Microsoft’s latest Inside Xbox stream was meant to introduce gamers to a new generation of gaming and show us what the future will offer. Instead of being excited for what’s to come, many players were left disappointed after the presentation ended with a brief trailer for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. While advertised as a “first look gameplay trailer,” players get no real indication of how the game will play after watching it. Sadly, this isn’t anything new for the industry as it has been commonplace to call any in-engine footage “gameplay.”
Past Assassin’s Creed gameplay reveals have been somewhat similar, although they’ve always shown a bit more than what we got here, so it would have been a shock to see a lengthy 10-minute gameplay demo from the stream. However, most people don’t have AAA marketing campaigns at the forefront of their minds. It’s not unreasonable that, after a week of being told there’d be a “gameplay trailer,” people expected to see… some gameplay.
Much like Microsoft’s own failings in over-hyping what turned out to be a collection of interesting, yet non-incredible, games coming to Xbox Series X in the future, a little transparency from Ubisoft would’ve gone a long way. If Ubisoft had just called it an “in-engine teaser,” then expectations would’ve been kept in check, and it wouldn’t have been met with widespread disappointment and mockery online.
At least one person at Ubisoft was trying to do just that, as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Creative Director Ashraf Ismail tried to get ahead of the reveal on Twitter. “To be clear, this is an in-game first look teaser,” Ismail wrote a day before the trailer was shown. He then replied to a fan saying that this is “not a gameplay demo.” This is the correct way to go about this, but way more people follow Xbox and Ubisoft’s official accounts that were promising a “gameplay trailer.”
This has forced Ismail into damage control mode, which is ridiculous as he was never the one that overpromised and underdelivered. “You rightfully expected to see more today,” Ismail told fans after seeing their disappointment. “We have a long marketing campaign ahead of us(;) you will see in-depth gameplay and get a lot more info about the game.”
This whole situation sucks for the Ubisoft teams that continue to work hard on Valhalla, and it’s one that should have been avoided. This issue has existed for years, and this isn’t even the worst offender. Sony notoriously showed incredibly misleading footage of Motorstorm and Killzone 2 at E3 2005 that looked better than most PlayStation 4 games more than a decade later. The solution is rather simple: Unless you’re showing actual gameplay, and enough of it for players to get an actual feel for what the core gameplay loop will be, then don’t call it a gameplay trailer. Just communicate that it’s an in-engine glimpse.
After all, gamers want to get excited about upcoming games. The type of trailer Ubisoft showed for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla should’ve done just that as it was slickly made and offered up some gorgeous imagery. Instead of looking forward to what looks like a great title, viewers were left feeling lied to and misled by the time it finished. This has led to its currently having 15,000 more dislikes than likes on YouTube. If this weren’t a part of Xbox’s stream and hyped up, then players would’ve been thrilled with this glimpse and waited patiently for a more in-depth look.
What also hurt the “gameplay reveal” was that it did little to further Xbox’s goal of showing off the next generation of gaming and what differentiates it from past generations. Sure, Valhalla was arguably the best-looking game that was shown off, but with nothing that left jaws dropped, it didn’t feel like we were seeing the next step forward for gaming. It was a bad ending for a presentation that barely got developers to explain how they’re leveraging the increased power of Xbox Series X to better their titles.
Ultimately, the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla trailer isn’t bad or poorly put together; it’s just disappointing. Hopefully this will lead to a bit more transparency in marketing going forward. It’s all unneeded as players will get just as excited to see new footage of highly anticipated titles without buzzwords like “gameplay” being attached to it.