Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The State of Game Journalism

In this article, author Jason R. Rich reports on the growing presence of social media in game journalism and its impact on game developers.

Just as interactive entertainment has evolved dramatically in recent years, so has the way consumers are able to obtain the latest gaming news, reviews, game play strategies and gossip. For game publishers and developers, this now means having to take a multi-faceted approach to sales, marketing, advertising, public relations and promotions.

While printed, special interest gaming magazines, like Game Informer, and printed strategy guides (from publishers like Prima) still exist, their importance to gamers has somewhat taken a back seat to the vast number of online-based gaming websites, blogs, YouTube channels and special interest Facebook pages, for example, that are now populating the Internet.

Marc Saltzman, a longtime video game and interactive entertainment columnist for the Gannett newspaper chain and USA Today, explained, “Over the last five years, we have seen a lot more mainstream media interest in gaming, but far fewer specialty publications focusing on gaming. There is also a lot more opportunity for bloggers and online social media to cover gaming.”

Today, the success of a new game title no longer depends on positive reviews appearing within a few key printed gaming publications. Instead, word of mouth among consumers via the online social networking services can quickly make or break a game. Plus, news, game play strategies and other content related to new games can be disseminated almost instantly thanks to the Internet.

Thus, game developers and publishers need to continue working with the few remaining printed game magazine publishers to coordinate reviews and share game-related content in order to cater to the wants and needs of hard core gamers. However, it’s also necessary to reach consumers by working with the growing number of mainstream media outlets that now also cover gaming.

Meanwhile, having a strong online social media presence to promote word-of-mouth hype about games is more essential than ever, as is reaching out to the influential bloggers and YouTube channel hosts that cover gaming. Many of these individuals have larger and more dedicated audiences than traditional media outlets.

Andy Eddy, the editor-in-chief of @Gamer magazine (the official games magazine of Best Buy), stated, “Video game journalism, like other forms of journalism, has expanded quite a bit, so there are a lot of different ways for a gaming enthusiast to get information. There are still reliable game magazines, such as @Gamer, and game-oriented websites, but the Internet has enabled other forms to proliferate, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The ability to easily publish game-related information on the Internet means that there's now a lot of content, from reliable and not-so-reliable sources, to be had.”

He added, “As a result of there being numerous methods for enthusiasts to gather information and news, I think there's less loyalty. Instead of relying on one or two sources for content, gamers are able to do a keyword search on Google, and instantly be taken to a number of sources with the exact information they're looking to get. And along with that, there's a desire for instant access to news stories.

“Consumer tastes vary. There's no single or definitive source to tell you whether or not you'll like a game when it comes out. Simply put, I think it's now much harder for a developer or publisher to bring out a bad game and blow it past the buying community, given how quickly word-of-mouth opinions and media coverage spreads via the Internet,” said Eddy.

Word travels very fast about new video games thanks to online social media and blogs. “If a game gets a lot of positive buzz, starts trending, and word on the street is that ‘You’ve got to play this,’ a game is going to do very well,” added Salzman.

“Recently, we have seen games from small publishers come out of nowhere, that did not initially receive attention from the gaming or general media, become the next big thing in gaming. Look at Minecraft, for example.

“If there are two things that have changed the face of gaming media, it’s blogs and online social networking. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become very important tools to game publishers for spreading the word about new games. It’s widely accessible and instantaneous. It also provides a way for gamers to share their own gaming experiences and opinions,” said Salzman.

Game developers and publishers should still rely on the traditional gaming media to help them reach serious gamers. However, it’s important to understand that the gaming media is now segmented, with various publications and outlets covering specific aspects of interacting entertainment, such as online gaming, mobile gaming, console gaming or computer gaming.

“Game developers and publishers need to do their homework. Target the gaming media that caters to the genre of gaming that’s appropriate to their titles,” said Salzman. “Next, target the specific journalists at those outlets who cover the type of game you’re trying to promote. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.”

Today, when it comes to promoting a game, utilizing the traditional gaming media and mainstream media, along with reaching out to bloggers, game-oriented YouTube channels, and utilizing online social media, are all equally important.

Jason R. Rich (@jasonrich7) is the bestselling author of more than 55 books, as well as a frequent contributor to numerous national magazines, major daily newspapers and popular websites. Beginning in the late-1980s, he spent more than 15 years covering interactive entertainment. Most recently, he wrote the Pottermore Secrets and Mysteries Revealed: The Unofficial Guide To strategy guide for Que Publishing. His own blog, which covers iPhone and iPad apps (including games), is called Jason Rich’s Featured App Of The Week.


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