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How to Make a Video Game Trailer? Practical Guide Using Animation

Marketing tips

Pigeon Studio

14.04.2023

8 minutes

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When you want to build anticipation, make a good first impression, and showcase your game in its best form, you need to produce trailers for your video game. Well-produced trailers have been commonplace in the industry for more than three decades, and nowadays, even indie games can't get away with not having one. It is simply required if you want to draw attention to your game, showcase it on digital storefronts, and draw players in.

But, how do you go about making a trailer? Do you rely purely on gameplay footage? Should you showcase the game mechanics? How do you make the story sound interesting? These are all questions that game makers regularly ask themselves. In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know about using animations to create stellar, high-quality, and cinematographic trailers.

#1 Picking the Right Approach

Pick a popular video game genre and look at the top games, you will see a variety of trailers with different focuses, themes, and approaches. You have trailers that purely use in-game footage while others use highly stylistic animations. The biggest decision when making a trailer is deciding how you approach it.

In this blog post, we're talking about using animation to create eye-catching trailers. This is an effective, flexible approach used by indie and triple-AAA video game studios. It comes with its advantages and it requires a unique approach. In this section, we'll go over all two important aspects.

Advantages of Using Animation to Create Trailers

  • Creative freedom: a typical game trailer leave very little room for creative freedom. They need to show extensive gameplay footage and stick to in-game cutscenes, and while this approach has its advantages, it is also very limiting. By using animation to create a game's trailer, you have far more freedom to represent your game in the best way possible.
  • Complete control over presentation: An animated trailer will allow you to show the content and gameplay in a highly stylized way without traditional restrictions. You're in complete control over what is displayed and how it is displayed. This level of control is very important to display your video game in the best light and generate interest among your intended audience. There are many examples of video game companies using animations to create a stunning trailer that went viral. Leveraging animations can be a powerful tool in your toolbox.
  • Creating a truly unique video game trailer: The video game industry is saturated, and it can be extremely difficult to get your game noticed. How can you distinguish it from the hundreds of other games out there that are released every single day? It is certainly a tall order, but a good game trailer, especially an animated one, can be the first step in realizing this goal. By having a high-quality animated trailer, you'll immediately draw attention to your game, signal it is a product with a lot of effort put into it, and create a good first impression. These are crucial if you want your game to sell in the modern market.

Looking for an engaging game teaser? Here's one! Check out this animated game trailer we made for Prodigy's latest kid's game expansion.

#2 Approaching Animated Trailers in the Right Way

Using animation in a video game trailer is unique and requires the right approach to fully leverage it and enjoy all its advantages. In this section, we'll go over some aspects you need to consider to approach animated trailer creation in the right way.

A. Deciding What to Include and What to Omit

Normal trailers last from half a minute to two minutes at most. Even extended trailers rarely last beyond 5 minutes. This is good. Trailers are meant to be short, eye-catching advertisements for your video game. But this presents a dilemma, what to include in the trailer and what to omit? Since trailers are so short, this decision will be paramount in deciding their quality.

There are some key fundamentals that you need to observe:

  • Don't lose focus: It is easy to go over the board with trailers and lose focus on the original goal. Remember: trailers are meant to introduce viewers to a game and make them excited to play it. Sadly, with some highly stylized trailers, it is impossible to even learn what the game is about from the trailer. This is not a good trailer design.
  • Keep the important stuff front and center: what's the game's selling point? Is it a unique story? The unique gameplay? Compelling characters? A new take on an old genre? Whichever it is, this needs to be the central focus of your trailer. Your game will likely appeal to a specific segment of gamers, and you should create your trailers with that in mind. You cut the unnecessary fluff and make the trailer flow much better by keeping attention to the important stuff.
Advantages of Using Animation to Create Trailers
The illustration from the Pigeon's Studio project for Articy:draft

B. Making Sure the Game Comes to Life

Many trailers are technically competent and visually interesting but feel hollow and soulless. Trailers need to be authentic and bring the characters, story, and gameplay to life. But this is easier said than done and it is more art than science. But there are some things you can do to make sure the trailer can come alive:

  • Making the trailer flow flawlessly: Making sure the animation, scenes, and objects flow naturally is key to not only making the trailer look stylish but also helping bring everything to life. Animations, as the name suggests, are about animating objects and scenes, and getting that part right is key to creating a good game trailer.
  • Adding characters: Some of the world's most iconic video game trailers all have one thing in common: They feature iconic characters. Whether it is the main character, the main villain, or the mascot of the game, having iconic characters featured in the trailer will help add flavor to it. A video game trailer without characters usually doesn't attract nearly as much attention.

