TV Needs Gaming Reviews
In my last posting I bemoaned the fact that the videogame shows of yesteryear were all gone due to a dearth of new and interesting games and hardware and the changing demographic of the actual game audience. But I think it’s high time these shows came back to our TVs.
I suggested that the changing ages of the game target market was one of the reasons behind the decline in viewers of games shows as the core audience at the time was in their mid teens and was more interested in just playing the games than watching Free TV shows about them. But that has changed now. Games and their consoles are so expensive now that the core audience is in their mid twenties to early thirties. Mammy (or mom or mum) isn’t buying the games anymore, it’s the working man buying their own games now. And games consoles are now part of the entire home entertainment setup in most houses. The console is no longer up in a bedroom but is under the main TV in the front room.
The amount of consoles available is also greater than it’s ever been. Sure, the core gaming consoles are currently the big three: Sony’s Playstation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox360 and Nintendo’s Wii. But there are also the handhelds: Nintendo’s insanely popular DS (And the recently released but troubled 3DS) and Sony’s PSP (And it’s upcoming successor, the super-powered Vita). But then we have the phone market and casual, online games. More of these in a minute.
At first glance at the consoles it seems to be all First Person Shooters (FPS) like Call Of Duty or Halo, but digging deeper we can see that the range of game types is wider than ever: From puzzle games like the hilarious and hugely popular Portal 2 to the perennial soccer games FIFA and Pro Evo to retro styled games like Scott Pilgrim (a flashback to the old beat-em-ups like Double dragon and Final Fight) to trippy music games like Child Of Eden. PCs have a large selection of realtime strategy games and Massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-games (MMORPG) (say that fast three times) like World Of Warcraft have more players than many countries!! Even the methods of control are diverse. Nintendo started it with the Wii with it’s wand-like controller the wiimote. Sony followed suit with it’s own version, the Move. But still let you control your games as you wanted, with the standard controller or it’s new Move controller. Xbox gives you the option now to not use a controller at all on some games with it’s Kinect attachment. Cameras track your movement and control your game. As a direct result of the Wii the range of gamers has broadened considerably. While the core audience is male (mid twenties-early thirties) the Wii brought in both sexes and gamers now age from 7 to 70 (The Wii is used in many nursing homes as part of physical therapy). Online casual games are also huge business these days, be it Facebook’s Farmville or Scrabble.
But the biggest change is with mobile gaming. For years phone companies like Nokia and Sony Ericsson tried to convince us that games on phones were going to be the next big thing. But, as long as they stuck to the Symbian Operating System this was never going to happen really. Then Apple came out with the iPhone and phone gaming took off big time. The games started out as simple things like noughts and crosses but, with each generation of iPhone hardware the games got better and better: The gameplay smoother, graphics flashier and sound better. The games normally sold for a few dollars, normally less than ten dollars as opposed to 30 or 40 or so for the DS and PSP and they were easily on a par with games for the dedicated handhelds like the DS/PSP. And it meant that you only had to have one device in your pocket instead of two. And, let’s face it, EVERYONE has a mobile phone. Android phones came next and, again, gaming took off on these devices too (Although not as fast as the iPhone initially). Most games are released on both phone types now. The games are now produced by large gaming companies like EA and Ubisoft and are a large part of their profits.
Gaming hardware is changing more rapidly now. The mobile market really only took off about two years ago and Nintendo are bringing out a new console in 2012 and Microsoft (and possibly Sony) in 2013/2014. The aforementioned 3DS came out in 2011 and Sony’s new handheld is coming out in early 2012.
So the gamer range is wide and the core gamer age is older than ever. It’s time for a new videogame review TV show. Call it Gamesmaster: The Next Generation. As I said, currently, in the UK/Ireland anyway, there are no games review shows on TV yet there are any amount of games magazines out there. There seems to be at least 2 magazines dedicated to each particular console and many more that look at all the consoles. Edge magazine looks at the gaming business as a whole. Only a small part is dedicated to reviews with most of the magazine concerning game development and marketing and generally looking gaming from a business perspective but it is still interesting to gamers. Retrogamer magazine, as the name suggests, concentrates on old games (Old games these days is anything beyond 12 years it seems) and consoles and arcade games.
The internet is chock full of games related websites as you can imagine but these are no longer the rantings and ravings of some pubescent console fanboy. These days the sites are professional, informative and entertaining. They are produced, as with the old TV shows, by people actually interested in gaming. 1UP, Kotaku, Screwattack and Gametrailers are but a few. Screwattack alone produces a five minute news programme every day along with about for or five videos about various games related reviews/retrospectives etc a week and also a weekly show called Sidescrollers that averages out at about 35-45 minutes long. This is all from one single website.
So surely there is enough games related news and information/reviews out there to make a weekly half-hour show. Games are coming out faster and faster these days and, games being so expensive nowadays, people want to know what a game is like before buying. Should they buy a game or wait six months until the update comes out; what’s the multiplayer like on a game, how long to finish it? What about games from smaller companies? They cannot compete, advertising wise, with giants like EA and Activision so a TV show could be just what they need to get their game known.
Also, what about retro gaming? The last gaming show I remember being on TV was Gamesville on Sky in 2000 or so. The show wasn’t brilliant but at least they did a brief news segment and, towards the end of it’s run, a retro corner that gave histories on older games and their influences on today’s games. Remember, most of the core gamers these days grew up with games: From arcades by the seaside to their C64s and Megadrives to their Gamecubes to the PS2s. These are all retro these days and they bring back fond memories.
So come on Channel 4 or ITV or anyone. Bring back videogame shows. The only time we see videogames on TV these days is when they are trying to blame games for shootings or obesity or global-bloody-warming. Bring back Dominik Diamond and Violet Berlin. Hell, bring back Sir Patrick Moore while he’s still with us.