266: We Are Not Mainstream

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Jumplion:

Like I said in the post, articles like these that point out numbers for assurance can easily be skewed in either side's favor.

Many people see movies multiple times, therefore making one person's ticket number bump up to, I dunno, 3. For a video game, you only pay a onetime deal of $60 (usually) and many more people can play with you for no additional cost.

Something which also applies to buying a movie on DVD, of course.

Movies play for 2 hours and you're done, but video games play for 6-15 hours at a time, so the question of you paying for the time of entertainment given to you can also be asked

It can, in the same way that the question "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" can be asked. Neither question has anything whatsoever to do with the relative size of audiences, though.

Entire franchises usually grow upon each enstallment. I doubt the original Call of Duty sold as well as CoD:MW2, so pointing out that more people play those games could show an increase in mainstreamy-ness-ess.

You're just rambling nonsense now. If a sequel sells more, that's reflected in the sales, duh. And movies have sequels too.

RevStu:
Something which also applies to buying a movie on DVD, of course.

The article only cited opening nights of in-theater movies, and if you want to get into renting movies/DVDs then you can include rental vieo games sales

It can, in the same way that the question "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" can be asked. Neither question has anything whatsoever to do with the relative size of audiences, though.

Not with the size of the audience, but mainly in sales numbers. If you get more hours of entertainment in a game (6-15) and compare that to a one-time viewing of a movie (~2) don't you get more bang for your buck?

You're just rambling nonsense now. If a sequel sells more, that's reflected in the sales, duh. And movies have sequels too.

Probably, I tend to do that. But if a sequel sells more, then more people have played it, hence more people into the medium. More sequels sold equals more money, adding to the pile.

Just my train of thought, feel free to disagree, I encourage it, but try to keep it calm. I have a feeling that you're taking it just a tad to seriously on my behalf, I'm just saying what's coming to my mind.

But overall my point still stands, you can skew numbers to fit whatever you need. If I could find the source that said "60% of households in developed nations play video games" damnit I would, though god help me at finding what I need to find on the friggin' internet (It was a video, I'm tempted to say by the same guy doing Extra Credits)

Korolev:
But it is heading that way, and heading that way fast. You say the movie industry, combined with DVD sales, makes 10 Billion dollars more than the video game industry. Considering how much the movie industry makes, and how long it has been around and how entrenched in modern culture it is, I'd say that the videogames industry can feel pretty damn proud of itself, especially since most of it's growth has been relatively recent.

You're neglecting to mention the fact that a decent DVD player costs less than $100 and most DVD's hover around the $18-$22 mark.

Game consoles cost more now than they ever have, and games jumped $10/unit just a couple years ago. The inflated numbers need to be adjusted for those figures.

To put it bluntly, if video games could reach the same number of people as movies do, it would be the most lucrative entertainment medium in the world. Clearly, it's not.

OT- Great article, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Excellent analysis. I found it particularly interesting to note that the very figures we use to prove our mainstream-ness actually illustrate the opposite.

I do take a small issue though with the final comment about being proud to be a part of something non-mainstream. I know full well, that I'm probably reading way more into it than I should be, but that sort of comment has always grated on me just a little. I suppose it reminds me of the Dragonforce "fan" who called me a fag because I didn't discover the band until Guitar Hero.

meganmeave:
Well, I suppose it depends on what you define mainstream as. Even if 343 million people saw Avatar there are almost 7 billion people living on the planet. That's about 5% of the worldwide population seeing that film.

So what we're really talking about is first world mainstream. Which is rather exclusive since the vast majority of people don't live in first world countries.

I'm not really trying to be a stickler here, I know full well my gaming does not represent the population as a whole, but I would say that there aren't really any hobbies that are mainstream based on what I am reading your definition of what mainstream is. Even if you take something like the Superbowl, purportedly the most watched thing on television, just over 100 million Americans watched it. That's less than a third of our own population, yet that's considered mainstream.

I think games are still mainstream if you define mainstream more broadly as things that members of a culture are aware of and understand even if they don't personally engage in the activity.

My test of what mainstream is:

If I walk up to a random group of people on the street, and say, "I'm going to do X this weekend." If a majority of those people responded with, "X? What the hell is that?" Then I would say that X is something from the subculture.

So if I said I was going Swamp Racing this weekend, now that, that wouldn't be mainstream.

I fully agree with this. Not only do you have to take into account that people see movies multiple times, you need to think about previously-owned games, rentals, loaned games, games being played at someone's house... while I doubt that the game industry is necessarily doing /better/ than the film industry, I think it's quite nearly as prevalent. Some people don't understand why video games are popular/fun, but... if you say "I'm going to go play the newest Final Fantasy game!", people will understand that you plan to play a video game, even if they're not completely sure what Final Fantasy is. Most people would understand "I'm going to go play Mario!"... yet Super Mario Galaxy probably hasn't sold as much as, say, Avatar. Would that still not be considered mainstream?

