Thursday, September 3, 2009

Modern Game Marketing - The Ballad of Gay Tony

Ever since the marketing spree for Inglorious Basterds kicked in, I've been exceedingly sensitive to when companies are trying to market directly to me. I was a little disappointed by the movie and the advertising certainly made it seem to be a beast of a different color. Now, I'm taking my eagle eye to the latest games trailers that have made must haves out of titles arriving this holiday season. This will probably morph into a larger piece maybe for a larger site, but we'll see how it goes this first time.

Rockstar Games released the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV's second DLC episode, The Ballad of Gay Tony, to much excitement on Tuesday, and to put it plainly, it was a great trailer. There's a lot of character and information and life in this trailer, maybe something that was missing in the previous The Lost and Damned trailer. There are a lot of things this trailer does
much better than any other. Let's run down exactly what makes it great.

1) Make it like a movie trailer: Rockstar Games are obviously very proud of the work they do in their ability to have a very directed style and goal. Much of Grand Theft Auto IV was a parody, a parody of the environment, the people, and the actions involved in "achieving the American Dream." With the Ballad of Gay Tony they obviously are aiming for the flashy glitzy life style. How does the rest of the trailer achieve this?

2) People dancing in a flashy club is a sure way to promote this downtown lifestyle. A large crowd is going to make the viewer think "If I play this game, I'm really going to be in the thick of it." The people dancing in the club also plays on some of the nostalgia people feel for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. How many of us spent plenty of time watching the people dancing about in the hippest clubs? Using player nostalgia is another way Rockstar is going to be selling this game in the rest of the trailer.

3) Maybe the reason The Lost and Damned got lost in itself was the vehicles the characters were using primarily. I know after my horrific experiences with the motor bikes in the main GTA IV game, I was more than a little hesitant to hop back on (despite the proper changes being made). Now in TBoGT, we see lots and lots of the most powerful cars in the game, which were actually a lot more fun to drive than the various motorbikes.

4) With all of the fast cars, and dancing people, will there be any combat in the game? Of course, and those images are cut in with the dancing and set to the music as well. Showing a little blood on Luis' forehead means that he's going to be doing a lot of work. He's also got a big gun, and people like that too. Of course, as the player we won't be seeing the action in quite the same way, but watching is very far from doing, so the trailer is certainly whetting the appetite in these quick shots.

5) Here are the main marketing images in the trailer. What exactly is new about TBoGT and why should anyone want to expand their GTA IV experience? Of course everyone loves flying around in the Annihilator helicopter in the main game, but in TBoGT we'll be given a much more compact, and deadly toy to fiddle with.

6) This image also represents a fair amount of nostalgia and giving long time players of GTA what they want. At the release of IV, many players lamented the loss of the gigantic sandbox that San Andreas let players wreck. They wanted to see the load of planes to fly and all of the other crazy things you could see and do across the three expansive cities. This golf cart footage harkens back to the more comedic elements in a GTA.

7)Here's another image that gets spliced alongside dancing and flashing lights. It also makes the player's mind boggle. What could possibly be happening here and what is the players involvement in such an environment changing event? While players saw crashed and damaged railway cars in IV, they certainly never saw one being lifted off the ground by a helicopter.

8) This frame is also crucial in the specific message the marketing is trying to send to prospective consumers. The first thing the viewer notices is the explosions, the second is the amount of destruction happening here. The trailer is trying to tell the potential buyer that they will have a profound effect on their environment, that they'll be able to change it and even destroy it.

9) When Luis is climbing up the skyscraper, we know that the gameplay in the latest DLC pack is going to expand vertically. After spending so much time exploring the streets of Liberty City, Rockstar is trying to say that they're going to take the lid off in TBoGT. Also notice the helicopters circling Luis: they inspire images of King Kong fending off the planes firing at him as he climbed the Empire State building. Do we see how subtle images inflect different feelings in the potential consumer yet?

10) The final image of the trailer is probably meant to drive home the overall message that GTA fans will want to play TBoGT because it is going to bring back all of the chaos and absurdity of San Andreas. Were you one of the people who decried the lack of planes and parachutes in IV? Rockstar will assuage your complaints and bring in a new era of flying around only to crash a copter into a building and bail out at the last second.

I sometimes think that game trailers have a long way to come before they can invoke the same kind of draw that movie trailers have already. Quick cuts, specific images, flashing lights, all of which combine together to get a player to say "wow, I want to do all of that." Sometimes it can be very hard to market a game through video when the main attraction is the interaction, but these days I find it harder and harder to discern where Hollywood marketing begins and ends because with each trailer games seem to get closer to standing shoulder to shoulder with movies.

Modern Game Marketing is a series on how new games, and the corporations behind them, get you to want them.

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