The notion of ‘superfans’ has been talked about for years in the music industry, which is well aware of the impact the keenest fans can have on an artist’s income. As is the games industry.
Craig Fletcher, SVP of eSports and partnerships at retailer Game, offered some lessons from the latter industry for the music world in a presentation at the FastForward conference in Amsterdam today.
“Music and gaming are different, we need to bear that in mind, but I think there are some things that music can learn,” he said.
Fletcher talked about the size of the gaming market: $99.6bn globally in 2016, and compared this to the (estimated) $16bn recorded-music market in 2016, as well as the $25bn live-music market. “Games is out-and-out the biggest entertainment industry at the moment,” he said.
Fletcher also talked about eSports – competitive gaming for audiences online and in venues. “Last year over 250 million people were engaged in eSports,” he said, citing predictions that it will rise from $463m in 2016 to $1.07bn by 2019.
So what can the music industry learn? Fletcher said that gamers are “very savvy consumers” who value scarcity, exclusivity and authenticity.
“There is an MMO [massively multiplayer online game] in Russia where every month they release some horse-armour for $50,000,” said Fletcher, who said ‘vanity items’ where people customise their character’s appearance can cost “literally thousands and thousands of pounds”.
Fletcher also talked about the growing trend for DLC – downloadable content – where a game launches, and then additional content is made available in episodic form, or as download packs.
“Virtual tickets is on the rise massively. BlizzCon, MineCon, all these fan conventions will sell virtual tickets so you can be part of the show from home. They cost around £30 and they sell a lot,” he said.
Fletcher also talked up the merits of gamification, with achievements and badges for people’s gaming exploits. “Visit all the areas of this particular game and you’ll get an achievement for it, and these achievements are displayed in the platform, so your mates see it,” he said. “Complete bragging rights.”
He also mentioned ‘loot crates’ – “they send you a box a month, branded merchandise for your favourite brands. There could be a Star Wars box that has a game and a t-shirt in there,” said Fletcher. Exclusive merchandise is also making big money in the games world: for example when it’s created for and sold at specific events and conventions.
“The last Call of Duty came with a beer fridge. It cost over £150,” added Fletcher, on the games industry’s trend for releasing ‘collectors editions’ of big games, with extra content and products built in.
Fletcher outlined some ideas for the music industry. “Create authentic, exclusive content to sell, both digital and physical. If you sell an album, why not sell some exclusive digital content, or make sure they get a t-shirt,” he said.
(This is happening already, of course: but his point was that it could and should become much more common in the music world.)
“There’s got to be an IP rights deal to be done, not only with the games companies to get the music in the game, but with companies like Twitch. And could Spotify put a badge on your profile if you booked a Glastonbury ticket? Have a list of badges almost like a trophy case,” added Fletcher.
He finished off by noting the convergence between music, games, and sports, from WWE at the Download Festival and Island Records partnering with the Insomnia Gaming Festival to the rise of drone racing and music games.