Game trailers are one of the most powerful marketing assets you can have in your creative arsenal. Properly done it has the power to trigger emotion, build anticipation and give viewers the chance to see what your game is all about.
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- Videos were the #1 way consumers discovered a brand they later purchased from (source Lemonlight).
- Video consumption through mobile devices rises by 100% every year (Source Social media Week)
- A good promo video in your app store can boost conversions by 40% (Source Storemaven)
If you want to create a sizzling reel follow these 5 proven strategies to create a game trailer that converts your audience into committed players
STEP 1: Gather your assets
This will help you plan and streamline your workflow. Knowing what assets are at your disposal will help you move to the next step, which is working on the structure of your game trailer.
Assets you should have:
- In-game cutscenes, dialogue scenes, cinematics
- Key art and concept art
- In-game SFX
- In-game music
- For 3D animations, you’ll need 3D models
- For 2D animations you’ll need layered files (.psd) or PNG sequences and SPRITES.
Out of the list, but super important:
A brand guide will help you produce a game trailer that is aligned with the spirit of the game, enrich the overall composition and help you stay consistent in the creative process.
STEP 2: Plan your work
It’s good to have ideas. But ideas work better if you have a plan, this is when the creative brief comes into play. This works as a roadmap that helps you organise the order for the elements that appear. A traditional game trailer structure is:
- Attention grabbing intro
- Reset. Show gameplay footage as a short story with some text screens. Build forward momentum in a “show and tell” manner. “Show me a text screen” “Tell me with the gameplay”
- End with a strong call to action to tell the viewer where and when they can get the game
If we break down the dramatic structure, this is how your script should look like:
- Logo animation (we’ll discuss how important this is later)
- Epic intro
- Text screen
- Show gameplay footage that supports the text screen
- Text screen
- Show more gameplay footage that supports the text screen
- Text screen
- Music builds up crescendo as we show fast paced gameplay.
- Epic payoff for the end scene
- Game logo
- End card showing the app icon, launch date, platform badges or supported devices
When working on the narrative structure ask yourself these questions:
What’s the story?
What sets your game apart? (Game strengths)
What’s the atmosphere and tone?
Who is your player persona? (Age, gender, location)
Be sure to include:
- The world
- The character
- The obstacles (goals)
- What will the character do to confront them
Find relevant movie or game trailers that you like or that have a similar style and use them as reference. Notice how they compose the story.
For example a zoomed out pan will give you context for the environment and close-ups aim to convey emotion and connect the audience with the characters.
No need to explain the game mechanics or go into too much detail. Find the core concept and tell a story worth watching.
Last but not least is deciding to have a voice over or narrator on your video. If you do, make sure the narration doesn’t go for too long, find someone who can represent the spirit of your game.
When using on-screen text and the voice over at the same time they should be synced together. It becomes a real challenge for the audience when the voice over doesn’t match the title card.
- In-detail description that doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t know your game
- Stating the features and technical elements of your game (number of levels, leaderboards, gameplay time, even though lots of trailers do it)
- Lengthy trailer
- Shot from one angle or with no camera movement
- Shaky gameplay or hard cuts between one action and the next that are hard to follow
- Not including a call to action.
STEP 3: Open with a BANG!
Consumers only care about your content if you earn their attention, this makes the first 3 seconds of your video crucial. Hook the audience with a spectacular intro.
A visually impactful composition can be a cutscene with specific dialogue, a cinematic piece you have created specifically for this game trailer or a 2D composition with animation, depending on the type of game you have.
Give the viewer a reason to stay and get invested as the intro will set the tone for the rest of the video. Think about the 3-seconds rule as a foundational moment that brings new people to your fan base.
A trailer can be 1-3 minutes long, but shorter videos tend to have higher viewer engagement rates. We recommend your trailer not to go over 60 seconds, this will also help you place your video in other platforms that have time limits like Instagram. Additionally, include the game’s title in the first 3 seconds (ideal logo placement is 1.7seconds) to ensure brand recall.
Here’s why: According to Wistia the average 30-second video was viewed 85% of the way through, while the average 2-minute video was viewed on average 50% of the way through. What’s even more 20% of the audience drops after the first 10seconds and 44.1% of the audience skips the video after 60 seconds.
Viewing drop-off is intense.
