They released a trailer this week for The Bureau: X-Com Declassified, a game that’s been teased for so long that most have assumed it became last year’s X-Com: Enemy Unknown, which was in fact a completely separate game developed during the interim.  The trailer features a kid on a bicycle, a man walking through a top secret government ops center, retro music stylings, and a shot at some alien technology at the very end.  The trailer is a well shot enterprise, delivering a few minutes of suspense and tension and nostalgia shot through with paranoia, but there’s one thing that you won’t find in it.

The game.

This has become more commonplace in the world of video games over the past few years.  Publishers have spent lavish sums on over the top mini-movies to sell their games instead of actually showing the game, and sometimes this process has produced exciting short films, and sometimes it’s been a waste of money in every regard.  What I can’t fathom is why it’s done so often.  Making movies isn’t as expensive as developing games, but surely after three years in development a team would have enough gameplay footage to edit together an intriguing tease.  It’s certainly not done out of secrecy, because game developers are known for broadcasting their intentions to anyone who will listen for years in advance of release, in magazines, at conventions, and even just to people one on one (I’m looking at you, Randy Pitchford.  We need to have words).  I suppose the reason to do so is to sell the feeling of playing the game, something that’s not easily felt by watching others play, and this is probably the closest answer to the truth… but it doesn’t explain why so many of these short films feel nothing like the finished product.  The Halo ads have always been dramatic and haunting, and are probably the best of these movie-ads by a long stretch, but they feel nothing like crashing onto the sofa and stuffing yourself full of junk food between respawns while nine-year-olds spawn camp you from areas on the map that are supposed to be inaccessible.

So, The Bureau.  A game that was originally just referred to as X-Com, long since thought to have gone dark, now apparently coming out this August.  X-Com fans don’t number as prominently as Call of Duty fans, but they are nothing if not devoted.  They’ve even dissected this tease frame by frame for analysis in hopes of cracking its secrets, searching for easter eggs.

In last week’s Mad Men, two competing firms are asked by Chevrolet to pitch a car that they haven’t even seen.  The firms seem to be sacrificing everything for a shot at an unknown entity that they assume will be fantastic because of who’s making it.  They both agree to launch a campaign that doubles down on the mystery of the car by refusing to show it.  The car is the XP-887, which was later revealed to be the Chevy Vega, a notorious lemon for the company.  I don’t worry too much about the fictional advertising firms prospects, however.  They’ll have one hell of a future selling video games by showing everything but the game itself.

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