The Complete Video Game Trailer Checklist for Game Devs
by Game Marketing Genie, on 08-Nov-2022 11:02:48
Video continues to be one of the most engaging forms of content, meaning a trailer is the most powerful thing in your marketing toolbox.
Factor in your audience and what you want to communicate from the start. Remember that you can use your video game trailer to validate who your game resonates with and what excites them. Make sure to convey the most important message at the start of your trailer to capitalize on the initial curiosity.
Here's a list of everything you'll need to make a video game trailer. Are you taking notes yet? Let's get started!
A video game trailer can entertain, intrigue, and inform; the mood and direction you choose are entirely up to you.
Plan and create a storyboard to have a basic structure for the trailer. Creating this before you begin recording can help you answer important questions like:
- What story will the trailer tell viewers?
- What is the game's strength?
- What assets will you need for each section?
- Why would someone want to play the game?
- What are the standout mechanics or gameplay elements worth highlighting?
- Where is it all happening?
- Who are they in the game (or what motivates their character)?
Your trailer should be structured similarly to a short story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Spending time on storyboarding before moving on to production is similar to creating a prototype, making you more efficient and clarifying what the final product should look like.
You understand the conflict, the set pieces, and how the protagonist evolves and can behave. Consider the pacing of your script as well.
Figure 1: Two types of storyline formats for game trailers. Source: Derek Liu
Generally, you should choose audio early in the process before you begin editing. Consider how powerful it is when characters or actions are in sync with the music or how music can evoke a mood.
Because you followed our previous advice and planned ahead of time, you know what kind of mood you want to create, which will help you find the right music for your story.
Royalty-free music databases and services are available to match almost any mood or setting imaginable.
Among the more well-known are AudioJungle, Hooksounds, and the YouTube Audio Library, all of which offer a wealth of free content.
3. Gameplay footage
With your script in hand and your musical mood set, you can now begin capturing the visuals that will help explain what your game is all about.
Your trailer should explain what gamers can expect from your game and how it feels. For this, we recommend using gameplay footage — especially if your game isn't an AAA title. You should be bold in showing in-game footage because it helps people see what playing your game is like.
Select clips from your game and tell a story. The plot of your trailer should leave viewers wondering or anticipating what will happen next.
You can also add zoom, lens effects, freeze-frames, and slow motions to your gameplay in the trailer to make it look more appealing. By doing so, you can give viewers the impression of cinematographic effects similar to what they see in movie trailers.
Including cinematics is an option if you have the capacity and time. Still, we're assuming you're devoting most of your time and resources to the game's development.
Fortunately, the medium of creation has few constraints regarding game trailers. We recommend focusing on the gameplay over cinematics, as people will watch your video to see what the game is about.
4. Overlay assets
This step will facilitate you in planning and streamlining your workflow. Knowing what assets you have available will help you move on to the next step, which is to work on the structure of your game trailer.
You should have the following assets:
- Gameplay footage
- Cutscenes, dialogues, and cinematics
- Concept art and key art
- In-game SFX
- Music files
- 3D models required for 3D animations.
- Layered files (.psd) or PNG sequences, as well as sprites for 2D animations
You must sync on-screen text and voice-over when using them simultaneously. When the voice-over does not match, the experience is spoiled. So decide whether the overlays will be static or animated ahead of time and work accordingly.
If you capture someone's attention and they are enthusiastic about your project, that's fantastic. However, what's the point if they never return to view your other content?
Make sure to include a CTA ("call to action") and direct people to a page where they can find similar content or provide options to subscribe, share, and follow. If you need to learn how to do it, start by researching best practices for end slates. If you upload your trailer on YouTube video, you can include a deep link that you can change later without removing the video.
When planning an in-video call to action, keep the following three points in mind:
- Your ideal next step for your viewer. Do you want to encourage them to watch more videos? Should they fill out a form to identify themselves to you? Join a community? Consider the stage of your videos and how you can nudge your viewers to the next stage — or closer to making a purchase decision.
- Your content's nature should align with the action you want
- The types of video CTAs that produce the best results
While film and television trailers are generally created in "the real world," where footage is captured from cameras in real-time, game trailers allow you to arrange the footage however you want. This means having quality tools at your disposal that can make the job easier, faster, and cost-effective. Here is a bird's eye view of what you will need:
Graphic editing tools
Graphic design software helps you create custom overlays and elements in your video trailer. Here are a couple we recommend:
Canva is more than just an image editor; it's full-fledged graphic design software with a color palette tool, font combination picker, photo collage maker, and other features. While it does not have all of Photoshop's capabilities, Canva is a fantastic free app compatible with iOS and Windows (you can upgrade to a paid version if you love it!)
Adobe Photoshop is intended for professional designers and photographers who want to make pixel-level changes and apply advanced effects to their work. It is the industry standard for graphic design and has regular updates. A Creative Cloud subscription is almost mandatory, granting you access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and other programs.
You can purchase Photoshop by subscribing to one of the Adobe Creative Cloud Plans:
- Photography Plan: $9.99 per month - Includes Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop on desktop and iPad, and 20GB of cloud storage (1TB available)
- Photoshop Plan: $29.99 per month - Includes Photoshop on desktop and iPad. It includes Adobe Fresco for drawing and painting.
