The Teaser Trailer (KS Lesson #260)

27 December 2018 | 19 Comments

One of the first things I learned as a Kickstarter creator was the importance of having a project video. Since then I honestly haven’t questioned it all that much–while there have been successful projects without videos, and there’s a lack of A/B tests to really show if they’re necessary, it just seems to make sense given the popularity of video media in general.

So even after I stopped using Kickstarter 3 years ago, I continued to create release trailers for new games (I’ll post them below), with the most recent being the video for Wingpan, which I posted on YouTube today. As you can see, all of these videos share some common elements:

  • Each video is short (averaging just over 1 minute). I tested video length during my Kickstarter days, and I found that people were significantly more likely to watch the whole thing if it was close to a minute in length.
  • Each video has text, a voiceover, and music. The first two make it a bit harder for international partners to release their own versions of the trailer, but I try to provide them with the source files so they don’t need to start over from scratch.
  • Each video is focused on the “hooks” for the game (mechanical, thematic, visual, tactile, etc). Basically, all of the reasons a potential customer might consider it a must-have product.
  • I appear in one of the videos (Charterstone) to add a personal touch, but I’ve moved away from those appearances. I think it adds a little too much length the videos, and it’s a bit jarring to go from my face to the more elegant aspects of the video.

I use a PowerPoint template that I tweak for each game as I storyboard it, and then I send it to Josh McDowell to bring to life. Josh is great at video editing, and he’s also become quite good at picking music for the videos.

After the visual element is complete, I select a voiceover artist. The videos below feature the voices of Alex Hall and Eric Summerer. The challenge they have is making sure the timing of the voiceover aligns with the timing of the video (scene by scene and overall).

The question remains, though: Do you need a $1500 video? Especially if you’re not using Kickstarter?

My thinking is that while a video helps, it certainly doesn’t need to be a professional-grade video (or whatever level these videos are–there are some that are much more elaborate and expensive). I’m also not sure that a video would be as effective if I didn’t already have an audience for the video (12k YouTube subscribers and 2300+ people in the Wingspan Facebook group).

But I’m curious to hear your thoughts, particularly for games released without a Kickstarter project. Do you like it when publishers create trailer videos for those games?

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19 Comments on “The Teaser Trailer (KS Lesson #260)

  1. It seems to me that a video is an assumption for a Kickstarter project in that people check to see if its there, but that the video itself isn’t that important. I think that many people will check to see that the image at the top of the project page has a video symbol over it, to check that the page is professional, but often they won’t watch it, even if they would complain if it wasn’t there. That aside, my first project I paid £500 for a professional video because I’d heard so much about how vital they were, for my second I used adobe spark for £10 to produce my own and I saw no discernable difference between the direct stats on the two videos. The second project did considerably better (due to a bunch of things, hopefully I’m learning as I go) but it certainly didn’t suffer from the change of video.
    In the end if a video costs $1500 and its just something cool that you like to have, that’s fine, but if its a business choice then how many units does it have to have sold before it was a good idea? My £500 video was the equivalent of 50 backers on its project, the £10 video was the equivalent of half a backer so I’m far more confident it was pulling its own weight.

  2. I’m a video producer and for many years I worked creating trailers for the movie industry. Obviously the markets, clients and consumers are different to the board game industry, but I think many rules still apply.

    – I couldn’t agree more that 1 minute is enough for a teaser trailer. I’ve created 5 second TV ads for movies – it’s amazing what information can be got over in the shortest time!

    – It’s interesting how you talk about the music. In every project I do, music, and audio in general, is one of the first things to lock down. It’s what sets the mood, conveys emotion, and sets the pace for the editing. A large part of what makes me good at what I do is being able to source amazing music at a reasonable price. Ditto voice over talent.

    – A trailer is marketing. I suspect that game designers may suffer from the same problem that directors have – they can be too close to their projects to make a trailer that sells. You may love a particular component or graphic – but if it’s not going to sell the game, don’t show it.

    – You should be looking to get the most value out of each video you have produced. A 1 minute video can easily be cut down to 30 seconds for YouTube advertising; use 3 or 4 six second clips for social media; create gifs, memes, stills; loop it up and use it in your office.

    Many of the trailers I see for board games are like the ‘In a World …’ type movie trailers of 20 years ago, with over the top voice overs and cheesy music. That’s not to say it doesn’t work – but it also doesn’t stand out.

    I asked for advice on BGG a while ago for opportunities in creating videos for the board game industry, and the general consensus was that there was no money budgeted for videos for Kickstarter campaigns. I think that’s totally understandable for many creators – but others may be missing an opportunity to market their games better.

    Because of the unusual nature of how many games are funded, I think what’s possibly needed is a more flexible approach to payment for the video creator. Much like there are video producers who work for equity in start-ups, I think maybe a ‘no-funding, no-fee’ approach could be interesting – giving the video producer a real incentive to create the assets required to get a game well funded, but in return they receive a scaled payment or percentage of funding to offset the risk.

