5 Tips for Creating an Effective Video Game Trailer

5 Tips for Creating an Effective Video Game Trailer

October 20, 2022
Marketing for Indie Video Game Developers
Do everything the app stores do - for only 5%. Find out about Web Shop for Mobile Games.

Your video game trailer is one of the most powerful promotional tools you can have in your game marketing belt. Whether a mobile, console, or PC title, an effective trailer can make or break the success of your game’s debut. In fact, just including a good promo video in your app store listing can boost conversions by 40 percent. A well-made game trailer has the power to inspire emotion, build hype, and give players an enticing glimpse into what your game will be about and what the gameplay looks like.

Want to make a trailer that will have your players' eyes glued to the screen, wanting more, and ready to pre-order? Follow our five strategies for creating an effective video game trailer, so you can connect with a truly interested audience that can't wait to play your game.

1. Tailor your trailer

Before you begin, you need to decide the type of trailer you want. What message should it communicate? Where will the trailer be seen? How much of your finished game, or in-progress work, do you want to reveal at this stage?

Depending on your answers to those questions, you should tailor your trailer to the audience and platform that will give your game promotion the most value. 

Choose a Platform(s)

If you’ve already started thinking about what your video game trailer might look and feel like, the next thing to consider is where your trailer will be viewed. 

How you prepare your trailer might depend on whether you post it to top gaming communities, like Steam and Twitter, or other platforms that showcase your brand.

Steam

Taking up around 75% of the global market, Steam is the largest distributor of PC games in the world. This makes posting your game to Steam and its widespread audience a necessity. 

But, this can also make it a double-edged sword since, due to its popularity among PC gamers, getting your game discovered on Steam has become increasingly tricky. This means adding a captivating trailer to your game's page on this platform is vital. 

So, what does a compelling Steam trailer call for? It's all about the gameplay. People watching your trailer want to know what they can do. Remember the goal; you’re trying to show your potential buyer how they can play your game. This is not the time to hide the good parts of your game mechanics or make prospective players guess at gameplay by showing them fancy cinematics or cutscenes.

If you want to know more about self-publishing on Steam, see our detailed guide on how to get your game in front of this ready-made audience. 

Twitter

Twitter is another valuable platform, as it boasted more than 2.4 billion Tweets about gaming in 2021. With a massive community of gamers and other developers constantly updating and sharing insights, it’s another place to get some attention and conversation for your game trailer. 

Including Twitter in your marketing plans is truly beneficial for a new title. Something as simple as a small drip feed is not only quick and easy to execute but also highly effective. The drip campaign for the play-to-earn game, Lost Sailors not only teased pre-sales and release dates, but the game’s Twitter account also released playable characters, features, and more the closer it got to launch day. 

Other Platforms

With the popularity and effectiveness of video across owned, earned, and paid channels, it's impossible to overlook the power of video’s contribution to marketing success. In 2021, videos were the primary way consumers discovered a brand they later purchased from

This means posting a game trailer to any platform, even if it’s not Steam or Twitter, will be a significant advantage when promoting your title. Some other platforms to include:

  • App stores. With the popularity of mobile gaming, Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store both have a huge following. 
  • Social media. Other platforms with widespread audiences include YouTube, Facebook Groups, and Instagram.
  • Forums. Posting your trailer to game dev forums (such as GameDev.net or Reddit) can generate a lot of valuable feedback from peers and other successful developers. 

Though the platform you choose might depend on your goals, budget, content, and other factors, tailoring your trailer to at least one of them can exponentially boost your game’s initial visibility. You can even make multiple trailers with small tweaks and post them to different platforms to reach more potential players. 

2. Lead with gameplay

Whether you choose to release your trailer on Steam, social media, or another platform, there’s one thing your video game trailer should always showcase: the gameplay. Gamers want to see exactly what they can expect when they play your game. And they want to see what might be unique to your game over other games they've played or are considering for future purchases.

Players watch game trailers to see what a game will be about. The genre. The look and feel. Besides the intro and call-to-action, most footage should portray the game’s mechanics. Is it FPS? Is it top-down? Is it an RPG? Will there be multiplayer or co-op available?