It's nice to see it broken down like that. I realized there was an over hype about the mainstream and video games but hadn't realized just how over hyped. It is nice to be in a smaller community. Hobbies are, in my opinion, better when kept in smaller communities. Movies aren't really a hobby. Unless you are a film maker, then it's a far different story.

I think this article puts a well-developed case, and to me, it jives pretty well with Nintendo's recent statement about wishing videogames were more socially acceptable. However, once gaming does become a mainstream activity, we'll expect more of the "casual gamers don't buy games" behavior. The same thing is true of music or film purchase. Most of the general public may see around three films in the theatre a year, or only see the one show their favourite act plays in town. Similarly, the majority of gamers I imagine will only play free-to-play webgames like Farmville, or purchase perchance one Modern Warfare type game a year at most.

This is however, not the feedback I wish to bring to this article. I merely wish to whine about the fact that I *wish* movie tickets were merely $7.18 apiece around my parts.

Explain to me how Grand Theft Auto IV is less time wasting than Sims characters? It has no purpose? Sims has just as much purpose any video game. Didn't the features last week deal with not being fanboy jerks condemning other people's video game habits?

Also being "mainstream" is about more than just numbers.

You're wrong.

And everyone pretty much nailed the point. You're denouncing the wrong definition marketers have of mainstream and coming up with one yourself. Gaming is mainstream because pretty much everyone knows what it's like. That's it. Maybe less people played GTAIV than watched Avatar, but that doesn't mean people don't know what GTA is, and that's what mainstream is. Compare this to, what, fifteen years ago when it was a hermetic activity most people didn't understand at all. Then compare this to, say, train modeling. If you say you're going to play videogames most people wouldn't bat an eye. If you say you're going to work on your train models... they would.

Unless you're sixty. Although they'd bat their eyes in both cases then.

(Also for me Avatar is and remains being the Nickelodeon cartoon.)

Well-written, and mostly correct. The fact that video games require more time to properly consume is irrelevant. One person playing video games for fifty hours < Twenty-five people watching a movie for two hours.

It's true that we're not fully accepted yet. We should embrace that. Make those S.O.B.s in the skyscrapers spend less on graphics, charge less for their games, and stop catering so much to the "casual" crowd. It's a lesson they should have learned long ago.

So your basic argument is that gaming is only half the size of the movie industry (the largest entertainment industry in human history) and thus is not mainstream?

In other news, it's totally safe to look into a light that's only half as bright as the sun.

A billionaire isn't actually rich, he's only got a fifth or so of the value of warren buffet.

China doesn't have that many people, it's only got about 1/6 as much population as the rest of the world combined.

(Face it, lads. There's a subsection of the profession intentionally catering to your grandmother. It's a mainstream hobby.)

One thing: It is mainstream in certain audiences. I'm in high school, and I'm pretty sure that more than 75% of the guys play video games (like half of them have MW2... I don't, at least not yet), and quite a few of the girls. (Not nearly as many, though. Certainly not 40% of all the gamers)

Of course, EVERYONE knows what Avatar is, and probably 95% of them (or more) have seen it. There are very, very few video games that manage to to become that well known. (Shucks, Halo and Call of Duty isn't that well known. Zelda and Mario are, though. Nintendo FTW... I guess.)

Man, in what universe is the average price of a movie ticket 7.95?

If you're going to use numbers to determine whether or not something is mainstream, you need to set some sort of standard. I was actually surprised to see just how close the numbers were. Statistics are not always effective for reaching qualitative conclusions. I could argue that movies aren't "mainstream" because the number of hours Americans spend each week watching movies pales in comparison to the hours spend watching television. Or that drinking a glass of milk at breakfast isn't "mainstream" because more adults drink coffee. This article makes a good case for why people should invest in movies instead of games, but it certainly doesn't argue that gaming is some kind of obscure past-time practiced by an unknown number of secretive individuals.

I would conclude that gaming is mainstream, but that isn't to say that the same can be said for each individual game or any individual movie for instance.

Great article, and a welcome bit of perspective on the raw numbers.

I like the issue of cultural penetration in your example of mentioning GTAIV or Avatar at a party. An augmenting factor to consider is the time investment required to familiarise yourself with the cultural touchstone: if everyone's raving about a particular movie and you feel out of the loop because you don't know what they're talking about, you can fix that with a trip to the DVD store and two hours on the couch. But if you don't know who Commander Shepard is and want to uncover the sci-fi saga of the Mass Effect games, you need about 30 hours to play through each story (assuming that you already have access to the skills and equipment to play it).

Do they sell it at Wal-Mart? If the answer is yes, then it's mainstream, and acceptable.

