Video Games as Spectator Sport | Adweek Video Games as Spectator Sport | Adweek
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Video Games: The New Porn?

Live gaming webcasts draw huge numbers

Remember how you used to say it was just as much fun to watch your big brother play Nintendo as to play yourself? That’s now a very successful business model.

According to the IAB, 83 million people visited some kind of gaming site in July—even more than visited porn sites. And some of those gaming brands, including Twitch.tv and IGN, are drawing big audiences with live-game webcasts—that is, people watching other people play video games.

The gaming site GiantBomb.com said its viewers average 23 minutes per session and that 95 percent are men aged 18-34—music to advertisers’ ears.

“I can’t think of any other vertical that would be as close to targeting this demographic,” said David Rice, svp, gm of CBSi Games, sells ad inventory for Twitch.tv and runs the online portal GameSpot, of which GiantBomb is a part.

Publishers such as EA are even changing some of their games—among them, the sci-fi franchise Dead Space—to accommodate fans’ desire to watch.

“You used to think about building it, putting it in a box and shipping it; now you’re thinking about creating a lot more content for a live service,” said Dave Madden, svp of global media sales at EA.

As appealing as the medium is to advertisers, some have complained of game lovers’ inclination to use ad-blocking software. But IGN’s David Ting said he has seen players actually campaign to protect ads in live gaming. “[Gamers] understand the value of the advertiser to the ecosystem,” he said. “They want to keep the content free.”

It's a kind of programming that has struggled on television—the overlay of interactivity on digital platforms seems to be a deal breaker for the tech-savvy audience. But networks aren't giving up: even as NBCUniversal cancels X-Play and Attack of the Show, it's preparing to relaunch the channel with Hearst as an Esquire-branded network—gaming, reportedly, will still be a focus.

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