Piece together different sections of the game and weave them into a storyline that shows off your game’s premise. There are different ways to go about it, too.

  • The narrative approach. Tease events that can happen within the game and leave it open-ended so the audience can wonder about their outcome. 
  • The feature approach. Highlight the key gameplay features that make your title unique from others in the genre.
  • The character approach. For a character-centric title, showcase the variety of experiences available for the player depending on the character choice. 

You can also make the gameplay in the trailer look attractive and appealing with your in-game camera placement. Consider elements that add to the production value, such as zooms, effects, and freeze-frames that can give viewers a cinematic feeling similar to what they see in movie trailers. The Star Wars Battlefront II trailer is a great example of this type of gameplay footage.

Always end your game trailer video with a call to action, as it helps viewers know where they can play, download, purchase, or learn more about your video game.

3. Show the story sequence and variety.

Creating an effective game trailer takes a lot of planning, creativity, effects, animation, sound design, and more.

Laying out the sequence of the game’s story and organizing the order of the elements that appear can make the process easier. Sometimes it’s as simple as defining the story, sourcing a variety of features and visuals, and then structuring it into a sequence.

What’s The Story?

Knowing what parts of your game will appeal to players is a great place to start. What narrative are you going to communicate? What are your game’s strengths? 

By the end of the trailer, the audience should leave with an understanding of what your game is about. Here are a few more story-centric topics to consider:

  • Genre. Many gamers stick to one or two genres when playing games. Spotlighting the genre of your game in its trailer, whether through words or visuals, can attract a ready-made fanbase to your game. 
  • Dialogue. Including something as simple as a conversation between characters can build immersion between potential players and your game. 
  • Player involvement. Highlighting how the audience will become involved in your story can showcase why they fit into the story you’ve created.

Aim for Content Variety

To capture players’ attention, you’ll want your video to show off a variety of visuals. To do this, consider these content types as you plan your trailer:  

  • Live-action. This type of footage is rare for game trailers, but, when implemented strategically, it will make your trailer stand out and gain attention beyond the traditional player base. Titanfall utilized live-action footage in its viral announcement trailer.
  • Animated sequence. Making a custom animation just for your trailer has become more commonplace. In this case, the trailer is an animated sequence that depicts the game’s plot. A great example of an animation sequence is the launch trailer for Death’s Door.
  • Voiceover. Not all content has to be visual. Pairing a cutscene, gameplay, or animation with a strong voiceover soundtrack can be a great way to tell your game’s story. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great example of it.
  • Text. Some teasing phrases peppered throughout your trailer can help highlight or reinforce certain game elements. Take a look at the Afterparty launch trailer to see the effective use of text.
  1. Prepare your assets before you start.

Putting together a strong video game trailer requires some core assets and materials. Whether you decide to produce the trailer in-house or partner with a game trailer house, here’s a list of materials to help start the process.  

Your Concept

Creating a trailer begins with a simple question. Have you developed enough of your game to create a trailer? If there’s enough gameplay to pull from, make a document that summarizes the concept of your game and sets your goals for the trailer. 

From there, the best way to determine the trailer’s concept is to find the heart of your game. How will you differentiate it from similar games? What makes it a one-of-a-kind gaming experience? Use these answers as the foundation for what your trailer will showcase.

Your Creative

Combined with your concept, the creative assets you have on hand will help weave together your trailer. Capture gameplay scenes and give the audience a peek into what playing the game will be like. Here’s a list of helpful creative materials to have:

  • In-game cutscenes, dialogue scenes, cinematics
  • Key art and concept art
  • Logos and fonts
  • In-game SFX and music
  • Sprites (for 2D animations)
  • 3D models (for 3D animations)
  • Layered files (.psd)

5. Consider working with a trailer house. 

Though a game trailer is essential for promoting your game, creating one can also be time-consuming. If you evaluate your assets and hire a professional studio to make your trailer, assess their past work. Your choice might vary based on the titles they’ve worked with and the performance of those trailers.

How Much Does it Cost?

Your financial resources can also affect the type of trailer house you work with. Similar to the film industry, production costs for game marketing videos can quickly climb to five or six figures. 

