Reddit is a social network that specialises in the aggregation of content - simply put, it gathers material from across the internet and allows users to upvote it into popularity, downvote it into obscurity, and comment on it extensively.
While often thought of as being outside the list of traditional social networks, there are approximately 52 million so-called "Redditors" browsing the site on a daily basis. And for some, particularly in the 25-29 age bracket, it's a site that dominates a lot of their social network activity, racking up hours of usage every week.
With all that in mind, it's not surprising that Reddit has a thriving community of gaming fans, creators, and aficionados. So for today's blog, we decided to crunch some numbers, based on one popular gaming subreddit (a section of the site dedicated entirely to games).
Watch the video below to get a taste, and keep scrolling to read all about it.
For the purposes of this investigation, we used /r/games, a part of Reddit which has around 3 million users. It isn't the most popular gaming subreddit (that would be /r/gaming, which houses lots of gaming memes and discussion), but it is one that gives us a good indicator of success regarding videogame trailers.
While many of the most upvoted (and popularly discussed) posts on /r/games are news items (regarding loot box laws, Xbox buying Bethesda, Bungie splitting up with Activision, and more!) many of the forum's most successful posts are trailers themselves - either presented without context at all, or with minimal additional details about the developer behind the project and what platforms it's expected to debut on.
So here's what we did: We picked ten of the most popular trailer posts, ignoring news items for the purposes of this research. We picked the top five trailers for games based on existing properties, and the top five trailers for original IP (intellectual property, with no existing brand, prequels, sequels, or tie-ins).
#1; Cyberpunk 2077
Ah, Cyberpunk. While the game went on to have a rocky launch period defined (and arguably marred) by technical issues, for a while there Cyberpunk was a beacon of hope to gamers everywhere, a future project with almost limitless potential and the game of many player's dreams.
The game is based on a tabletop roleplaying game, but that isn't the reason the trailer ranked so highly: It came from Witcher 3 developers CD Projekt Red, which created an instant mountain of hype that... Well, didn't go all that well for them in the end. But if you're looking for an example of a successful trailer in isolation, look no further.
Playing up your creds as a developer (e.g saying "From the developers of X and Y") is a great tactic to build trust through a trailer, especially one that is also introducing lots of new concepts. And developers that people already know and love is going to be a theme for lots of our top ranked posts.
#2; Half-life: Alyx
Valve are still yet to release a game with the number 3 in the title, but this surprise announcement was a return to a franchise that hadn't been touched in so long that fans often joked about it never returning again.
It might not be Half-Life 3, but it's the next best thing - and the angle of it being a virtual reality title generated even more intrigue and excitement.
There are few (if any) games like Half-Life out there in terms of brand loyalty. But this trailer is still a great lesson in (eventually) giving longtime fans a little bit of what they want, entirely on your own terms.
#3; Hogwarts Legacy
This game from Warner Bros is attached to one of the biggest media franchises of all time. If you're making a Harry Potter game, maybe you too will be lucky enough to create a trailer that shows up all over the internet regardless of what you put in it.
But for game developers outside the lucky few who get to work on Potter, Star Wars and their ilk - there are still lessons here for those who are looking to trade on nostalgia. Your game might not be based on best-selling books or films, but it might be trying to evoke feelings and titles of the past. Everyone who's developing a retro FPS or a classic Metroidvania must be acutely aware that when it comes to marketing, those nostalgic feelings are everything. Capture them any way you can.
#4; Fallout 76
If Cyberpunk were not on this list, then Fallout 76 would have a serious claim to it's throne as the title that most fell from grace after it's initial reveal. The tease is a good one, hitting all the notes that fans of Fallout 3 and 4 would have wanted to see, with familiar musical sounds, visual cues and references throughout. Whether the game lived up to that in the end is debatable, but one thing is for sure: When people who played Fallout saw this, it got them incredibly excited.
The lesson? Know your tone and what makes your game special. Every moment of this tease is engineered precisely to evoke the feeling and vibe of a Fallout title. When your playerbase feels that, you're on to a winner.
#5: Borderlands 3
A threequel that builds on a popular series of co-op titles, Borderlands 3 is another game that trades heavily on style. People who watch this trailer are left in no doubt about the game's aesthetic and tone - and it's a case of "more of the same, please" for existing fans of the franchise.
It's a textbook example of a marketing team that really understands why players love Borderlands, and hitting those marks like they're ticking off bullet points. It works. And they have the social activity to show for it.