    1. Andrew, good stuff! I think you are on the right track. I imagine many gaming projects are small, like mine, and don’t have money up front to spare. But, if a project is successful, than they can make some money. For example, I am no good with computers so I got someone to build my KS page and run my campaign for me, with me handling comments, feed back etc. It was a small one that funded. I paid him $150 up front but if the project funded he got 10% up to a certain amount, then 5%. That made it easier for me($150 vs $500 on the front end)………….food for thought.

  3. We’ve done a professional video once but they are so expensive that I’m just not sure it’s worth it. I’ve learned enough of video editing over the years to do a fine job myself, although even a 1-2 minute video takes me dozens of hours to make over the course of a month and it doesn’t look as good as a professional one. There’s a level of trust you get from a creator if they have a really high-quality video, so there’s value in it, but I’m just not sure how much it’s worth.

  4. Because I didn’t know any better I did three short videos for my first KS. I now would say it was overkill. They all had a header to let folks know what I would be talking about and they were spaced out. Only about 20% watched half of them and most only watched the first. So, from my limited experience next time I plan to do ONE short “Why you would like this game” video. Unfortunately I am still getting started on this side of the gaming world and don’t have much of a budget so I will probably do it myself and then get someone that has credit/experience to perhaps add some music, and some editing. I am not a professional actor but since I have been in sales for 30 years, have had to do power point presentations to a room of upper/middle management of customers I work for I feel comfortable doing them and fell I can do a decent job. Also, I think having the creator involved can be a plus, it allows you to show your excitement and lets potential backers “put a face with the project” and can clearly see you are involved. Don’t know if that helps any or not:) Happy gaming all!

    1. Twilight: If I may, I have a small suggestion. In general, I try to stay away from telling people what they might like (or what they might feel), as that can rub some people the wrong way (I like to make up my own mind if a game is fun, beautiful, etc). Rather, I just present what the product is, what makes it unique, and what the hooks are. I think that’s probably what you’re aiming for, but I thought I’d chime in just in case. :)

  5. Great timing. We have contracted with a vendor and drafted a script for the video for our upcoming game, Plunderbund. We set out aiming for two minutes based on other inspiration videos. I really liked the video for Big Trouble in Little China. This duration has a predictable impact on the cost. In any case, why did we decide to do this? 1) It does seem to be expected for Kickstarter. 2) As a new publisher, we don’t want to be glaringly deficient when compared to established publishers. 3) We intend to use some of the content for Facebook marketing to drum up new followers pre-Kickstarter. 4) I think deep down we thought it would be cool to have. I hope that in a couple of months time I can tell you it was money well spent. As I contrast our script to those you posyed, I like your focus on game mechanics mixed with nice graphical elements from the game. I think we might be a bit theme heavy and so I will probably adjust appropriately.

  6. I think these are very important, particularly for the gamer that just wants a quick look at the high points of the game to see if it’s a game worth looking into more.

    With the flood of choices available, I think getting to the point, and getting there quickly, is important, before they moves on to something else. I see it as the best way to allow people to see the game with as little effort as possible on their part. These days, if you make them work (reading is work) for the info, many are going to move onto something they don’t have to work for.

    In fact, we’re looking into featuring “quick pitch” videos prominently on BGG listings, as a means to better hook people on the game they’re viewing. We get an awful lot of casual browsers on BGG, so finding ways like this to quickly engage someone is really important. It’s important to us to be allies in the industry, assisting publishers in getting gamers to engage with their games, and I think this will be an important tool in the toolkit.

  7. I’m a superbacker on KS with over 400 projects backed, mostly games. I may have watched five – ten videos total. I want to see what a product looks like, read about the mechanics used in the game, maybe see a gif or two about how a mechanic functions if it’s new/different. Rules being available to peruse online before product release is a big win to me.

    But I realize I’m kinda abnormal in how I absorb content. Many people watch the videos and the good ones influence them. A professionally produced video will be a better marketing expense than a shoddy one.

    1. I’m the same way: I’ve backed almost 100 projects, but almost never watch the project videos. Like you, I suspect I’m not the norm, but I’ve found videos usually don’t contain the information I’m interested in or, if they do, it’s not an efficient way for me to consume it. (This may also simply reflect poorly designed videos being fairly common.)

      This has made it challenging when trying to figure out what an effective video would look like for my own crowdfunding/promotional efforts. As I don’t seem to be the target audience, figuring out what the target audience wants from a video is challenging.

      1. I’ll have to say it depends, depends of the video and the type of the project. For some types of projects on Kickstarter is fairly easier to put usefull information in the video.

        I’ve seen some (for me) considarebly informative project videos for board games, some not so much but still well made and interesting watch. Good video gets me engaged with the game.

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