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September 18, 2014

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CES 2009:

CEO: Video game popularity tied to social experiences

Once a solitary activity, gaming industry focusing more on interactivity with others

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Cara McCoy

With scenes from “Call of Duty: World at War” playing on the screen behind him, Activision Publishing president and CEO Mike Griffith addresses the crowd Friday at the Las Vegas Hilton as part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

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Beyond the Sun

With games like those in the "Guitar Hero" and "Call of Duty" series becoming ubiquitous in households across the country, it’s not difficult to see why Activision Publishing president and chief executive officer Mike Griffith thinks video gaming is primed to eclipse other forms of entertainment in the next 10 years.

In a Friday speech at the Las Vegas Hilton as part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Griffith said advances in gaming system technology, the advent of sophisticated storytelling in games and the social and interactive experiences video games can provide are the reasons for the industry’s explosive growth.

“We all have an inner rock star waiting to be unleashed,” Griffith said. “This is the 'Guitar Hero' secret: It’s both a whole new way to play a game, and a whole new way to experience music. The convergence of the action game with the passion of music is changing video games -– and bringing games like 'Guitar Hero' to the forefront of entertainment.”

But it’s not just music-oriented games that are growing audiences in the multi-billion dollar industry. Across the board, as video games gain traction with new audiences, the industry is on the rise –- all while the sale of movie tickets, recorded music and the consumption of network television is down, he said.

A person who goes to the movies will spend two hours watching a film and then be finished with it. A video game, however, can provide hours of entertainment, he said. According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study released in December, 53 percent of American adults and 97 percent of teenagers play video games.

“Engaging the player’s imagination -– and even creativity -– through storytelling, is part of what’s driving the growth of gaming,” Griffith said. “Movies and television are storytelling media, and now so are video games, telling tales in ways that rival TV and movies for the first time because the players become part of the story, and because of the realism of what the players see on the screen.”

But interaction with video games goes beyond the storyline. Players are interacting with one another in online environments, which is propelling video gaming to the forefront of social experiences.

In games like "Tony Hawk’s Project 8," players can compete console-to-console via the Xbox LIVE broadband environment. In "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," the game can be played on video game consoles like the Playstation 3 or Nintendo DS, as well as on a player’s personal computer.

Competition has migrated from the living room to a worldwide arena.

“Gaming is no longer a solitary pursuit, as it was with 'Pac-Man,' 'Pong,' and most of the early games. Technology has allowed it to become a social experience, the advanced dimensions of which would probably astonish you,” he said. “Online community play is becoming the norm in gaming of all sorts.”

Griffith also attributed the industry’s growth to technological advances that have made gaming systems more interactive – namely, the motion-sensitive Wii remote and the guitar-shaped controller, which works with all gaming platforms. The new controllers, which are more engaging than the joysticks and control pads of the past, have helped to turn a group of people who had little or no interest in video gaming into consumers, Griffith said.

He said the ability to interact easily with the environment of a game is appealing to novice gamers.

“Ask any parent whose children play 'Guitar Hero' … Kids always pull their parents into playing with them, which has opened gaming into an entirely new demographic,” Griffith said, adding that more than half of all new 'Guitar Hero' players are female.

“Gaming is changing the world of storytelling, the world of music and the world of entertainment in ways that we never could have imagined a few years ago,” he said.

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