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Trailers and Screenshots Not Resembling the Final Product


I want you to take a moment and think about a time when a game hasn’t quite lived up to the advertising that was sold. What came to mind first? Watchdogs? Aliens: Colonial Marines? Brink?

Or was it one of the countless others that have been released over the last two decades? Affectionately dubbed ‘bullshots’ by the gaming community, the act of putting out misleading screenshots or trailers has become a bit of a plague. Now it’s no secret in any form of advertising, you want to make your product as appealing as possible to pull in potential customers.

But when is it too far?

I can generally give a pass to a game not looking quite as good in the final product as it does in the trailer or screenshots. A great example of this would be the recent release of Spiderman on the Playstation 4. No, it didn’t look quite as miraculous as it did in the gameplay trailer (namely, the reflection effects as well as reactive water had been toned down substantially) but it was still a great-looking game and it played well. I could compare it to a burger joint giving me an advertisement on one of their meals: it nearly always looks better in an ad than when it’s on my plate, but as long as it still tastes delicious then I’ll be satisfied.


I’d say it goes too far when it deliberately stages gameplay. I don’t mean a specific instance to show off gameplay mechanics, I mean going above and beyond to present an unlikely occurrence as the norm in a game. For this one I’m going to look at what I found to be the most blatant misrepresentation of a game in a trailer in recent memory: Tom Clancy’s The Division. There was a lot in the ‘gameplay’ reveal of The Division that was more than fluffed advertising. It was at many times a lie. From the interface and sound design, to the graphical downscaling that was more than a small downgrade, The Division’s trailer went above and beyond to sell us on a product we just weren’t going to get.

They went as far to stage a level of communication and movement that just doesn’t happen in online games outside of actual simulators complete with a radio-filter. But the biggest lies of all? During this trailer, it was touted that a friend could hop into your game on the fly and commandeer a drone to give you covering fire. That aspect was left on the cutting room floor. Player vs player was touted as an organic thing that would happen on the fly, and that ended up not being the case as the Dark Zone devolved into just another pve zone where every once in a while a player might risk having a bounty on their head and being lit up like a Christmas tree to anyone nearby to steal whatever meaningless loot you got your hands on.

Now, I loved The Division in my time with it but what we received was way different from what was initially advertised, and later trailers and screenshots would do little to address the fact these things had changed until after launch.


Bullshots aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but if they’re going to stick around I’d much rather they be similar to the former example than the latter. If I absolutely have to have a downgrade, let it be slight. But more importantly, let the developers and publishers just be up front with us about it. It would go a lot further in the long run to build trust with consumers if there was just a bit more transparency in major changeups in the development process.

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Post Comment

  1. Expected more screenshot comparisons here, would’ve been a fun gallery to scroll through 🙂

  2. Dank Souls 2 anyone?

  3. And all because consoles. Cheers, peasants.

  4. Spiderman 4 wasn’t downgraded, look at digital foundry’s review, do better your research next time.

    • Was it running at a higher framerate when it was first shown off? If so, then yeah, downgraded. Consoles can’t handle acceptable framerates.

      • andrewsqual on June 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm said

        It was revealed with a 30fps ingame trailer. The final game is a locked target 30fps game. So no, not downgraded.
        The best people out there for uploading the official press asset versions of trailers Gameryde, here is the link to their trailer that was got right off the Sony Press site It was a 30fps trailer.

        And as mentioned, Digital Foundry have already done an analysis on the game and mention the game is UPGRADED from its original E3 2016 trailer, there are even more cars filling the streets of New York in the final game. Just give it up, you and the author are liars.
        Do the research next time or play Spiderman for 5 minutes and then watch the E3 2016 trailer and realise how obvious it is yourself the final game was upgraded lol.

    • BrigandBoy on June 10, 2019 at 5:33 pm said

      He listed his reasons for calling it a downgrade, and it was one of the examples of “acceptable.” Chill a bit, eh?

  5. Aegon the Conqueror on June 12, 2019 at 11:08 am said

    My personal worst one is Total War: Rome 2. Many years and countless patches later and my game still doesn’t play like the one in the Destruction of Carthage gameplay trailer.

  6. Dreadjaws on June 12, 2019 at 2:10 pm said

    “What came to mind first? Watchdogs? Aliens: Colonial Marines? Brink?”

    Heh. I had entirely forgotten about Brink’s existence.

    Anyway, we’ve pretty much reached a point in which piracy has become almost necessary. Now, I don’t pirate games, but I no longer reproach those who do it under the “want to try it before buying” reasoning. Why? Well…

    – Demos are no longer existent for the majority of games, so people have no way to try games before buying them. The exception here being the Playstation, where you can download a full game and try for an hour, but you have to be a PS+ member (which you already have to do if you play multiplayer, so this is an extra benefit). Or at least they used to do that, I don’t know if they still do.
    – Advertisements like trailers and event demos are deceitful, so you don’t know if they’re going to be indicative of the actual experience.
    – Reviews cannot be trusted. Major critics are bribed one way or another into being more positive than they should (or are more negative if those bribes fail to reach them). Users have personal biases that make their reviews more positive or negative than they have any right to be. Once in a while you can find a reviewer you trust, but this requires a lot of trial and error.
    – Games launch in one state and then change over time. Now some games have decided to add microtransactions or rebalance stuff after launch so even if you happen to find a review you trust, the game you buy might not be the same that it was when the review came out.

    Please note that many of these issues also apply to movies. Again, I don’t like to pirate, but I stopped complaining about those who do. Companies have pretty much made it the optimal option out of sheer incompetence.

  7. Can people stop with Spiderman?
    You guys need to see all digital foundry and other tech guys analysis on that and the whol puddlegate thing, but that shit was debunked numerous times.

    I’m still puzzled to see that sort of article comming out.

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