Seven days from the launch of a game that will probably hurt the box office receipts of Iron Man, I’m keeping myself in check over the deluge of information concerning GTA IV. It’s extremely tough to keep myself in the dark about one of the most anticipated titles in this generation of gaming, but a fresh entrance into the title is something that can’t be understated concerning the cinematic nature of the narrative. One story did mange to slip through the crack though; a piece over at Gamepolitics on the removal of a GTA IV advertisement from Chicago city buses. To sum up the article, the Fox News affiliate in Chicago pressured the transit authority to remove the advertisement.
Fox News, on a national level, is no stranger to ignorant reporting practices concerning the video game industry, but I see the entire national media in a full blown quandary concerning treatment of the industry. First off, airtime dedicated to the industry is completely abysmal. There are segments dedicated to weekly movie releases, but the video game industry doubled their 2007 box office take to the tune of nearly 19 billion dollars. The average age for gamers is around 34 years old (always rising) and the average age for purchasers is 40. I look at those staggering numbers and say “How in the world can news networks afford to ignore such a potentially profitable market?”
The most common answer: The industry wide stigma on a national stage is that the end users of gaming products are dominated by children. I can’t argue that’s certainly a large portion, but it’s no longer the majority. 60% of the market is comprised of 18 and over gamers; 25% of those being 35 and older. This stigma leads into the only coverage that the MSM offers to the industry, negative stories about the supposed relationship of violent video games to real life violence. Ironically, only 15% of total games sold have a Mature rating. The other 85% is rated between E for Everyone to T for Teen, which is very tame by comparison.
There are smart print organizations that have started to capitalize on the market, Newsweek being the most obvious choice. Newsweek has an extremely intelligent editor by the name of N’Gai Croal who launched a video game blog called Level Up in Sept. 2006. His blog is a highly referenced source for much of the industry and it gives credence to Newsweek, an unlikely source of gaming information. USAToday has also been very progressive when it comes to covering the industry.
Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, and ABC News have tremendous amounts of catching up to do if they plan on capturing the attention of the gaming consumer. They need to stop booking utter buffoons such as Jack Thompson and stop jumping to blame filled conclusions when tragedy strikes at one of our schools. Hire tech-savvy reporters that can offer educated opinions on the quality of new game releases. Book industry icons to offer analysis of upcoming consoles and their respective companies. Give equal time to positive stories like Penny-Arcade’s yearly Child’s Play charity that collects toys / games for children in hospitals across the nation.
I’ll continue to offer my “18 to 34 year old demographic” dollars to the companies advertising products in gamer savvy print and online media until then. Plus I’m totally moving into this building: