On May 21-22, 2008 the Los Angeles Games Conference was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Leading video game publishers & developers, carriers, technology companies, advertising executives and analysts attended the conference to discuss the future of video games and social media. There were a panel of speakers including CEO’s and Vice Presidents of top entertainment, games, and mobile companies. I was able to attend the second day of the event, which started off strong, giving insight into the games industry in relation to entertainment, the demographics, and what would make a successful game. After lunch, the event seemed to be dwindle, mainly focusing on mobile games and speakers not able to capture the level of interest attendees desired.
Gaming is a $9 billion business today. It covers multiple platforms from PC’s, consoles, mobile phones, and other devices. The average age is 33 years, and 62% males & 38% females represent game players. Most games are non-violent and given ratings to educate parents on what to purchase. Educational, puzzle, trivia, and board games are the vast majority of games played.
Cindy Cook, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer for Vivendi Games had an informative discussion with Geoff Keighley, Host of Spike TV’s GTTV on games providing outlets for music and entertainment. Originally music was offered as a background to games and as Geoff stated it was successful when the rap artist 50 Cent was used as a protagonist in GamePlay and people could play as his character, being immersed in a world of fantasy. This concept sold one million units, and later provided a branch to the game Scarface by including over 100 old & new hip hop songs for players to use anywhere in the game. This makes sense since according to the Global Habbo Youth Survey 2008, 56% of teens favorite genre of music is Rap/Hip hop. This new way of integrating music by downloading into games also prevents pirating of songs. Games based on movies can be an awesome marketing tool, but unlike movies they take longer to make and are more competitive in the mass market. Another movie recently made into an Xbox game is the Spiderwick Chronicles (Sierra Entertainment) based on the series of books of fantasy. Ghostbusters (Sony Pictures Entertainment) was a success with kids since it was not only a movie, but also a cartoon. The latest development from Vivendi Games will be Bourne Conspiracy with the character Jason Bourne involved in ultimate action scenes and has music similar to the trilogy. The launch is a few weeks away and there is a huge marketing campaign to include TV, online, print, and cinema ads.
The second panel of discussion was about what will make a successful game. Of course, the obvious answer is high revenues, and downloading games online is more popular than retail sales. The LA Apprentice game was able to generate $60,000 online sales compared to $20,000 retail sales. There was a consensus among the panel that the game has to be aspirational to the player, such as, playing Hugh Hefner in the Playboy game or being a musician in Guitar Hero; expose players to new ideas, and games that are easy to play but challenging once the level is increased or difficult to master. Other factors for successful games is letting gamers download the product for free before purchasing, and interacting with content by using a controller, flash browser, or phone.
In order to prevent society from becoming more isolated into game gadgets the industry’s main goal is to continue with connectivity. “Gaming is a huge massive community”, states Kieve Huffman, Senior Vice President of Championship Gaming Series. This is accomplished by developing games that are interactive and played with another person as opposed to against a machine. Also, social networks such as YouTube and FaceBook allows sharing video and information with friends and platforms and sites that give everyone a chance to engage, such as, voting for American Idol online.
One final issue is increasing the demand on mobile games. Millions of people play games monthly on their handset, but games are limited and there isn’t an effective marketing plan or a wide choice of games for players to select. Another deterrent to mobile games is not having free downloads before a game is purchased and are users being charged minutes for free trial games. The number of users that have downloaded games is small. The appeal may increase if gambling is legal as a mobile game. What happened to the days of simply reading a book for pleasure, playing a board game, a simple card game, or some other creative pursuit? Luckily, this high tech game world isn’t drowning everyone.