Video Gamers: A Vertical to Go After?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

38ensoSony recently announced they sold 1-million PlayStation 4 game consoles at $399 retail in the first 24 hours. This was US sales only.

A week later, Microsoft announced they had sold 1-million XBOX ONE consoles at $499 in the first 24 hours of going on sale. Their number was world-wide.

There are many factors that go into the popularity, but a huge part of it is the story. This is story telling in an interactive way.  Some of the franchises are also, in many cases, commissioning writers to pen novels based on these games.

One of the key demographics of the video game industry is the 16-24 year old male. This group is one of the hardest to reach (sans ESPN.com) for book publishers. Video game manufacturers have partnered with traditional book publishers for many years. TOR Books (Macmillan) had many #1 NYT bestsellers with their Halo novels. The always forward-thinking Del Rey (Ballantine>RHPG>PRH>Bertelsmann) has also had big sellers with tie-in books to Gears of War.

Some of the best-selling games are ‘first person-shooter.’ Five of the more popular that will be on both systems this fall are Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV, Killzone: Shadowfall and Dead Rising 3.

Granted there is a big jump from video gamers to books. Just because someone plays the games, there is no guarantee that he will buy a novel. But this is a vertical worth exploring. This is the core audience for these books and many of the past titles have done well in paperbacks and ebooks.

Orion publishes Battlefield 4: Countdown to War in trade paperback and ebook. The paperback comes out in December and the ebook has been available since October. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag is published by Ace (Penguin>PRH>Bertelsmann) and has a new title in ebook and mass market in the series coming out on Dec 3.

Call of Duty: Ghosts, Killzone: Shadowfall and Dead Rising 3 have no publisher for novels although there are the strategy guides and walk-through books from Brady Games (DK>Penguin>PRH>Bertelsmann) and Prima Games (RHIG>PRH>Bertelsmann). Dead Rising is in the perennially popular “Zombie Vertical.”38enso

The biggest game of the year has been Grand Theft Auto V which doesn’t have any novels attached to it. But then it isn’t the popular war story, pirates or killing zombies like the others listed.

So, does it make sense for these game companies to create novels from the stories the games follow? A few have partnered with traditional publishers to great success. Should they create their own publishing arm and fill it with novels tied to these enormously popular games? Or are the sales too small for the game company to spend the efforts? It would be helpful as brand extension. Plus, the locked-in audience playing the games would be the perfect one to market direct.

Storytelling comes in many ways. Any company that is creating content today should investigate creating a line of ebooks (and physical if demand is there). It can be profitable, utilizes the current material that has been built and extends the brand. The audience is already targeted and built-in.

I will be presenting more about how non-book-companies can publish with Jason Allen Ashlock (Strategist at Movability) at a seminar titled Ebook Publishing for Everyone: How Non-Book-Publishing Companies Can Profit from Ebook-Publishing Initiatives” at the 2014 Digital Book World Conference & Expo on January 13 from 2-5pm.

10 thoughts on “Video Gamers: A Vertical to Go After?

  1. Pingback: Faber Factory Video Gamers: A Vertical to Go After? - Faber Factory

  2. Kevin

    You mention there being a few companies that have made books that were considered great successes? Can you list any that come to mind? And do you think this is a field that will see more books as time goes on?

    Reply
    1. Jack W PerryJack W Perry Post author

      Tor had a lot of success with novels based on HALO. Del Rey had success with GEARS OF WAR. Karen Traviss is one of the more successful authors of this genre.

      I do think it a field that will increase. I don’t have any hard data but it seems like being able to tap into even a small % of the gamers would pay off. I would like to see more titles published to determine if this is viable.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Publishing Opinions | Video Gamers: A Vertical to Go After?

  4. Claudio Pires Franco

    I agree with your views on untapped / little explored opportunities for ‘traditional’ books – whether print or ebooks – linked to, or based on game titles. See what Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin did! Moshi Monsters became the best-selling children’s IP in the UK for months on end. And their magazine is / was one of the best-selling too. All based on an online game.
    Then there’s Ankama, in France, who did the Dofus and Wakfu games. They have their own Manga magazine based on the game world, and on real in-game events vby real players. As a player, you can become a ‘legend of Wakfu’ and have your character ‘star’ in the Manga adventures – how cool is that for a player?
    I’m also interested in even more innovative approaches, such as partnerships between game developers and writers / publishers, to come up with new ways to tell stories. From pure storytelling, we’re now also in the era of ‘story-playing’… think story apps, enhanced interactive books, game-novels…
    Much experimentation dies out, unsupported, but some – and increasingly – success stories too
    In this era of cross-media, 360 media, cross-platform, transmedia, audiences do expect to find their favourite stories and IPs across media. The trick os tapping into platform potential, and do adaptations in a way that facilitate audience ‘flows’ with consistency and offering more to the user/reader/player…

    Reply
    1. Jack W PerryJack W Perry Post author

      Thanks for your comments. Lots of examples of opportunities. I will check out the ones you mention. We are just at the onset of innovation and new ways to tell stories.

      Reply
  5. karen snyder

    Jack, your brain thinks like mine. Last month at GamesBeat I announced a new platform that I am developing with PubSoft that merges narrative with video game mechanics and social media. Transmedia Story Stream is a revolutionary new platform that allows storytellers to create story worlds that can include written word (READ), video (WATCH), audio (LISTEN), casual games (PLAY), and live events (GATHER). Story worlds are securely streamed via HTML5 and can be viewed on any connected device. Authors can add simple gameplay to text-only narratives or extend a story world to include other media components such as audio, video and deeper game play.

    It would be great to get your feedback on the concept since you have an interest in merging video games with narrative. http://www.TransmediaStoryStream.com

    Reply
    1. Jack W PerryJack W Perry Post author

      Karen – very cool. I just spent some time on the site and enjoyed it. I need to go back to check it out in more detail. I love the merging of all “senses” together to create an experience. Plus it is a great way to have control over the delivery (and not depend on Amazon, Apple etc.). Thanks for sending and I will definitely check it out in more detail. ~ Jack

      Reply
  6. James S.

    One thing that would help in this area is a deeper partnership between the software developer and the publishing company. Including a unique code in each novel for a exclusive in-game item/character/outfit would be one way to drive demand for the books. DC Comics recently did this with their Arkham Asylum-based graphic novel.

    Another item would be integration between events in the book(s) and games. In-game achievements based on the player’s understanding of what happened in the book could also work (although internet message boards would spoil this one pretty quickly).

    Reply

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