I absolutely love video games. I’ve been playing them since I was about six years old, when I got my first Gameboy Color. I remember playing the video game rendition of A Bug’s Life for hours on end as a child, and then getting my first Xbox as a teenager. Then later, I got an Xbox 360 and online gaming was a huge part of my life in high school. Even today, I am a very proud owner of an $1100 Windows PC that I built with my own hands.
The video game industry is massive. In 2014, the video game industry brought in revenues of 46.5 billion dollars. Just revenues. That isn’t the value of the industry, which includes marketing, advertisements, etc. Enough people bought enough video games to earn the producers of video games 46.5 billon dollars. (I personally have contributed to a large percentage of this, I’m sure, but that’s irrelevant.)
In the same year, the music industry brought in just 13 billion dollars from revenues of purchased music, and has been steadily declining. Well, why is it that the video game industry is making almost four times as much money as the music industry? What can we as musicians, and consumers of music learn from video games?
First, I think the obvious answer is pirating. For years, we were enraptured with Limewire and Frostwire which provided millions of consumers with free music for download. It is very possible to pirate games, but they are not in so accessible a format as MP3. Most consumers will not go through the trouble. The dawn of online pirating spelled certain doom for the music industry.
Secondly, I believe there are some core values that the video game industry has that the music industry lacks. The most important being communication. Communication between producers and consumers of video games is damn near transparent. I can google the new Call of Duty six months before it comes out and know how to beat every level and what all the weapons are. Many companies maintain online forums, such as Reddit, where they regular communicate with their customers. And that’s how you maintain loyalty. So many music consumers wouldn’t even be able to fathom being in contact with the producers of their favorite songs. Social media like Instagram and Facebook are helping to mitigate this, but only a little bit.
In music, the producers seem untouchable. But that transparency will always add a level of humanity and tangibility that will keep gamers buying and supporting games.
Lastly, I think that there needs to be a mentality shift within the music industry. When we regard our favorite artists and their upcoming songs and albums, we feel that this is something that we deserve. There is a sense of entitlement. We don’t feel like we are purchasing a product from a business, we feel that we are doing the artist a favor by receiving their music. We need a strong paradigm shift if we ever want to see music being purchased again. Because the way it is happening, people are going to use their money for the latest Xbox One game while they listen to their favorite songs torrented for free.