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Memo to Daniel Lyons: It's the Facebook Apps, Stupid!

What Can Be Learned from Guitar Hero?

Guitar_hero_iiiWell that's certainly an odd question, isn't it?  After all, what does the wildly popular video game Guitar Hero have to do with book publishing world?  I asked myself that question after I read this article in the latest issue of BusinessWeek.

Five years ago, would anyone in the music industry have thought that this game would help create a new revenue stream?  Sure, it's a tiny revenue stream, but (a) it's a start and, more importantly, (b) as the article notes, it's an excellent promotional tool for other revenue streams.  Games also represent the sort of sticky experience advertisers and media types love.  People tend to spend hours and hours playing these darned things and the opportunities to expose customers to new products, services, etc., are endless.

Am I suggesting that we can somehow weave the content of a programming book into a video game?  Of course not.  But what about content that's more relevant and can become part of the product experience?  For example, maybe there are some great tips in Guitars For Dummies that could find their way into this product.  I'm not talking about random content placement; perhaps the game could evolve to where knowledge of this information is required to advance to the next level, earn points, etc.  That exposure raises brand awareness and probably results in additional book sales.  Simple, but effective.

Yeah, I know that's a bit of a stretch, but this model is worth keeping an eye on.  You can bet the music industry is paying attention.


Dan Penny

Interesting, Joe, and I think there are other ways that games and books may interact. Most significantly to my mind, MMO games (World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, etc - in which characters play alongside others in huge virtual worlds) are now starting to produce regular updates which keep the story moving along. Every month or so there's a small downloadable patch, which provides the players with new areas and new jobs to do - and this always provides new narrative.

It's actually the same model that Conan Doyle, Dickens etc used in the late 1800s, publishing chapters month-by-month in popular magazines. And with the likely advent of reading on mobile devices, this chapter-by-chapter model may become very attractive once more. But I think the fact that games have reached this monthly-update model already says something about how books and games might increasingly start to overlap.

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