For several years now I've had a theory percolating that seems to have borne itself out one too many times not to now instead be considered a fact--videogame players will not support anything financially en masse outside of an actual videogame. What do I mean by this? Well, TWiT.TV's newest show, Game On!, is just the latest in a series of examples of videogame players failing to support something that on the surface should have been right in their wheelhouse. Game On! was slickly produced, had an attractive, personable and knowledge hostess in Veronica Belmont, and a similarly competent, over-the-top co-host in Brian Brushwood. Several days back, TWiT poobah and host extraordinaire, Leo Laporte, declared that the show's initial 12 episode run (it actually came to 13 official shows, counting the final episode, plus some test pilots) would be its one and only due to being too expensive to produce (it was easily the most elaborate TWiT production) and not gaining enough traction quickly enough. According to Laporte, without at least 50,000 regular genuinely engaged viewers/listeners, no one in the videogame industry would even consider advertising, making it financially prohibitive to keep running.
Now, I won't blame all of Game On!'s failings on the audience--after all, it was very me too and stereotypical on many levels, with fast cuts, silly skits, and loud noises seemingly targeted to the dated idea of the ADD teen hipster gamer, but in Laporte and crew's defense, he claims a previous attempt at a more thoughtful videogame show that also failed, arguably even more spectacularly (I never saw it/listened to it, but I'll take Laporte's word for it). Now, obviously, being one of the co-founders of Armchair Arcade and considering my own body of work, it's pretty clear which side of the fence my interests fall, but it may be a simple fact that no matter what your approach--crazy, intellectual, pandering, going-your-own-way, etc., it's never destined for anything more than niche success. It's great to carve out that niche, but when you try to go "big," the end result is the same--failure.
I often wondered why it was so darned hard to get a mainstream publisher interested in a videogame book. It took me years to really understand why--while you can usually be guaranteed several thousand sales of a good videogame book, that's nothing in comparison to other books on technical topics that can easily sell double or triple that amount. The economics just don't work out (in solidarity, most bookstores that still exist got rid of their videogame book sections long ago). Same thing with us lamenting the change in original vision of both G4 and TechTV, for example, in merging into the monstrosity that is now simply G4 and has only the slightest hint of videogame or technology coverage, instead featuring generic content targeted solely at a similarly generic 18-34 male demographic that is sadly far more valuable to advertisers. If gamers really supported these networks at even 25% of the levels they support the latest, hottest videogame, we'd still have the pure content ideals we all seem to crave. The fact is, not enough of us support these things with our eyeballs, ears, and pocketbooks to make a difference, and I'm not sure if the truly collective we - which based on the latest industry sales figures is a theoretically monumental force to be reckoned with - ever will.