Industry analysts see the sudden growth of the Christian video game market as a clear win-win opportunity for investors. With successful, high-profile Christian-themed RTS game releases, such as Halo and Halo 2 on Microsoft's Xbox, and with expectations high for Gibson's movie-to-game gamble on The Passion, the question on analysts' minds: What Would Jesus Play?
By Todd Fox
LAS VEGAS, NV--The dramatic growth of Christian-themed games in the worldwide video game market will propel the industry to $55.6 billion in 2008, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' recently-released "Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2004-2008." The Outlook notes that the fastest and largest growth will hail from the home of the video game industry--the Asia/Pacific region--where throughout the 20th century, missionaries introduced millions of nonbelievers to the teachings of Christ. "No surprise that the Christian video game market would start its rise in the East," stated industry analyst John Gage. "Christian Asians see this as a shrewd market opportunity. Who wouldn't?"
Christians on the verge of a market breakout
Christians worldwide are making their spiritual presence felt as the demographic base of video game players expands. While non-believing adult males 18 years and older still constitute the largest group with 38% of gamers, 26% of all adults playing video games were Christian in 2003.
According to Gage, "there were more Christian males playing video games worldwide than boys aged 6-17," who tallied 21% of the market. Overall, self-identified "marginally Christian" adults of both sexes constituted 64% of players, while the average age of gamers has risen to 29.
Profits and prophets
Other analysts note the success of games like Halo: Combat Evolved--a sci-fi shoot-'em-up--has not gone unnoticed by gaming and religious leaders. Halo 2 was released this week in over 6,000 stores to hordes of Christian teens, many of whom lined up all night to be the first in line when doors opened. "It was powerful to see so many families coming together; we had candles and sleeping bags and made a retreat of it" testified Marian Phelps, 35, who joined her son on his vigil outside of EB Games at the Northbridge Mall in Omaha, Nebraska. "We really got into the Spirit of it."
|Halo 2 continues the story of the "Master Chief," the genetically enhanced super-soldier who is the only human ever to successfully defy the Covenant—a coalition of alien races on a murderous march toward Earth.|
Hallelujahs all around for modern day profit prophet Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, who called it “an opening day that's greater than any motion picture has ever had in history.” And at 1.5m pre-orders and $100m in first day sales, expect Gates to continue to shout from the pulpit.
The Rapture of the market share
Nipping at the heels of Halo 2, Mel Gibson's The Passion, scheduled for release on PS2 this summer, expects to bring equally long lines to the malls. "If Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ has given us any indication of the robust nature of the evangelical entertainment platform," Gage estimates, "then his video game will certainly be a predictor of its market share in days to come."
Never ones to be left behind, the creators of the Left Behind Series hope to demolish the competition with their offspring Left Behind Games (LBG) and its first commercial release, Eternal Forces, a multiplayer, on-line gaming environment. According to their vision statement, "The mission of Left Behind Games is to become the world’s leading independent developer and publisher of quality interactive entertainment products that perpetuate family values and appeal to mainstream and Christian audiences, while remaining committed to increasing shareholder value."
While this real-time strategy (RTS) video game, not reaching shelves until early 2005, may well rank among the top selling high-quality strategy games of the year, LBG's corporate real-time strategy may be to pray the Rapture holds off until at least after the spring. At $44.95 for pre-order, it would otherwise certainly cut into profits.
Todd Fox can be reached at [email protected]