Dead Island was announced way back in 2007 when developer Techland only just broke into mainstream gaming with their Western shooter, Call of Juarez. At the time it was to be a first person game on an island where if my memory serves me correctly, players would spend their time searching for their missing wife amidst a zombie outbreak. One press release and a few screen shots later, the game just vanished into thin air. And since Techland were no id, no one was particularly upset or aware when the game just fell off the face of the earth.
And then out of nowhere, the game suddenly re-surfaced this February with a brutal, haunting and completely depressing trailer that showcased the unfortunate demise of a family trapped on a holiday resort overrun by the undead. The trailer sent shockwaves throughout the industry going viral overnight and everyone, right down to the most hardened cynic was moved by the plight of a young girl who became an unfortunate victim of this outbreak. Forums all over the net were buzzing with gamers who wondered if this was the zombie game every one was waiting for. You see in most games featuring zombies, you just mow down hordes of the undead with reckless abandon. It’s entertaining, sure, but it just feels very impersonal. I mean think about the emotional impact the game could make if you were made to kill someone you knew or worse, your loved ones.
The trailer also briefly showed us the happy times the family shared at the resort before they were torn to shreds by the walking dead. This made me believe that for the first time, players would actually play out the calm before the storm instead of just being shoehorned into an apocalypse. Imagine roaming around the island and the resort, enjoying the sights and sounds of Banoi before you were rudely chomped on by some random corpse. Imagine getting to know some of the people on the resort, striking up some sort of rapport with them before they developed a voracious appetite for human flesh.
All illusions were shattered once the game released and it turned out to be nothing like the trailer. Of course, nowhere in the trailer did it state that the promo was indicative of the final product but we gamers tend to be a very optimistic crowd hoping that every new IP will be the one that redefines the genre. Dead Island was not that game. Instead of an emotional, roller coaster of an experience, we got clichéd, one dimensional characters who uttered phrases like “Damn, that B***h was huge” or “Hey shawty, did you eat any people today?”. The haunting soundtrack accompanying the trailer was replaced by a rap song titled “Who do you voodoo b***h” and instead of traumatized revellers we were forced to play as one of four cocky caricatures who muttered taunts at the undead before shoving an electrified machete up their backside.
Major props go out to Axis Animation, the creators of this trailer who captured the horror that went down on the island the day the dead walked. Sure we never saw any of it in the game but this well made trailer actually got the world interested in a game no one remembered or even cared about. Even before early previews or reviews hit the web warning people the final product was nothing like the awesome trailer, pre-orders had been placed and Dead Island had made a name for itself.
Of course the game still is a ton of fun and numerous bugs and glitches aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Banoi but the point of the matter is that we, the consumers were taken for a bit of a ride by the game’s marketing campaign. I am disappointed by the fact that Dead Island couldn’t match the monumental expectations laid out by the trailer but I must say, this has got to be one of the sneakiest marketing campaigns I’ve seen in a long time and is proof that a well made trailer can go a real long way to sell your game.