Eurogamer, CVG, Edge, IGN and GameSpot – the biggest names in games media, written and edited by the smartest thinkers and the wittiest commentators.
These firms pride themselves on their critical analysis, their in-depth reviews and breaking news stories.
But do they matter anymore?
Clearly a certain generation of gamer still makes these website destinations their first port of call. But a new games media threat is emerging, led by platforms like Twitch and content creators such as Curse and Yogscast, who are putting out a new form of product for a new audience.
“Gaming is drastically different now than it’s ever been,” said VP of sales at Curse, Nathan Lindberg.
“The industry is focused on triple-A titles because they are more expensive to make, but they pay out more in the end. The success is in aligning with those franchises and fostering content and community around them. It is no longer unveil, preview, review, move on. There is an extremely important post-launch phase that traditional games media companies have just ignored.
“Consumption habits are changing drastically, especially
for this new millennial generation. They’re not going to
general news websites, they’re going to communities
where their friends are. They’re not watching TV, they’re
on video-on-demand websites and they’re certainly not
listening to reviews – they’re instead of listening on their
friends and fellow gamers.”
Nathan Lindberg, Curse
“The ‘launch it and forget it’ mentality is gone and with that comes a lesser reliance on reviews. Media firms need to find ways to give the community what they want, when they want and how they want it.”
He added: “Consumption habits are changing drastically, especially for this new millennial generation. They’re not going to general news websites, they’re going to communities where their friends are. They’re not watching TV, they’re on video-on-demand websites and they’re certainly not listening to reviews – they’re instead of listening on their friends and fellow gamers.”
Curse is a powerful brand in games today. According to Comscore, it is third behind GameSpot and IGN. It owns brands such as N4G, Bulbagarden and Minecraft Forums.
This may come as a surprise to many MCV readers as Curse isn’t a name many have even heard of.
“A lot of this has been really our own fault,” said Donovan Duncan, VP of marketing. “Gamers might have been using one of our products, but not have actually known it was ours.
“Marketing, branding and taking this to the next level is now as much a part of our focus as growing the best communities and products out there. We’re going to double our size again in 2014, and you’re going to hear a lot about us.”
Lindberg adds: “We were a one trick pony for a long time with PC MMO and were quite well known amongst publishers who we worked with constantly. Over the last few years we’ve expanded drastically into the console market and that has fuelled our growth to a size where the industry must take notice. The same thing is happening now with Twitch.”
Curse has put the community at the centre. Many of its sites are written by fans and for fans of existing titles.
“We don’t have to deal with the ugliness of reviews,” says Lindberg. “That’s an area we are so glad to be out of, because of all the problems it creates with your user base and your advertisers. At the same time, that advantage is a weakness, because partners don’t always understand our value proposition. Being a foreign concept to someone doesn’t invoke a ton of trust early in the relationship.”
And it’s not an easy job, adds Duncan. “It’s a highly specialised playing field, I don’t feel too many people in the world can do what we do, and it takes a high degree of care and focus. We spend more man-hours here talking about community, and working to make our consumers happy, than probably anywhere else in our space.”
Sites dedicated to games like Minecraft or Aion or Pokémon may not be easy to do, but surely a company the size of Future or IGN is capable of directly targeting these niche audiences? So why have these established giants not done it?
“It’s a passion thing, you have to be a true gamer to understand what other gamers want,” says Lindberg. “We’re not saying that people at other media companies aren’t gamers, but they look at it as a business first, instead of as a service to the community. Curse believes that great companies start with products that the market desires.”
There’s no disputing a change is happening at the games media. There are players today, kids brought up on a diet of Minecraft, who have never heard of CVG. These gamers are more likely to listen to YouTube critics than Eurogamer.
“Our way of doing business is very different from our competitors,” concludes Duncan. “We provide a more holistic and community-oriented experience for your favorite games. Gone are the days of reviews. Gamers demand more, and they are getting it through our products.”