Backlog In Media

Imagine you're someone that produces media – or maybe you already do  Perhaps you make video games, or manga, or fantasy novels.  You have a good thing going, and of course you have competitors, but you can deal with them.  You can do more, faster, better . . . except there's one competitor that's getting better all the time and has a LOT more material than you could ever produce.

The backlog of games, anime, comics, media etc. that's out there now.  That's a growing competition for everyone working in media right now.

Today's modern technology and more integrated markets mean that more and more materials can be made easily available (though they may not be), or updated (in the case of games working on new machines).  Few things truly vanish – books can be scanned, old games are found on eBay, comics are archived and reprinted, etc.  There is an ever-growing backlog of media because widespread technology and general archiving, record-keeping, and accessibility has made it easier to get.

* Japan and America have huge histories of comics.  Between obsessive collectors, legal archives, and general record keeping those can be found and made easily available.  As I've noted repeatedly, translating older manga is probably a quick way to make some money for the right company.
* Books.  We've got text wars going on, but despite certain embarassments, there's a lot out there that's available.  Old books get scanned, print-on-demand makes things easier, and electronic format allows transmission of text.
* Video games.  Retrogamming is big right now, and there's a giant catalogue of classic games available – and easily accessible as MAME has shown (to the concern of some companies).  Updates of games are more and more common, old games ported and possible tweaked on new machines.
* Video.  Television, anime, movies are on DVD or available by streaming.  Years of series are made available.

That can be your competition.

People do have a taste for the new, but as this available backlog grows (and is cheaply available), I speculate it can become competition with newer media properties.  Simply, things are available – and accumulating.  People today may not be impressed with even the updated graphics of a 20 year old game – but in ten years the games of today may still be quite interesting to the audience then.

People will also have an interest in the "foundational" elements of culture – that classic book, show, game, etc. that was so formative on the market and the culture.  People will take time for such things even if they're neophiles otherwise – and today such things are more and more available.

This is an unusual time.  Those of us working in media need to keep it in mind – I'm not sure I see a "solution" as it's not a problem – it's an issue.

For those in media careers, my guess is that "new" material will always be very popular, but as said, it's an unusual time.  I suspect that the best guaranteed future in media is someone(s) who can produce guaranteed product and build something or somethings long-term, building a dedicated body of fans over the years or even decades.  That will be good for one's career wether the backlog is one's major competitor or one's fellow creators.

The backlog may not kill careers, but it is something to consider.  Because it's growing all the time, and I'm not sure just what it means . . .

– Steven Savage