In times of economic uncertainty, marketing budgets often suffer, leaving companies with the challenge of delivering results and fueling growth while maintaining financial stability. As highlighted by the recent Harvard Business Review article ”…The general rule of enterprise finance is that marketing budgets drop like a stone at the first sign of trouble and rise like a feather once the environment is more settled. “
Hundreds of CMOs are strategizing how to deliver results and fuel the company’s growth in a time of less. As NOON22 is deeply connected with marketing managers across various industries (from videogames to advertising, to films and entertainment), we wanted to share in this article the potential of embracing simplicity and turn it to the best investment for video games companies.
Let’s take as an example the world of computer games companies, where the pursuit of excellence in 3D animation and game cinematics often comes with significant budgetary considerations.
In this blog post, we shed light on a compelling notion: in the realm of game cinematics, spending less can, in fact, yield the most rewarding investments.
We’ll explore how strategic cost-cutting measures can enhance ROI and captivate audiences through focused storytelling. We aim to empower computer games companies to make informed decisions that drive growth and success in a competitive landscape.
The Power of Focused Storytelling
Let’s take a casual game with several principal characters that marketers want to showcase together in one cinematic. It might seem like the best way to grab the audience’s attention. But here’s a game-changing idea: taking a step back and focusing on just one character per cinematic can bring surprising benefits.
First, it gives the audience a chance to connect more deeply with the character’s backstory. It allows for a more in-depth exploration of their personality, motivations, and experiences, leading to a richer and more engaging storytelling experience. The audience can better understand their unique role within the game’s narrative, creating a stronger sense of investment and attachment to the character’s journey.
Second, this strategy will significantly reduce the production budget. With fewer characters to animate and render, the overall workload is reduced, leading to shorter production timelines and lower labor costs, ultimately contributing to significant budget savings.
So, think about it – less can truly be more!
Cinematics Cost Reduction Strategies
We’ve covered the advantages of reducing the number of characters per cinematic to support the “less is more” notion, but let’s look into other cost-cutting strategies that can maximize the budget and boost the cinematic’s impact.
- No or minimal lip sync. Consider whether your characters need to speak during the cinematic. Lip syncing can be a costly aspect of production, and in some cases, removing dialogue can significantly decrease expenses without compromising the impact of the storytelling. Achieving realistic mouth movements that sync perfectly with dialogue is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Things get a little bit more tricky when it comes to international market, where localization can become a real headache.
- Decrease the interactions with the environment. Minimize the number of interactions the characters have with the environment. While interactive scenes can add depth, they also escalate the production costs. Strategic use of environments can maintain the quality of cinematics while keeping expenses in check. Character interacting, holding, manipulating with objects not only adds up in animation production time but also has another downside – more advanced rigging system.
At NOON22 we can progressively develop rig and build on top of the existing one, so that more time-consuming aspects can be introduced later on.
- Balancing 2D and 3D environments. While 3D environments offer stunning visuals, incorporating some 2D elements can be a cost-effective alternative. Strike a balance between the two to create captivating cinematics without stretching the budget. There are few technics how using Digital Matte Painting (DMP) technology can significantly reduce the costs and the time of production. Using complex 2D projections (also know as 2.5D) allows to build up an environment almost twice as fast compared to full 3D. Besides the cost reduction, another reason to choose 2D/2.5D over 3D is that typically it is easier to match the look of the pre-established in-game environments. Of course, there’s always downsides. Using 2D or 2.5D puts limitations on complex, dynamic camera movements, such as fly through environments. In both cases all cameras should be pre-approved before DMP work starts.
2D/2.5D not always means cheap. Our 2D artists, lighting and compositing artists worked on Marvel’s What If…? animation series where almost 90% of the backgrounds are done in 2D.
- More for less. Consider producing several cinematics. By reusing assets across multiple cinematics, studios can significantly reduce the budget for each individual project. Complex 3D characters, effects and environments can all be re-used in consequent cinematics thus reducing the production budget.
- Simplicity in simulations. Hair and cloth simulations can be resource-intensive in terms of both time and money. Opting for simpler designs can keep the budget in check while still delivering an impressive visual experience. There’s no doubt that characters with complex cloth, muscle and hair simulations look amazing, but it’s not always necessary. A story written around certain restrictions in mind can mitigate the need of producing complex character simulations. If a studio is still thinking that simulations are required, it will be smart to consider creating multiple projects or long enough cinematics to justify the cost. On average, cloth and groom simulations can add 30%-60% to the total cost of the character. However, re-using the same simulation setup over and over will reduce price per second in the long run.
Embracing Simplicity: A Recipe for Success
The key to achieving remarkable results in 3D animation and game cinematics lies in embracing simplicity. Select your focus, optimize story, limit interactions, and be mindful of resource-intensive elements to create powerful marketing assets that captivate the audience while staying within budgetary constraints.
As marketing managers, creative directors, and CEOs of game companies, the potential of simplicity in game cinematics should not be underestimated.