OPINION6 January 2010

How the game-changing game has changed for game-changers

It comes to my notice that Google has launched a phone. But not just any old phone: Google has launched a game-changing phone.

It comes to my notice that Google has launched a phone. But not just any old phone: Google has launched a game-changing phone. I’m not sure that anyone has explained to me the specific game that mobile phone companies are playing (though if my recent experience with Orange Mobile Broadband is any guide, one version of the rules is called Shaft The Customer), but 147 articles in the telecommunications press recently have decribed Google as changing some game or other.

This is, lest we forget, after Apple has already changed the same game. The 249 articles which describe Apple in the same way peaked in 2007, so we must assume in this case that Google is re-re-changing the game that Apple re-changed after Nokia changed it after someone else invented it. Or something like that.

When we look at telecommunications in general, few games have been left unchanged in the last two or three years. Around 2002 or 2003 it was very unusual to find anything in the telecommunications press that claimed to change any game at all. We had 30 times as many game-changers in 2009, compared to what we would have expected had game-changingness remained at 2002 levels:


It isn’t just telecommunications in which companies are claiming to have altered the game as soon as the previous permutation of the earlier mutation of the last modification has taken effect. Here’s the trend in the business press, where we find companies that change games about half as frequently, but with a similar upward trend. In 2009 we got only about 20 times as much game-changingness as we would have expected, taking 2002 as our base:


Part of this is journalistic over-stimulation: the increasing resemblance of business reporting to a Mexican soap opera. So given that some reporters are willing to write up the opening of a jar of pickle as potentially game-changing, marketers are helping by using the term game-changing to play the most important media game of all: the game of Pump Up What Your Employer Does To Make It Sound More Important Than Selling A Product. You might say that their use of game-changing has, in itself, been game-changing. If you wanted me to slap you, that is.