If they answer is no, is it because it's NOT mainstream, or because it's not acceptable?

Gaming is probably one of the most mainstream things I do, and it is, without a doubt, the most mainstream thing I do for fun.

While I do agree with the general point of this article, the fact that games aren't as mainstream as we think and is still secluded to geek culture, but I don't think you should have mentioned call of duty. I've lost count of the amount of times I've been bored by people discussing this series. Hell, I went to a party just the other day and there was some people playing on CoD. Maybe it is a bit different where I live, but here in England, video games has become an accepted medium. Does that not make it mainstream? Do we gauge this by popularity, or by it's general acceptance? Either way that you look at it, gaming is still mainstream, it just isn't viewed as much as movies, but it's still popular.

The Amazing Spider-Man sells around 250-300 thousand copies an issue, most of those to the same peopole every issue. Now, just because not as many people read it as have seen Avatar, Spider-Man is still more mainstream than Avatar.

You can't use numbers to judge how mainstream something is since the entire point of something being mainstream is how aware people are of what is being talked about.

Funny, everyone I know around my age plays video games of some sort, and they damn sure own at least a last gen console if not a Wii for party games or something. That's about as mainstream as you can get.

I'd hoped this piece would involve more than only the number side of things, which I thought many understood to be skewed in favor of promoting video gaming as mainstream. I hoped for an analysis of how far gaming has to go to obtain the level of societal acceptance and cultural assimilation as books, movies, and traditional sports.

vxicepickxv:
Do they sell it at Wal-Mart? If the answer is yes, then it's mainstream, and acceptable.

If we want to use the acknowledgment of its existence by a large entity as a gauge, then I pose this question instead:

Do public schools make students aware of video games and how they have shaped society?

Videogames don't suck that's probably why they aren't as mainstream as people think

MissAshley:
I'd hoped this piece would involve more than only the number side of things, which I thought many understood to be skewed in favor of promoting video gaming as mainstream. I hoped for an analysis of how far gaming has to go to obtain the level of societal acceptance and cultural assimilation as books, movies, and traditional sports.

vxicepickxv:
Do they sell it at Wal-Mart? If the answer is yes, then it's mainstream, and acceptable.

If we want to use the acknowledgment of its existence by a large entity as a gauge, then I pose this question instead:

Do public schools make students aware of video games and how they have shaped society?

One of the issues mentioned that videogames are an INTEGRAL part of society

I think the flaw with your logic is that your not considering the "Generation X" factor and the fact that we skipped a generation. "Baby Boomers" are on their way out, but still account for most of the money and power in society and they never embraced video gaming. However the current generation, and "Generation Y" which is upcoming have. How many people are gamers and would know what your talking about with "Grand Theft Auto IV" depends on the audience. If your a Gen Xer and attending a business related party with your bosses who are likely to be Boomers, and your right only a couple of them are likely to get it (though a couple will, which is pretty outstanding since it has penetrated a little). In comparison if a Gen Xer is hanging out with people of his own generation (who can now be in their 30s like me) the odds are much, much greater.

See, before I retired on disabillity I talked to a LOT of people I worked with about video games who were around my own age. The stereotype that video games are inappropriate for "water cooler conversation" is entirely false. I have actually had conversations of the sort people joke about (murdering people in crime games, slicing up demons, etc...) with groups of co-workers at various (appropriate) times, as have a lot of people I talk to when they discuss their own experiences at their job or whatever.

One thing to consider is that the penetration of gaming can't just be measured by it's sales. While the gaming industry is concerned mostly due to greed, look at the used game industry and the number of people who buy games used. Also look at various back door methods of running games like emulators which a lot of people use, not to mention pirated Chinese hardware (just because your PS-3 says "Sony" on it doesn't mean it's a real PS-3 for example, if you got a super deal on it online, it might be a knock off, this is true of a lot of consoles and handhelds in general).

Some of the attitudes of the industry are hard to justify since they involve punishing legitimate users, and involved bad assumptions like every pirate or used game buyer purchusing the genuine article or for full price if those avenues were not open to them. The point being that the group of gamers out there is easily two, three, or even four times the size of the statistics. This is one of the reasons why the industry has such a greedgasm in trying to find ways of tapping into those people and forcing them to pay despite massive pirates.

Indeed even before consoles were as big a deal as they are now, the industry realized things were getting big enough where "water cooler piracy" was becoming a big part of their problem. People copying and burning games at work, exchanging pirate sites, or giving referances to discount electronics shopes that have these "unbelievable deals on consoles".

Of course I think the situation is complicated because of the Boomers who still represent a portion of the "Mainstream" far more than they should be doing so sociologically. The "current" generation and the upcoming one are arguably very much generations of gamers.

This article gave me a good breakdown of numbers to prove its point; excellent.

