Trying to Create the Perfect Gameplay Trailer for an Indie Game


I am a recent addition to the team and I am in charge of marketing. I was already friends with most of the team for more than ten years but I could only watch the amazing stuff they did from the sidelines as I was busy with different work. I took the first chance that I could and joined in on the fun when I was finally available.

After examining what we had in our hands, my initial concerns were focused on our previous trailer and our lack of online presence. I learned that previous trailer was done in an afternoon because there was a gaming expo the next day and the team needed something to play in loop on the background while people visited our booth. You can understand why I wanted to make something better.

Probably because indie game studios lack professional marketing support, when I started researching about how to make a successful gameplay trailer on internet, the initial results were all aimed at them. The first issue was concerned about how there was a difference between making trailers for indie studios and established studios. It was said that if you are not Blizzard, Bethesda, Ubisoft or something similar, starting the trailer with your company logo was a big no-no because your indie logo doesn’t convey any value to the viewer… which was exactly what our previous trailer did. The general wisdom was to make a good-looking end card with a big logo of your game with some announcement below it and only use a small sized studio logo on the side.

People who start watching a trailer make a decision between watching the whole thing and just skipping to the next video during the first 15 seconds. So, the advice was putting the most exciting parts of the trailer near the beginning. If you have something unique, something that other similar games doesn’t have, or some shots full of action and explosions, put them in the beginning! Make people want to see more! Even recent movie trailers started to put best few shots before the beginning of the trailer. After capturing people’s attention in the first shots of the trailer, you can move on to the main body where you can give whatever message you want to give to the viewer.

The next advice was about a necessary assumption concerning the viewers. More specifically, how you should assume your audience is completely ignorant about everything. Assume that they don’t know anything about what they see on the screen even if things are pretty obvious, the genre even if it clearly has platformer elements, or the game mechanics even if what you show is something basic like pulling and pushing some rocks. When you start thinking along these lines, it becomes obvious that you need some descriptive texts on the screen explaining what people see. For example, when you show the character pushing, digging, and gnawing you also need to include a text saying “interact with the environment” to solidify the information that you are trying to pass on to the viewer.

While getting a message across is important, the crucial information that indie studios forget is that people’s attention span is very limited. That’s why, rather than trying to include every bit of information in a trailer that lasts around one and a half minutes, the advice was, just focusing on some main aspects and showcasing them. In short, rather than trying to show both the game mechanics and the story elements, just choose one and make a trailer around it. Making a trailer that’s longer than one and a half minutes is not a good practice either because people just get bored easily and may decide to switch to another video. Because YouTube makes its decision about the appeal of a video (and stops recommending it to other people if it decides to be an unappealing one) based on how long people stay and watch, it is very important to keep people’s interest and never bore them. If a video is too long, people may watch only half of it and YouTube stops recommending. So, to not loose people to other videos, a trailer should be short and to the point and does not try to fill it with everything that is relevant to the game.

At the end, we tried to be loyal to the wisdom we received as much as we could while creating our new gameplay trailer. We don’t show our studio logo at the beginning, have a cool looking end card, start the video with the most unique mechanics we have, have descriptive texts that match the shots, and got a duration easily under one and a half minutes without the end card. I can honestly say that I like the new trailer not only as the person who was behind it but also as a random gamer as well and I hope you will like it too. This was the first time I did anything remotely similar to this but I am proud of the result.

By the way, I realize that we made a pure gameplay trailer to showcase our mechanics and environment because we didn’t want to overcrowd the trailer and did not include any story elements. Sooo… a story trailer is in the works!

You can watch our new gameplay trailer right here:

Kerem Özer