Caught a great article at the BBC news site about gaming and other mass media, where they quoted Activision CEO Mike Griffith as saying "Video games are poised to eclipse all other forms of entertainment in the decade ahead." Thank you to our friend Fredrik Wengelin for finding the article.
So what do we think of that statement? Games to eclipse all media? Well, as we examine the evolution of mass media channels here at the Communities Dominate blog and have discussed digital disruption at length (and gaming has been an ongoing fascination to us at the blog and our books - in Communities Dominate Brands we discuss the virtual reality worlds of online gaming in one chapter, in my next book Digital Korea we discuss multiplayer gaming in a chapter; in my current hardcover book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, I have a chapter just for mobile gaming; and in my latest volume, my eBook Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising, I have several case studies of advergaming). So what do we think of this statement by Mr Griffith. Gaming to eclipse all entertainment in a decade?
The BBC article hs great examples, from Guitar Hero which according to Nielsen SoundScan data has caused increases in featured music downloads ranging from 15% (good increase in digital sales) to 843% (incredible). The BBC article mentions that other media channel growth has been flat in recent years while gaming has grown 40% and we mentioned with Alan in our book that gaming was already bigger than Hollywood movie box office at the early part of this decade, and gaming is also bogger than the global music industry for example. So we are looking at a vibrant and growing media entertainment choice.
There is even a James Bond example - we gotta mention that here, Alan and I being both fans of 007. Mr Griffith says that the Quantum of Solace movie gets two hours of involvement by a consumer, but the related videogame gets 50 hours of game-play, far more intense and lasting experience with the Bond experience.
Good., the case is well argued. Here is my view. First, lets remember that the majority of videogaming is a part of the second mass media (recordings), in particular if we measure by revenues. Yes, online gaming (sixth mass media, internet) is very time-consuming but not that big in total revenues, and yes, we have gaming on mobile (7th mass media) but less in terms of time and the user base is mostly a niche of hard-core gamers who download lots of games per year - in Japan and South Korea - who form almost half of all glrobal mobile gaming revenues. But note, that while newer mass media evolved after recordings - ie cinema, radio, TV, internet and mobile - still there is life in an "old" media like recordings. They just shifted from the first media content category - music - which plateaued at the 25-30 billion dollar level annually in sales - to videogaming which is now in the 40 billion dollar range in total revenues. Out of that, perhaps half is gaming software revenues for console gaming, so just by counting the "recordings" media channel, gaming is catching up to music (especially if we remember that a part of music is shifting away also from recordings, to internet downloads and mobile phone music). This is by the way. roughly in the same ballpark as recordings hae of the movie content, ie DVD sales for Hollywood are roughly in the 20 billlion dollar range. So a giant music seller like HMV or Virgin, migth have one floor for music CDs, another floor for movies, and a third floor for videogames. Roughly speaking (in recordings) are of similar scale today.
But regardless of how much or not the prediction might come true over the next decade, I do like the fact that we have new formats, that can revitalize old mass media, like gaming did for recordings.
As to the BBC article - its clear that the BBC headline writer did take some liberties, substituting "media" for "entertainment" which are not the same thing. All of newsmedia is excluded from entertainment, so the BBC did stretch the truth a bit, in paraphrasing Mr Griffith. Lets not blame him if the BBC misquoted him in the title. The text of the article does quote him correctly.
But yes, how likely? I do like the trends first of all. Print (first mass medium) is flat. Cinema (third medium) is flat. Radio (fourth) is flat, television (fifth) is relatively flat too, in the developed parts of the world. Only the internet (sixth) and mobile (seventh mass medium) are growing, as is recordings (second). The trends do support this conclusion, but its a very long way to go. Television is ten times the size of gaming in total. Print is even bigger than television (although both TV and print have sizeable newsmedia components, ie all of the newspaper industry as part of print, is news, not entertainment) .
