My annual trip to San Francisco for GDC last month was primarily in the service of MCV sister title Develop.
The show is dominated by North American game devs and the nitty gritty of making games, not selling them. But two things occurred to me when it comes to MCV’s UK market-centric focus.
Firstly, and anecdotally, it felt like the Brit contingent hasn’t grown much at GDC. In fact it might have shrunk a bit, certainly from an attending press point of view. With fewer major announcements at or around the show than usual that makes sense. But that leads directly into my other thought.
In times of huge changes, it seems to me the media (myself included) isn’t documenting said shifts in enough detail.
There are some truly goliath brands in games now, many of them online and loved by core gamers, which inversely seem to be on the fringes of games coverage. There are games with audiences in the millions that have never been written about the way a Battlefield has.
Best way to show it: put League of Legends and Dota 2 and Candy Crush versus something like Wii U in Google Trends. The graph shows you how momentum has shifted.
"There are some truly goliath brands in games now,
many of them online and loved by core gamers, which
inversely seem to be on the fringes of games coverage.
There are games with audiences in the millions that have
never been written about the way a Battlefield has."
Where did you hear about about Minecraft first? Who told you about League of Legends (if indeed you have heard of the game with more daily players than World of Warcraft)? How did you hear your mate was addicted to Candy Crush Saga?
I’m not confident that the ‘specialist press’ would ever be the answer to those questions. And when it is, it’s likely that’s the exception not the rule.
I’m not making any accusations about the media here. It’s hard to write about a hit game before it’s big if you don’t know how much (if at all) a hit it will be. That’s why journalists buy into what publishers say; there’s a trusted assumption that their games will be biggest by virtue of budget (in all senses) with a guaranteed audience.
And it’s hard to write about a hit game if it doesn’t seem relevant to your audience. Some players are ingrained in the forums they scour and the video feeds they feast on to to engage with ‘traditional’ media.
But there’s a lesson here about word of mouth and reaching vast untapped audiences for the media, and retailers and publishers, to think about.