CGI, Budgets and Hitting KPIs

July 27, 2023
#How to

CGI trailers are a great medium to use when you’re looking to hit, or maybe even smash, your KPIs. But it’s not like you can simply just throw everything at the wall and get an instant success.

Understanding is Key to Your Success

To understand what you need to show, portray or reveal in your upcoming CG trailer, you first need to understand your budget and your KPIs. Your budget will impact what you can and cannot do, while your KPIs will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. If you’re looking to unveil a new IP to create media and gamer hype, you’ll likely want something snappy and to the point: a teaser, pretty much. You’re not going to want a 15-minute long video which covers all the intricacies of the upcoming game that sets you back millions and millions of dollars, because, well… it’s unlikely to help you get the publicity that an enigmatic teaser will. And if you want day-one downloads and players, don’t release something that’s so puzzling no one knows what it’s even about without going full Sherlock Holmes.

Simply put: Be realistic – it might be a common message throughout our blog posts, but it’s true, and it will save you tons of blood, sweat, tears and heartache come the trailer’s release day.

Below, you can find a list of the various types of trailer you can use and which targets they’d would be best suited for:

Gameplay trailer

Created to highlight the main game mechanics, unique features and show the atmosphere, setting, and core gameplay of the game. This kind of trailers are based on the gameplay footage and enhanced by using special tools and engines to capture the gameplay as a real movie to show the game as spectacularly as possible.

Live Action trailer

They are used to show the characters in great detail (i.e. facial animation) or to show the World of the game (environment), and to deliver the story of them. These trailers can be either fully filmed (without VFX at all) or with a lot of CG elements.

Cinematic trailer

It's Full CG (computer graphic) trailers. It’s the most powerful and effective tool to announce your video game to the World and get wide awareness and first gamers. In fact, cinematics is short animated movies. And cinematics is the most labor-intensive in production and one of the most common types of trailers for games nowadays.


To get attention, generate first awareness about the title and convert it in wishlist addings. And a great hook for gamers is a must-have for this type of content. It can be a very short, but really catchy asset.

Announcement trailer

Usually, the most crucial and sharp cinematic for the game due to the announcement of the real game, features, USP, lore, game mechanics, and etc. Also useful to announce new battle pass, new season or character, and etc. And its deep visual immersion to the games' Worlds. This kind of trailers is used on the eve of the launch date and in the beginning the initial results (number of gamers and etc.) hard depend on it among other stuff.

Release Trailer /Launch trailer

Most often these trailers are logic extension and development of idea from the announcement trailer but with focus on game mechanics, gameplay, and etc.

Additionally, you’ll need to think outside the box, or in this case, the media player on screen. You could have the best cinematic in the world, but if you’ve not got the SEO, other promotional assets and even something as basic as the video title, how are people going to know about it? You’ve got to make sure you and your PR team are on the same page, because if you launch the trailer but the PR guys aren’t reaching the media outlets until a few days later, then you may not see the day-one coverage you might expect. And don’t forget to consider these additional assets and services as part of your budget, unless you enjoy pleading with your boss like Oliver Twist: “Please, sir, can I have some more budget?”

Timing, It’s All in the Timing

Something we’ve mentioned in a previous post is knowing what’s going on around you will mean you shouldn’t make the mistake of debuting your trailer at the same time as a huge event or an expected media push for another huge gaming franchise (yes, you know the one we mean, where you check out a gaming website and it’s just article upon article about the newest update). Of course, you can’t expect the unexpected, so a surprise drop of a major franchise could happen, but that’s just bad luck if it does.

You should know that the week of E3 or gamescom that media outlets are going to spend most of their time reporting on the events going on there, so trying to push for your trailer to get traction isn’t going to happen unless it’s part of the show. Additionally, two of the three big players have annual releases, so you should know that late September/early October and first weeks of November are likely out. We understand that not everyone’s interested in football or your game is unique, but you’ll just be limiting your options here. And don’t forget, these guys spend millions on their campaigns, so with the greatest of respects, for you it could be like dropping a pebble in the ocean.

