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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