Realtime UK's Dave Cullinane looks at what a pre-rendered games trailer can do for a fledgling project

The benefits of CGI trailers

Ever since the first PlayStation shipped with a CD-ROM, developers and publishers have enjoyed a rollercoaster relationship with the pre-rendered video game trailer.

The first console to support streaming video, Sony’s successful foray into games helped forge a close synergy between Hollywood and video games that continues to this day.

The inclusion of visually rich content helped deliver hitherto immersive experiences that hinted at the scale of what could be achieved in gaming. The fact that it also supplied the marketing department with visually enticing images didn’t hurt either.

And it is this sense of dual purpose – marketing versus creativity – that has sometimes led to the games industry’s often fractious love-hate relationship with the CGI trailer.

At times, there were moments where the trailer was accused of playing too prevalent a role and a distraction from the pure gaming experience. To some, the trailer became an opportunity to add a thin veneer of polish to a product that lacked the technical ambitions of the time.

Fast forward 15 years, PlayStation has technically evolved into a platform that can easily deliver in-game visuals and cutscenes with near Hollywood-quality visual impact; often for lower cost, which raises the question ‘what purpose does a pre-rendered trailer serve, and what value does it provide?’.

The truth is that creating an appropriate and effective marketing trailer is only part of the solution to promoting your new title to the target audience. It’s the purpose for which you use it and the way in which you distribute it that really counts these days.


As proven by this year’s E3 and our own internal production schedule at RealtimeUK, the games trailer is still in rude health, the only difference being the value that can be gained from it.

The fact is that the CGI trailer continues to be an important ingredient to the recipe of gaming success.

Used correctly, scripted appropriately and produced to a high enough quality, can help determine the success or failure of any games project, both during the development cycle and at launch.

To marketing, it provides an invaluable opportunity to convey quality before completion – both externally to the consumer and internally to those bankrolling the project.

To development, it provides an opportunity to realise the initial vision; unencumbered by technical limitations or as yet undeveloped assets or tech. And it is for these reasons why the CGI trailer continues to be one of our most popular services.

The days of tacking on a glossy trailer to ship on the disc are over – the fact is that using CGI is still the most versatile way of pleasing the multitude of stakeholders that comes with today’s triple-A console development cycles.

Whilst there is a continued demand for our live action and in-game trailers, CGI still remains the preferred solution by the majority of our clients.

It is the only means by which a triple-A title’s brand and narrative can be distilled into a short piece of video content that isn’t reliant on in-game video capture or creates disjointed imagery separate to the game experience.

The only thing that has changed since the early days of PlayStation are the plethora of choices and creative means by which the content can now be distributed.

Social media, YouTube, tablet devices and other obvious ubiquitous platforms all ensure that content can reach not only the maximum number of viewers, but targeted ones. It’s this kind of pervasive media that has given a new lease of life to the games trailer.

Whereas once it may have been regarded by some as unnecessary folly, thoughtful use of creative video content has become a necessary consideration to any marketing strategy.

It’s especially important given the metrics and data retention opportunities that can help fuel a game’s marketing campaign.


Companies like Sharethrough, who help branded video content go viral, have discovered that users are more engaged with friend-endorsed content and that people who watch a video are more likely to purchase what is being offered than something without any video.

Our own experience of creating content rich websites in the FMCG sector for companies such as Warburtons has taught us much.

Creative content not only delights and engages your audience, but can act as an effective driver to securing valuable insight into what your players are thinking.

Data retention and customer relationship opportunities should be a part of any marketing strategy, but is especially important to our clients in the games sector who understand the direct relationship between their customers and the digital media opportunities that continue to unfold on a daily basis.

It’s all a far cry from the days when an epic CGI video would sit on a game disc only ever seeing the brief light of day before being buttoned through to the main event.

Carefully considered CGI trailers are a huge opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered.

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