There’s more to games media than ABCs

Future’s Steve Payne explains why you can no longer judge the games media on ABC and traffic numbers alone

It’s ABC time, which will mean some discouraging circulation decreasing in the gaming sector. Then comes lots of bad news about the declining importance of magazines to the modern gamer.

Afterwards, you’ll have publishers like us at Future, pointing out the growth we’re achieving through our digital channels. How in reality we’re reaching more gamers than ever before. How our market-leading brands are more relevant than they’ve ever been. But still, it’s ABC time, so we have no choice but to go on the defensive.

Hang on a minute, doesn’t this sound familiar? Let’s start again.

It’s Chart-Track time, which if recent trends have continued will mean some pretty discouraging decreases in boxed product purchase. So then follows bad news about the declining importance of games. Afterwards, you’ll have publishers, like… well, all of you, pointing out the growth you’re achieving through digital distribution. How in many cases you’re selling more games than ever before. How your market-leading IPs are more relevant than they’ve ever been. But still, it’s Chart-Track time, so you have no choice but to go on the defensive.

In essence, we share a common problem. The tools available to us to demonstrate how we’re really performing have not kept pace with the rapid rate of change within our respective industries. At Future, we have so much growth through digital expansion and new publishing platforms such as Apple’s Newsstand, it seems somewhat anachronistic that we still have to have this debate each year.

With that in mind, please remember to look beyond ABC numbers. Print remains a core foundation of our business, but as an industry we have to accept our audience is changing, and the way it consumes games media is changing too. We need to use measures that truly align with how these gamers are behaving – only by doing this will you get the real (and encouraging) picture of the relevance of games media in 2012.

How we convey scale to you can no longer be sufficiently achieved by looking at print circulations and web traffic in isolation. Social media, video channels, mobile engagement and live events all contribute to a far greater footprint than the ‘industry standard’ measurements allow.

As of the end of January 2012, looking at print, tablet magazine purchases and web traffic, Future’s portfolio of games brands reach over 2m people in the UK per month. Our social media reach stands at 285,000 on Facebook and 168,000 on Twitter. We have almost 30,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel. Over 2,300,000 people globally have downloaded a container app for one of our entertainment titles from Apple Newsstand onto their iPad.

We had a record 2m votes in the 2011 Golden Joysticks, 30 per cent up on 2010.

These people are your vital audience – High Volume Gamers; buying 16 boxed, full price games a year on average; playing for 23 hours a week; more likely to pre-order and commit their money early; more likely to influence purchase decisions amongst their peer groups.

So how else are we to judge the relevance of our games media against the backdrop of these ABC figures? We have data that can help create a deeper understanding of our audience.

In January, 1.71m videos were viewed across our websites and YouTube channels. Dwell time on our game sites averages at eight minutes 23 seconds per visit – but sites like average over 13 minutes. Cumulative dwell time for every user is 14,000 days every month.

Furthermore, we’re investing in social media monitoring tools that will quantify the word-of-mouth power of a High Volume Gamer.

The industry needs a more accurate view of software sales and a chart that recognises the shift towards new forms of distribution and digital downloads. In turn we want to give you the complete picture on how Future is performing – our strategy for growth, the increasing depth of engagement we have with our readers and the importance of the audiences we reach.

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