"I think I need to say this about the games journalists in question. Not only have I never heard of these people before, but for the most part they write for gaming sites that I only visit if it comes up on a Google search. As for the quality of those sites, if I have a choice between any of those sites and PC Gamer, Eurogamer, or Massively, I don't use the sites that published the "Gamers Are Dead" articles. Sites like Gamasutra, Polygon, and Kotaku always seemed sketchy to me, so I'm glad to see my judgement vindicated"
The emphasis is mine. I highlighted that statement because it occurred to me I do the same thing, though not because I feel the game-ezines are "sketchy." I use Google Alerts and Flipboard as my main vectors for gaming news - and other blogs of course.
This realization led down one mental path and then another as these things often do. tl;dr - I know periodicals like newspapers have suffered a decline in readership because of the digital age. Why wait for a paper when you can get it now? Now it seems to me like there is a decline in game-ezines use as well. Why go look at the site when Google can feed you what you want? In fact, there are no game-ezines I regularly read now. Is this a problem?
To answer that question I went back to Google Trends. I put in the Internet domains of five game-ezines, and took a look at their trend lines since Google started collecting the data (or at least making it available.) Yes, there is a significant, and serious, decline in the trend lines.
[caption id="attachment_3649" align="aligncenter" width="815"] Game-ezine Decline[/caption]
I tried dozens of game-ezine domains to find the best five. Gamespot.com and IGN.com were the two best curves of the lot, and they are in significant decline. Kotaku.com had a bump about 2010, but all the others look flat line to me: an apt analogy I think.
So what caused this? It's not like the gaming industry isn't going great guns. It's growing steadily, and some might even say mightily (though not Massively ;-) .) Then it occurred to me there is something I take time to do day after day. There are some avenues of gaming related "news" I do routinely visit without prompting and of my own volition. It's called YouTube. Could YouTube be the cause of those negative trends?
It's not as easy as you might think to discover such a correlation. You can't trend YouTube. If you put in YouTube.com, you get everything, not just gaming related stuff. Not to mention the trend line breaks the graph. It's just not a good comparison. However, there is a gaming specific phrase used on YouTube that I thought might work. The phrase is "Let's Play." If you're a gamer, you should know precisely what sort of video that identifies. And as I was trying to figure out ways of restricting the scope to gaming videos only, I remembered something about Eurogamer I'd read some years back. It was an article discussing how they were moving away from written reviews and more into video reviews. And Eurogamer is a very unique word, unlike Massively which does not work at all because of massive overuse by everyone. XD So I took my top two game-ezine curves and added a trend for Eurogamer and "Let's Play."
[caption id="attachment_3648" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Game-vids Ascending[/caption]
Holy trend-lines batman! I couldn't have paid for a better result. Just look at that would you. When I trended Eurogamer.com in the first graph, it was the most flat lined of the bunch. But when Eurogamer alone is used, there is a steady, sustained increase shown. Now, you could argue people in Europe who game are constantly called a Eurogamer by the press and everyone else. But I really haven't seen that as the case. And when you hover over those blue letters provided by Google Trends (they are significant results as determined by the algorithm,) they completely dismiss that red herring. On my graph, F, D, B and A are ALL Eurogamer YouTube gaming videos. In an Austin Powers international man of mystery voice, "Smoking gun baby, yeah!" And what about that "Let's Play" trend line? That is a tremendously good-looking inverse curve, and most of its letters are also YouTube videos. Here, explore it for yourself:
But discovering all this only led to more questions, as research often does. The next question that spilled into my brain was, "What about Twitch.tv?" If video is supplanting the written review, wouldn't you expect to see a similar curve as "Let's Play" if the search term were Twitch.tv? Is that why Amazon paid nearly a billion dollars for the IP? Why yes, yes it is.
[caption id="attachment_3647" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Twitch Ascending[/caption]
Twitch.tv most certainly does seem to be a large contributing factor in the changing of the journalistic guard so to speak. YouTube is not the only video service causing those negative game-ezine trends in the first graph. From what I am seeing here, there appears to have been a paradigm shift somewhere in 2010, and gamers aren't looking back.
Then I got worried. Is this shift affecting game bloggers? Are we doomed as the preference for gaming reviews move from written to video? To answer this question I could not use Google Trends. If I try to trend individual blogs, there are not enough results for analysis. If I trend something generic like "Wordpress," there is a lot of noise in the line, and by noise I mean non-blogging things like business commentary and computer security related stuff. Oh, and the trend line totally dwarfs all the others, so no good comparison is possible. It certainly doesn't produce beautiful graphs like those above.
So I decided to take a different tack. I often go to Google Book's Ngram Viewer for other research. As Google has digitized millions upon millions of books, they can run statistical analysis on them - even the copyrighted ones. Ngram Viewer is a word frequency analysis. It tracks how often a particular word is used in literature over the course of time. It's a great way to see how significant a word is to a culture and when. Since the Internet is a recent thing, and blogging even more recent, I restricted my search dates from 2000 through 2008. My premise was this. If oral is overtaking written as the dominant form of Internet social consumption, we should see a marked difference in the usage of words related to both. More usage would indicate greater interest. A decline would indicate a drop in interest. My assumption here is usage has a direct correlation with interest and interest drives adoption. I don't think that's a bad assumption. For this purpose, Twitch.tv is too new to use. It didn't exist prior to 2011. YouTube was the only video service of note prior to that. It's the 500-pound gorilla after all. I added to the list other popular social media and words (mostly) associate with blogging. Here's what I discovered.
[caption id="attachment_3646" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Twitter,Facebook,YouTube,Tumbler,Wordpress,Blogger Ngram Viewer[/caption]
Interest in written media is certainly not fading if word usage in literature is any indication, but it is also not growing significantly - except Twitter. That's a different case all together. The same, I think, can be said for Facebook. But YouTube is on fire so far as writers are concerned, and that seems to validate my assumption because of the known trend lines above. I find it ironic the written word frequency of the thing that's replacing the written word metaphorically sounds a sort of death knell. Don't you?
So it isn't all doom and gloom for bloggers, but it isn't good for game journalists who only write articles. Video is where it's at, and if your favorite game-ezine isn't jumping onto the YouTube wagon its days may be numbered. Keep that in mind as you ponder where your current blogging hobby may take you. Especially if you have professional aspirations. If writing is all you do, be certain to figure out what people really would rather just read about (hint, hint: controversy, research, anything unique) and what they would rather see for themselves. I'd recommend staying away from what they would rather see. It may be a dead-end thread.