Reviews - Updated on April 10, 2022

In mid-March, the action movie The Division 2 was released, the famous director Nicolas Winding Refn had a hand in advertising. If you have not watched his tapes “Drive” and “Only God Forgives” – drop everything and immediately catch up. But for those familiar with the work of the cinematographer, when they see a couple of commercials shot by order of Ubisoft, one single question arises: your division, Nicholas, why is it so weak? After all, there are many clip makers in the world who are ready to unleash the same rage in obnoxious tones. And the solution is simple.

The publicity we deserve

Bend your fingers. Refn’s mini-works do not tell us anything about the merits of the game, they are silent about the capabilities of the characters, they do not tease the background and plot, they do not reveal the essence of the conflict in post-apocalyptic Washington. There is no moral torment emphasized by advertising in the final product – this is not the third Witcher or Red Dead Redemption 2. Technical refinements like shooting through cars are also taken out of brackets. About the shooter, based on these short videos, no conclusions can be drawn at all. In addition, there are some people in trouble, while others are in a hurry to help. Put in the place of the hero of the clips, Geralt of Rivia, examining a pencil portrait of Ciri, and then killing deserters in the forest, the meaning will remain the same.

On the other hand, celebrities act on the public like a magnet. Ubisoft’s calculation is clear and pragmatic – Refn’s videos will surely be watched even by those who have not been particularly interested in The Division 2 and third-person shooters in general before. For people, this is not just advertising, but an introduction to the sacrament and some kind of subculture. You, they say, do not just consume a particular product, but agree with the philosophy and approach of its creators, so to hell with boring details.

Such abstract marketing did not arise yesterday. For example, in 1984, Apple promoted Macintosh computers in exactly the same way – a textbook video with quotes from Orwell (George Orwell) stated more about the company’s ideology than about a change in generations of technology or an increase in the performance of components. You choose Apple – you crush the nits of totalitarianism, yeah. What it has become today, you already know very well. The same game on emotions is offered by the trailers “Drawing” and “Just Cause”. If you are for everything good and against everything bad, you can’t do without buying a new action movie. Otherwise, who will avenge children’s tears?

In addition, the use of natural video, or, as they say in the West, live action, is much more convenient than CGI and videos on the game engine. Because in the first case, the company pays money to obscure animation wizards, who have only one chance to do the job with a bang – to captivate the viewer with intrigue and drama. And in the second, it gives rise to the already numerous reasons to compare promises and the end result. Remember the criticism of Watch_Dogs when gamers were outraged by the discrepancy between the graphics in the announcement trailer and in the finished hacker action game? But this situation ahead of time spoiled the assessment of a good work. To fork out for the fee of a famous artist is indeed a decision that is convenient from all sides. But think about its implications.

Vicious circle

Ubisoft did not immediately come up with the idea of ​​using videos to sell the brand, rather than works individually. The publisher’s traditionally bright shows at E3-caliber exhibitions do not count, we are now talking purely about trailers and similar releases. Refn’s work is the finale and culmination of this process, but it’s enough to look back at the marketing campaigns of Far Cry 5 and Ghost Recon: Wildlands to trace its origins. In 2018, through a whole series of short films, the audience was methodically immersed in the entourage of the game, introduced to the fictional Hope County, its population and the main characters of the action movie.

Not without familiar actors – what is the role of the star of “Justified Cruelty” Greg Bryk (Greg Bryk). The producers of the legendary trash from the Asylum studio even made a film “At the Gates of Eden”, dedicated to the sect – it is also in the dubbed translation. Yes, it’s just a video, and the quality of polygons in Far Cry 5 cannot be measured by it. But the later advert for The Division 2 doesn’t stand up to such a thorough treatment of the theme. The authors gave the exposition, backstory, details of biographies and locations, and also a clear idea of ​​​​the evil that the gamer will face in the open world of Hope County.

An example of the opposite character is the video directed by “Predator” and “Die Hard” John McTiernan, filmed in 2016 to promote the multiplayer action movie Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The video, if not brilliant, is somewhere nearby. A full-fledged and complete story about a cat, a point of a laser sight, guys in tattoos and a sniper who shoots them fit in more than a minute. But here’s a surprise: the video turned out even better than the whole game, despite the fact that it is impossible to draw at least some conclusions about it based on the trailer. But McTiernan, boys!

