Over the next few weeks, the video game industry will once again shift squarely into the entertainment media spotlight as Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii join Microsoft's Xbox 360 on store shelves in what promises to be an epic battle of the gaming consoles for market share and media attention.
"There's no doubt games will be the consumer holiday story this year," says Kohnke Communications VP Sean Kauppinen.
But even as games become further entrenched as mainstream entertainment, gaming journalism has emerged as one of the categories at the forefront of the oft-predicted news revolution.
"The media are even more ravenous for information on new console launches than in the past because the Internet has created an instant news society where almost everyone is a journalist," explains Dave Karraker, senior director of corporate communications at Sony Computer Entertainment America. "So traditional outlets are scrambling to get news faster than ever before to beat their new online counterparts, creating a frenetic atmosphere for PR pros."
"We used to think it was a lot to have 600 to 800 people on our master games media list, but now we have 1,200," adds Sue Bohle, president of The Bohle Co. "You have to deal with these non-journalist fan sites because they can definitely drive sales."
GolinHarris SVP Alison Holt Brummelkamp has done media outreach on behalf of client Nintendo for 14 years. She notes that the changes in game journalism aren't just in the dramatic shift online.
"We're now getting coverage in Readers Digest and AARP The Magazine because gaming has moved so far beyond the core player," she notes. "Also, the line between gaming and general interest journalism is blurring and stories in magazines like EGM or on IGN.com get picked up in The New York Times and vice versa."
John Davison, VP/editorial director of the Ziff Davis Gaming Group, says not only are there more game players than ever before, but there are also more hard-core fans eager to learn not just about finished software, but the entire game-development process.
"The things we look for from PR are assets, such as screen shots and video," he says. "But just as important is access to the talent behind the latest games. With games taking up to two years to complete, providing access to game visionaries for, say, a podcast or a 10-minute video can really plug gaps in a game publisher's media plan and keep the public engaged."
PITCHING... Video Games
The industry is scaling back its annual E3 trade show starting next year, so mid- and small-game companies must alter their media strategies and find other ways to showcase upcoming titles to reporters
Nontraditional outlets are currently driving a lot of game journalism, so expand your media list, and encourage clients to personally interact with these blogs and fan sites
Most video game fans and reporters care not just about the finished titles, but the entire game-development process