Teasers and trailers are great. Announcing your game with the release of a killer trailer can garner lots of attention for your IP. But it can also have a negative outcome. Many a game, TV series or movie has found itself in hot water, due to releasing a trailer too early. So, should companies wait until much further in development before releasing a teaser? Or, is the early teaser trailer vital in generating interest for games? Are game trailers released too early?
Recent Mainstream Examples
A great example of a teaser released too soon was with Netflix’s The Witcher adaptation. Netflix teased Henry Cavill as the renowned Geralt of Rivia in a short clip on Instagram. Many found the quick 20 second clip disappointing, and there was an outcry from fans of the books and games that Cavill had been miscast. Cut to 6 months later, when the first official trailer dropped. Many opinions seemed to pivot. When the series eventually released, it ended up being one of Netflix’s best first seasons ever! Despite the eventual success of the show, that initial teaser could have been its downfall.
But on the other hand, sometimes releasing trailers with a big gap before the planned release can work out beneficial. The 2020 film adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog is a great example. The backlash to that first terrifying trailer actually benefited the film. When it released almost a year later, the animation improved tenfold due to feedback from the trailer. Had they waited until the last moment to release the trailer, they may have not been able to fix the issues. Both of these examples (while not strictly from games), showcase the potential pitfalls and benefits from releasing trailers with lots of lead up time before release.
Benefits for releasing teasers early
Let’s break down the reasons why games would want to release teasers early. Well, the biggest is the hype factor. Sometimes games are teased YEARS before the eventual release. This can lead to an immense amount of excitement for the game. One example is the upcoming CD Projekt Red Game, Cyberpunk 2077. This game was first teased back in 2013, and releases in November 2020. That’s 7 years after the initial teaser. While the look of the game has definitely evolved since that first teaser, the excitement from fans has never died down. This is a great example of how a good teaser released well before the release date, can benefit a game. The excitement for it is still here 7 years later, a testament to their marketing.
As briefly explored previously, another benefit is you can get feedback. Recently, a remaster of the game Crysis leaked. Audience feedback wasn’t great. The game was slated for release on July 23, however, Crytek have now delayed the release. In a statement they issued that the delay is so they can work on fixing the problems fans pointed out. While this technically was a leak and not an official teaser, Crytek have benefited from it. It means they are able to quietly go back to development on the game, and can hopefully produce a much better remaster.
Problems with releasing teasers early
One of the big problems, is fan expectations. Take for example, Bethesda’s decision to tease The Elder Scrolls 6 at E3 2018. While the teaser was short, it was enough to set the internet on fire! A year later, many fans declared the 2019 E3 Bethesda conference “trash”, due to the lack of another Elder Scrolls 6 trailer, despite the other amazing games announced. VP of marketing and communications at Bethesda, Pete Hines, has expressed frustration over the relentless demands from fans for more information about the Elder Scrolls 6. Considering how much fans seemed to resent Bethesda’s other titles at E3 2019, the question is: was the teaser a year prior worth it? On top of this, Bethesda’s issue around Fallout 76 hasn’t helped their reputation. This had led many to theorize the teaser in 2018 was purely to raise morale.
Another issue with releasing trailers early, is the game doesn’t end up like the trailers. Take for example, Warcraft 3: Reforged. The first trailer for this remaster released in 2018. The trailer promised cinematic style cut-scenes, and a stunning graphical overhaul. When the game released in 2020, many of these new visuals were gone. The promises the trailer made in 2018 did not end up reflecting the game on release. The dropping of certain content was due to the scope of the remaster changing over the years, shelving many initial plans. Had they waited longer to release a teaser; they might have been able to reflect the end product better. Fan expectations are a big part of trailers. Setting your fans up only for disappointment will benefit no-one in the long run, despite how much hype is generated for your game.
So, are game teasers released too early? Maybe. Personally, I think this is on a case by case basis. Cyberpunk’s teaser worked well because it only teased a concept, and the teaser didn’t over shadow any of their other games. But Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls 6 teaser, only managed to disappoint and confuse fans. Teasing a game 7 years before release will not work for every game. The wraith of angry fans is a painful one, and in this current cancel-culture world, not something many afford to deal with. I mean did you SEE the Warcraft 3: Reforged Metacritic score? Honestly, F to pay respects for that one.
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SOURCES: https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/21/21075927/netflix-the-witcher-viewer-numbers-length-metrics-q4-2019-earnings https://www.vulture.com/2020/02/the-sonic-the-hedgehog-controversy-and-redesign-explained.html https://collider.com/galleries/movie-trailers-better-than-the-movie/ https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/studios-release-teasers-trailers-early/ https://www.kinephanos.ca/2017/quality-of-video-game-trailers/ https://www.polygon.com/2020/5/11/21254572/elder-scrolls-6-starfield-info-bethesda-softworks-pete-hines https://www.videogameschronicle.com/news/warcraft-3-reforged-criticised-for-cutscene-and-visual-changes/