trailer for a game. For most games, I would be pretty hesitant to do this kind of thing, but it's absolutely perfect for Threes.

First of all, it blends in perfectly with the beautifully designed website. It's the first thing you see when you load the page, and it plays automatically which will immediately catch the viewer's attention. The trailer explains the rules and gameplay in a super quick and easy to understand way, before changing the environments in the backgorund to show the game being played in a variety of settings. If you missed something, it starts all over again in a few seconds.

Could they have done the same thing as a video? Yes, they could have shot someone playing Threes on an iPhone against a green screen then put in a bunch of live action locations in the background. That might have been kind of cool, but it would be expensive to produce, and it takes away from the simplicity they're trying to convey. Could this have worked better with music? Again, I think it adds un-needed complexity to something that's so simple and elegant on its own. (This seems like it was a trend with the game's overall design as well)

Like: This trailer is the perfect compliment to the game and its website. You can't ask for much more than that!

Things I'd do differently: I wouldn't do anything differently for this game, but the only downside to using a GIF as your trailer is you loose out out on the visibility and easy sharing of being on certian sites like Youtube or Vine. I read that there's ways you can hack vine so that you can upload cutom videos rather than shooting the screen like we did for the Ridiculous Fishing trailer. Maybe cutting a 6s vine version would have been a route to explore as well.

Kert Gartner makes indie game trailers in his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In his previous life, he spent 8 years working in the visual effects industry as a lead 2D compositor on over 26 Hollywood feature films. In the past two and a half years, Kert has been working with Indie game developers and publishers such as Devolver Digital, Vlambeer, Mossmouth, Semi-Secret Software and Gaijin Games to create exciting and engaging trailers for their games. You can reach him on Twitter, on Tumblr, or through his site at kertgartner.com

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