Date: June 22, 2005
When the Video Games Live tour kicks off on July 6 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, audiences will get their first look at what promoters hope will finally dislodge game addicts from their couches long enough to go see a live show.
The 18-date tour will combine orchestral versions of videogame scores, a laser show, theatrical presentations of gaming characters, and an on-stage gaming competition for a spectacle that producers at Clear Channel Music Group think could represent a potentially lucrative new live event market. “The thing about Video Games Live is that it has something for everybody,” said Brad Wavra, touring vice-president for Clear Channel Music Group. “The video games appeal to gamers, and the music is beautiful and orchestral, so if you are a symphony fan it will allow you to share the experience with your children.” The idea for the tour was hatched by video game music composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall (“Myst III: Exile,” “Splinter Cell”).
The duo hooked up with Clear Channel Music Group to promote the tour, which is being booked by the William Morris Agency's Marc Geiger, one of the co-founders of the Lollapalooza festival.”I get pitched stuff like this all the time,” said Geiger, who is a partner in the venture.”And this time it was a no-brainer. I think the videogame market is bigger than most people realize and the audience is fanatical. I know because I have two boys.” Tallarico and Wall came up with the idea more than three years ago, but Geiger said they couldn't get anyone to bite for a while because the partners they approached didn't see the potential.
Then when a limited -run show focused on the music from the “Final Fantasy” game had a successful outing last year, the pair's idea suddenly took flight and now Geiger said the partnership is hoping to do for live video game concerts what Lollapalooza did for U.S. touring festivals in the early 1990s. “This is a 'best of' version,” said Geiger of the show, which will present scores from such popular games as “Halo,” “Zelda,” “Metal Gear Solid,” “Warcraft” and “Myst” played by local symphony orchestras with choirs and a high energy light and LCD display on three giant screens.
Geiger hopes to attract between 4,000 and 6,000 fans to the shows and has modest expectations for the first outing. “It's like the first year of any business, we don't expect to do gangbusters,” he said. “But we will establish ourselves in the market and then it kicks in.”Tickets for the shows will range from $15 to $20 for lawn seats and $40 to $50 for pavilion seats, with a potential for additional price points that would include the opportunity to attend meet-and-greets with the composers.
For Geiger, the amphitheater tour was a chance to dip his fingers into the video game market, which sold $2.2 billion worth of merchandise in the United States in the first quarter of 2005 alone, according to the NPD Group market research firm, a nearly 25 percent increase over the same period in 2004. Clear Channel Music Group was so sold on the concept it entered into a joint venture with Tallarico and Wall 's Mystical Stone Entertainment to produce the show. “We're fully invested in this with Mystical Stone and we believe in this project having an unlimited lifespan,” said Wavra, who has already begun thinking about taking the show over seas in the future. “It was an opportunity for us to get in on the ground level. We wanted to be owners rather than renters.”
Though the first tour is currently booked into only Clear Channel venues to mitigate risk, Wavra said there are a number of non-CCE venues in discussion for additional dates. Wavra declined to discuss the start-up costs of the show – “significant, but not so much that we didn't think it was worth the risk” – or his expectations for grosses. In addition to music from 18 games played by local orchestras from each market, Wavra said the shows will feel “every bit like a rock concert,” with a light display created by rock concert veteran Bryan Hartley, video effects by Nocturne Productionsand a sound system created by the Clair Brothers.
“The video game industry is so big and growing so fast we need to figure out how to integrate the video game experience with the live concert experience,” said Wavra. “So many kids are insulated in their houses playing games alone or online, if we can figure out a way to make it a social environment, we can bring new people to our amphitheaters and get us involved in an industry that's growing by leaps and bounds.” Both Wavra and Geiger said they hope that good word-of-mouth from this year's shows will help spread the word on the shows among their target audience, which is very active online. The upside to the project, Wavra said, is that video games are not typically language specific and they are played worldwide, so the project will rely not pop hits, but on the popularity of the games themselves. And with an infinite supply chain of new games, the show can be upgraded annually.
Once the show gets through its initial run, Wavra said the plan is to make it scalable so that it can play in larger theaters in the non-amphitheater season.The show will be marketed using traditional TV, radio and print ads, as well a sex tensive online marketing and plugs by Tallarico on his two programs on the G4 gaming TV network. Geiger said organizers are also contacting game publishers andusing their mailing lists to reach out to gamers, as well as distributing flyers and doing street marketing at comic and video game conventions.
As far as Geiger is concerned, after the initial run, selling gamers on the concept should be relatively easy. “We don't know the secret sauce yet,” he said. “But we look at it this way, it's a very scaleable event and the talent is the conductors and the games themselves and games don't need catering or a bus to travel.”
Interviewed for this story: Brad Wavra, (310) 689-1830; Marc Geiger, (310) 859-4425