Evil Within 2

INTERVIEW PART 1: David Rice, Senior VP and GM of CBS Games

INTERVIEW PART 1: David Rice, Senior VP and GM of CBS Games

Recently, MCV sat down with David Rice from GameSpot about the way video content is changing the landscape of gaming media.

So what’s been the nature of your recent tour?

I’m not a gamer. But Gamespot has a collection of editors that know gaming like nobody else, so I wouldn’t really add much to the mix. But my media experience does, so I’ve been having a lot of strategic meetings with the team and looking at how we position CBSi as a network of gaming properties, how we double-down on what’s core to Gamespot.

We’re look at a lot of strategy stuff and what we’ve been doing recently is taking that out and talking to a lot of publishers. So it’s been kind of like a roadshow, but it’s not really a ‘telling’ roadshow as much as it is a roadshow where we discuss how the media landscape has evolved for gaming.

All these publishers are there to create games, and what we do is tell stories around these games for entertainment and information. So we’ve been speaking to them about the how of our coverage of the space that they create.

And with your background in video media like Yahoo and Metacafe, is it safe to say video content is a focus for you with Gamespot as well?

There are so many reasons why video is the most powerful storytelling medium out there. It’s visual, its rich – written text is very important, but it can’t deliver that same richness.

The other thing is just being part of CBS. CBS isn’t as known here or in the UK as it is in the US, but in the US it’s the number one television brand.

We get a lot of additional rights to television shows that we then distribute digitally through our online outlets, while in Australia those shows would come out through Seven or Nine so you don’t see our CBS brand in these international markets.

So here, our strongest brands are actually CNet and Gamespot. That said, we still have the ability to use TV shows we create about gaming in the US and push them into markets here. You’re going to see that we’ll spend a lot of time using videos as a great storytelling medium. Our videos have historically been very centred on game reviews or news, but what we’re seeing in terms of trending is that we’re moving as a media genre away from purely information and it’s becoming an entertainment genre in itself through eSports and things like that.

So an example of this kind of initiative would be the recently created GameCrib show?

It’s anything that’s gamer culture and lifestyle. I have these three pillars of what I think a gamer wants when it comes to media. They want discovery (and GameSpot does that), they want strategy (and Gamefaqs does that) and they’re starting to want entertainment.

Sports went through the same transition. It began as a participatory thing, then it became a spectator driven thing, then a cultural medium or genre in itself.

Then the distinction would have to be between covering gaming culture by observing the hardest of the hardcore and covering it as a culture of which gamers of all shapes and sizes can take part.

We do about 70 different video shows right now. Gaming in general is very global. So unlike other genres like news and sports where there’s a very deep focus lens on something like AFL here or cricket in India – it varies by market. So, I can create a piece of gaming content here in Australia and it’ll work really well in the US and UK.

What we’re doing is creating centres of excellence in each market, and what each is doing is creating programming which is global in nature. So the video production team here – they’re not just creating content for the Australian market – they’re creating something which can travel. And each market has a different focus as well. We’ve got some folks here that do a lot of live programming-

You mean like the Twitch TV stuff they do at local events?

It’s Twitch and a whole bunch of other live platforms that we use. What they do is create original concepts for live programming which then go out at different times in different markets. We don’t produce content for a particular market – we produce a certain type of content that has global appeal.

Which is really cool for the team here – when they were creating content for just the Australian market they might get 50’000 views or something, but now they’re creating content which can hit all the CBS properties, so they can get 500k views in the US, 100k views in the UK etc. It gives them a huge chance to get their voice actually heard.

Watching something like GameCrib or other content with a League of Legends focus, it appeals to League of Legends fans, but there are a bunch of other programs like the ‘What-if Machine’, which is where we look at the science behind some of the games. It’s kind of like Mythbusters if you’ve ever seen that? It’s a really fun take on that. Then there’s Giant Bomb which is essentially gameplay backed up by comedians.

Does the next generation of consoles shape how you guys produce your media, with things like the Playstation 4 ‘share’ button mixing things up a little?

There’s two things. It’s fantastic that they’re putting live streaming into it because it gives people more ways to share, and gamers are turning video on its head.

One of the things which is fantastic about coming from my previous world to here is that gamers specifically want live, they want long, they want to participate, not just watch and they want to really be a part of the programming.

It shouldn’t just be that it’s you playing these games – you should be playing with others. That said, next gen looks like it’ll really increase the kinds of programming we create. Something we create on Twitch won’t work on Youtube, and something we create on Youtube won’t work on Gamespot. So what we’re going to do is create concepts with different lenses which are designed for these different audiences.

Is the content the local team is currently producing where you’d like it to be, or do you have plans to change it up in future?

What we’re looking at is really folding them into our global team for games, and then figuring out what the strengths are in each of those teams. I think we’ve got a really strong eSports talent here, the Twitch talent here is really good. Additionally, you guys have a really good lens on all the things which are going on in Asia, and there’s a huge amount of curiosity there.

What’s interesting is not creating video content which is relevant for Korea or Taiwan specifically, but taking a look at the really cool stuff which is happening over there and presenting it in such a way that a Western audience can find compelling.

So the Australian team here should focus on the great trends coming out of the Asian market and sharing that stuff globally, but also taking these slices of content that these guys see as being able to build up audiences really well and tapping into them.

For example?

Well Twitch and eSports are two of those, you’ll see us hosting a lot of 24/7 news coverage, so its important to have a strong news team here to capture this time zone. As you can appreciate, news doesn’t stop, and the freshness of our site depends on having the latest news on that site when I wake up. And at that point it just gets handed off.

So again, I try not to think of the Australian team as an Australian team – I think of them as a gaming team. Which is so fantastic. By having these guys in positions, you can really have world cup type competitions which truly involve the globe.

Everybody plays League of Legends, everybody plays Call of Duty, everybody plays Warcraft, right? Your audience is so huge as a journalist on our team, even if you’re covering a niche topic. And gaming is no longer niche – gaming is mass. You can have millions and millions of people.

And that goes back to GameCrib. We did this show and we have a million people watching it on a weekly basis. It’s as big as some of the top television shows in the US, which is crazy.

Part 2 of this interview on a global – local media organisation is available now…

Evil Within 2