• June 10th at 10:21pm

    Video Games Bigger than the Movies? Don't be so certain....

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    From GameSoundCon Blog

    You’ve probably seen the headlines over the years in newspapers, blogs and in presentations and discussions.

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    It seems like every time you turn around, someone is reporting, announcing or blogging on how “Video games are bigger than the movies”   It’s a statistic that’s been reported and re-reported so many times, few question its veracity.  But is it really the case?  Are “video games bigger than the movies?”

    The answer it turns out is “not even close.” 

    They why, you may ask, has this been taken as gospel for a decade or more?  And didn’t the video game GTA V take in a billion dollars in only three days?

    The answer is fairly straightforward, and it all comes down to how you define the “video game industry” and how you define “movies.”  And that’s the crux of the problem.

    For the purposes of this article, I’m going to confine myself to the US market for both movies and games, because it’s easier to get reliable numbers about both of those industries.  But there is no reason to believe there is a big discrepancy between the US and worldwide markets. (thought that certainly should be checked out)

    You typically hear something like the following:

    The video game industry is a made $22 billion  last year!  Movies made only $10 Billion.  Video games are bigger than the movies! (For example: http://www.stratoserve.com/2011/06/entertainment-video-game-industry-three-times-music-and-double-movie-industry.html)

    Popular statements like that are misleading at best, and are probably better described as “wrong.”

    There are two major problems with the vast majority of these claims.  (As previously noted, data will be from the US market only)

    What does “market” mean?

    The video game industry did indeed make close to $21.5 Billion in the US in 2013.  And the domestic motion picture box office receipts for 2013 were around $10.9 Billion.  So what’s the problem?

    The problem is that the $21 billion number for “video games”, represents the entirety of the video game industry.  It includes not only games themselves, but also gaming hardware: Xboxes, Playstations, Nintendo DS’s.  It includes the sale of peripherals such as extra controllers, gaming headsets, keyboards and mice!  Indeed, pretty much anything related at all to video games.  In other words, all of these: 

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    In contrast, the “movie” number typically represents “box office receipts”—theater ticket sales. 

    I.e these:

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    So the comparisons given make no sense.  It’s not apples to apples.  More like “apples to entire grocery store.”  Numbers get pretty skewed when you compare a $500 XboxOne with a $9.50 movie ticket.

    So what is a more accurate comparison? 

    If we really want to compare games to the movies, we shouldn’t be counting Xboxes and Controllers and mice and keyboards—We should be counting games—i.e the game content, not the hardware its delivered on.  That’s why they don’t include BluRay or DVD players in the numbers for “movies.”  Or movie theater projection systems for that matter.  They count the movie content in the form of ticket sales.

    So what does game content look like?  As noted, according to the Entertainment Software Association (www.theesa.com), in 2013 the total consumer spend on the games industry was $21.53 Billion.    For 2013, of that 21.5 Billion the amount spent on games themselves was $15.39 Billion.  That $15.4 Billion represents all game content, experienced all ways, whether it’s a AAA Xbox One title or Angry Birds on your phone as well as subscriptions such as World of Warcraft or “fremium” games like Candy Crush Saga and League of Legends.

     That brings us to our second big problem.  We also have to take a closer look at the movie revenue.  According to boxofficemojo (www.boxofficemojo.com), the US domestic box office sales in 2013 were in fact $10.9 Billion.  However, the box office does not represent the entire domestic movie industry revenue.  That’s only theater ticket sales.  What that does not count is the rest of the money the movie industry makes on their content: BluRay & DVD sales, digital downloads, Broadcast, Cable and Streaming royalties, movie rentals. You get the idea.

    According to the Wall Street Journal that revenue is significant.  In fact, it far exceeds movie theater ticket sales.  In 2013, US home entertainment spending, which includes disk & digital sales, broadcast and rentals totaled $18.2 Billion.  Combine that with box office receipts and that puts the “movie industry” at $29.8 Billion.

