Video Games and the Media
For an industry worth $91.8 billion globally a year, you would think the video games industry would get a lot of media coverage. You’d be wrong. Yet it brings in almost three times as much revenue as movies do at the box office. So why the radio silence?
The answer, I would suggest, is threefold.
Firstly, video games are rather an introspective experience. Ask any parent how much they enjoy watching their children play a game and the answer will be along the lines of “not much”
Games are great as a participant, but not much cop as an observer. Movies, music and art are – of course – a far more shared experience. Ask anyone who’s just watched the new Star Wars movie what they saw and they will all give you the same answer. Ask people who’ve been playing Battlefield 1 what the last multiplayer game was like and you’ll have a million different answers. This makes writing about the game challenging, because there’s no shared experience.
Secondly gamers, especially adult ones, tend to be rather thin on the ground among journalists; even among celebrities.
Only Charlie Brooker, Dara Ó Briain and Duncan Jones are self-confessed gamers. Yet writing about games is a specialist field. Get your Battlefields and Call of Duty mixed up and expect social media to erupt. So journalists tend to avoid the topic, which might keep their reputations intact but means many good stories don’t get covered.
And finally video games companies tend to focus on the vertical and specialist gaming sites.
In part this makes sense. After all, you’re going for a platform which understands your product and has a very engaged audience. However, you are also competing in a very crowded space. This is fine if you’re rolling out a AAA title, but for the smaller fish, it’s more of a challenge.
There is one other extra dimension to all of this: video games get treated differently, by the media, when compared to other creative industries.
A new movie or book launch (from a well-known author) gets pretty much a ‘free pass’ coverage-wise. Brand mentions? As many as you like. Talking up the product? Knock yourself out. Critical questions? Unlikely and usually easily answered.
Yet what could possibly be described as a puff piece for other creatives rarely, if ever, happens for video games.
There needs to be a story, a peg, to hang it on. And this is challenging, especially for an industry which is geared up to place its products in the specialised gaming space and wait for the reviews to roll in.
So how can a games company push itself into the limelight?
This is where a good agency can help. There are no shortage of ways of creating a newsworthy top-line that can at least open a dialogue with the media big players, as well as generating good digital engagement beyond just ‘<insert name> launches on <insert date>.
Some games self-generate this sort of activity. When World of Warcraft launched, thousands of fans queued up in fancy dress - at midnight in Central London – which made the news the next day.
Likewise Call of Duty, making billions from its various releases, is large enough to attract the attention of the business desks.
But the number of game companies which actively promote this is still fairly small. There’s a world of opportunity out there. You just have to adopt of a bit of lateral thinking.
And if you can’t, find a good agency which can. The rewards will more than justify the investment.
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