A coterie of hackers calling themselves the “Lizard Squad” ruined Christmas for thousands when they knocked out Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network online services on Dec. 25, 2015. Gamers, of course, could still play whatever they owned, but found themselves unable to connect to the galaxy of online content promised by these networks, a crucial selling point of the devices.
Experts claim that a typical distributed denial of service attack costs a business $40,000 per offline hour, but Microsoft and Sony most likely lost much more because their services offer so much content.
The fact that Xbox Live and PSN were so important to users illustrates how the video game industry has grown far beyond just games. Packed with channels, original programming and social media capabilities, today’s gaming consoles have become another full-fledged content outlet. Channels range from services like Hulu and Netflix to apps from Maxim and the NFL.
And just like with tablets, smartphones, TVs and the web, the quality of the content is a deciding factor in what succeeds.
Some of this quality comes across in the visuals. The graphics of today’s video games have closed in on Hollywood production values, as well as Hollywood production costs.
Activision’s first-person shooter Destiny, released last September, cost $500 million to make. James Cameron, in comparison, could make about two Avatar films with that sort of money. The game natively renders graphics at an eye-popping 1080p high-definition resolution at a speed of 30 frames per second. Today’s best-selling games have some of the best image quality and clarity available of all media available to the average consumer.
And nowadays, gamers don’t just game, they watch other gamers game. It’s a billion-dollar business—last August, Amazon shelled out $1.1 billion for Twitch, a service that turns video games into a spectator sport. At the time of the acquisition, Twitch had some 55 million monthly unique visitors from across the globe.
“Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon,” proclaimed Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, in a statement regarding his purchase, “and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month.”
The rise of live-streaming, driven in large part by gaming, will be a topic of conversation at NAB Show, April 22 - 27 in Las Vegas.
And while users from around the world gather online to live-stream “eSports” competitions, thousands of people gather in stadiums—real-life stadiums—to watch them live. With prizes that can top $10 Million and corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, it’s clear that video games are not only a principal driver in the entertainment industry, but they’re also the newest major pro sport, with a global and connected fan base.
The gaming industry is now expanding in ways that a Super Nintendo could never have conceived of. The web has turned gaming into a social network, and not only in the form of massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. PSN users can friend each other and instant message, while Twitch specializes in live streams of players blasting away terrorists or casting spells.
Because of its versatility, the video game industry is the most electrifying content field today. Users can either interact or passively watch, and they can engage with each other at all times. Global revenue for the industry is already $20 billion more than the music business—so video games are also one of the most lucrative content outlets.
However, the industry and the technology is young and growing at an astounding pace, so it is still a relatively open field for content creators to compete for the most eyeballs and dollars.
The NAB Show is one of the world’s premier electronic media events and a must for content creators of all stripes. And as video game production, consumption and connectivity continue to evolve, this increasingly diverse and influential industry will have a larger spotlight than ever before.