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It’s now “game on” for the music industry

27 Feb 2019 | Ovum


Music and gaming are clearly natural bedfellows but the music industry has yet to fully exploit the potential of games and gaming audiences. The reach of some gaming platforms is vast, offering great marketing prospects for the recorded-music business, while esports events can attract sizable audiences that are also looking for content beyond the core tournament battles. Plus, as games developers have shown recently, there is real appetite for virtual concerts inside the titles themselves – and that really should be a cue for physical festival promoters to deploy gaming at events to further develop those live music experiences.

Gaming initiatives drive music sales

The opportunities for music in gaming were highlighted in February 2019 when US DJ Marshmello performed a 10-minute concert inside hugely popular video game Fortnite. And while the event racked up an impressive audience of 10 million in-game players, it was the post-performance metrics that really caught the eye. On the day of the gig, on-demand video streams for the Marshmello track Check This Out spiked a huge 24,000%, while those for Chasing Colors were up more than 22,500%. Also, on the day after the show, sales of Chasing Colors increased by more than 1,500%. Those numbers should not be that surprising given Fortnite’s extensive reach – the gaming platform can now boast more than 200 million players worldwide just two years after launch.

Beat fever and track hooks

Fortnite is not the only game in town when it comes to notable metrics. Beat Fever hasn’t been around for quite as long as Fortnite, but it has already made its mark on the music business. Beat Fever is a mobile game with music, and in particular music beats, at its heart. In essence, it is an updated version of the successful Tap Tap Revenge game from a decade ago that was so popular at one point that the app had been downloaded to around one-third of US iPhones. Beat Fever features song previews of up to 90 seconds in length and players have to tap along to the beat on their touchscreens during play, with tracks repeated again and again as the degree of gaming difficulty increases (the game leans on machine learning capabilities to achieve that). According to Wrkshp, the US-based company behind Beat Fever, users play the same song more than 30 times on average. That kind of exposure can get them hooked on tracks, which is why there is a prompt through to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.

Beat Fever music is fully licensed and while Wrkshp started out featuring predominantly pop and electronic dance music (EDM), it has expanded to include more genres, among them classical, jazz, and Latin. Artists are also using it to get closer to audiences. Mariah Carey slotted All I Want For Christmas into Beat Fever prior to 2018’s holiday season and announced a global “listening party” on the platform where fans could enjoy the song, ask Carey questions, and chat to each other in real-time. Furthermore, 2018 saw Dutch EDM DJ R3HAB launch an interactive version of his The Wave album on Beat Fever on the same day as the standard version was released on other services. Wrkshp reports that Azukita by Steve Aoki was promoted in-game for two weeks in 2018 with the artist garnering an additional 2.3 million streams on Spotify.

Mining the music and gaming potential

Expect more established gaming platforms to beef up the music side of their offerings and go beyond the single artist, short performance format. The well-established Minecraft game is already showing the way, having launched its first virtual festival, jokingly called Coalchella, in September 2018. Two stages played host to a raft of EDM artists who performed in a landscape featuring a Ferris wheel, a blimp, and a giant bottle of vodka. The event notched up 2,600 attendees, while more than 27,000 people listened in on audio-sharing platform Mixlr. All performances were later uploaded to Soundcloud. Minecraft upped its game just a few months later at the start of 2019 when it played host to the two-day Fire Festival, which featured more than 50 up-and-coming artists. Visitors were able to “attend” via a Minecraft virtual festival ground, through the Discord distribution platform for video gaming communities or simply, for those without a copy of the game, by listening to the dedicated music stream. More than 6,000 people played Minecraft to visit the Fire Festival, while around 80,000 people picked up the stream.

Music and esports

2018 was a strong year for real-life music performances at esports gaming events. MTV partnered with games developer Riot Games (League of Legends) for the debut Hyperplay festival in Singapore. The Singapore Indoor Stadium hosted the final rounds of the ASEAN League of Legends gaming tournament and featured live appearances from artists such as Alessia Cara, Nick Jonas, and Afgan. Moreover, last August’s ICBC e-Sports and Music Festival in Hong Kong comprised three separate esports tournaments, along with live performances from Asian artists DJ SODA and Gin Lee (see Figure 1).

To read the full report from Ovum, click here.

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