    So if you’re keeping score, the totals are:

    Game content 2013 US Total Revenue:         $15.4 Billion

    Movie content 2013 US Total Revenue:         $29.1 Billion

    One other item of note: The game numbers listed above include every possible genre of game, from huge blockbusters to tiny indy games.  For an even more accurate comparison of games to movies, we would need to include just about any kind of passive visual entertainment from big-budget blockbuster to YouTube content. 

    But even without doing that, movie content revenue still stands almost 2X game content revenue.

    But wait—Didn’t GTA-V make almost a billion dollars in 3 days?  Surely that makes “games bigger than movies.”

    Let’s take a closer look at that.  It is true that as far as revenue is concerned “opening weekend” for GTA-5 was HUGE. As in Gigantic—enormous and literally record breaking.  The Guinness book of World Records reports that GTA-V had an ‘opening day” sales volume of 11.21 million units in its first 24 hours generating 815.7 Million in revenue.  (note that this includes “pre-sale” units, which are games reserved and paid for before they actually are offered for sale).  And in 3 days it generated over $1Billion in worldwide sales.  [note: we are now talking world-wide numbers, not just US].

    So how does that compare to a movie’s opening weekend?

    “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2” (2012) currently holds the record for revenue generated on an opening weekend worldwide.  it had an opening worldwide 3-day gross of $483,189,427.  That’s not even half of the $1Billion made by GTA-V over a similar 3-day period.

    However, what happens when we count people?

    At an average price of $72 (many of the early purchases were more expensive ‘special edition versions’), that meant that almost 14 Million people bought GTA-V.

    However, at an average ticket price of $9.50, over 50 million people bought tickets to “Harry Potter.”

    Keeping score again:

    People buying megahit game opening weekend: 14 Million

    People seeing megahit movie opening weekend: 50 Million

    One last bit of context.  The two biggest grossing (Worldwide Box office) movies of all time are Avatar (2.7 Billion) and Titanic ($2.1 Billion).   As of May, 2014, GTA-5 has sold 33 million units.  At $60/unit (a conservative estimate), that is just shy of $2 Billion.  Oh, and that Avatar number of $2.7 Billion?  That’s only the box office.  That doesn’t count DVD/BluRay, streaming, rentals, etc. and all the other income movies can make that games can’t.

    So Video Games’ biggest game of all time is still far shy of the just the box office receipts of the motion picture industry’s biggest movie by any measure except “first 3 days revenue.”

    Don’t get me wrong.  Video games are big and they are growing.  More people are playing them, and they are taking a significant chunk of people’s entertainment dollar.  And yes, measured by “gross dollars of opening weekends,” games are indeed often “bigger than the movies.”

    But the general “games are bigger than movies” claim is only true if you include a whole bunch of stuff in “video games” that you don’t in “movies”, ignore huge amounts of movie revenue, ignore huge numbers of people or otherwise skew the numbers.

    For the record, if you want to compare “game content” with “motion picture box office” (and ignore movie disk, streaming & broadcast revenue) the year in which the U.S. domestic box office receipts were overtaken by video game content sales was 2009, when each had sales of approximately $10.5 billion.

    In the end, let’s just agree that games are a huge recipient of consumer entertainment spending and stop trying to compare ourselves to a very different business.

    GameSoundCon 2014: October 7-8, Los Angeles CA

    Brian Schmidt is the Executive Director of GameSoundCon, www.GameSoundCon.com

    ————————————-

    Industry Data Sources:

    http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2014.pdf

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2013&p=.htm

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323706704578229911000744452

    http://degonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/DEG-Year-End-2013-Home-Entertainment-Report.pdf

    http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2013/10/confirmed-grand-theft-auto-breaks-six-sales-world-records-51900/

    http://www.gamespot.com/articles/gta-5-ships-33-million-copies-as-take-two-posts-record-annual-profit/1100-6419609/

     [Edit: fixed typo of “815.7 Billion” to “817.5 Million” when referring to GTA-V’s 24-hour revenue]

     

  • May 9th at 6:38pm

    Game Music in the News

  • October 8th at 2:33am

    Game Audio Job Descriptions: What are companies looking for?

