Gaming companies are looking to steal a share of the trillion-dollar entertainment industry from the established players like Disney and Warner Bros: they’re making a mistake. There’s another opportunity, and it’s much bigger.
Gaming and the silver screen gold rush
Tinsel town’s hottest property isn’t a new leading man or the return of a legendary starlet – it’s a bit less sexy than that – the computer game. There are a staggering forty-nine games being developed for the big screen.
Video games are where superheroes were fifteen years ago, says Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. Like comics, games are a treasure trove of proven IP (characters, storylines, universes). It’s time for Alex Mason and Niko Bellic to follow in the footsteps of the Hulk and Iron Man, for Azeroth to cast its shadow over Gotham. But films are just the beginning – there are TV spinoffs, theme parks, live shows, licensing, products and partnerships.
It all makes wildly lucrative sense, except for one thing: every IP holder has the same idea. So in an era of peak content, gaming companies are fighting for a chance to play, rolling the dice, and hoping their IP is better than the other forty-eight. Add to that other IP holders like toy manufacturers and book publishers, Disney, Warner Bros and Fox. So how can they turn the odds in their favour?
How can IP holders turn success from a game of chance into a billion-dollar franchise?
The next level
Since the 1950s, the entertainment business has put IP at the heart of everything – make a big budget film or TV series, then push it to customers through as many channels as possible. The idea is that every part reinforces the whole. This model is changing. Tomorrow’s entertainment puts the consumer at the heart of the IP universe – they take control of how, when and where they engage and interact. In this immersive universe, the ‘audience’ is less a passive observer of a mass-produced experience, and more an active participant in their own, unique adventure across regardless of channel. Content is still king, but context is queen.
Passive consumers of entertainment are becoming players in their own virtual worlds.
Play to your strengths
Gaming companies are in a strong position to lead this new content universe:
- Their expertise lie in creating user-centric experiences – whether content (interactive, immersive, customizable), platform (TV/console, desktop, mobile) monetisation (retail, subscription, micropayment), or integration with new technologies (social, VR, motion-activated).
- They already have a wealth of tried and tested IP along with huge networks of opinionated fans who can test, feedback and spread the word.
- They are more agile than businesses like Disney or Warner Bros. There’s no need to expensively retrofit customisable experiences into your theme park, for example, when you are building a next-gen one from scratch.
So it seems remiss that gaming companies should have to fight for a piece of a well-established and increasingly competitive film and TV market. Even if it pays off in the short-term, they can only ever be the supporting act to the likes of Disney. Gaming should be developing content as part of a holistic, customer-centric strategy. Their real opportunity is not to join the entertainment industry but to completely redefine it.
The winner takes it all
The next big shift has already begun. Netflix and Spotify are challenging the establishment and changing our TV watching and music listening habits. It’s a sign of things to come. Yet no entertainment brand has made a serious play for Immersive IP with a coherent and compelling positioning and offer. And there’s every reason it will be a gaming brand that leapfrogs the establishment. If that’s the case, as with any big industry shift, it doesn’t matter how many start the game, there’s only ever one winner.