Game Over for TWiT.TV's Game On! -- Is it an indictment of the interests of our audience?

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Bill Loguidice's picture

For several years now I've had a theory percolating that seems to have borne itself out one too many times not to now instead be considered a fact--videogame players will not support anything financially en masse outside of an actual videogame. What do I mean by this? Well, TWiT.TV's newest show, Game On!, is just the latest in a series of examples of videogame players failing to support something that on the surface should have been right in their wheelhouse. Game On! was slickly produced, had an attractive, personable and knowledge hostess in Veronica Belmont, and a similarly competent, over-the-top co-host in Brian Brushwood. Several days back, TWiT poobah and host extraordinaire, Leo Laporte, declared that the show's initial 12 episode run (it actually came to 13 official shows, counting the final episode, plus some test pilots) would be its one and only due to being too expensive to produce (it was easily the most elaborate TWiT production) and not gaining enough traction quickly enough. According to Laporte, without at least 50,000 regular genuinely engaged viewers/listeners, no one in the videogame industry would even consider advertising, making it financially prohibitive to keep running.

Now, I won't blame all of Game On!'s failings on the audience--after all, it was very me too and stereotypical on many levels, with fast cuts, silly skits, and loud noises seemingly targeted to the dated idea of the ADD teen hipster gamer, but in Laporte and crew's defense, he claims a previous attempt at a more thoughtful videogame show that also failed, arguably even more spectacularly (I never saw it/listened to it, but I'll take Laporte's word for it). Now, obviously, being one of the co-founders of Armchair Arcade and considering my own body of work, it's pretty clear which side of the fence my interests fall, but it may be a simple fact that no matter what your approach--crazy, intellectual, pandering, going-your-own-way, etc., it's never destined for anything more than niche success. It's great to carve out that niche, but when you try to go "big," the end result is the same--failure.

I often wondered why it was so darned hard to get a mainstream publisher interested in a videogame book. It took me years to really understand why--while you can usually be guaranteed several thousand sales of a good videogame book, that's nothing in comparison to other books on technical topics that can easily sell double or triple that amount. The economics just don't work out (in solidarity, most bookstores that still exist got rid of their videogame book sections long ago). Same thing with us lamenting the change in original vision of both G4 and TechTV, for example, in merging into the monstrosity that is now simply G4 and has only the slightest hint of videogame or technology coverage, instead featuring generic content targeted solely at a similarly generic 18-34 male demographic that is sadly far more valuable to advertisers. If gamers really supported these networks at even 25% of the levels they support the latest, hottest videogame, we'd still have the pure content ideals we all seem to crave. The fact is, not enough of us support these things with our eyeballs, ears, and pocketbooks to make a difference, and I'm not sure if the truly collective we - which based on the latest industry sales figures is a theoretically monumental force to be reckoned with - ever will.

Agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments!

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I have wondered myslef why

I have wondered myslef why none of it succeded. But my own viewing habits should have explained it to me. Most video game shows i have seen (have not seen GameOn!) are fairly dull. I have always wondered the fasination people have with STARCADE.. they had the same video games with almost no varity, they played them far to short a period.. it was manufactured hype. I feel the same about POKER (and people love to watch it).. golf.. watching others do what i could, not fun in the least. DOING! fun!..

I understand the preview/review shows, those hold interest, and entertain with information. Problem there is.. its all out there already for free on the 1000's of websites in "view" when i want times. Google and a game name, More info than i can read in a night. And worse, most TV shows are behind.. months at best... "we are here today with a preview of Amular" problem is its out..in stores, being played. SHows had the advatage of video but with Youtube and High Speed.. thats long gone..

I still watch G4's show with sessler (rarely) if i pass it and its on. But when Tech TV was on (and had game covarege) i did watch it.. at the time it was the only place besides magazines that covered it.. but those days are long gone.. there is no nitch to fill, 1000's of amatures are doing it for free, game designers are doing it on there dev blogs. INFO is everywhere unlike 5-10 years ago when it was purchased.. remebere paying $5 more for a mag with a DEMO DISC!!!!.

we live in a world where we expect free.. podcasts, youtube shows, and even more then free, expect to watch when we want to, not when its "on". And the real big one.. there was a time when I had access to fewer games, hence , once they where beat, i had more time for TV. Nowdays.. Ipad, Android, consoles, PC, handhelds, ..... with prices that dont restirct buying, its not down to "is it worth $1 to $5? will i play it.. not "can I afford it".

Information is free, there are far to many people willing to give it to you (good or bad) for free, attention is the new "high" for some.

