Before the release of any major game, the hype-train will start gathering steam many months in advance. There is a general progression of exposure as the release draws nearer and the hype builds. It may start with something extremely vague, such as a ‘leaked’ logo or word being spread in the gaming media that a developer is hiring new staff. A little later we may see a ‘teaser trailer’ which will rarely give away more info other than the game’s name and very rough release date. It is expected that teaser videos will not use in-game graphics, will probably be pre-rendered and so will not be representative of what the game will end up looking like or how it will play. The Mass Effect 3 teaser trailer is a famous example of this.
Closer to the time we will usually be treated to our first gameplay trailer, which will be our first glimpse of the game in action. (Assuming the footage shown is genuine in-game footage - Alien’s Colonial Marines, I’m looking at you!) These are genuinely useful, since what a game looks, sounds and plays like will determine whether or not a potential customer is interested in it.
In place of E3
Due to the importance of gameplay reveals, they have historically been saved for the annual E3 event. This year has been different, however. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic 2020’s E3 was canceled. In lieu of this, software and hardware developers have been holding their own mostly online events instead, such as the ‘Ubisoft Forward’ event we covered a few weeks back, and the recent Xbox Series X reveal event.
At the latter event we were treated to ‘reveal videos’ of several upcoming titles. However exactly what they were revealing was left very much up to interpretation, as they provided very little information, and what they did provide was confusing.
At least six games were ‘revealed’, these including; Avowed, State of Decay 3, As Dusk Falls, Forza Motorsport, Fable and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. Of these videos, only one - Forza Motorsport - stated that the footage shown was captured in-engine. Were the other captured in-engine or entirely pre-rendered? If pre-rendered, did they use in-game assets? Based solely on the reveal videos it is impossible to tell.
None of the videos showed anything approaching gameplay. ‘As Dusk Falls’ left it very ambiguous as to what genre of game it will be. The reveal showed what appeared to be hand-drawn 2D images, some of which were semi-animated. Is this game going to be a visual novel? Going by the reveal video alone it is impossible to say.
Indeed, only two of the videos showed what genre their game is likely to be. The Avowed reveal suggested it will be a first-person ‘sword and spells’ RPG ‘al la Skyrim. The Forza Motorsport video suggests it will be a racing game. Note I said ‘likely to be’, since these impressions might be misleading. As for the others? Who knows?
The reveal video for Fable was vaguer still. What genre of game will it be? It doesn’t say. We can make an educated guess based on the previous Fable games, but that is all it would be, a guess. Speaking of the earlier Fable games - of which there are at least three - how does the Fable shown in the reveal relate to them? Is it Fable 4? A Fable 1 remaster? A Fable 1 remake or is it a complete reboot of the Fable franchise? Again, the video fails to reveal this.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 ‘reveal’ was especially confusing due to the video promoting it as a ‘Console Launch Exclusive’, without explaining what this means exactly. Since the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise up to this point has been a PC exclusive this caused alarm among the fanbase (if Facebook groups are anything to go by). Some fans were concerned that the game might only be coming out on the Xbox Series X. Others were worried that it would only be released on PC after a notional platform exclusivity deal ended. Thankfully the furor was quietened once fans started circulating screenshots of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 website which showed in the FAQs that it was coming to PC and would do so on the same day it comes to the Xbox Series X console.
None of the ‘reveal’ videos indicated if the games were single-player, multiplayer, or both. They did not reveal if the games’ levels and maps will be pre-made, procedurally generated, or both; nor did they reveal if the games are meant to be played online or off.
What's the Point of a Reveal Video?
With so little information on display, it begs the question “What is the point of reveal videos such as these?” To be honest, I cannot think of one from a prospective customer’s perspective. The only purpose they serve for games journalists like myself is giving us something to write about - or in this case, moan about.
I posit that these reveal videos fall between two posts. They are too long and overly detailed for a teaser, but too short and lacking in gameplay footage and useful information to be a gameplay reveal. From my perspective the only purpose they serve is sustaining the hype-train between the teaser and the gameplay reveal.
As I see it, the only people who benefit from this are the game’s developers and publishers. I imagine many people have been watching these events, so from an ‘audience exposure’ perspective, they have served their purpose. People are talking about them, journalists are writing about them and forums have people tapping away on keys dissecting and discussing them. Bravo publisher – mission accomplished.
However, there are a few simple changes that could be made to these ‘reveal’ videos that would make them genuinely useful to the wider audience whilst still fuelling the hype-train. We will cover these in the next article; Reveal Videos: Part Two - How to do a Reveal Video Right. See you all there.
What reveal videos have you seen recently, and where did you see them? Was it during a live event, or later on the developers/publisher’s site or via searching on YouTube? Has there been any particularly poor examples you have seen recently? Do you have any suggestions about what could be done to improve these reveal videos that could be included in the follow-up article? Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.