INTERVIEW: GameSpot's ambitions for eSports and video shows

James Batchelor
INTERVIEW: GameSpot's ambitions for eSports and video shows

CBS Interactive's SVP David Rice tells MCV why the site is focusing more on original video content and professional gaming.

How has the games media market changed in 2012, and how has GameSpot adapted?

On the news and information side of games media, it is a tale of two stories.

With far fewer title releases, the number of game reviews has in turn decreased. Reviews still play a critical role in consumers’ buying decisions, it's just that the volume is down.

On the other hand, gamer appetite for news around gaming has grown to fill in the decrease in time spent on reviews – at Gamespot we saw a 75 per cent increase in our news traffic in 2012 as we built out our global news desk.

Additionally, gamer interest in strategy and community has grown like mad. Our site GameFAQs, which focuses on gameplay strategy, saw a 35 per cent increase in traffic. So although the number of titles was down, consumer demand and consumption for news and info was actually up.

The entertainment side of gaming media has been the hot spot. Gamer interest has expanded beyond the traditional “look for reviews”, “track the news” and “learning new game play techniques” to a rapidly developing entertainment genre that is anchored by the growth in eSports. Gamers are spending time watching their favorite teams and players compete but also watching shows that highlight stories around gamer lifestyle and culture.

You are seeing many of the characteristics of the evolution of "stick and ball” sports with video gamers. GameSpot undertook two big efforts in this area – acquiring Giant Bomb, which has great gamer centric entertainment programming (with an audience of over five million people), while we also developed a host of strategic partnerships with Twitch, MLG, Riot, Blizzard, Mojang and many others to really establish our presence in eSports.

We built up an amazing list of partners and learned a lot around eSports media coverage. Our expectations were not just met but greatly exceeded and you will see us investing a lot more resources in 2013 to leverage our position.

What are you goals for 2013? How will you accomplish these?

Firstly, to continue to build our position in eSports, working with the leagues and publishers to develop amazing broadcast coverage of the competitions and human interest stories around the culture.

Secondly: video, video, video. We are building out a full slate of programming to tap into the massive interest from consumers in entertainment content. We already produce over 70 shows and will easily hit 100 this year. Video is the most powerful storytelling medium and we are uniquely positioned as part of CBS to create premium programming of interest to passionate gamers.

GameSpot is investing heavily in Twitch TV. What role will this play in the site's future?

We are investing heavily in eSports and Twitch is a leading player in that space. They have great technology and audience, which, combined with our content and sales team, help to make an excellent partnership. eSports as a media effort is still relatively young and there is a lot of market education required to build a business, so we partnered together to really work to develop this market.

How well is Gametrax, your web traffic service for publishers, performing? What's the next step for this?

We just did a major overhaul of Gametrax and we have seen traffic up 300 per cent. Gamespot is uniquely positioned with its audience size, to provide deep analytics/insights to publishers. Our editorial commitment to quality reviews and news coverage attracts a massive audience which then gives us and our publisher partners great insights into gamer needs, attitudes and so on.

Gametrax is a critical piece of our core offering in the market. With this new release, we will be watching usage and then investing in those areas where our partners are looking for more insights and tools – but let’s watch this new version first.

GameSpot hosts a number of events, such as developer Q&As and the Crysis preview at IMAX earlier this year. Why are these important to your business? How does it help GameSpot stand out from the competition/attract new readers?

Gamers are the most passionate bunch I have ever encountered. They are not just passive participants but want to be actively involved in their gaming experiences – not just in gameplay but also games media and discussions. It is critical for us to reach out and engage directly with those super-fans.

Also, these events are not just for the attendees. Again, the passion around gaming is so massive that remote audiences want to connect with these events online. This is why the “Live” phenomenon is so important – we can host these events, attract a core group of fans whilst at the same time broadcasting this out to a large audience around the globe.

What are you doing to improve GameSpot's relationship with publishers and developers?

As the games media space has fragmented, GameSpot’s position as a key partner for publishers has only increased. It is a symbiotic relationship that is critical to both parties.

Publishers need comprehensive and respected coverage for gamers – it is what consumers use for purchase decisions and staying more connected with the overall gaming category. And clearly, GameSpot’s business is dependent on the great titles that these publishers release. Together, we help to grow and engage the gamer audience and business.

How are you building your mobile/smartphone/tablet audience and tailoring your content to suit them?

A very popular question, and we are not just throwing mobile apps out into the market for mobile sake.

As is shown across the mobile landscape, mobile experiences need to be relevant for mobile consumption. We just released a new updated version of the GameSpot iOS app, really helping gamers stay on top of gaming developments while on the go.

Also, 35 per cent of our traffic to GameFAQs is mobile, which makes perfect sense since the site helps gamers get through difficult spots in games, so it is a perfect companion mobile experience while playing on PC or console. Our next push will be around a video app that showcases our 100+ video franchises in 2013.

What changes do you expect to see in the games media market in the next two to three years and how are you preparing?

With two new consoles coming out, I really see 2013 as a generational shift. We have had seven years in the last console cycle and this is going to be a new world for gaming which will in turn, re-energize the release of titles and overall energy around news and information for gamers. I really think 2013 is going to be the most exciting and transformative period in years.

Gaming entertainment is becoming mass market. We are already seeing gamer-related programming attracting audiences similar in size to some of the most popular TV shows. I only see this getting bigger and audiences increasingly looking for innovative story telling around the gaming genre.

We just recently released a new show called GameCribs, which is a reality show that has the top League of Legends team TSM Snapdragon in a house in San Francisco and watches their daily life – from game practice to cleaning their dishes – allowing gamers to really see life of gamers. Each episode attracts over one million viewers – that's just the tip of the iceberg in my mind on where gamer-centric entertainment programming can go.

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Tags: gamespot , games media , esports , gamespot interview

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