    Over the past dozen or so months, I’ve been copying down job descriptions of sound or music openings in the game industry as well as posting them to the GameSoundCon Facebook Page. In this post, I’ve pulled out the “Requirements” sections for a few and have listed them.

    Just about every posting has something akin to “experience with game audio implementation”, or “knowledge of game audio and how it gets integrated into a game” or “Possess a working understanding of the technical constraints of audio design for GAMES.”

    Game audio definitely begins with a great ear, great compositional skills and the ability to create great sounds using traditional DAW’s, but that’s really only the starting point. The people who are hiring are looking for something above and beyond that.

    This quote from the Senior Audio Manager for Volition, discussing what goes into the hiring process, sums it up:

    I see a lot of applicants applying who emphasize that they are musicians or composers. if that’s all you got, you’ll be outgunned.

    ..if you’ve got other skills that make you valuable, like knowing how to script… or knowing how memory and streaming work, … well, that is awesome, because that sounds like someone I might want to work with.

    Senior Audio Manager, Volition, discussing hiring

    Have a read at what game developers are looking for in their audio people:

    Here’s one:
    Required Skills:
    •Proficiency in designing creative, nuanced sound on schedule. •Proficiency in mixing cinemas with modern audio-post equipment such as Pro Tools, Sound Forge, Vegas, VST, TDM, and RTAS.
    •Extensive experience with audio authoring (FMOD, Wwise) and game implementation techniques (emitters, animation notifies etc.).
    •Experience working in a team environment, providing and receiving feedback.
    •Has shipped a minimum of three titles as a sound designer.
    •Effective verbal and written communication skills. •Good organizational skills.
    •Familiarity developing for multiple game consoles.
    Preferred skills:
    •FMOD Designer. •Pro Tools for Mac. •5.1 mixing. •Field recording: gear, techniques.

    This is for a jr level position—one of the few that doesn’t require “N years working on games” are a pre-req.

    • A detailed understanding of how sound adds dimension, emotion and depth to an entertainment experience.
    • An understanding of audio in games and how it drives the user experience.
    • Ability to track lay and mix audio to both animation and linear footage.
    • Experience in creating soundscapes for interactive audio products.
    • Skilled and proficient in using audio creation and editing software such as Pro tools, Logic, Digital performer, Sound forge etc.
    • Experience in using signal processing and audio plugin technology.
    • Willingness to learn new in-house audio tools and software for integrating content.
    • Ability to keep to schedules and work well under pressure.
    • Self-motivated, working effectively and efficiently.
    • A strong team player with the ability to share skills and experience.
    • A keen interest and passion for sound and music in entertainment.
    • Excellent hearing, for distinguishing sound quality.
    • Able to understand and accept critique in a positive manner.
    • A desire to deliver world class quality audio production.

    Desirable 

    • Experience of working in a game studio.
    • Experience of working with Unity 3D engine.
    • Experience of working in kid’s entertainment products.



    Here’s one that requires more experience..


    QUALIFICATIONS/SKILLS
    - Experience shipping AAA titles, great sounding games
    - Some experience in traditional music composition and audio post-production linear content production
    - Deep knowledge of game audio aesthetics and implementation methods
    - Proficiency with modern game development middleware (FMOD, WWise)
    - Must be able to operate Pro Tools as a primary audio editing tool

    And another
    Required skills
    3+ years experience in professional audio design within video game industry.
    At least one previous released game, where you’ve been mainly responsible for the audio
    Proficiency in designing creative, nuanced sound on schedule.
    Proficiency in mixing cinemas with modern audio-post equipment such as Pro Tools, Sound Forge, Vegas, VST, TDM, or RTAS.
    Extensive experience with audio authoring (FMOD, Wwise etc) and game implementation techniques (emitters, animation notifies etc.)
    Preferably worked with implementing sound and music in games built in Unity
    Experience working in a team environment, providing and receiving feedback
    Experience in creating and implementing sounds with limited memory footprint
    Effective english verbal and written communication skills

