Game Shows are the Real Hero of Innovation

What helps drive mainstream audiences toward new technologies? Is it celebrity endorsement? Big budget special effects? No? Well what about the humble game show?

Content and technology have a vital symbiotic relationship. Just ask any VR developer (ahem) about the need for great content to support a new medium of entertainment – You can’t have one without the other.

From radio to TV to mobile games, and now to live interactive mobile experiences, game shows have always been at the forefront of bringing audiences to a new entertainment technology. This relationship between technology and content was perfectly on display in the 1950s, during the start of the exponential growth of television.  

For the 20 years prior, TV was a novelty. When TV was introduced in the 1930s, what would become NBC in New York City, mostly broadcast test patterns. Early adopters during that era were obsessed with watching Felix the Cat rotate inside of the magic box.

In 1955, however, the United States was hungry for content on this innovative new medium. Then, it was the game show $64,000 Question that captured the attention of audiences across the nation.

During the broadcast of $64,000 Question, crime rates dropped and President Eisenhower was to not be disrupted (imagine if Trump played HQ Trivia!). $64,000 Question was the only television show to ever beat I Love Lucy in the rankings.

It was clear: Americans could not get enough of game shows.

Game shows have universal appeal. They are easily understood, and most people would jump at the chance to participate in one. Attending a Price is Right taping is a rite of passage for newcomers to Los Angeles. Even today, Family Feud and Jeopardy continue to hold top spots on broadcast TV.

The game show format didn’t end with TV (nor did it start – $64,000 was a spin off of a radio show). Game shows and trivia games were early hits during the mobile explosion of 2010. Games like Trivia Crack and Quiz Up found themselves the App Store top ten and raised buckets of venture capital.

Just like their TV game show brethren, mobile game shows helped drive a casual audience to the new platform. From moms, to middle America, and anyone with five minutes to kill, casual games fill empty time, while providing a dopamine hit.

Following the trend of entertainment history, game shows are driving the interactive mobile games category. It started with HQ Trivia, which after a few months drawing hundreds of thousands of daily active players, became valued at over $100m.

Facebook announced that it is rolling out an interactive game show platform that enables social creators to more deeply engage with their audiences. It’s also a new spin on the classic approach of using game shows to open up a new category.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of video product, Fidji Simo, said “Video is evolving away from just passive consumption to more interactive two-way formats…”

HQ Trivia burst open the doors just like $64,000 Question did six decades ago. But $64,00 Question wasn’t the only game show on TV, and Facebook is taking a network approach to launch interactive game shows for every conceivable audience type.

If broadcast TV was about going wide, Facebook is going niche.

“We’re not trying to do one show or one trivia game. We’re trying to get every creator to create such gameplay. The beauty of the creators space is that they each have a unique audience,” Simo told Tech Crunch.

Facebook’s niche execution is a perfect use of the scale and audience targeting that were never possible before. It should be no surprise that it is the humble game show that is once again driving innovation, and bringing audiences to a new entertainment platform.

Facebook isn’t the only game in town, either. The VC / Incubator Betaworks recently announced Live Camp, an 11 week in-residence program “focused on the intersection of live streaming and audience participation.” SnapChat also launched Yellow to incubate “the next generation of great media companies.” Expect to see game shows at both.

And don’t be too surprised when it’s the game show that brings millions to virtual reality as well.