Recently, my beloved G4TV was hit with major layoffs. I say, my beloved because I've come to love and enjoy the bizarre content that has only recently been allowed to blossom. However, there are plenty of viewers that constantly disapprove of the content as well as the choice in talent. Clearly, there is something missing between the mainstream platform of cable TV and gaming that just isn’t resonating, and that concerns me.
From Sideshow To Mainstream
I’ve spent quite a bit of mental energy trying to figure out what that sweet spot is between mainstream audiences (who know little about video games) and core gaming audiences. I wrote a piece for TheNextLvl.io trying to voice why I felt ‘gaming channels’ were necessary in the pantheon of digital content that we have. Simply put, I just think that Esports as a model seems to have an issue breaking into the mainstream.
There are plenty of examples of how
outfits like ESPN or Syfy have tried to bring it to ‘the masses’ but it never seemed to stick. I’ve seen Overwatch Eleague, little reality shows about Esports teams, and so forth but nothing that seems to keep people’s interest. In a way, I think that is bad for the gaming industry as it is hard to find ways to bring reliable big money into the Esports equation.
We see some companies invest in Esports teams but most of them are gaming accessory companies or something like Mt. Dew or Doritoes or coffee. I’m waiting for the announcement of something like Ford or Bank of America or some insurance company to say that they are sponsoring a few different Esports teams.
I truly believe that the bridge between big companies and the money they like to throw around sponsoring things is gaming journalism. I feel that G4TV and Venn.tv are intended to be like a light hearted casual window into gaming culture. If presented correctly, they have the ability to explain the latest gaming trend or welcome those that are newcomers to gaming.
For a time, I thought ESPN was going to develop a crew to kind of cover Esports and such but it doesn’t look like that has any backing.
Video games are raking in big bucks compared to other creative mediums. With all of that money and profit floating around, it seems that those in charge of gaming companies are doing their best Scrooge McDuck impressions.
With that said, other big money holders are looking at these successes and the money involved and they genuinely want to invest, but it seems like they are hesitant. The Esports model is a bizarre one that I don’t think ANYONE has truly figured out yet. I see teams get money, build a roster of pros, content creators, and other personnel, and then kind of wane since pros aren’t very marketable to ‘mainstream’ companies.
It is almost like Esports does a great job with their core fans but an abysmal job with casual or new ones. Honestly, it is bizarre how one can write about video games and love them but then, when asked about Esports, be like, “well... I don’t know much about that”.
Hunting For That Long Money
When I produced content for Heed Magazine, I was constantly on the hunt for ways to get the podcast I was running a sponsorship. There were times when I felt that my team was hitting their stride and then the part-time life hammer would strike. Production quality would drop as would other elements and my dreams of REALLY doing a long running podcast would be dashed.
I feel like I learned quite a bit about the early days of companies looking for digital content. A few times I feel like I got close to ‘making a deal’ with some random digital media ‘channel’ looking for geek and technology related content to add to their fledgling roster. Of course, I was never really able to dedicate the necessary time and resources to keep my podcast going and improving. I was even, at one point, offered a chance to start recording in a TV studio on a regular basis. Again... both life and maybe even fear of success prevented me from making it happen.
Since it was before the pandemic, I noticed that people were noticing the insane amounts of money that SOME video game streamers were making and they were curious as to how... and why. Truthfully, so am I.
Sponsorships and Corporations
Companies of all types are recognizing that content creators of all types are building communities and baked in dedicated fans that they want and need a piece of that pie too.
As I watch fellow streamers and content creators grow and achieve, I also see those that are shrinking and burning out. In a way, it is almost like how cable TV was when it started. There were a few key channels like HBO and ESPN and so forth early on. Then all of the sudden, there were hundreds of channels vying for viewers. People know that they can get a lot of money and viewers quickly if they hit that sweet spot. Now the space is so saturated with talent, it is hard to maintain.
Once again, I feel like having outlets that can have their own streaming app or channel (IGN, G4TV, Venn.tv, VICE gaming, etc) that you can end up having a kind of ‘next level’ kind of tier for REAL talent to flex their creative muscles. Sure, successful streamers and Youtubers don’t need that kind of validation due to the INSANE amounts of money they get. However, others that are talented but need a little help finding that creative identity could benefit from having other possibilities to aim for.
Gaming Channel Pessimism
Oddly enough, I think most gamers believe they can do what many of these gaming channels try to do that they don’t support them. There are so many little gaming websites and streamers and podcasts and communities that it is hard to find something outside of a specific game to bring them all together. Of course rallying behind one game is a sure fire way to lose the interest of a ton of other gamers as well as those who fall OUT of love with a specific game.
Oddly enough, I almost feel like each platform Steam (Valve), Epic Store (Epic), Nintendo (Nintendo), Playstation (Sony), Xbox (Microsoft) need to try to make their own ‘channel’ that streams content. They already hold conventions and shows to promote their exclusive content that is approaching for their consoles. Making a channel, even if they partnered with a G4 or a Venn.tv, would give them the opportunity to branch out their content. Podcasts, comedy shows, roleplay shows (by featured streamers maybe), could all be content that they could produce and edit professionally to put more eyes on their products as well as support the communities they try to grow.
There are a lot of talented people building at home studios producing some amazing content. I believe there should be companies searching out for these people and giving them a professional outlet to flex all they can do.
Anyways... I’m just spitballing and dreaming here.
What do you guys think could be the evolution of this gaming space?