What can games learn from the X-Factor? (Bonus Q: TV + Facebook = ??)

Gorilla eating banana on TV

Image: Plindberg - Flickr

Mark Sorrell from Screenpop says games can learn from TV shows like the X-Factor. Tough talk considering the shift we’re seeing away from TV and towards Facebook.

According to recent research, people in the UK spend more hours on Facebook than they do watching telly.   The  writing is on the wall.   Facebook is stealing time from TV.    And Facebook is, in its own special way, a games platform.   So what can TV teach games?  At first glance, it looks like the score is: Facebook+Games 1, TV nulle points.

But I think Sorrell is worth listening to.   For one thing, Fremantle Media, Screenpop’s parent company,  is a leader at producing and licensing insanely popular TV shows and formats –  think X Factor, the Idol series, Britain’s Got Talent.  And more.  (I’d go on but we don’t have all day.)  Not only that, but Freemantle have built and bought a place in the TV-games tie-ins segment, via their innovation centre Screenpop, and also via recent acquisition  Ludia, who make cross-platform games for a starry roster of mass market American TV shows which again I don’t have time to list and you don’t have time read about.   Montreal-based Ludia is set to hire 100 new staff over the course of 2012.

Sorrell will be speaking at the Evolve games conference in London on December 1st next week.    And I’m looking forward to what he has to say.    (If you’re thinking of booking, don’t forget that you can get a 20% discount by quoting discount code ELELTE.  Here’s why.)

Why?  Sorrell is well placed to know what he’s talking about, and I think what he’s talking about is interesting.  The ‘TV meets games’ market is set for some really rapid evolution in the short term.  There are two things going on in the market which are responsible for this:

  •  the general shift in viewing habits towards simultaneous multi-media consumption
  •  the sudden appearance, stage right, of an 800 lb gorilla (not King Kong – Facebook)

The story that’s unfolding about Facebook and TV is more complicated than can be summarised via a leaderboard.   While Facebook has clearly stolen time from TV, what’s even more interesting in terms of market trending is the fact that simultaneous media use is becoming the norm.   Last year’s US Nielsen survey, sponsored by Yahoo!, showed that about half of viewers regularly use the TV and an Internet connection at the same time.  Interestingly, as of yet, this Internet use and TV use is mostly unrelated.   But it needn’t be.    There’s a clear opportunity here to increase engagement with programming through online participation including game-play.    This opportunity has a very particular shape.   Lots of games simply won’t fit the bill.   But some will.

The other plot line that’s unfolding has to do with the gorilla.  The 800 lb gorilla.   With its recent set of announcements at the F8 developer conference, announcing partnerships with Netflix and Hulu,  Facebook is extending itself into a media consumption platform.   I think it’s well placed to make a go of it.   For now,  the impetus is on social-graph-powered content discovery.    But game tie-ins will not be far behind.   Watch this space.

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