The pandemic shook up a lot of life as we knew it, including the trailer industry. While theatrical releases were hit hard by social distancing, video games have enjoyed unprecedented growth. In the era of staying at home, a single game can provide hundreds of hours of interactive entertainment and a myriad of ways to connect with friends and family. Couple that with the emergence of next-gen consoles—which offer a serious bump in technological capability—and we might just be looking at the next golden age of gaming.
Trailer Audio in Films vs Video Games
This dynamic begs the question: what does the rise of video games mean for those of us working in trailer audio?
First, the basics.
While video game trailers often borrow tropes and trends from traditional theatrical trailers, there are important differences between the two mediums being marketed. While film offers audiences two hours of passive engagement, video games contain an abundance of content that can be accessed through a range of active engagement styles. This means game marketers have to create far more A/V assets—story trailers, walk-throughs, etc.— to sell audiences on each title.
In film and TV marketing, the campaign is king. Studios hone a cohesive tone and singular message, and all marketing materials become aesthetic descendants of that north star. But gamers tend to be more immersive consumers than the traditional theatrical audience; and so game marketers need to operate across a greater number of diverse platforms. The result is more horizontal movement within the campaign across channels like Twitch, Reddit, and vlog communities. Each video game trailer, TV spot, digital spot or live experience takes on its own identity and tells a story that stands alone from other pieces in the campaign. This allows for more localization, more experimentation, and more adjusting on the fly.
For example, Diablo 4’s marketing team eschewed the standard 1-2 minute announcement trailer in favor of a chilling 9-minute cinematic short film. Nintendo created an abstract art film to launch its campaign for Switch hit Kentucky Route Zero. The Resident Evil: Village announcement trailer begins in typical survival horror fashion, but then takes an unexpected turn—teasing the environment, characters, and iconography in the process.
Because the video game marketing model is more fluid than its theatrical counterpart, clients and creatives in trailer audio have more freedom to craft bold ideas that resonate.
Case in point: Bethesda’s Gameplay Trailer for Deathloop, which forgoes traditional gameplay for a stylish, music-driven descent into the gaming world. Rather than synching an existing track or creating a cover song, Bethesda tapped Sencit to write, perform, and record the original bespoke song “Déjà Vu.” Driven by Kris Kovacs and FJØRA's performance and Brett Sorrentino’s producing, the final trailer reads equal parts James Bond title sequence and high-concept music video. To push things even further, artists Future, Steve Aoki, and Madison Beers, created their own renditions of Déjà Vu, which generated greater virality for the campaign.
One thing we know for sure is that the entertainment marketing landscape has blurred over the last couple of years, but with that is an opportunity in video game trailer audio. More people than ever are getting their entertainment interactively right now. Bolstering this is the enhanced technology of new consoles that offer more than just upgraded graphics and unparalleled processor power. This means new places for creativity to grow in games and the media we make to sell them. Since the gaming model is already built for experimentation across a diversity of platforms, sound artists should feel well-positioned to push boundaries and create audioscapes that stand out.
If you’re looking for audio for your next video game trailer release, explore Sencit’s catalog.