It all depends on the company you choose to work with. Trailer houses might require a higher budget, but they typically come with a portfolio of successful projects and employ a whole production team.  Independent contractors or smaller video production companies, on the other hand, can be highly qualified and cost-effective, but their work experience might not be as accomplished as an award-winning trailer house.

Trailer Investment Program: Secure up to $250,000 to fund your trailer

Game trailers are essential when promoting a new game release, but creating your own can be demanding on time and resources and requires technical knowledge to live up to the game’s expectations. 

The Xsolla Trailer Investment Program was created as a resource for developers who are ready to create a trailer but might not have the financial resources or studio connections to start the process. 

Designed for games that are at least in Alpha with useable creative assets, this new program can provide developers with up to $250,000 toward a video game trailer in exchange for a share of the game’s future revenue. The Trailer Investment Program also partners with a network of top trailer houses that can create the best final product to show off the unique qualities of your game. 

How it Works

  1. Application: submit an application to the Trailer Investment Program.
    RSA: sign the Trailer Investment Program Revenue Sharing Agreement (RSA).
    Vendor Selection: pick a trailer vendor from our network and submit an RFP to work with them. 
    Production: your video game trailer begins its production journey. 

Contact us to learn more about how to join the program and how to apply.

Trailer House Partners

Our team of experts has hand-picked a collective of successful game trailer houses that have produced some of the most effective title trailers you've probably already seen.

Pattern

Location: United States, Romania

Pattern is a design agency based in San Francisco and Bucharest, providing branding, video production, web development, and digital experiences. The team has delivered over 840 projects on behalf of 80 clients and garnered 4 Cannes Nominations, 1 Eurobest Nomination, 4 Effies, and 3 Webstock Awards.

Portfolio: Crazy Valorant | Game of War | Tapbusters

Plastic Wax

Location: Australia

Plastic Wax is an award-winning Animation Studio in Sydney, Australia. The team is uniquely a multi-platform and innovation-driven studio specializing in both pre-rendered and ‘realtime in-engine’ productions, offering clients a complete range of directorial and production services for animated series, game trailers, cinematics, and virtual reality.

Portfolio: Sizzle Reel | Civilization VI | LEGO DC Villains

VIVIX

Location: United States, Portugal, Turkey

VIVIX is an animation studio founded by a team of artists who originated from Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots and have contributed to breathtaking cinematic trailers for franchises such as League of Legends, Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, and many more. 

Portfolio: Artificial Detective Trailer | Artificial Detective Making-of | Artificial Detective Concept Art 

Liquid+Arcade

Location: United States, Mexico, UK, Poland

Liquid+Arcade is an independent, full-service, global marketing agency specializing in video games and entertainment. From strategy to production, from CGI to gameplay capture to live action and beyond, we make the content that helps build and grow the most passionate, loyal fandoms in the world – including Final Fantasy, Overwatch, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider, Monster Hunter, Marvel’s Avengers, Hearthstone, and many more.

Portfolio: Monster Hunter Rise | Lightning Link Casino | Sonic: Unstoppable


TrailerFarm

Location: United Kingdom

TrailerFarm handles every aspect of trailer and cinematic creation: from concept through production, post, audio, localization, and versioning. In addition to trailers, the team can also create in-game sequences with bespoke assets, mocap, and support game ideation and development. TF’s cinematics pipeline was honed on the double Clio Award-winning ‘So Happy Together’ Trailer for Borderlands 3.

Portfolio: Shadow Warrior 3 | Adopt Me | The Ascent | LEGO Brawls

Between building the game, working out details before launch, and releasing your title, finding the time and funds to dedicate toward a video game trailer might be the last thing on your mind. Xsolla’s team of experts has built our tools and services around your needs. We’re here to help you fund and create an attention-grabbing trailer to capture player interest so you can focus on what you like to do: build your game. 

Are you ready to bring your game to life? Reach out to us at funding@xsolla.com to apply to Xsolla Trailer Investment Program. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.  

