Friday, January 6, 2012

Japanese "Trailers" - The Cultural Divide

There is something about Japanese game marketing that has been bothering me for a while, and by golly, I'm going to write an article about it and pretend that it will make a difference... Or my name isn't BitNick.

The "video game trailer" is a wonderful tradition with an illustrious history. I remember the first time that a game trailer caught my attention and swept me away. It was a cinematic trailer that was included on the disc for the original Starcraft, and it was for a little game you might have heard of called Diablo "Freaking" II! (I just added the "freaking" there. Although now that I think about it, I would play a game called Diablo Freaking...)

Few trailers have hijacked my days and haunted my nights quite like this one did, and although it is beginning to show its age now, this trailer was the bleeding edge of cinematic technology in its day. The foreboding piano and moody voiceover was so threatening in the dark, and I recall wishing that all games had trailers this good.

Since then, game trailers have changed drastically. Some, like Dead Island and its FANTASTIC trailer from last year, have taken the route of feature film trailers and tried to tell a high production-values story in order to garner attention. Others, like the trailer for Gaijin Game's final chapter in the Bit.Trip saga, Flux, takes a more straightforward approach.

But all of these examples are western trailers, created by western developers for (mostly) western audiences. They are there to inform and tease, more the latter than the former, and they are uniformly brief. Even the Dead Island trailer, in all of its cinematic goodness, is only 3 minutes long, of which 25 seconds is a logo and a reflected eyeball. Judging by what I can see, we in the west enjoy brevity.

Examples of brevity on the internet
On the other side of the pond (the REALLY FAR side) in Japan, however, they seem to want something else entirely from their trailers. I can't tell you how many times I have watched a trailer from a Japanese gaming event only to find that it was roughly the length of a sitcom. Some of these "trailers" are between 10-20 minutes in length, and as much as I enjoy seeing more footage of a game that I'm anticipating, I am usually watching trailers like this at work, on my *WINK WINK* lunchbreak. If I want to keep abreast of the doings of the video game universe, I don't have time to watch a trailer that is longer than the game it's advertising.

A perfect example of these gargantuan marketing tools would be the following "trailer" for Kingdom Hearts 3D, which they showed at Jump Festa 2011:

Now, come on! By my count, that trailer has at least 24,389 false endings. It's great to see everything they're doing with KH3D, but what is the cultural difference that makes trailers of this length more acceptable in the "far east"?

I've heard that Japanese life is very busy, what with going to school 10 hours a day/becoming "the company man", so it can't be that they are lacking in entertainment with which to hypnotize their eyes. I also can't imagine that the movie previews at their theaters are this long either, which means that it is really only video games that get this "tell the entire story in a microcosm" treatment.

If any of our readers have any insight into this phenomena, please share your wisdom with the rest of us unenlightened folks. If you think you can provide more information than I was able to obtain by Googling "Why are Japanese game trailers so long" and lightly scanning through the first page of results, then be my guest.

Bring it... B*!#&es.


  1. Gooood evening. No particular insights, but I have noticed this in the past too. I recall thinking much the same thing when I was watching some Final Fantasy XIII-2 trailers awhile back. One was like 11 minutes, and it was like a trailer/game demo, and maybe that's it - perhaps they work in slight more gameplay? I mean, I recall that as cool as the Dead Island trailer was, some people later felt that it was a bit misleading because the gameplay turned out to be quite a bit different than the impression left behind by the more cinematic trailer.

  2. @Chalgyr

    I think that could be part of it. Still, in the west, we tend to just release a "cinematic" trailer, and a "gameplay" trailer separately, so the question is why, if we are getting essentially the same thing in the end, does the East prefer it in one big 11-minute trailer, and we prefer it in two shorter ones?

    Maybe it has something to do with our incredibly short American attention spans? :)


  3. ROFL - I think that's exactly it. Maybe we just *pauses* Oh, shiny... *wanders away*


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