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  • 10.05.15

Have We Reached Peak “Event Trailer”?

The new trailer for Halo 5: Guardians is very heavy on Halo mythology. There is a chance Fear The Walking Dead fans weren’t into it.

Have We Reached Peak “Event Trailer”?

The “event” trailer is a relatively new phenomenon. Companies release five-second Snapchats announcing that the 15-second Instagram preview of the 30-second teaser for the two-minute trailer will be released on Tuesday–and because we live in a perpetual hype cycle, where our franchises exist more to keep the ball in the air for future installments than they do to provide a satisfying narrative conclusion to an ongoing story, we all tend to go for it.

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When the product being hyped is something with generations of cultural appeal like, say, Star Wars or The Avengers, that approach can be pretty successful. Did Korean television really serve up an extra second-and-a-half of Kylo Ren footage in a Force Awakens teaser? Let’s go ahead and watch that on repeat for the next forty minutes. But few franchises have that sort of broad impact–which makes an announcement like “the next trailer for Halo 5: Guardians will premiere during Fear The Walking Dead” something of an anti-climax.

The trailer, which did premiere last night during Fear The Walking Dead, is here. It’s fine! If you’re a big-time Halo fan, it’s probably even pretty good–although since most of the replay value in games like Halo is in the narrative-free competitive mode, rather than the single-player story mode, the emotional investment the audience has in its characters is limited. But building a trailer that goes all-in on a franchise that’s five games deep now means you’re really only preaching to the choir. You can pull off an “event” trailer when it stars Batman and Superman–but it lands with more of a thud when it’s a property like Halo (which, while hugely successful as a games franchise, will still probably only reach a quarter of Fear The Walking Dead‘s TV audience, based on the roughly 1 million players of Halo 4 on Xbox Live after its release).

There are ways to “eventize” a trailer for a product that lacks the mass appeal of the biggest blockbusters–but they usually involve some manner of co-branding with a franchise that people are already familiar with. In games, Call Of Duty does that by tapping outside movie stars to appear, providing some hook to people who aren’t invested in the game’s characters. In movies, Marvel managed to drum up excitement for Ant-Man by putting the Marvel brand front-and-center in the way the film was promoted. There’s probably a way to do it for Halo, too, but forcing several million Fear The Walking Dead viewers to wonder “what’s a Master Chief?” probably isn’t the best way to do it.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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