Your video game trailer is one of the most powerful promotional tools you can have in your game marketing belt. Whether a mobile, console, or PC title, an effective trailer can make or break the success of your game’s debut. In fact, just including a good promo video in your app store listing can boost conversions by 40 percent. A well-made game trailer has the power to inspire emotion, build hype, and give players an enticing glimpse into what your game will be about and what the gameplay looks like.

Want to make a trailer that will have your players' eyes glued to the screen, wanting more, and ready to pre-order? Follow our five strategies for creating an effective video game trailer, so you can connect with a truly interested audience that can't wait to play your game.

1. Tailor your trailer

Before you begin, you need to decide the type of trailer you want. What message should it communicate? Where will the trailer be seen? How much of your finished game, or in-progress work, do you want to reveal at this stage?

Depending on your answers to those questions, you should tailor your trailer to the audience and platform that will give your game promotion the most value. 

Choose a Platform(s)

If you’ve already started thinking about what your video game trailer might look and feel like, the next thing to consider is where your trailer will be viewed. 

How you prepare your trailer might depend on whether you post it to top gaming communities, like Steam and Twitter, or other platforms that showcase your brand.

Steam

Taking up around 75% of the global market, Steam is the largest distributor of PC games in the world. This makes posting your game to Steam and its widespread audience a necessity. 

But, this can also make it a double-edged sword since, due to its popularity among PC gamers, getting your game discovered on Steam has become increasingly tricky. This means adding a captivating trailer to your game's page on this platform is vital. 

So, what does a compelling Steam trailer call for? It's all about the gameplay. People watching your trailer want to know what they can do. Remember the goal; you’re trying to show your potential buyer how they can play your game. This is not the time to hide the good parts of your game mechanics or make prospective players guess at gameplay by showing them fancy cinematics or cutscenes.

If you want to know more about self-publishing on Steam, see our detailed guide on how to get your game in front of this ready-made audience. 

Twitter

Twitter is another valuable platform, as it boasted more than 2.4 billion Tweets about gaming in 2021. With a massive community of gamers and other developers constantly updating and sharing insights, it’s another place to get some attention and conversation for your game trailer. 

Including Twitter in your marketing plans is truly beneficial for a new title. Something as simple as a small drip feed is not only quick and easy to execute but also highly effective. The drip campaign for the play-to-earn game, Lost Sailors not only teased pre-sales and release dates, but the game’s Twitter account also released playable characters, features, and more the closer it got to launch day. 

Other Platforms

With the popularity and effectiveness of video across owned, earned, and paid channels, it's impossible to overlook the power of video’s contribution to marketing success. In 2021, videos were the primary way consumers discovered a brand they later purchased from

This means posting a game trailer to any platform, even if it’s not Steam or Twitter, will be a significant advantage when promoting your title. Some other platforms to include:

  • App stores. With the popularity of mobile gaming, Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store both have a huge following. 
  • Social media. Other platforms with widespread audiences include YouTube, Facebook Groups, and Instagram.
  • Forums. Posting your trailer to game dev forums (such as GameDev.net or Reddit) can generate a lot of valuable feedback from peers and other successful developers. 

Though the platform you choose might depend on your goals, budget, content, and other factors, tailoring your trailer to at least one of them can exponentially boost your game’s initial visibility. You can even make multiple trailers with small tweaks and post them to different platforms to reach more potential players. 

2. Lead with gameplay

Whether you choose to release your trailer on Steam, social media, or another platform, there’s one thing your video game trailer should always showcase: the gameplay. Gamers want to see exactly what they can expect when they play your game. And they want to see what might be unique to your game over other games they've played or are considering for future purchases.

Players watch game trailers to see what a game will be about. The genre. The look and feel. Besides the intro and call-to-action, most footage should portray the game’s mechanics. Is it FPS? Is it top-down? Is it an RPG? Will there be multiplayer or co-op available?

Piece together different sections of the game and weave them into a storyline that shows off your game’s premise. There are different ways to go about it, too.

  • The narrative approach. Tease events that can happen within the game and leave it open-ended so the audience can wonder about their outcome. 
  • The feature approach. Highlight the key gameplay features that make your title unique from others in the genre.
  • The character approach. For a character-centric title, showcase the variety of experiences available for the player depending on the character choice. 

