Saturday, November 07, 2009

Uh-oh movies here's Pet Society

Reading my NYTimes today - in print, slowly - I kept bumping into some interesting articles with a lot of relevance for the film industry. Everyone in the film biz knows that videogames are increasingly beating cinema for dollars, that's nothing new. But three articles in today's Times sum up the problem.

1. In the article "A Game That Takes Aim at Bigger Screens," Seth Schiesel reports that video games are now reaching the holy grail of providing a genuinely cinematic experience (that's his grail btw, I always thought most of us are waiting til it's an even better experience). He goes on to say that "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves" actually got him to buy an HDTV - something no film had made him bother to do. Gaming 1, Cinema 0

2. In the article "Online Warfare Prompts an Offline Crash in China," Michael Wines reports on the wars between two Chinese government agencies over who gets to oversee (governmentally) World of Warcraft. He reports that online gaming in China is already an almost $3-billion business and that "50 million people crowd the Internet cafes of China on a regular basis." I haven't read any similar articles about how hot the film business is these days lately, and nothing approaching those numbers. Gaming 2, Cinema 0

3. But the absolute best article and the game winner for gaming is this quote from Sara Merrill of Parsonfield, ME about why she spends money to buy virtual goods in the game Pet Society on Facebook:

"It's an experience, like going to the movies. That's how I describe it."

And that's the problem for Hollywood, and all content folks. It's an experience - and that experience becomes more valuable today as our time is crunched, we have tons of options and content is free. We value what is worth our time, and increasingly it's an experience. There's good reason that video games are increasing in popularity - they are participatory, they offer an experience. She, and millions of others, are making the market for virtual goods into what is now a $5-billion annual business according to the Times. She's not buying an actual product, she's buying an experience. She plays this game 5 times a week with her two kids by the way - not an insignificant amount of time. Very few parents take their kids to 5 films a week anymore (if they ever did). The article - " Virtual Goods Start Bringing Real Paydays" by Claire Cain Miller and Brad Stone was on the front page of the Times today. That's what film is up against and as of now, in today's Times, it's Gaming 3-0 vs cinema.

Note- I'm not linking the articles. I found them in print, and the Times now makes you register to read them online. I am a print subscriber and I can't be bothered to take the time to tell the Times this to get my free access - thus, the idiots don't get a link. But I'm sure you can google the articles and read them for free somewhere else. And when the NYTimes dies, we can all read them somewhere else online for free without having to register.


scottellington said...

Back in April, 2008, Nikki Finke decried the gaming industry's deceptive practice of conflating revenue streams from hardware and content sales into numbers that intimidate practically everything that might be considered competitive with video games; cinema, music, virtual pet food...

"We can look from the standpoint of mild deception. Game revenues are in fact larger, but they are only larger because we charge 6 times as much per consumer. The elephant standing in the room next to this statement is the actual market is significantly smaller. Especially when you consider NPD's number includes hardware sales which are between $250 and $600 per box. This would be the same as counting DVD players in home video sales - which, incidentally, without DVD players are larger than the game market."

scottellington said...

Since my earlier comment missed the point of your post, let's go back to Schiesel,

"The puzzles you must solve as you track the fate of Marco Polo’s lost flotilla and unearth the secrets of Shambhala are interesting, if never particularly taxing."

My point is that cinema and gaming aren't really in competition...except for capital. And that rich, compelling narrative (in any medium) trumps technological novelty. Great films are even more than a great experience. They drive us to envision more than we've experienced. When gaming and cinema truly interlace, content will be deified. But story's how we'll get there.

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