What do the posters for GTAV and the trailer for Leviathan: Warships have in common? If you guessed ‘neither have women as anything but objects,’ you’d be right, but more than that, neither are particularly good at advertising the thing they supposedly represent.
When Leviathan: Hardships‘ trailer came out, it generated some buzz because, well, it’s Paradox entertainment, and they’re basically the crazy uncle of publishers these days. If Paradox publishes it, it’s probably doing something really weird. The game is a turn-based naval battle simulator which doesn’t have a powerful character focus or a narrative to speak of, but that’s okay because not every game needs that. The most noteworthy thing about Leviathan: Worship is its trailer.
In the GTAV’s ads’ case, they just show you some art – art that doesn’t look like the game’s ‘realistic’ aesthetic – a logo, and if you’re lucky, a name. There’s no mystery there. The characters have names like Michael and Justin and Dave, which aren’t exactly inspiring. They don’t imply narrative. Scarface isn’t called Tony.
In either case, neither of these ads are very good at advertising the game.
I bring this all up because it just serves as another example of ways in which the AAA game industry just can’t find its arse from its elbow. Professionally, advertisers know that what they do is pretty worthless. Consumers are, on average, assailed with so much advertising that any individual ad is easily ignored. Advertisement has to stand out to be useful, but most of these ads don’t stand out.
Instead what happens is where games are not advertised as things you buy, but as a part of an environment. GTAV wants to be talked about, it wants to be part of a period of time building anticipation, when it gets bought, it wants to be an event. It sure as hell doesn’t want to tell you about itself. It doesn’t want to convince you to examine it and consider it on its merits. All it tells you in its advertising is that this thing exists and it has a name.