How do you market what is essentially the very same video game you released the previous year to the same audience as an entirely new experience? EA Sports masterfully maneuvered its Zamboni-shaped hype machine through this year’s NHL Awards show, dropping the trailer for the forthcoming NHL 18 in front of hockey’s greatest players, broadcast to its biggest fans. The trailer for this year’s edition of the hockey-simulation game marks a notable shift away from the old guard (the Crosbys and Ovechkins) and towards the future of hockey: the kids. This theme is the focus of the trailer at every level, from real and in-game video footage, to narration and title cards, all the way to musical content.
The trailer opens with the unmistakable sounds of the rink: skates cutting through the ice, sticks clashing, and the unintelligible sounds of players calling out to their teammates for the puck. 4 seconds into the trailer, a simple bass riff and clapping sounds begin a vamp. The narrator says, “Hey kid, let me give you some advice…” speaking to both the rookies on the ice, and the kid with the game controller in their hand. For those in-the-know, each piece of ensuing advice is a hockey cliché: work hard, keep it simple, get the puck deep, finish your checks, etc. With each hockey-ism, the trailer shows the future greats ignoring that advice and deking their way to glory. The message? This game is about having fun.
The bass riff continues to build until the break at 0:25 and at 0:29 new music comes in as the footage changes to in-game material. The song is appropriately named “Opposite of Adults” by Chiddy Bang and samples the distinct synth melody from MGMT’s “Kids.” The music is upbeat and poppy, featuring male rap vocals overtop of an electronic beat. The lyrics sing, “Once was a kid all I had was a dream” as Leafs’ phenom Mitch Marner cuts through the defence and dangles his way to a goal and Bruins’ revelation David Pastrnak snipes a goal top shelf. Big body checks add rhythmic accents throughout the trailer and the cheers from the audience up the excitement. Chiddy Bang sings, “Tell mommy I’m sorry, this life is a party, I’m never growing up,” as Jets’ winger Patrick Laine celebrates his goal and Oilers’ superstar Connor McDavid receives a bank pass in the offensive zone and does a trick shot past Canucks’ goaltender Ryan Miller. The trailer ends with the blasting goal horn that every hockey fan knows and loves.
Successful trailers target their audiences. For EA Sports, that means kids who live and breathe the sport and hockey enthusiasts living vicariously through their Playstations. The trailer uses music to complement the highlight reel footage and marks a passing of the torch from the veterans to the youth. Indeed, the kids are alright.
– Andrew Sproule