C. Integrating Actual Gameplay Footage Into the Trailer

In most genres, although not all, the gameplay is the biggest selling point of the game. And while one of the advantages of using animations is the fact you can create highly-stylized trailers, this doesn't mean you should completely ignore game footage. There are ways you can integrate the gameplay footage into your trailer to excellent effect, and here are some tips on how to do just that:

  • Make sure the style of the animation work complements the style of the game: What kind of art style do you use in your game? What kind of atmosphere does the game have? When creating a trailer, you should generally make sure its style and aesthetics also match your game and gameplay. If you're going for a grimdark aesthetic in your game, having a colorful, vibrant game trailer will be odd, and it'll look jarring if you try to integrate gameplay sequences into it.
  • Make sure the transition is seamless: transitioning from stylized animated work to gameplay clips can be a bit jarring, so it is very important to get it right to ensure everything flows seamlessly and the game trailer appears cohesive. Here, you can use various techniques to ease the actual game footage.
  • Strike the right balance: Creating a good game trailer is about finding the right balance. More gameplay footage might be good up to a point, but then it could become excessive and overshadow the short animated sequence in the trailer. On the other hand, if you have a 2-minute trailer, including 5 seconds of gameplay is going to generally be too little and will not have the desired effect. If you want to include gameplay in an animated game trailer the right way, make sure you're striking a balance.
Making Video Game Trailers
The illustration from the Pigeon's Studio project for Doomlings: Overlush

#3 Nailing the Sound Effects

Although the visual elements of a game trailer are extremely important, sound effects, music, and potentially voice acting are equally as important. By using these elements effectively, you can create excitement, you can sell the game's interesting story, can include an effective call to action, and much more. Excellent trailers always have a stellar sound design.

When thinking about sound design for your game trailer, there are a few elements you need to consider: 

  • High-quality sound effects: the quality of the sound effects is really important. The sounds need to be crisp, recorded in professional settings, and appropriately integrated into the animated game trailer. Anything short of this will detract from the overall quality of the trailer. 
  • Appropriate sound effects: the sound effects need to be appropriate, and they need to be appropriate on multiple levels -- they need to be appropriate thematically matching the tones and themes of the game. They also need to be appropriately used in the game trailer: overusing sound effects or using them in the wrong manner can equally detract from the overall viewing experience of the trailer. 
  • Voice acting: If your game is story-rich or features memorable characters, it can benefit a lot from good voice acting. Voice acting can breathe new life into scenes and make a trailer far more memorable and effective. Almost all modern triple-A PC games feature trailers with professional voice acting. It is more mixed for indie games, but it is still an important tool in your repertoire that you should know when to use. 

#4 Fleshing Out the Game's Universe and Gameplay

What's the point of creating a video game trailer? It is to present your game in the best light and get people interested in it. Naturally, the approach when creating a game trailer should be different from the approach to creating animated marketing videos, for example. Without effectively fleshing out the game's gameplay, this is very hard to do. 

Although there are certainly a few atmospheric trailers that keep information about both aspects of the game to a minimum, these kinds of trailers are generally very risky to pull off, and you usually only see this technique in movie trailers. 

How you go about fleshing out the game's universe and gameplay will depend heavily on the kind of game you're advertising. In a story-heavy game, the focus should be on the game's world and characters.  In a gameplay-heavy game, the focus should be on the gameplay in general or specific features of the gameplay that will excite gamers. 

Watch our animated game trailer for Doomlings: Overlush - the delightful card game for the end of the world. Although the trailer is for a card game, you can still feel the vibe!

Making Video Game Trailers FAQ

How Much Does It Cost to Make Video Game Trailers?

The cost of creating video game trailers can vary widely depending on a few factors: How long is the trailer? How much original CGI/animation is used in the trailer? How much of the trailer is in-game footage? Depending on the answer to these questions, a video game trailer can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred grands to tens of thousands of dollars. When creating a video game trailer for indie titles, in particular, budget considerations are very important. 

Should I Use Animations in Video Game Trailers? 

There are many ways to go about creating a game trailer: relying exclusively on in-game footage, relying on 3D CGI, relying on 2D animations, and more. Using animations in a game trailer is certainly a viable choice, and it can provide a number of advantages:

  • It helps make the trailer unique and draws more attention to the game. 
  • It helps distinguish your game from others on the market. 
  • It gives you more freedom over how you present your game. 

This is among many other advantages. If you're interested in creating an animated trailer for your game, you should reach out to us. We have years of experience creating highly dynamic and stylish animations for businesses around the world. 

What Are the Drawbacks of Using Animation in Trailers 

Although animations can be used to great effect in a video game trailer, like any other method, it comes with some drawbacks, especially if you don't understand the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. These are some of the potential drawbacks you might face: 

  • If you neglect recording gameplay, the trailer might appear misleading or incomplete. 
  • Without cinematographic effects, an animated trailer might not be lively enough. 
  • Without proper planning, a trailer might fail to show all aspects of the game. 

These are all potential downsides of using animation in trailers, but the key word here is 'potential'. With appropriate planning and mitigation, all these downsides can be easily avoided.

About the author

Pigeon Studio

Through motion, we translate brands, products, and ideas into captivating and impactful content.

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