Obviously, the experience of “Wild Lands” was deposited where necessary, and after a while the publishing house decided to follow the already beaten path. What’s the point in cumbersome work if everyone already knows what kind of bird Ubisoft is and what kind of mastodon Nicolas Refn is? If you considered this case unique as a sinful thing, cross yourself and forget. Because in business, there is no such thing as a commercially viable idea coming from just one head.

Look at Fallout 76 – Bethesda’s biggest flop in a long time. Although the trailer with live actors and beautiful effects was a success. To the immortal composition of the Beach Boys, young people make friends, invite well-wishers to their team, joyfully kill mutants, rattle power armor and look at the atomic explosion in a round dance. But all this, starting with the scenery and ending with the situations shown, is a decoy for the gullible. Fans of the post-nuclear RPG were again offered a naked mood without any specifics. They sold a kind of Fallout dream, where not survival, but a continuous holiday. And most importantly, that there is no one and nothing to present for kintso – after all, it is well done, with a soul.

Such advertising has not yet become mainstream. And while gamers meticulously study product information before buying, rely on reviews from critics, read reviews from ordinary users, it is unlikely to happen. Although the bell is alarming: for many filmmakers, participation in the gaming industry is a successful part-time job without fish, and for publishers, it is a way to attract maximum attention with minimal effort. But the most negative point, which has probably already been taken on a pencil in the offices, is the sale of ideology and brand instead of a specific work. Why go into details when you’re buying ours anyway? And to show how serious everything is, we will pay famous actors, directors – in short, those whom you trust more than us.

The great power of art

The question arises: is it possible to make friends between both formats so deeply that the teaser with live actors conveys the atmosphere of the game? He tried to answer Neill Blomkamp (Neill Blomkamp), familiar to many from the fantastic tape “District number 9”. Even before the filming of the blockbuster that made him famous, the South African director was making films about the Halo universe. In 2007, on the occasion of the release of the third part of the action movie, the cinematographer’s work was used as an advertisement for Bungie’s creativity. And you know what? The director did it.

Examples where live action captures the essence of interactive entertainment are rare. But, fortunately, there are other ways to combine the two arts for the purpose of marketing. A prime example is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The authors shot an advertisement stylized as American TV shows of the 60s, not so much a shooter as a world where BJ breaks off the horns of the Nazis.

The publishers of HITMAN 2 acted no less original and combined business with pleasure: on the one hand, the famous actor Sean Bean appeared in the trailer, and on the other, he briefly outlined the philosophy of the game. Say, the killer’s main weapon is his ability to use environmental objects, and not a pistol with a silencer. At the same time, the creators of the advertisement went through the meme, for the umpteenth time killing Sean Bean. As you can see, hype can be useful if it is not inflated from scratch.

An obvious benefit of cutscenes with live actors is to use them to provide an introduction to the game’s story. About how great they did it during the Far Cry 5 advertising campaign, it is said above. But this is not the only example of this kind. Even earlier, a cycle of videos dedicated to Metro: Last Light was released, including a general prologue and two independent stories – about a descending model and a risen preacher. Here is a sketch about the fate of the hero, and a panorama of events in Moscow at the time of the nuclear bombing, and an explanation of who exactly survived underground. Frankly, not the best representatives of the human race. That’s why Artyom’s shotgun is always loaded.

In other words, there is nothing wrong with flirting with movies and Hollywood stars – all sorts of trailers are needed. If only sharks of the industry are not carried away by things that are not relevant to the case. And then, you see, they will entrust the advertising of the next Call of Duty to Lars von Trier. I wonder what he will do with such material and whether he will use it at all? Most likely, we will never know the answer. Because it’s hard to fool a gamer on chaff, and a movie ticket costs much less than a game.

Choosing between Puma and Reebok sneakers, in both cases, you get high-quality and comfortable shoes – regardless of what the manufacturer promised there. However, there are different rules in the games market: studios simply roll down, run out of steam, hit experiments, promise a masterpiece, and release bugged crap. Or, on the contrary, the work of newcomers, which no one had heard of yesterday, suddenly makes a splash. There is no consistency here, which is characteristic of other areas of business and media. This is the film of the same Refn, the audience goes without looking, but without looking back, only the most inveterate fans will pounce on the next novelty of Ubisoft. Now the difference is clear. But what will happen in a year or two?

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