Saturday, March 15, 2008

This Is Not Your Father’s Video Game

In the early 1970’s my aunt and uncle gave me the video game Pong for the holidays. Pong was developed by Atari and by today’s standards is primitive at best. But back in the day, Pong was all the rage. It was an electronic version of ping pong and started the home video game revolution. I would come home from school and instead of watching Gilligan’s Island or Andy Griffith I would play Pong for hours on the old, Admiral, black and white TV in our basement.

Watch Pong Video

Fast forward to today. My youngest daughter who is 10 just got the game Rock Band. Rock Band is a new interactive video game that was developed by Harmonix Music Systems and released in late 2007. This game is unbelievable! You can play the guitar, bass, drums and even sing along with great rock songs. Sydney was playing the guitar like a seasoned pro. She looked like Jimmy Hendirx banging out a solo. I, on the other hand could not make it through a song with out losing the game.

Watch Rock Band Video

I read and hear all the time how popular video games are and I know first hand from our own household how popular they are. We have a Wii, Xbox, and Ps2. But I did not realize the impact of these games until tonight when I was playing with my daughter.

These video games are so interactive and engaging that they have become as important, if not more important to today’s youth as Ipod’s, cell phones, radio, the internet, TV, video’s, computers, cd’s, etc.

After we played, I logged onto and they have their own store and social networking community along with everything else you would expect. They are doing everything they can to provide the complete on-line Rock band experience.

In contrast, when I was ten, I thought I was fortunate. I had my own black and white TV with both a VHF and UHF antenna, a cassette recorder, record player and I shared the land line phone with my parents. I also had a lot of board games and puzzles too. Things have changed.

What does all this mean?

A few years ago I attended the Jacobs Media Summit. This is a great conference and they always have speakers on cutting edge technology and trends for reaching youth and interestingly enough, reaching the rock radio audience. On one of their panels was a gentleman from the video game developer EA (I can’t remember his name). He was telling us how they incorporate popular music into their games and the total reach these games have. He went on to say that the record companies recognized this and were pursuing the game makers the same way they do radio to get their songs added and included in games. Smart, since kids are spending so much time with these games.

As a broadcaster and marketer, intellectually, I have always gotten it and understood the impact and the power of video games. From a practical standpoint, I did not crystallize with me until tonight, when my daughter was kicking my ass at Rock band and we were rockin’ out to Mississippi Queen.

This week Variety Magazine reported that in February of 2008, video game sales were up 34% over the same period last year with revenues of 1.3 billion dollars. It is know wonder that Viacom’s, MTV purchased Harmonix in 2006.

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