The Michael Pachter phenomenon: why does the videogame industry hang on his every word?

If you follow gaming news or work in the industry it’s likely you’ve heard of Michael Pachter. The Webush Morgan Securities analyst has been appearing in headlines and quoted in articles on videogame channels since at least 2002. From IGN editors who make him front page news to publishers who phone him up if he bad-mouths their games, from the readers who lap up his latest predictions to the fan-boys that get riled by his affinity to one particular console, people hang on his every word. Yet, he’s hardly the Nostradamus of the gaming world; Pachter gets it wrong time and time again. That got us thinking: why do people treat him like he’s some sort of prophet who has a real insight into the religion we call gaming when he’s wrong so often?

The idea for this article spawned from one of Pachter’s latest predictions, which got under our skin a little bit. He believes that the next-generation of consoles will be the last, yet we remember when he predicted exactly that before this generation of consoles arrived back in 2005. So, intrigued to see what his ratio of right vs. wrong predictions was and how the Pachter phenomenon actually began and grew, we took a look back over some of his comments over the years, starting with these incorrect predictions.

           

2006 Interview with Gamasutra

The digital distribution model is probably going to be extremely limited, and packaged products will likely rule for a long time. Digital downloads are not portable (you can’t take [them] over to your friend’s house), can’t be sold at garage sales, are limited to broadband households, and take up a disproportionate amount of disk space. I think that this will not approach more than 20% of the market for the next ten years or so.

We all know how digital distribution has taken off and even in 2006 with the introduction of the Xbox Live and PlayStation Network platforms it was crystal clear this was the way things were going.

September 2005 – New York Times MMO article

Believing that MMOs would die a death, Pachter said: “I don't think there are four million people in the world who really want to play online games every month. World of Warcraft is such an exception. I frankly think it's the buzz factor, and eventually it will come back to the mean, maybe a million subscribers."

As Joystiq points out, that would have meant that 75 percent of World Of Warcraft’s subscribers would have had to quit. That didn’t happen and MMOs are still massively popular.

In more recent times, he’s predicted PS3 price drops that haven’t happened, that the launch date of GTA V would be 24th May 2012 (wrong) and that Red Dead Redemption would be a failure for Rockstar (wrong). Future predictions include: Microsoft slating Sony when it reveals the Xbox 720, that Xbox will win the next-gen console war and that Wii U is a big “mistake” that Nintendo will regret.

Among many wrong predictions, Pachter has got some things right. He accurately predicted the launch window for PS4, for example, and the fact that Microsoft would drop the price of the Xbox 360. What’s interesting about many of his correct predictions though is that anyone could make them and stand just as much chance of being right as him. Indeed, gaming forums are full of this type of prediction. So, why do we listen to him in particular?

When Pachter started making predictions he was heavily involved in the gaming industry, offering advice to clients on investments in videogame companies. He was and still is involved in regular meetings with gaming industry folk, which has made him privy to information that isn’t always in the public domain. The perception that he’s in this inner circle immediately gave him credibility and a platform to build upon. The fact that he’s a great talker, not afraid to stand in front of a camera and he’s very opinionated and bold in his statements meant that his “inside knowledge” plus his willingness to talk about matters in a public forum instantly made him one of the most quoted analysts on the internet.

Over the years, journalists have put Pachter on a pedestal and he’s rightfully taken advantage of that. Commentators realise that what he says inflames ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again.
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