Know the Difference: Video Game Trailer vs. Video Game Sizzle Reels

There’s a lot of ambiguity when it comes to the terms “trailer” and “sizzle reel” when it comes to video game marketing. Outside of gaming, trailers are used to announce films and shows. They create buzz around a topic without necessarily revealing spoilers. Sizzle reels, on the other hand, serve as pitches for coming services or products. A common type of sizzle reel is the crowdfunding video, which try to lay out all the information regarding the product, including features, application, developer interviews, and goals.

Game publishers use both terms in their marketing campaigns. It seems like differentiating the two seems like a superfluous task at first. Most game trailers seem to be showcases of features, and most game sizzle reels are hesitant to let out spoilers for the story. However, it is an important distinction to make. This knowledge will be useful in creating an effective marketing campaign narrative that is easy to follow and easy to get excited about.

When is it a game trailer?

The announcement of a game should always be in the form of a trailer. It should follow the the traditional three act structure, similar to movies. It starts with laying out the premise of the game’s presentation, similar to the classic “In a world where <insert world-building hook here>”. This can be followed up by more story expounding scenes, wherein basic gameplay can be featured or implied. In the third act of the trailer, it closes out with a dramatic bit of music, action, or melodrama. Let’s use Nintendo’s upcoming “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” as a study.

This announcement trailer may of course be preceded or replaced by a teaser. (Fade-in, a single dramatic scene, a single snappy line, cut to logo.)

In this case, no snappy line. Link doesn’t talk.

When is it a sizzle reel?

Most of the the time, all the videos labeled as trailers after the announcement trailer are sizzle reels. They’re montages of gameplay activities, characters, developer notes, or media accolades. They can be as broad as letting the viewer know all the new features of a game, or as specific as a sequence of gameplay footage for a single element. Here is an example of the latter.

Gaming companies don’t only use them for specific games. Sizzle reels can also be used to showcase the company or a platform.

Still can’t tell the difference? Worry not! WAYPOINT is a video game marketing agency in Los Angeles, and we’d be happy to help you sort it out.