    Here’s a Jr Position:
    Required Skills
    2+ years of experience creating sound for games and/or multimedia
    Excellent understanding of game audio aesthetics and implementation methods
    Proficiency with modern computer-based audio production tools such as Pro Tools, Logic, Peak, and Sound Forge
    An understanding of traditional studio engineering, audio post production, and location recording techniques
    Excellent communication and organizational skills
    Experience implementing game audio via Audiokinetic WWise is a must

    Another One mid-level position:
    Required Skills
    Experience with CryEngine and FMod, and general knowledge of game audio and how it gets integrated into a game.
    Has released at least one mod in the mod community or shipped one commercial game.
    Some basic sound design skill, and strong organizational skills.
    Huge passion for games and a love of game audio!
    Bonus Points :
    Knowledge of C++
    Excellent troubleshooting skills

    And One More
    Knowledge Requirements
    • Have a minimum of 4 years experience required with at least 2 shipped titles.
    • Create and mix film-quality sound effects through knowledge of relevant audio packages (Pro Tools, Nuendo, Sound Forge, Peak, ect)
    • Possess a working understanding of the technical constraints of audio design for GAMES
    • Hands on experience using proprietary and/or custom game audio tools on a shipped title (e.g. SCREAM, Xact, Wwise, FMOD, ect)
    • Ability to work well and respond to pressure while communicating effectively in a large group/multiple project environment
    • Quickly master proprietary tools and development processes.

    Preferred Qualifications
    • Experience composing, arranging, and recording music of various styles is a plus.
    • Knowledge of recording setups and ability to plan and lead field recording sessions.
    • Experience with Dialog, voice direction and actor management

    This one requires “many years playing video games”

    Minimum of 5 years professional experience in Sound Design in the video game industry. Demos will be requested.
    A diploma in Sound Design is an asset.
    The ideal candidate is expected to have many years experience playing video games on consoles and have acquired a good understanding of current sound quality standards;
    Moreover, the ideal candidate should be a team player; have a strong sense of creativity, analysis and synthesis; be hard-working; have effective interpersonal skills; and have strong organizational skills;
    The ideal candidate must also be able to easily create and understand sound environments of video games.

    Lead Audio Designer

    QUALIFICATIONS:
    • Ability to work with Pro Tools and other DAW/audio editing suites.
    • Prior WWise and Unreal Editor experience
    • Strong sense of audio design for sound effects, Foley, and ambience.
    • Proven compositional ability in both traditional orchestral settings as well as more modern popular styles a plus.
    • Three years of game industry experience in a lead audio designer capacity.
    • Shipped at least one AAA title as a lead audio designer (multiplatform a plus).
    • Solid organizational, managerial, leadership, and time management skills
    • Strong written and verbal communications skills.
    • A passion for making games.
    • A portfolio of work that demonstrates these qualities.Proven skills and a unique artistic “voice” in terms of communicating and furthering a storyline via the medium of sound

    Video Game Sound Designer

    • Experience specifically in creating outstanding soundscapes and sound assets for video games
    • Experience designing sounds for fantasy genre of games
    • Experience with creature and spell sound design
    • Experience doing live recording sessions both in the studio and in the field
    • Experience creatively producing sound effects, backgrounds, and foley for games and / or animation
    • Experience editing and conforming sound-to-picture
    • Experience mixing in stereo and surround-sound formats
    • Experience working with both commercial and proprietary audio, and implementation tools on multiple platforms and workstations, including Pro Tools
    • Able to work with equal effectiveness solo and as part of a project team
    • Experience using and troubleshooting Windows and Macintosh operating systems
    • Game audio production credits on multiple major shipped titles
    • Development experience with MMOs
    • Experience playing World of Warcraft
    • "Building block DSP" such as Kyma, Max / MSP, or Reaktor expertise
    • Computer-readable or level-design style scripting or light programming knowledge
    • Experience developing games that use FMod
  • September 12th at 1:46am

    USA Today Reports Composers Third-fastest Growing Job in US: But they got the reason wrong.