Here are my thoughts. First, there was a flawed assumptoin of saturation, with each earlier stage of videogaming, that a global ceiling had been reached - wtih the original Magnavox in the 1970s, then the Atari, the Playstation etc. We have seen continuously new innovations and a broader reach to console based (recordings industry type) gaming and again, now with the Wii (and for example Guitar Hero) - a new, larger audience for gaming on consoles. So my gut says, that consoles based gaming will continue to grow strongly.
But more to home, at our blog of communities dominate. Mutliplayer gaming, especially massively multiplayer online gaming - is a huge global activity. I discuss Lineage 2 in the book Digital Korea as a case study, it had 14 million userr worldwide in 2007 (far more than more familiar "Western" online environments like World of Warcraft of Everquest). 14 million? Thats more than the total populatin of Portugal or the staet of Pennsylvania. Its as big as two Hong Kongs, Or Switzerland and Sweden put together. Its nearly the size of the population of the Netherlands. All registered "residents" if you will, playing jsut one of the massively multiplayer online games . And pay to do so (and some get paid to do so).
Here I like to look at the youth and see what their preference is. The youth of today is the young employed adult of the next decade. And there is ample anecdotal evidence, that for many hard-core multiplayer gamers, they would much rather spend hours online in their game, than watch TV. They may have MTV on in their room as they play, but their attention is in the multiplayer gaming world, not on MTV. This area I do believe will grow truly dramatically over the next decade. Multiplayer gaming is immersive, and it is a kind of one-way street. Once a gamer enters a multiplayer world, they dont want to go back to single player gaming anymore. Will gaming become the dominant part of all online ie internet entertainment? That is a tough call, but the signts are goos that it may do so.
As to the final part of gaming, mobile gaming? Here I have felt that the big economic opportunity is with the hard core mobile gamers, and a small segment of the total mobile subscriber base will continue to deliver the majority of the total revenues. Perhaps someone can crack the concept of a universally loved game (Kart Rider in South Korea is so far the best attempt) but I think gaming will be only a small part of the mobiile media experience, not as pervasive as for example online in the PC based internet or on recordings.
The big opportunity to me, in gaming on mobile, is advergaming. Sponsored games for casual play, on mobile phones. For that, the moblie is ideal for both the advertiser and the gamer. I have some minutes to kill at the bus stop, I'll play a free game. A great example is the NorthWest Airlines puzzle poetry quiz about airline destination cities that ran in Japan. Chetan Sharma discussed it in his book Mobile Advertising and I hvae it as a case study in my Pearls Vol 1. Here we have a short quick quiz game - try to guess the city - by reading the quick poem puzzle, perfect for mobile. There are hints at the NWA mobile travel site, so you can visit that site to get clues - gets good engagement by the advergamers. And yes, user-generated parts as well, have gamers submit their own poem quizzes and best ones are included in the game.
So yes, big growth opportunities here too. And bringing in advertising, we get a fresh source of revenues, cannibalizing it from legacy media ad spending, ie from print, radio, TV etc - rather than from the youth and young adult disposable spending - where gaming is struggling among the younger gamers to find more out of tight budgets - so here is a possible way to create a new market space with new players and opportunities. I have four case studies of advergaming in the eBook Pearls Vol 1 if anyone wants to understand this new emerging opportunity, either from the side of gaming, or the side of advertising - or indeed digital and mobile content. I am cautious however, of the chances of gaming becoming the biggest media entertainment type for mobile, so this is a possible, not definite.
To balance against those opportunities are entertainment in print (books, magazines, etc) but there is also a small part of print dedicated to gaming - from crossword puzzles to Sudokus. And then there is radio and TV, which don't have much gaming - well, except for mobile-to-TV SMS based games. So the gains in consoles gaming, online gaming and mobile gaming, would need to not only overcome other entertainment on recordings (music CDs, movie DVDs, TV show DVDs etc), and online and on mobile; but then also overcome entertainment on the two far bigger media types, television and print.
Can it happen, I guess. Will it happen in the next decade, I don't think the numbers really support that level of growth. But gaming is likely to grow to become one of the major media content types, on most media platforms. So regardless of if the actual prediction comes true, gaming is expected to show very strong growth for the decade to come. Make sure you have a gaming strategy if you are in the entertainment space!