Playable Teaser: It Got the People Going

By: Quinn Whalen


For eons there have really only been 3 major ways to advertise your cool new game.

  1. Theatrical trailer: This is a trailer made for your game to show off your fancy graphics and set hard to reach expectation for how fluid your game is going to play. If you meet that expectation it’s fantastic and you’ll be a world-renowned hero for keeping your trailer-promises. However, if you don’t keep that shiny golden promise set by your trailer, things might get ugly.
  2. Gameplay trailer: This trailer is a little more in sync with how your game is going to be. It shows clips of cool parts of the game so everyone can watch and think about how great it is to rob that bank or steal that plane with no real-world repercussions. Instead of seeing what everyone hopes the game will be like, you get to see a bit more of what the game will actually be like.
  3. Demo: Finally we have the demo. This is typically a short section of a game made playable before the rest of the game is finished. It could be an excerpt from the story, or a limited version of a multiplayer mode. This option provides an actual feel for how the game will feel to play, and how it will be laid out. Unlike the other two options, because you’re experiencing something that is unfinished, there can even be hope that the final product will be even better than the demo. Beyond the fact that there will be more content, games can be polished further overall between the demo and the release of the full game. Instead of raising our expectations unrealistically high, a demo can be a good taste of a great game.

Now we have the enigma. The new kid on the block: P.T.

P.T. was released to promote what was going to be the latest and greatest entry in the Silent Hill franchise; Silent Hills. On the project was none other than Hideo Kojima and renowned film director, Guillermo Del Toro. This alone, got the people going. Excitement for the game however, was truly ignited with the release of P.T., a self-proclaimed “Playable Teaser”. Not quite a demo and not quite a trailer, P.T. was, in a way, a complete game. A very brief, but complete game which you could play and finish to unlock a theatrical teaser for Silent Hills featuring none other than AMC’s The Walking Dead star; Norman Reedus.

P.T., unlike a demo, was not demonstrating part of the full game it was made for. Rather, it was giving a glimpse toward the atmosphere and style of game they were making. Full of petrifying scares, and infuriatingly cryptic puzzles, P.T. really got the people going. The graphics and atmosphere were astonishing to many players and got a lot of people overwhelmingly excited for the supposed-to-be 2016 release of the full game.

So, what did we learn from this?

We learned that cool games getting canceled is still the saddest thing to experience since watching Marley and Me.

And, we found what could potentially be an innovative new way to advertise upcoming games. By not releasing an unfinished part of the game, players could look forward to a wholly new, and un-spoiled experience. If Silent Hills had been released and lived up to the uncontrollable excitement set by P.T., there’d be parades in streets and a party at my house to watch me inevitably cry out of fear and joy while trying to play such a beautifully terrifying game.

But with that door closed I think we should look at which ones to go through next. P.T. did something very right in terms of generating excitement and it could very easily be done for other games, particularly other titles in the same genre. Horror games are all about atmosphere, and if you can successfully demonstrate that you have that part down, without giving away any story elements, you can get a lot more speculation and theories circulating around your game, which inevitably leads to excitement. It’s like adding another layer of mystery onto your already mysterious horror game.

The playable teaser, if done right, could be a powerful new advertising tool for developers. Being able to show your game without showing your game, is something that should be explored beyond just the Silent Hills incident. The possibilities for genres beyond horror should toyed with as well. There’s a lot of creative space here to explore and I personally hope to see it soon.

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