    As was recently reported by USA Today, Music Directors and Composers have had a great decade, with 10 year job growth of 178%. The paper listed them as the having the third largest percentage gain in employment over the past decade according to data taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Composers were behind only “Petroleum Engineers” and “Service Unit Operators for Oil, Gas and Mining” in a study that considered hundreds of occupations over a 10 year period.  The newspaper further speculated that a “factor driving job growth for this occupation” is a greater need for original music used in “commercials and movies.”   

      The speculation that commercials and movies were responsible for driving growth seemed suspect, so we decided to take a closer look.  Although there has been a moderate increase in the number of movies released from 2003 to 2012, there certainly wasn’t the kind of growth that would match the increase in composers’ employment. In fact, although the number Indy movies has increased, there was a 31% decrease in the number of films from the big 6 studios. And with similar mild growth in media advertising, even combined with other traditional media, that couldn’t account for the large uptick in employment.

      Perhaps it was Music Directors (Conductors of orchestras and bands).  The BLS lumps that job together with composers when compiling its statistics (don’t ask us why!).  Given the trouble many orchestras seem to be having, we feel pretty confident that 15,000 new orchestras didn’t pop into existence while we weren’t looking…

       So where are all the new composer jobs coming from?  A deeper analysis of the BLS data shows a different and far more likely source than USA reported/speculated.

       The USA today article based its findings by comparing employment for different job categories in 2002 and comparing it with employment figures for 2012, a decade’s worth of growth.  And indeed, the number of Music Directors and Composers jumped significantly during that time from approximately 9,000 in 2002 to 25,000 in 2012.  That 178% increase over the decade put the category right up there with Oil Engineers and Language Translators, which is why it made it into the USA today article.

       But a more thorough analysis of the data shows something significant.  For that analysis, we went to the same source as USA Today, the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (bls.gov), specifically the Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.  There, we didn’t look at just the endpoint years of 2002 and 2012, but at each individual year in that 11 year period.  What we found was stunning:

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       From 2002 to 2008, the number of composing jobs remained relatively flat, with just a slight uptick from 2002 (8,980 jobs) to 2008 (9,120 jobs).  2009, however was a huge inflection point, with employment increasing 57% over 2008 to 14,330 followed by similar growth in 2010 and 2011, culminating in nearly 25,000 Music Director/Composer jobs in 2012.

       So what could explain such a dramatic, steep increase?  What would have suddenly caused such a large demand for composers?  The answer may be largely due to what happened in on July 10, 2008 and to a lesser extent May 2007.  Those events?  The launch of the launch of Apple’s AppStore and the Facebook Application Developer Program, which began the ascent in casual, mobile and social video gaming.

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       It’s hard to believe, but barely 5 years ago, no one had ever heard of an “app.”  2008/2009 was the beginning of an explosive growth in casual and social gaming facilitated largely by two entirely new platforms, the smartphone and the social network site.  These phenomena greatly expanded the player base, as video games grew from a ‘hard core’ fan base of console and PC gamers to the hundreds of millions of casual players on their smartphones, tablets and on social media.  Apple’s iOS platform, supported by the App Store, disrupted the hard-core, publisher-centric console and PC gaming space by opening up the platform to tens of thousands of game developers of all sizes.

      And build games they did.  Of the more than 800,000 apps on the app store, over 150,000 are games, ranging from immensely popular, well-funded games like Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies to small, little-known games like Super Hexagon or Ear Monsters from small developers.  Virtually every one of those games requires music, which is more often than not supplied by a composer writing specifically for that particular game.  Although some of the games on the App Store (and by proxy on Google’s Play store) are done by hobbyists unlikely to hire a professional composer, 60% of people who develop apps work  full-time developing those apps, according to AppDevelopersAlliance; these aren’t weekend hobbyists.  And there are a lot of them.

