The Walking Dead wins VGA game of the year: Media companies take note

Video games are now a mainstream form of entertainment, and traditional media companies are catching on. Having long licensed their properties to console titles, firms like AMC, A&E and ProSieben are aggressively expanding their gaming portfolio.

Today, mobile gaming and consoles like the Wii have significantly broadened the world’s definition of a gamer. No longer is the term specific to 18–34 year-old males and younger children. And with over nearly 150MM social and mobile gamers in the US alone, media companies may have a unique angle to accommodate this larger audience.

The traditionally high cost of producing a game meant that most media companies would license out their TV and movie titles for development. Only hardcore franchises (think Goldeneye), Nickelodeon (Viacom) and Disney titles would survive the transition. But thanks to the low cost and easier point of entry for the social and mobile games market, more companies have changed how they view the potential of games. With recognized brands and franchises and large, built-in audiences, media companies enter the fray ahead of much of the competition in terms of exposure and customer acquisition. 

AMC’s popular TV show “The Walking Dead,” has been adapted to both social and mobile platforms and recently received the Game of the Year award at the VGAs. RockYou!’s socially engaging The Walking Dead Social Game currently has 1.5MM MAU after launching this past May. The Walking Dead by Telltale, meanwhile, keeps gamers involved with plot-driven parallels to the show. Releasing an “episode” at a time, the game has sold 3.8MM episodes to 1.2MM unique users. The game sold 315,000 copies in August, compared to the top retail title, Darksiders II, which sold 247,000 units in the same month.

A&E, too, has been actively pushing into the market, with games for its shows “Pawn Wars,” “Top Shot,” and “Storage Wars.” Pawn Stars: The Game is the most-played, media company-developed game on Facebook, with 850,000 monthly active users (MAU).

And despite a digital games market increasingly dominated by free-to-play models, these media-based games confirm that loyal audiences are still willing to pay a high initial price for premium content. At $4.99 an episode, Telltale’s The Walking Dead holds #28 on the top grossing iOS games.

Even if media companies don’t opt to develop games themselves, it’s clear that translating a large and captive audience (many of whom are already social and mobile gamers) into the games marketplace through licensing can yield fantastic results.

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