Chris Kennedy
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Joined: 08/31/2008
Audience

I don't really know if it is possible to create a demographic or not when it comes to interest in videogames outside of playing the actual videogame. I would say that the model probably looks something like this -

Representing "desire to discuss" in several examples of the entertainment industry:

Videogames < TV shows < Movies < Sports

A lot of the gamers I know simply game and have no interest outside of that gaming hobby whatsoever.

Could it be that the videogame generation is a product of the times - the era when everything moves at an incredible speed, and the only time the gaming console gets turned off is when free time is over?

Is gaming a TV substitute? Take two people with free time on their hands. One might turn on the TV and watch some shows (or hit-up youtube, etc) to spend their time while the other might play games and only play games. The TV show ends, and person one goes back to real life. The gaming ends, and person two goes back to real life. Person two's interest in videogames begins and ends with videogames. They aren't going to want to watch a TV show.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
This is a good topic. I think

This is a good topic. I think it's probably true that most gamers aren't interested in shows or books about gaming. Why read or watch something about a game when you could be playing one? Maybe what we need are Games About Games, or some kind of interactive format that'd be gamelike enough that it would be appealing.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
A different approach
Matt Barton wrote:

This is a good topic. I think it's probably true that most gamers aren't interested in shows or books about gaming. Why read or watch something about a game when you could be playing one? Maybe what we need are Games About Games, or some kind of interactive format that'd be gamelike enough that it would be appealing.

That is kind of an interesting thought... Make a computer and videogame history game that's really just a game, with the computer and videogame stuff secondary. Sort of like an edutainment product, but a game first. That same concept could be applied to videogame news, interviews, etc., you'd just have to be clever about it.

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Matt Barton
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I'm pretty sure we've talked

I'm pretty sure we've talked about it in another thread...Sort of a RPG like game where you start off as PONG and work your way up to more advanced games. I'm pretty sure I could do the earliest stuff...pong to space invaders to pac-man.

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Bill Loguidice
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Concepts
Matt Barton wrote:

I'm pretty sure we've talked about it in another thread...Sort of a RPG like game where you start off as PONG and work your way up to more advanced games. I'm pretty sure I could do the earliest stuff...pong to space invaders to pac-man.

What I mentioned in the other thread was doing a "history of dance" type thing with Space Invaders, where each new level was another year's version. I think something like we're talking about in this this thread would have to be more than using classic games as mini-games within a larger game. The RPG aspect is intriguing, perhaps where each new level you get a new skill, which is a riff on a classic game. For instance, your very first skill would be the ability to deflect things like in Pong, then your next skill would be to shoot behind barriers like in Space Invaders, your skill after that could be consuming things like Pac-Man, etc. As you get to later parts of the game and thus more advanced games, you could theme the environments to the game's settings, like Doom's Mars or whatever. It would be fun.

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Timthetaxman (not verified)
Game On

t didn't succeed because it was not good. I am a huge podcast person and regularly listen to both Security Now and FLOSS Weekly from twit. Those are good, informative shows.

Game On, on the other hand, was obnoxious more than anything. Granted I only listened to the first 2 (wasn't interested enough to continue), but from what I heard during those they tried too hard to appeal to a younger crowd who is too busy playing Call of Duty to listen to podcasts. I don't mind having energy in a podcast, but all the sound effects and everything was just annoying. I didn't care much for the hosts either. They reminded me of the Xplay duo from G4 and not in a good way.

There are good gaming podcasts though. Retronauts overall was excellent and made it to a hundred episodes. In fact, most of the 1up podcasts were pretty good. All Gen Gamers is pretty good too.

Bottom line is I wouldn't equate a failure here to lack of interest. I'd blame it on a poor execution.

Bill Loguidice
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@leolaporte: Early Game On

@leolaporte: Early Game On numbers from the last episode: Audio 7,239, Video 14,362 - total 21,601.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
not even half
Bill Loguidice wrote:

@leolaporte: Early Game On numbers from the last episode: Audio 7,239, Video 14,362 - total 21,601.

and they where shooting for 50,000? I guess when you figure advertising is looking at percents of that number.. Myslef I havent even heard of it before this discussion.

Stardog (not verified)
Horrible show.

I'm a huge TWIT fan, but I disliked Game On! immensely. Veronica Belmont doesn't have a clue about video games. She was shocked when someone mentioned that Skyrim was built for the 360 as it's main platform. How out of touch with modern games can you be? Deus Ex: Invisible War was the most obvious turning point way back in 2004. And Brian Brushwood is a magician who fake smiles/laughs at nothing, constantly. Enough said.

When I watch TWiT, I know the hosts know 100x more than I do about the topics. That's what makes it respectable and not insulting. This show was never going to work.

I think there is space for something that caters to people like me, but it would have to be hosted by people like Matt :P

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