And, of course, there are indie games which have managed to “break the internet”, but they are few and far between so the law of averages dictates that you’d be better off heeding our advice… Your end-of-year bonus will thank you for it!

The Goal Defines the Budget

Before you even get to the concept stage, you’ll know what your budget is. Knowing how far that will go may mean you need to renegotiate with your manager or their manager, but if you can explain to them why you need more with hard facts and knowledge, it’s in everyone’s best interest. Everyone needs to understand, while not impossible, most media campaigns featuring trailers will need a budget that matches their goals. If you want to be the hot topic that week in games journalism, you’ll need the funds to match it – and, yes, that’s in terms of both promotional activities and creating a kick-ass trailer. In simple terms, bigger goals most likely requires bigger budget.

But just because you’ve got the budget, it doesn’t mean you need to spend it – this isn’t a Brewster’s Millions scenario where you need to burn the money in the company’s pocket that they’ve allocated to you. If you’re announcing a title, would you rather spend, say, 80% of the budget on a CG trailer and 20% on promotional activities which last a week, or spend 60% of the budget on the trailer, 20% on the promotion and have 20% to play with to keep people excited leading up to your next major piece of news.

And for something like a new character joining the fray, you could use that 20% on influencers, content creators and more, to create more avenues of where people can see your big news. Additionally, again referring to our 13 Ways to Fail article, you always should keep a little back, just for emergencies. After all, you never know what could come up and spoil the party.

ROI? What ROI?

You’ll need to consider what level of ROI you need or expect to get from this trailer. With a DLC trailer, you might be looking at a KPI attracting a player for every X number of viewers/likes/shares/comments or for a new title a KPI of Y number of media outlets covering your game with Z number of articles. We could go into all number of economic formulae and heavy-duty math here, but we’ll save that for someone else to do, but if you’re an indie studio or a mid-size studio, you’re more likely to be looking at getting the most bang for your buck. And it’s important to remember, unless you are one of the big boy studios, you shouldn’t compare your spends to theirs; some of their development costs are lower than their marketing spends, after all.

It’s also important to cater your promotional activities to your target audience to make sure you can get the best ROI possible. Team up with those who are relevant to the groups you appealing to. Don’t just collab with the biggest eSports stars if your project is a chill puzzle game. You’ll likely not get the results you’d expect and that budget would be better allocated elsewhere.

Budgeting Is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy

We’ve mentioned it several times within this article, but it’s so important we thought we’d make it its own point too. The budget can work against you, but if you respect it, it will give you as much as it can. Having just a basic understanding of how CG trailers work will help you budget accordingly.

To quickly sum it up, the more elements, scenarios, locations and characters you have, the more money you’ll need. This means you’ll have to be economical with your budget and understand what’s really important. Do you really need that third location? Do you need to have 5 characters with voice lines? Do you need an element-heavy scene? These choices we can’t make for you, but maybe if you consider how much of the budget it would free up, it might just change your mind!

So How Do CG Trailers Help You Hit Your KPIs?

One of the first things we mentioned we have to reiterate here: Be realistic. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for the stars but putting all your eggs in one basket (that being a singular CG trailer) isn’t the smartest move; the trailer should be a medium to help you hit the KPIs, not the sole throw of the dice. And we mentioned it above, but it should really be a part of bigger campaign which is well orchestrated with promotional assets, copies and other important marketing elements. Creating a perfect balance of all these elements will put you on the course for success.

In case you’re struggling to think of the perfect type of trailer to help you smash your KPIs, don’t forget to check out our list of recommendations above.

We wish you every success with hitting your KPIs, and if you’re ever at a stumbling block or crossroads, PLAYSENSE can help from concepting and creating the trailer to providing advice on and producing top-notch marketing assets!


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