#6; Nintendo Labo
Now we're into the originals... Labo kind of came out of nowhere, promising players they could build things out of cardboard and then play games with them. From anyone else, this sort of insanity wouldn't play as well, but it really helps here to have the Nintendo brand behind it.
At the top of the list we mentioned Cyberpunk's massive hype, which was influenced by the developers behind the project. Labo isn't in the same league in terms of desire, but it does benefit massively from coming out of the Mario and Zelda hitmakers at Nintendo, and the bold originality of the idea contributes the rest of what this trailer needed to become a viral success.
Originality is almost always good - every huge franchise started as an original idea one day, and carving out a marketing niche is easier when you've got something unique. But you have to make players believe that you can back up your ideas with genuinely great implementations somehow.
#7; Death Stranding
We've talked about studios that have marketing clout just because of the name on the office door. How about games that are huge because of one person?
Hideo Kojima is something of an auteur in the games industry, depending on who you ask. But one thing is clear: The man has fans. Not just fans of his games... Fans of him. No matter how crazy the trailer, Kojima's track record ensures that thousands of players will show up to hear him out - everything he releases has an instant air of legitimacy.
Few game developers will ever reach these heights, but sometimes, your game marketing can benefit from highlighting key people involved: Whether that's a director, writer, or even a famous voice actor. Sometimes, one person really can make all the difference.
#8; The Outer Worlds
No, not Outer Wilds. The other one. This is another example of a trailer that really was pushed into viral success by the name of the developers on the box. Obsidian have a good track record with this type of game and fans were keen to see more. The developer name comes up early, and then the footage shifts to focus on the humourous, almost satire-esque nature of the game itself. Then, to bring it all home, they highlight the other games they've worked on, including fan favourites like Fallout: New Vegas.
#9; Atomic Heart
Perhaps the biggest outlier on this list is the one with the most to offer, in terms of takeaways for game developers and marketers at any level in the games industry. Atomic Heart (Mundfish) has no significant developer pedigree to speak of, isn't based on any existing property, and is essentially unknown. So how did they pull this off?
The core thing that the trailer for Atomic Heart understands is that viral posts (the kinds of posts that people want to share with their friends) need to provide something to talk about. Whether that's envelope-pushing visuals, an original idea, or in Atomic Heart's case: A huge heaping spoonful of "What on earth is going on in this game??"
The tactic used here is pretty risky, but it paid off. Whether you follow in their footsteps or go in a different direction, remember the key question: "Why would someone comment on this? Why would someone share it with their friends?"
#10; No Man's Sky
So, the trailer in question here is actually the trailer for one of their updates, titled "Next". No Man's Sky is a huge title that spans a procedurally generated universe, and when it launched it wasn't what some fans expected - leading to a powerful reaction online.
One feature in particular that players wanted was multiplayer, and this was the update that introduced it, causing a huge swell of support for the game as it continued to evolve and iterate on the original version. 5 years since launch, the game is still being updated and attracting new fans.
The takeaway from this trailer is clear - it's very well made, but it succeeds mostly because of what it represents: Players getting what they want. Sometimes in the world of game development, there will be huge demand for a feature to be added. If and when you decide to add that feature, it's an opportunity for a real success story if you can pair it with the right trailer.
Honourable mention; Fall Guys
While their trailers didn't make our top 10, a lot of their social activity and posts about the game did rank extremely highly. How did Fall Guys succeed on Reddit? Well, the original concept for the game goes a very long way. But they've also taken a positive and thorough approach to community management which means they're constantly talking to fans, providing new content, being proactive in the wider games community, and unveiling behind the scenes stories that fans have loved sharing.
If everything's working perfectly, other people are sharing your trailer for you. But if you're a smaller outfit, you might decide to post your trailer on Reddit yourself. Here are some extra tips to try and make your post a success.
Firstly, success on Reddit is hard - there's a lot of people, posting a lot of content. If your trailer doesn't stand out enough, it will simply be buried. There are no guarantees.
Secondly, make note of which communities you're going to post into, and what their rules are. A lot of subreddits take a dim view of self-promotion, so you'd want to avoid breaking their guidelines and getting your post deleted. Find a community which suits your post.
Now, for the post itself. Research suggests that the best post titles are between 20 and 80 characters in length - use them wisely. You may need to mention the title of your game in your title due to subreddit rules, but if not, save the characters and use them to say something enticing instead: Sum up your game's unique selling point in a few words!
The best times to post are in the mornings on weekends and Mondays (for America, so pick an appropriate timezone!). Like with all social networks, give it a try and measure your results. You can tweak future posts and trailers to try and zero in on the best results for you.
Good luck, and happy Redditing!