By Sahil Patel
While some gaming developers and publishers are happy to give online creators free reign over their IP (so to speak), others are even more active, and work with talent to create and distribute branded content.
This is where Eric Johnson, founder and CEO of Ignited USA and former SVP of marketing at Activision, sees a lot of value. “This is a passion category,” he says of gaming, “that leads me to believe that there’s an opportunity to make more content to help build a franchise.”
Johnson comes from a place of experience and success. To promote the release of “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance” in 2013, Ignited partnered Konami, the publisher behind the decades-long blockbuster franchise, with YouTube multi-channel network Collective Digital Studio and filmmakers Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch to create “Metal Gear Sunrising,” a three-minute action video featuring a character from the game. That video has generated more than 4.6 million views to date and is widely seen as a gaming industry-YouTuber collaboration done right.
“If you’re really into a game and have put 100 hours into it, you know these characters as well as you do your favorite characters from TV and film. It kind of makes sense that people would then start to have fun with it and produce original videos,” says Johnson. And on YouTube, “there are people who have very sophisticated production capabilities to make things that look amazing with smaller budgets.”
There’s a lot of opportunity here, and to be fair, it doesn’t always have to involve a publisher or brand coming in to fund the content either.
When asked to predict what the future looks like for the gaming industry in terms of its relationship with online creators, Johnson sees great potential in the industry opening up its IP for the creation of custom, independent content.
“Think about the way TV shows have created online extensions that extend the main story — side stories about individual characters,” he says. “That’s a logical rich place to extend the story of video games. Publishers can license and encourage users to go build stories.”
And while publishers would likely retain some control over these kinds of deals, it would still enable them to tap the passionate fan bases they’ve cultivated through the years.
“In a perfect world, a majority [of content] would be made by fans who love the games,” says Johnson. “You can see the love that comes from somebody doing something without a brief.”