Welcome to Pro-G's Monday Morning Rant, our latest regular feature where one of the team gets to vent their spleen on anything that annoys them about the wonderful world of gaming. No subject, no matter how taboo, will be free from our cutting comment and vicious vitriol. Got that Monday morning feeling? Read on, and brace yourself for a wake-up call.
It's only October, and yet it feels like Christmas is in full swing. Q4, as we call it in game land, is well underway, and we've already had some big hitters, like Halo 3, hit the shelves, and console price-cuts, like the Xbox 360 and PS3, kick in. But it's at this time of year, when the game trailers and screenshots start flooding onto the Internet and game adverts impose themselves on television screens all over the world that I'm reminded of one of my biggest bug bears in gaming: a lack of gameplay footage in game advertising.
Almost all game adverts do not show you what it looks like when you are playing the game. They will show you the action from any number of glamorous angles, sometimes using pre-rendered footage to make the game look better than it does when you're in the thick of it. If they do show gameplay footage, then it's for little more than a second, almost apologetically. Then it's back to the glamour shots. Some game adverts don't even bother with that. These, like the PS3 Living adverts, concentrate on a more lifestyle, brand aware viral approach. But I want gameplay footage to make a comeback.
Take recent racing release SEGA Rally, for example. The television advert currently doing the rounds shows cars racing, and from very cool, dynamic angles too. But the ad tells you nothing of how the game looks when you play it. Instead we see cars fly into the camera as they launch themselves on to ramps, cars batter each other as they jostle for position and take corners as they battle for first place. It looks very exciting, but as a game buyer, and a game fan, all I really want is an in-game shot from one of the viewpoints you get when you are racing.
You might say that for certain games that are guaranteed to sell millions of copies, there's no need to include gameplay footage, since people will buy it anyway. Take blockbuster Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. Microsoft's 'Believe' campaign contained no game footage at all, either in-game or gameplay. Instead we were treated to a tour of a model battlefield, with a strung-up Master Chief as humanity's last hope. Did that advert help get mainstream gamers excited about the game, or did it just confuse them?
I hate the use of pre-rendered clips that aren't even in the game, too. I remember an advert for a Harry Potter game too that was entirely made up of pre-rendered footage. I simply found this embarrassing from a gamer point of view. Are we not proud of the way our games look when we play them? The advert even included notice that no gameplay footage was shown. Cringe-worthy.
But the worst example this holiday season has to be for EA Sports' FIFA 08. The UK version contains about four seconds of glamorous footage of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney's virtual alter ego going past a few players before scoring. The rest of it is some pointless golf-inspired recreation of the goal with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. If I was a FIFA fan, what would help me make my mind up on whether or not to get the new game is gameplay footage, even if it's a fleeting glimpse, since that's what you'll be seeing 99% of the time when you play the game. But the advert doesn't show you any. Can I FIFA 08? No, and neither, it seems, can the makers of the advert.
Not all publishers are guilty of the gameplay footage sin, however. Nintendo deserves praise for always including gameplay footage in their adverts, be it Nintendo's Brain Training on the DS with Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman, or Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf with the great man on the Wii, I've always seen some gameplay footage spliced into their game adverts. I'm no Nintendo fanboy, but Nintendo's marketing has been spot on. And what console is selling the most?
I'm not having a go at trailers for games that have just been announced. Often times the game won't be far enough into development to show gameplay footage at that stage, and only a concept trailer will be released to get more hardcore gamers excited (like with the recent Street Fighter 4 trailer). I can understand too, publishers not wanting to release early gameplay footage if it doesn't look particularly astounding. But mainstream game adverts are released round about the time the game hits the shelves, when the game will almost certainly be completed. Gameplay footage is available, but marketers simply choose not to use it.
Some may say that game trailers and television adverts are not there to provide you with in-game footage, but to simply act as promotional devices for games, increase brand awareness and to get gamers excited about a new release. But I'll challenge that assumption. Nothing gets me more excited about a game than seeing a few seconds of breathtaking gameplay footage. Indeed if I don't see gameplay footage in an advert of a game, I start to wonder why. And for more mainstream gamers, who perhaps haven't seen gameplay footage on the Internet, a television advert will be their only exposure to the game before purchase. If they're teetering on the edge of a purchase, surely some gameplay footage would help them decide to take the plunge and buy the game.
So here's my Monday Morning Rant: Marketing departments hear my cry - include more gameplay footage in video game adverts. That's what it's all about after all.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.