The lights are on
Power Member - Level 10
Anyone remember the G4 of a few years ago? The one that launched in 2002, with the goal of providing news and entertainment focused primarily the video game industry? Yeah, I wonder what happened to that.
The last time I really tuned into G4 was at least a year ago. I couldn’t stand the reality T.V. marathons, the ditzy hosts that couldn’t tell Mario from Master Chief, or the lack of video game/technology content. Everything seemed wrong, and I recently found myself wondering what exactly caused it’s transformation from a hub for gaming and technology, to a hub for all interests of the stereotypical male.
As I mentioned, G4, formerly known as G4techTV, was once the station to watch if you were into gaming. It launched with thirteen original series, all of which covered some aspect of video games. Whether it was game culture, reviews, news, tips, or even art, G4 was the place to find it. The station built upon it’s original shows, and even gave some the axe in favor of more popular shows such as X-Play and Attack of the Show, (which would later be the shows that kept the network on it’s feet.) However, despite it’s separate successes and failures, it all was about to change.
On May 6th, 2006, the entertainment magazine, Variety, reported that G4 would be changing drastically. A G4 executive stated, “Guys like to play games, but not necessarily watch a bunch of shows with games on the screen. So what we’re doing now is expanding G4 from a network solely defined by video games to one inspired by them.”
This expansion was more of a transformation than anything. Three of the original thirteen shows lasted past the 2006 “expansion,” of which only “Cheat!” maintained it’s original form. Although, it later condensed down to a measly feature on X-Play. Slowly, video game shows drifted from the lineup, replaced by reality television programs like “Cops” and “Cheaters.” With this shift also came harsh criticism from G4 viewers who didn’t appreciate the network’s lack of video game content. It’s understandable that G4 made the change in hopes of competing with other male-oriented networks, namely Spike, but many would argue that G4 lost it’s unique identity in the process.
Obviously, G4’s expansion didn’t work out for them in the long run. Lost in their hopes to obtain a broader male demographic, a large portion of their video game-centric demographic was severed. DirecTV must’ve took note, because in late 2010 the television giant announced that it was removing G4 from it’s lineup. Reasons cited included low ratings, and “low subscriber interest.” I guess that’s what G4 gets for ignoring the audience it was built upon.
To myself and many others, the DirecTV drop really didn’t come as a surprise. If you’re a DirecTV subscriber and have been wondering where you can get your G4 fix, the network is now available exclusively from Dish Network and two internet television services, AT&T’s U-Verse and Verizon’s FiOS.
What G4 could’ve been is really a hard question to answer. Would they have continued to grow and eventually prosper alongside the rest of gaming as the place on television for video games? Would they have died out before the birth of our current generation of consoles, the period where the video game industry began it’s exponential growth?
I believe the first of the two possibilities is most plausible. With the advent of the next generation of consoles, many programs from the original G4 would've likely skyrocketed in popularity. “Portal,” a show focused on multiplayer gaming would’ve been able to cover Xbox Live and Playstation Network during their prime, and possibly even sprinkle some Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection into their headlines every few months. “Pulse” was focused on delivering the news of the video game world, and what better time to be covering video game industry news during the PSN debacle, the Modern Warfare 2/Russia fiasco, or even just the release of any of the outstanding games introduced in recent years.
Shows that featured the intelligent discussion of video games could’ve been implemented, featuring the insight of journalists that would be bursting at the seams to express their opinions. The best in the industry could discuss things like, video games as an art form, gameplay vs. cinematic cutscenes, microtransactions, choice & conflict, and the game reviewing process. Yes, I’m aware that a plethora of podcasts cover these topics, but why not have the industry heard by a broader audience, one that would help the industry grow in number and diversity?
Major League Gaming could broadcast their news and events live on the network. Cinematech could make a return, advertising games with trailers, video game art and music. (Portal 2 Soundtrack, anyone?) A show centered around classics, possibly showing replays or documentaries, could pull in the more cultured gamers. The possibilities are literally endless.
And yet, we’re left with 1 hour of Attack of the Show, 30 minutes of X-Play, 1 hour of Cheaters, 2 hours of Cops, an hour of Web Soup, and a few more hours of Cops or Cheaters to end the night.
We may never know what G4 could’ve been, but my guess is that it’d have been something far greater than the reality TV and viral web videos we’re provided with now.
So what are your thoughts on the current G4? What would you like to change? Do you think a return to a video game focus is even plausible?