Had it not signed off last year, video game channel G4 would’ve celebrated its 12th anniversary yesterday. With the prevalence of online video outlets like YouTube and Twitch delivering a steady stream of game-related content 24 hours a day, and the future of traditional cable television in question in and of itself, another dedicated video game cable channel seems as unlikely as it is impractical. Still, should anyone be considering such an endeavor, I would like to suggest the five things it needs to do better than G4 did if it wants to avoid suffering the same fate.
5. Go easy on the non-gaming content
Every single show doesn’t have to literally be “about video games” – something like Ninja Warrior is reminiscent enough of a game, with the Prince of Persia-esque acrobatics and the competition aspect. But filling in the gaps in your programming schedule with generic syndicated shows like Cops and Cheaters (huh!?), especially always stacking them into mini-marathons, is not exactly going to draw in your desired viewers when they cruise past the channel on the program guide. They also do not make for compelling lead-ins to your staple primetime shows. I realize it’s expensive to create an entire day’s worth of new, original content, and I’m not suggesting that. Even top-tier cable channels can’t claim that feat. But there are other ways to pad out your lineup, including…
4. Show more video game movies
While gamers have a tolerate/hate relationship with video game movies, there’s something to be said about seeing that a so-bad-its-good video game movie is on in the middle of the day when most other channels are showing talk shows, judge shows, or 90’s sitcoms that they’ve already seen every episode of (three times). I’m not just taking more recent, obvious flicks like Resident Evil and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. There is about 25 years worth of video game movies to mine, and I can’t imagine buying the rights to a movie like Double Dragon or Wing Commander isn’t going to pay for itself in ad revenue after five or six showings. Not only that, but there are a growing number of good video game movies that should’ve been on G4 but weren’t – The King of Kong, an excellent video game film, was on Current TV. Yes, that also now-defunct Al Gore channel that mostly just showed An Inconvenient Truth five times a day. But it wasn’t on the video game channel. That truth isn’t inconvenient…it’s inexcusable. And don’t get me started on Indie Game: The Movie being FREE on Netflix streaming but nowhere to be found on G4.
3. Expand your target demographic beyond 18-25 year old males
To assume that the average gamer is still a teenager or early-20-something male is a perspective that’s at least a decade of date at this point. Gamers of today tend to be closer to 30+ and nearly half of them are female. Having programs dedicated entirely to highlighting porn stars, and having even your video game-dedicated shows co-hosted by busty models – real gamers or not – in gratuitously skimpy outfits, alienates more of the overall gaming population than it attracts. Not that I’m suggesting that you can’t have edgy or “adult” content – especially since gore and cursing and breasts are so prominently featured in games themselves – but your content should be more well-rounded in order to appeal to as many different gamers as possible, not just sex-crazed boys and young men.
Is anything more universal than a love for and appreciation of cartoons? And as with movies, there is a wealth of cartoons from the last few decades about video games that are currently just languishing in obscurity or in bargain DVD bins. Why not snatch some of those up? Think about a Saturday morning block of retro video game cartoons for young parents to share with their children as an alternative to the same old cartoons on the other channels. And then also throwing some of those up late at night for the Adult Swim crowd to flip to when they don’t want to watch the same Family Guy reruns they’ve seen a million times already. You could also get in on the NEW game cartoons, too. Just in the last few years, there have been new cartoons about Kirby, Pac-Man, and the Rabbids (and that one is quite good actually), just to name a few – none of which were shown on the VIDEO GAME CHANNEL. It couldn’t make less sense to me.
1. Be on DirecTV
Losing those 30 million+ viewers completely during G4’s dispute with DirecTV in 2010 couldn’t have helped. That being your #1 priority is a no-brainer.