You can also make the gameplay in the trailer look attractive and appealing with your in-game camera placement. Consider elements that add to the production value, such as zooms, effects, and freeze-frames that can give viewers a cinematic feeling similar to what they see in movie trailers. The Star Wars Battlefront II trailer is a great example of this type of gameplay footage.

Always end your game trailer video with a call to action, as it helps viewers know where they can play, download, purchase, or learn more about your video game.

3. Show the story sequence and variety.

Creating an effective game trailer takes a lot of planning, creativity, effects, animation, sound design, and more.

Laying out the sequence of the game’s story and organizing the order of the elements that appear can make the process easier. Sometimes it’s as simple as defining the story, sourcing a variety of features and visuals, and then structuring it into a sequence.

What’s The Story?

Knowing what parts of your game will appeal to players is a great place to start. What narrative are you going to communicate? What are your game’s strengths? 

By the end of the trailer, the audience should leave with an understanding of what your game is about. Here are a few more story-centric topics to consider:

  • Genre. Many gamers stick to one or two genres when playing games. Spotlighting the genre of your game in its trailer, whether through words or visuals, can attract a ready-made fanbase to your game. 
  • Dialogue. Including something as simple as a conversation between characters can build immersion between potential players and your game. 
  • Player involvement. Highlighting how the audience will become involved in your story can showcase why they fit into the story you’ve created.

Aim for Content Variety

To capture players’ attention, you’ll want your video to show off a variety of visuals. To do this, consider these content types as you plan your trailer:  

  • Live-action. This type of footage is rare for game trailers, but, when implemented strategically, it will make your trailer stand out and gain attention beyond the traditional player base. Titanfall utilized live-action footage in its viral announcement trailer.
  • Animated sequence. Making a custom animation just for your trailer has become more commonplace. In this case, the trailer is an animated sequence that depicts the game’s plot. A great example of an animation sequence is the launch trailer for Death’s Door.
  • Voiceover. Not all content has to be visual. Pairing a cutscene, gameplay, or animation with a strong voiceover soundtrack can be a great way to tell your game’s story. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great example of it.
  • Text. Some teasing phrases peppered throughout your trailer can help highlight or reinforce certain game elements. Take a look at the Afterparty launch trailer to see the effective use of text.
  1. Prepare your assets before you start.

Putting together a strong video game trailer requires some core assets and materials. Whether you decide to produce the trailer in-house or partner with a game trailer house, here’s a list of materials to help start the process.  

Your Concept

Creating a trailer begins with a simple question. Have you developed enough of your game to create a trailer? If there’s enough gameplay to pull from, make a document that summarizes the concept of your game and sets your goals for the trailer. 

From there, the best way to determine the trailer’s concept is to find the heart of your game. How will you differentiate it from similar games? What makes it a one-of-a-kind gaming experience? Use these answers as the foundation for what your trailer will showcase.

Your Creative

Combined with your concept, the creative assets you have on hand will help weave together your trailer. Capture gameplay scenes and give the audience a peek into what playing the game will be like. Here’s a list of helpful creative materials to have:

  • In-game cutscenes, dialogue scenes, cinematics
  • Key art and concept art
  • Logos and fonts
  • In-game SFX and music
  • Sprites (for 2D animations)
  • 3D models (for 3D animations)
  • Layered files (.psd)

5. Consider working with a trailer house. 

Though a game trailer is essential for promoting your game, creating one can also be time-consuming. If you evaluate your assets and hire a professional studio to make your trailer, assess their past work. Your choice might vary based on the titles they’ve worked with and the performance of those trailers.

How Much Does it Cost?

Your financial resources can also affect the type of trailer house you work with. Similar to the film industry, production costs for game marketing videos can quickly climb to five or six figures. 

It all depends on the company you choose to work with. Trailer houses might require a higher budget, but they typically come with a portfolio of successful projects and employ a whole production team.  Independent contractors or smaller video production companies, on the other hand, can be highly qualified and cost-effective, but their work experience might not be as accomplished as an award-winning trailer house.