      The Facebook Application Developer Program was also greeted with huge enthusiasm by the gaming community.  Zynga, one of the first to jump on the fledgling platform, popularized an entirely new genre of game, the casual, social game with its hit, FarmVille.  According to the web site techcrunch a full 25% of Facebook users play games—over 250 Million people.  Those players need games to play.  The games need developers to make them and the developers need composers to write music for them.

       A conservative estimate of only 50% of games on the app store requiring the services of a professional composer still means that some 75,000 games would have needed to hire the services of video game composers (and game sound designers).  Add to that the growth in social games on platforms such as facebook, and several thousand more games are added to the mix.

      Ok, so there are lot of new jobs for composers.  But perhaps all those new Composer jobs are really bad— after all, composing a few jingles and fanfares for Angry Birds hardly pays as much as scoring Call of Duty or Halo.  But according to the same BLS data, the median salary for composers from 2008-2012 remained relatively flat, slipping just slightly from $54,840 to $53,420.  What composers are losing in budget looks like it’s being made up in quantity; over the past half dozen years, composing music for video games has been a growth field.

       Of course correlation is not necessarily causation, and it is possible something else caused the sudden, hockey-stick like uptick in Composer and Music Director Employment.  But the timing of the rise of mobile, casual and social gaming and the increase in Composers and Music Directors employment presents a strong case for causation, and, frankly, it makes perfect sense.  As thousands upon thousands of new game developers began to create tens of thousands of new video games for millions of new players, they needed thousands of new composers to create music for them. 

       Will this trend continue?  As the data shows, there seems to be a recent leveling off in demand.  And of course competition is fierce, notwithstanding the increasing opportunities.  However, the BLS still forecasts that over 32,000 new Music Director or Composer job “openings due to growth and replacement needs” will need to be filled over the next decade.

       So the next time you use plants to defend against zombies, or work to manage your tiny towers, or tend to your dragons, you’re not killing time or procrastinating. You’re merely doing your part to contribute to the economy and full employment.

     Brian Schmidt is President of the Game Audio Network Guild and Executive Director of GameSoundCon

     

  • September 11th at 5:34pm

    Grammy Nominated Composer, Austin Wintory to give GameSoundCon 2013 Keynote


     
    For Immediate Release

    GameSoundCon Announces Composer Austin Wintory to Present Keynote at GameSoundCon 2013 Los Angeles


    Seattle, WA September 5, 2013– SoundCon, LLC announced today that Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory will be keynote speaker at GameSoundCon 2013. Austin made history in 2012 when his soundtrack for the video game Journey was the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the “Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media” category.  Austin’s soundtrack went head to head against film soundtracks by legendary composers such as John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Howard Shore.
     
    “I’m thrilled to have Austin provide our keynote this year,” said Brian Schmidt, Executive Director of GameSoundCon.  “The haunting beauty of the Journey score turned a lot of heads, including those at the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the organization that presents the Grammy awards.   We’re looking forward to having Austin provide our inspirational Keynote Address at our ninth GameSoundCon in Los Angeles in November.”

    In addition to his work on Journey, Austin has composed for games such as flOw, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, Monaco, and the upcoming, highly anticipated game, The Banner Saga.  Among his numerous other awards are the Spike TV VGA’s “Best Original Score” and “Best song in a Game” awards, multiple IGN, and Game Audio Network Guild awards as well as the 2013 British Academy Awards for both Games/Original Music and Games/Outstanding Achievement in Audio.


    GameSoundCon 2013 Los Angeles will be held on November 3-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California.
     
    For more information and to register for GameSoundCon, visit www.GameSoundCon.com.

    SoundCon LLC is dedicated to education on the art, technology and business of composing for video games and video game sound design.  With award-winning speakers and panelists from throughout the game and traditional audio industries, GameSoundCon is the leading international conference on game music and sound design.  GameSoundCon creator and speaker Brian Schmidt received the Game Audio Network Guild’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a 25 year veteran in the game audio industry, having composed award-winning game music and created sound effects for over 130 interactive games.
     
    Brian Schmidt, Executive Director
    GameSoundCon
    425-956-3725
    http://www.GameSoundCon.com

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