But it also spent WAY too much time on that breakdown to ask a more interesting question at the end; less excellent.

"We are mainstream, hooray! People can't mock us anymore!"
Well actually...
"We aren't mainstream at all, huzza! F-you haters, you just don't get it!"

Oh FFS, let's just go play a game.

I find your use of movie ticket sales to be as misleading as what you were trying to debunk.

Compare the launch of Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008 to the opening weekend of Jon Favreau's Iron Man at the box office. GTA IV launched a few days prior to Iron Man's theatrical release, and industry types were concerned that the game would hurt the movie's sales; many potential movie visitors would be at home, having reached the McReary Brothers missions, instead of at the movies. The fear wasn't exactly unfounded. The game made $310 million during its first day, compared to the $38.7 million the movie hauled in globally during its first day in theaters. But divide those numbers by the unit price, and you get a very different picture. Considering an average theater ticket price of $7.18 in 2008, about 5.4 million people saw Iron Man the first day in theaters. Over the course of its theatrical run, that number ran up to 81 million viewers. Grand Theft Auto IV, by comparison, reached 3.5 million people on its first day of sales (assuming $60 pricepoint), and 15 million people in its lifecycle. This estimate doesn't include used game sales or playing a friend's copy of the game, but we're also not including DVD or pay-per-view revenue with Iron Man. For a rough estimate, 81 million viewers is way more than 15 million.

The problem here, that I see, is that a family of four will purchase 4 movie tickets, but (likely) only 1 copy of a game.

Without getting into used sales and friend's copies, sticking just to single households, it's hard to put together a good picture of how many people actually play a game and are being reached. Parents who were gamers in the 80s and 90s are having kids, and there's no reason they wouldn't let their kids be the same (assume age-appropriateness here).

You also don't take into account people who go to movies multiple times, paying full ticket price each time, versus one-time payment on a game.

I think the best measure of how mainstream something is has nothing to do with numbers. It's how many people are familiar with a product. If, say, 70% of a given population recognizes something, it's mainstream.

Well yeah games are not mainstream yet but they are more mainstream and if some current trends keep up then they may someday be completely mainstream. I know a lot of gamers are scared/angry about this but I really have no idea why. Would people not looking funny at you anymore be so bad? Would being able to discuss some common game theme with just about anyone be so bad? Are you physically hurt if everyone not just a select few play games? I hope that games can someday be mainstream but I know that gaming has quiet a bit of work to do before it can reach that point and will only if it wants to.

In my opinion, there are so many loopholes to the statistics and how they're used in this article that it's hard to take it seriously. But I do agree with the author's overall point. I don't think video games are as mainstream as we'd like to believe, but in my opinion, that's all very trivial. Being mainstream and having high quality are two very different things. So from a consumer's perspective, meh. And from a businessman's point of view, mainstream shmamstream, money is money, and video games make more than movies (especially after 2014).

Eh. One thing the author is overlooking is that the gaming market is more divided then the movie market.

Almost anyone can go out and watch Avatar. But in gaming, there are fairly segregated communities; people who play modern warfare 2 are probably not the same people playing World of Warcraft, which are not the same people who are playing sports games, or casual games, or single player RPG's like Skyrim, or strategy PC games, or indie games, or social wii games, ect. The video game community is a bunch of small fairly segregated communities; just because no one game gets the same mass market as a few blockbuster movies do, doesn't mean that games in general aren't popular.

Also; it's kind of odd that you're excluding "casual gamers" who only buy one or two games, but ARE including on the movie side people that bought one DVD for ten bucks this year.

The last paragraph says it all. Now that gaming has got it's long-sought acceptance, gamers are coming face-to-face that being a gamer doesn't make them special and never did. This is just more of the hipster rhetoric that previously manifested itself in the whole hardcore/casual debate.

Also, just to point out one really major flaw, people may not understand the GTA IV references but a lot of people also don't know Citizen Kane references. (Hell, having not liked GTA IV, I wouldn't understand what someone was talking about beyond "You feed Roman....a lot.") Just because people may not understand the references in one example of an activity doesn't mean that the entire activity is somehow counter-culture.

thepyrethatburns:
The last paragraph says it all. Now that gaming has got it's long-sought acceptance, gamers are coming face-to-face that being a gamer doesn't make them special and never did. This is just more of the hipster rhetoric that previously manifested itself in the whole hardcore/casual debate.

Also, just to point out one really major flaw, people may not understand the GTA IV references but a lot of people also don't know Citizen Kane references. (Hell, having not liked GTA IV, I wouldn't understand what someone was talking about beyond "You feed Roman....a lot.") Just because people may not understand the references in one example of an activity doesn't mean that the entire activity is somehow counter-culture.

Pretty much this, and denying the mainstreaming of gaming ultimately does more disservie then good.

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