Trailer Investment Program: Secure up to $250,000 to fund your trailer

Game trailers are essential when promoting a new game release, but creating your own can be demanding on time and resources and requires technical knowledge to live up to the game’s expectations. 

The Xsolla Trailer Investment Program was created as a resource for developers who are ready to create a trailer but might not have the financial resources or studio connections to start the process. 

Designed for games that are at least in Alpha with useable creative assets, this new program can provide developers with up to $250,000 toward a video game trailer in exchange for a share of the game’s future revenue. The Trailer Investment Program also partners with a network of top trailer houses that can create the best final product to show off the unique qualities of your game. 

How it Works

  1. Application: submit an application to the Trailer Investment Program.
    RSA: sign the Trailer Investment Program Revenue Sharing Agreement (RSA).
    Vendor Selection: pick a trailer vendor from our network and submit an RFP to work with them. 
    Production: your video game trailer begins its production journey. 

Contact us to learn more about how to join the program and how to apply.

Trailer House Partners

Our team of experts has hand-picked a collective of successful game trailer houses that have produced some of the most effective title trailers you've probably already seen.

Pattern

Location: United States, Romania

Pattern is a design agency based in San Francisco and Bucharest, providing branding, video production, web development, and digital experiences. The team has delivered over 840 projects on behalf of 80 clients and garnered 4 Cannes Nominations, 1 Eurobest Nomination, 4 Effies, and 3 Webstock Awards.

Portfolio: Crazy Valorant | Game of War | Tapbusters

Plastic Wax

Location: Australia

Plastic Wax is an award-winning Animation Studio in Sydney, Australia. The team is uniquely a multi-platform and innovation-driven studio specializing in both pre-rendered and ‘realtime in-engine’ productions, offering clients a complete range of directorial and production services for animated series, game trailers, cinematics, and virtual reality.

Portfolio: Sizzle Reel | Civilization VI | LEGO DC Villains

VIVIX

Location: United States, Portugal, Turkey

VIVIX is an animation studio founded by a team of artists who originated from Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots and have contributed to breathtaking cinematic trailers for franchises such as League of Legends, Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, and many more. 

Portfolio: Artificial Detective Trailer | Artificial Detective Making-of | Artificial Detective Concept Art 

Liquid+Arcade

Location: United States, Mexico, UK, Poland

Liquid+Arcade is an independent, full-service, global marketing agency specializing in video games and entertainment. From strategy to production, from CGI to gameplay capture to live action and beyond, we make the content that helps build and grow the most passionate, loyal fandoms in the world – including Final Fantasy, Overwatch, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider, Monster Hunter, Marvel’s Avengers, Hearthstone, and many more.

Portfolio: Monster Hunter Rise | Lightning Link Casino | Sonic: Unstoppable


TrailerFarm

Location: United Kingdom

TrailerFarm handles every aspect of trailer and cinematic creation: from concept through production, post, audio, localization, and versioning. In addition to trailers, the team can also create in-game sequences with bespoke assets, mocap, and support game ideation and development. TF’s cinematics pipeline was honed on the double Clio Award-winning ‘So Happy Together’ Trailer for Borderlands 3.

Portfolio: Shadow Warrior 3 | Adopt Me | The Ascent | LEGO Brawls

Between building the game, working out details before launch, and releasing your title, finding the time and funds to dedicate toward a video game trailer might be the last thing on your mind. Xsolla’s team of experts has built our tools and services around your needs. We’re here to help you fund and create an attention-grabbing trailer to capture player interest so you can focus on what you like to do: build your game. 

Are you ready to bring your game to life? Reach out to us at funding@xsolla.com to apply to Xsolla Trailer Investment Program. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.  

Thank you for downloading

We will send a reply to your e-mail address once we process this request

This form is temporarily out of order. We're already working to restore it. Try leaving your request again later or contact us directly at support@xsolla.com

1 —
,
,
,
or 5 —
Leave email →
← Back to rate

Leave your contacts in case you are interested and our team will contact you sooner

Your submission has been received!
Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Xsolla Newsletter - February 2022 Edition
3
minute read
Video Game Funding: Looking for Investors
10
minute read
No items found.
Why Xsolla Funding Club Was Founded
minute read