MI6 Conference: TV, Gaming Industries Capitalize On Parallels

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

As the inaugural MI6 conference kicks off Tuesday in San Francisco, the gaming industry will look to the television business for best practices.

At the conference, which focuses on marketing and promoting video games, a handful of TV executives will offer their insight into the parallels between the two worlds. While TV networks have been looking to video games lately as a content source, the two industries also face similar marketing conundrums.

Launching a video game bears many similarities to debuting a television show. Game publishers and networks must build buzz behind a launch date or premiere date.

At the conference ABC’s Michael Benson, senior VP of marketing, will discuss the promotional and marketing strategy behind the network’s hit series “Lost,” drawing parallels with the gaming industry. “A show like ‘Lost’ is really interesting to how ABC was able to build it, enhance it and be successful,” said Dale Hopkins, chief operating officer for G4 and chairman of MI6.

The typical game company launches 40 games a year, said Jim Chabin, president and CEO of the conference. “Every one has to be an event, and they get postponed and pushed. They have the creation, publicity, promotion and then launch. And the TV model is not that far off.”

As TV shows are measured by the ratings they garner, games are judged by how many units they sell quickly. The average game needs to press 1.5 million units into the hands of buyers to make its money back, he said. “Suffice to say everyone feels the pressure that every game has to maximize its sales and get it right every time,” Mr. Chabin said.

That kind of pressure is similar to the TV business, where networks want a grand-slam home run every inning. Other similarities between gaming and TV include the need to target and secure loyal audiences, attract sponsors to support a launch and fund the high cost of production and marketing, Mr. Chabin said.

While the gaming business can benefit from the insights of TV experts, TV can also learn from gaming, said Geoff Keighley, a gaming journalist and the host of Spike TV’s “Game Head.” Games are interactive and let users choose what they can do. That’s a concept the TV industry can emulate and has to some extent, in shows such as “American Idol” that have an interactive component, he said.

MI6 will also look to the film industry for marketing insights, with director Wes Craven slated to speak.