This panel brought together Robert Nashak, GM of Yahoo Games, Chris Charla, director of business development for Foundation 9, Charles Merrin from Real Networks, and Brian Ring, the GM of Interactive Content for Scope Seven. The purpose was to discuss the top five trends in 2007 in the realm of gaming and entertainment.
When games meet entertainment brands, it's traditionally meant a game based on a movie that comes out a few weeks (or months) after the film has hit theaters. However, for the past few years games have started to be released concurrently with the films, or even before the movies come out. Hollywood studios now include video game development in the earliest stages of pre-production, and even involve game companies in the writing process.
Games + Entertainment Brands also encompasses traditional board games, like Scrabble and Monopoly, being licensed for video games, and toys like Bratz and Barbie as well. We break down the top five trends that will be hitting games + entertainment brands in 2007 after the jump.
- Games are going to be used to build brands: Although we wouldn't really call this a new trend, it's been going on for awhile, and according to the panel it'll be happening faster and more often. Merrin dropped the biz-omb that, "A game has to be good to drive the brand." We've seen enough copies of the King Kong game in bargain bins to know how true that is. Nashak commented that he worked on the Alias game for Vivendi Universal, and then the show got canceled. Coincidence? Probably not. While that game was semi-lame, the show had really started to move into sucksville by that point.
- The rise of user generated game experiences: Yahoo recently did a promo with Doritos for the SuperBowl where people could use JumpCut (the Yahoo video editing tool) to submit commercials, and they had over 40,000 entries. This will happen more often in this day and age of YouTube and MySpace, but Merrin pointed out that the problem with brands are that the companies don't want them being threatened by what users do online. Using Sony's just announced PlayStation Home as an example, Charla mentioned that Sony has gone to significant lengths to keep users from creating offensive content there. User generated game experiences have been limited to things like level-building tools, and where's all the user-created content that Microsoft promised us with the Xbox 360? Look for this area to open up in 2007 as it gathers momentum.
- The definition of games and gamers widens broadly: the Wii was the big example here ... another platform to release thing on with different types of products. Typically, console gamers have falleni into one of several categories of gamers: Hardcore (have to have all the newest games, and own tons of titles), Mass Market (typically ocwn Halo + two or three other games), and Sports (own multiple copies of the various Maddens, baseball games, etc). Ring pointed out that his company is developing games for everyone from 12 months and up which prompted Nashak to ask, "so is fetal gaming on the way?" It would be funny if it wasn't true (probably).
- Ads + games goes premium: In game advertising will take off. What we've seen so far has been primitive compared to what's coming (oh noes). Advertisers will be getting deep into bed with the game developers and publishers. Yikes. It's advergaming, folks, and it's coming in a big way. They used the Burger King Xbox games as a model for the success of advergaming, given that they sold more than 12 million copies at $4 a pop. Really? We had reports ranging from people getting 'em for free with a combo meal, to buying all three for four bucks. It's unlikely that anyone got rich off these games, but there will be more stuff like this coming down the line. Nashak pointed out that 975 out of 1000 click banners don't work, so advertisers are searching for something new, and they'd really like to latch onto the gamer demographic.
- Licensing becomes less adhoc: We mentioned earlier that there is a trend for licensing to be approached as a separate standalone part of product development. In the coming days this will become a much more organic process, and will eventually shape the way products are currently developed. We mentioned Hollywood bringing in game developers early in the production process, which is a small step in this direct. Merrin pointed out that eventually the race for every new brand to be licensed will create brand wars, which will lead to a fragmentation of brands. Companies are looking to keep that from happening and are slowly embracing game development as part of the process of creating a licensed brand.
Best quote of the panel, "Due to all of the licensing and game development going on, this is currently the best time ever to be an independent game developer."