- All Apps Plan: $52.99/month - Includes 20+ Adobe desktop and mobile apps, including Adobe Creative Cloud.
We're going to recommend a few more tools, but note that the full Adobe Creative Cloud has similar tools if you'd rather just purchase one license.
OBS Studio is the way to go when it comes to recording gameplay on PC. It's open-source, free, and cross-platform. It enables you to record both lossless footage and small, high-quality files. Because it is also a streaming program, it includes a scene system, transitions, and multiple audio channels.
Figure 2: Screenshot of the OBS Studio. Source: OBS Project
Camtasia is one of the best-paid software for game recorders for PC for creating professional videos. You can import HD videos from a third party and use this software to create interactive videos. You can easily include animated clips, and the video, audio, and cursor tracks can all be edited separately. You can also use green screen effects for your footage. It is a little pricey at 299.00 USD, but costs reduce if you purchase 5-9 licenses.
After sound design and editing, sound mixing is the final stage of producing sound for a trailer. It ensures that the viewer focuses where we want them to and feels how we want them to while maintaining a dynamic and balanced soundscape. While your video recorder may have this functionality built-in, you can also use a separate audio processor tool.
Audacity is a free software that allows users to record and edit audio clips. It has a straightforward and user-friendly interface, supports multiple plugins and libraries for enhanced functionality, and is cross-platform compatible. It is compatible with Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux operating systems.
Figure 3: Screenshot of the Audacity interface. Source: Audacity
Acoustica is a top choice for a paid audio platform due to its multi-track editing in one slot. It enables you to create a single track by mixing multiple audio pieces in real-time. You can also get features that allow you to loop or mix them while reducing background noise. The spectral editing mode option allows you to remove noise using AI, which saves time. You can also customize the sampling rate. Acoustica Post Production Suite costs around $299.90, and its Acoustica Premium Edition 7. x is priced at $205.
Once you've gathered a large amount of footage, it's time to import it into editing software. Here are two different non-linear editing (NLE) software tools you can try:
Da Vinci Resolve (Free): This surprisingly powerful NLE is free. It undoubtedly includes more tools than you'll ever need for a game trailer (for example, color grading tools), but it's an excellent choice.
Final Cut Pro X (Mac, $300): This is the most user-friendly software for those who have not been trained as video editors and works exceptionally well. The only potential issue is that you must transfer any PC footage to a Mac.
By now, you must have arrived at this conclusion — creating a game trailer is not a one-person job.
When making a trailer, you must be able to divide the work. The right people who know how to make a game trailer and have the skill level for the various aspects can mean a better end product. After these masters have individually created each piece, they combine it to complete the masterpiece. Here is who should be on your team:
You will need talented content creators to drive the narrative and to support game creativity and development with everything from asset collection, narratives, character development, art direction, scripts, and world-building.
Graphic designers are the ones that bring your vision together. They should be comfortable using the tools previously discussed and are responsible for the visual design.
Another important consideration is that every trailer you release must be part of a larger, integrated marketing strategy. Each trailer should be carefully timed and serve as a vital piece of the puzzle. Your team's marketing role is crucial at this point. For example, are you using the trailer to reach out to the press or pique streamers' interest in your game? Are you using it in a newsletter to reach out to people who have previously expressed interest? Could you use it to improve your chances of getting into events or digital festivals? A successful trailer will need backing from a considered marketing strategy to get the traction you are hoping for.
Or an experienced marketing agency
If you have some budget, you can skip the hassle of hiring a team who may or may not deliver what you want and hire a professional marketing agency instead. That way, you can get an end-to-end solution for content creation, graphic design, and marketing to ensure a quality product that brings results.
Game Marketing Genie's marketers are a seasoned bunch who love gaming and are experts at traversing the game marketing niche. Our ultimate goal is to help game developers like you push your brand into the minds of your target gamers. Check out what we can do on our website.
8. Other things to consider
- Top off your video game trailer by optimizing it for accessibility. Include captions, and pay attention to the color scales you choose.
- List where you plan to promote your trailer in your marketing strategy. Social media networks, Discord/Reddit communities, and landing pages can all function as prime estate to house and share your hard work.
- This is also a good time to settle on the budget you are willing to (or can) spend on a game trailer.
Getting video marketing right
Video marketing is key to your overall brand health, but isn't something you can do without a strategy. It's dangerous to go alone, so take our tips: The #1 Video Marketing Handbook for Gaming Studios.
Just because your trailer's done, doesn't mean your job is done
Early promotions will lend a hand in driving user acquisition once your game is released, and your game trailer will assist in meeting your audience's expectations.
If you're working with a small team, making a game trailer can be a great way to be creative and express yourself artistically. But creating a video game trailer is a difficult task requiring technical knowledge to live up to the game's expectations, especially if you are an indie developer looking to expand your reach by creating a powerful experience.
Are you prepared to hire a creative agency with top resources to pull off a jaw-dropping game trailer to truly stand out?