Speaking with the NeoGAF community, Respawn Entertainment's producer Drew McCoy has explained how the team has found it difficult to promote Titanfall, a first-person shooter that, for the first time in a long while on consoles, does not have a dedicated, spectacular and trailer-friendly single-player mode.
"It's actually been really tough trying to accurately market Titanfall," he said. "If you look at what we've done, it's a lot different than what most FPS games do. Without a bunch of highly scripted [single-player] moments to recam from different angles, the usual 'movie-like' trailer is just about right out. Instead, we've decided to show unedited gameplay segments that last 3-5 minutes to show the 'flow' of the game."
McCoy has a point here -- even though modern Call of Duty and Battlefield games are primarily enjoyed in the long-term for their multiplayer component, the focus in the trailers has always been the single-player campaign. There's a narrative to latch on to, and there are characters, too -- heroes and villains and, of course, Riley the dog. These things make for "good" trailers, albeit ones that don't tell us all that much about how the game will play or even look in some cases. They look good, though; they're eye-catching, and they're suitable for showing on prime-time TV or during big sporting events, whereas 3-5 minutes of non-stop unedited gameplay footage isn't exactly TV-friendly -- it's the kind of thing that people would specifically seek out if they wanted to see.
Titanfall is in a peculiar situation, though. It's a multiplayer-centric shooter, but like a single-player game, it has an established world and lore. There are characters and a narrative -- though it remains to be seen how much these will really "matter" when it comes to playing the game itself. The AI characters in the game are, according to McCoy and the team anyway, not there to pad out the player count -- which some have complained of being a little low -- but instead are there to play their own, specific role in the action alongside the 12 human players. There are plenty of ways that Titanfall is blending both the single- and multiplayer experiences together -- don't some of those aspects lend themselves to promotion?
There's also the matter of quite how much promotion Titanfall really "needs" anyway; as a new game from the Call of Duty creators, it was always going to be a big deal, and its few public appearances last year scored it a number of "favorite in show" accolades from press and public alike. Not only that, but as we moved into 2014, Titanfall rode high in a number of "most anticipated" lists around the Internet, and it's a particularly important title for Microsoft, as it's always been positioned as a showcase for the Xbox One.
Ultimately, Respawn's decision to not use the usual "cinematic trailer" approach to promoting Titanfall is probably a good thing -- in a multiplayer-centric game such as this, the thing that prospective players really want to know is how it's going to play and how it's going to feel. There are few better ways of doing that than with videos of pure gameplay -- but time will tell if this will be enough to attract a player base in the same numbers as Call of Duty and Battlefield.