The shorter a trailer is, the more chances you have that the person will commit to your story all the way to the end card. Mobile users live in the age of instant entertainment and their favourite snack is content so prepare to hit them hard and quickly.
Intro logo animation: Yay or nay?
This is the brand animation at the beginning of the video (AKA bumper animation), sometimes it can be added at the end as well.
If this is well done it makes the video look polished and high-end. If this looks poor or it’s too long it could be the reason why your viewers drop off.
Consider making 2 versions of your trailer. One with the bumper animation, very helpful when your viewer casually comes across with the trailer, (like on YouTube) and one version without the bumper if your viewer is on your app store.
If you decide to include it, keep it short. Check the BeeFense video ad with a quick bumper animation at the beginning of the video and a classic (well performing) structure.
4-Work with the music
The track you choose will be the backbone of your video and it will set the pace, intensity and rhythm of the game trailer. Choreograph the cuts to the beat of your soundtrack.
Imagine the music as the foundation where the storyline and emotional core rely on. Picking the right song could be daunting, but at some point you need to get over the decision fatigue, pick one and roll with it.
The visuals and soundtrack should artfully sync together as the action ramps up. Sprinkle some sound effects from the game when editing for a dramatic effect.
5- Focus on gameplay
Gamers want to see the gameplay. Emphasize the game main features, crisp gameplay, cool benefits and power-ups.
Recording gameplay is a time consuming activity, consider taking at least a full day to capture the right moments. Record additional shots, (A LOT MORE than just enough), this will give you a lot of freedom when editing. Keep the creative brief in mind and go for it!
Tech aspects of gameplay recording:
- Turn off the music in your game but keep SFXs from the game so they are kept synced with the gameplay footage.
- Avoid watermarks, UI or HUDs as they are distracting. Put the spotlight on the gameplay.
- Avoid the boring bits of gameplay when editing. If you have 3D camera gameplay, set the camera in different angles and make it as cinematic as possible. If your game is 2D try to zoom in and out for extra dynamism.
- Gameplay should follow a logical order. Ensure that it’s easy to understand for your novice audience, (the audience you need to win over). Avoid anything too specific, complex or difficult to understand at a glance.
- Capture different levels, different actions and include boosters.
- The recording should have a smooth frame rate, high resolution and as little compression as possible. We suggest at least 1920×1080 at 30FPS. If you can do it at 3840×2160 at 60FPS even better. Then you’ll have plenty of zoom in – zoom out possibilities.
- Don’t overwhelm the viewer by showing too much or too fast. Aim to create a pleasant experience as this is the audience’s first impression of your game. Retention of knowledge is key.
An extra tip, for good measure …. Text screens and ad copy
On-screen texts are essential for videos shared in social media as 85% of videos on social media are watched with the sound off (Source Digiday).
Here are some of the best practices for effective copywriting:
- Create an eye-popping text animation. Keep in mind that the visual style and copy should be aligned with the game’s universe.
- Use short sentences, each text screen should be well under 5-6 words.
- Avoid having a prolonged text animation, this will only make your video unnecessarily long.
- CTA’s like “Play now” or “Join the community!”, play a big role in sending your audience to your landing page or app store to learn more about your game. Even the color of the CTA button affects the decision making process of potential players. You can learn more about it here.
- CTA’s can go through extensive A/B testing until you find the one that works for your game (by testing shapes, colors, size and copy). You can start with something popular like “Download today” to something more compelling and unique to your game.
- According to Hellobar.com using CTAs on Facebook posts can boost your click-through rate by almost 300%
Here are 2 good examples of short and effective ad copy where banners are aligned with the style of the game and are aesthetically pleasing. Rogue Racers and Dragon City
Envision your trailer as a short film: Start strong, tease the events, gain and hold the viewer attention, highlight what’s unique about your game, finish with a smashing scene packed with adrenaline, create a memorable and easy-to-read end card. It should encapsulate impressive visuals and emotional storytelling.
Bear in mind that early promotion will help you drive user acquisition once your game is out and your game trailer will help calibrate your audience’s expectations.
If you are working with a small team, creating your own game trailer can be a fantastic opportunity to be innovative with lots of freedom for artistic expression.
Creating your own game trailer is a demanding mission and requires technical knowledge to live up to the game’s expectations, even more so if you are an indie developer, as you need to maximise your reach by creating a powerful experience.