9 Reasons Why do game publishers lean into stylized animated trailers? (When the games are not)
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
1. Direct focus on what's different:
Many games share the same engines in development. Many genres have similar game mechanics. These similarities become a debate in fandom as "A rip off from XXX". We appreciate that game designers are putting much effort into creating unique gameplay, and these efforts should be emphasized in trailers.
Dead Cells animated trailer is a great example. It is a rogue-like game, and you kill, die, learn, repeat. The best thing about Dead Cells, it has a great progression system and learning curve. In the beginning, you feel like you don't have a chance to succeed because of your weak weapons. And you keep grinding it out to unlock more stuff, but the reality is that you are just getting better at the game through acquiring skill and information, which is mirrored cleverly in the trailer. The main character asks for a bigger and better weapon each time. In the end, what is left is the frying pan. And he does wonders with that.
*Fun fact - Frying pan became a real weapon in the game later.
2. 2D animation can do what the game engine can't:
2D animators are the magicians of expressive faces and body language, unexpected perspectives, choreographed actions, stylized poses... They are flexible with their craft and can bring more to the table. The launch trailer of the reverse-horror action-platformer from Phobia Game Studio and Devolver Digital called Carrion is a great example. In Carrion, you are the monster that terrorizes the research facility and devours people. Due to the side-scrolling pixel art style, you hardly experience the fear and despair of your prey during gameplay. But in the launch trailer, around 1:12, you see the monster in performance up close and personal. We can tell that our unlucky scientist is in fear; his body is seized. Before he dies, the last shot of his eyes captures our emotions—a great practice of storytelling that can't be emulated by gameplay videos.
3. Hop on to the success of adult animated series and commercials:
Now, we are not talking about the Simpsons or South Park. We are talking about visually and thematically the rise of adult-oriented content. Castlevania on Netflix is airing for season 3, and the creator of the show, Warren Ellis, says,* "Season three was in the Netflix Top 10 — not for animation, not for tv, but for all Netflix content — for a week or two in 40 countries." And season 4 is already confirmed. Not only media companies are interested in adult animations, but also many other brands are tapping into the potential. P&G released an action-packed animated commercial for hair care brand Head & Shoulder **. And they leaned into a broader market for their success.
4. Nostalgia Factor:
And as we know from the Hollywood practices--Nostalgia Works! According to Statista.com, the distribution of the video gamers in the United States in 2020 by age is as follows:
Under 18 years - 21%
18 to 34 years - 38%
34 to 54 years - 26%
55 to 65+ - 15%
Many Saturday morning cartoon lover children are adults now, and people tend to look for trust and familiarity in an overwhelming media bombarded life. So it is no coincidence that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still a part of pop culture. The new video game based on TNMT called "Shredder's Revenge" is exercising the nostalgia on their launch trailer, which is heavily influenced by the original cartoons from the '90s.
5. A stylized animation is an excellent tool for storytelling:
Since some publishers adopted "game as a service model" and planning seasonally for the coming years, the sustainability of the game became a hot priority. For example, Ubisoft excelled at storytelling in the Rainbow Six franchise to keep the ethos alive in players' minds. Also, with each season, game developers add new features and characters to the roaster. Crimson Heist is an excellent example of announcing the new tactical attacker operator, Flores. The trailer does a great job by showing us his sly and charismatic personality while introducing us to his unique RCE-Ratero Charge ability, which makes a damn good blast.
6. Gamers like new iterations of their favourite characters:
We all know and love Zelda games. But there are some bad apples left in the franchise.
Nintendo gave Philips a license to use five of its characters in games on Philips' own console, the CD-i. These games were made with limited involvement from Nintendo, a very tight budget, and a short amount of time, and were heavily criticized after release. The first two games featured full-motion video cutscenes that can only be described as "so bad they're funny" with poor animation, a laughable script, and bad voice acting. Enter The Zelda CD-i Reanimated Collab.
More than 200 animators and artists have spent 18 months recreating the cutscenes from Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon in numerous animation styles, which include hand-drawn, claymation, and CGI. The result is charming and hilarious.
Familiarity yet freshness, the feeling of discovery, is a great tool to keep fans engaged.
*Collab Hosts - PatchToons, Art With Artemis (Sky Streak) | ***Collab Remix- NoteBlock /
7. Can boost the humour element:
Started as a flash game in 2014, My Friend Pedro took every concept from its flash roots and turned it into a fantastic action game inspired by movies like Matrix, Equilibrium and games like Max Payne. The game revolves around killing a bunch of people with bullet-time while looking cool. The story is not the main focus of My Friend Pedro. You are a nameless hero, and Pedro is a talking banana that tells you to do bad things, which hilariously advances the story. The trailer portraits the gameplay with blood-pumping action in dynamic camera angles and cinematic extravaganza. But even the game's focus is not the story; the trailer puts the banana Pedro forefront as the narrator and imbues the trailer with a unique humour sauce, which helps it shine amongst many other action games. Over the top action combined with absurd humour makes the trailer unique and memorable.
8. 2D animation is quicker to produce than 3D, while looking gorgeous:
The 2D animated game trailer production arguably needs less time than a full-blown 3D production. Hence still looks and feels fantastic. A relatively small team of 2D animators can bring a vision to life in a reasonable time frame.
Our studio had the great honour of collaborating second time with Peak Games and created another Toy Blast trailer for this epic franchise. From scriptwriting to music production, we were able to deliver the animation in ten weeks. And able to integrate the video into their marketing schedule.
9. And you may tap into a new audience!
We referred to Castlevania before as an animated series, and we would like to add Netflix's The Witcher to the conversation. Both franchises started as a video game and evolved into mainstream content, which enabled them to reach broader audiences and raise awareness for the games. We are not saying that a game trailer will have the same effects as a Netflix show, but cross-medium efforts help brands raise awareness. According to the world's largest anime collection Crunchyroll, 90% of its users identify themselves as gamers, and 54% as hardcore gamers. People who are already familiar with animation is more likely to watch an animated trailer and try the game. We see great potential in animation to steer people to video games.
About the authors;
Koff Animation is an award-winning animation studio founded by passionate visionaries and artists. Producing eye-catching, high-concept and engaging videos.
We love embracing bespoke and custom-tailored approaches within our commissioned work. Some of our clients are; Cartoon Network, Fox TV, FX, Turner Media, Ford, Jotun, Siemens, Yandex... check our works.
In our Playtime:
We are producing original content based on music, pop culture, human rights, public figures and cult artists, which gained a solid fan base and crunched into big numbers.
Giving Back to Community:
We help animators and illustrators via our YouTube channel. Each week during live shows we answer questions, review portfolios and give tips about professional life.