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

23 March 2013

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 fan-boys and gets people talking – it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. At that headline-grabbing moment, people talk about it, websites get hits from the boldness of his statements, and then the next day it’s forgotten. What Pachter has actually done to elevate himself to this level is quite remarkable and impressive and the criticism he gets for being wrong is totally unfounded. The fact of the matter is, journalists made him what he is and whether we like it or not, his sound-bites make superb headlines and get the gaming community talking.

Many developer and industry insiders aren’t allowed to talk openly unless their reeling off PR spiel. Consequently, Pachter is a breath of fresh air in an industry that is so secretive, not caring about who he upsets with his remarks, but speaking openly without fear. We all make wrong predictions, Pachter just happens to air his in public from a position of authority and standing that he’s built up over many years.

Pachter has cornered that space where his soapbox sits with no major competition from other analysts in this field. Having looked back at his predictions over the years and seeing how he’s been elevated as a figure to be listened to in the gaming industry, we have nothing but respect for him. He’s been consistent throughout. Consistently wrong, maybe, but he’s always taken hot topics –knowing what gamers want to talk or know about – and then has been willing to speak unreservedly on subjects that gamers are already talking about on forums across the web.

And that’s what Pachter does so well. We started writing this article because we couldn’t understand why someone who gets things wrong time and time again is regularly appearing as front-page news on gaming and mainstream websites worldwide. In fact, he irritated us somewhat and has done for a while. After looking deeper at his purpose in the industry though, we’ve changed our minds totally. Pachter sets gaming forums alight across the web with his no-nonsense predictions and entertaining quotes. There’s no-one like him out there in the industry who can trigger debate, anger among fan-boys and eyebrow-raising headlines like Pachter can, and long may it continue.

Update - Apologies to Michael for misunderstanding his 2006 prediction in this article and to our readers for not researching that particular interview in the depth we should have done. We could and should have chosen better examples.

Michael responds to PSU: "I think you misunderstood my 2006 "prediction" to Gamasutra. I was specifically talking about full game downloads on consoles, not about DLC, XBLA or PSN small game downloads, or mobile and social. My "ten year" prediction is 7 years old now, and so far, we've seen only Sony first party titles plus Mass Effect 3 on PS3 offered day and date for download the day the packaged good was released. I'll stick with my "prediction" that full game downloads on console won't be more than 20% of the market by 2016. If you're going to find things I've predicted that were wrong, try a little harder; there are hundreds of them, but that wasn't one of them".


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