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E3 2017 Media Coverage Analysis – aka “Who won the E3 media battle?”

[EDIT – the dataset initially used didn’t properly cover the articles published on the 10th of June, making the EA coverage much lower than it should be. I have replaced the following graphs: Top 15 Games; Publishers Conferences Compared; Publishers in the Media]

It’s that time of year again: the week after E3, and time for me to go over the numbers and media coverage from the show, as per tradition. If this the first time for you, please fee free to have a look at the methodology used, and read the blog posts for 2015 and 2016.

Platforms

First, looking at the biggest players at E3, the console manufacturers, in many ways this was an interesting year in light of their performance at previous E3’s.

For the first time since we started measuring media coverage at E3 in 2014, Sony is not leading. It has to be said that the gap between them and Microsoft is very small, but this comes on the back of Microsoft growing for the 4th year in a row, and where Sony had its 3rd best performance out of 4 companies (on the back of its best performance last year).

Nintendo, on the other hand, has had its best E3, doubling the coverage they got last year. The Switch is clearly a commercial success and is also popular with the media. With a smaller lineup than its competitors, it is quite the performance for them. The wider 3rd party program, with Ubisoft’s partnership at the forefront, is likely a significant contribution.

Like last year, I created a Google Spreadsheet to list all the announcements done at E3’s press events – feel free to have a look for your own analysis of the lineup announced for each company:

https://twitter.com/icotom/status/874684542220722176

Personally, here are my thoughts on the 3 manufacturer press events:

  • Microsoft. It was their best E3 conference to date, as far as I am concerned. They finally hit the right tone in their announcements. However, nothing they have announced is really pushing the Xbox consoles over their competitors. Not many exclusives that would drive someone to pick an Xbox over anything else. The Xbox One X, if anything, is a console for the convinced customer, the one already in the ecosystem.
  • Sony. The conference wasn’t mind-blowing, and the media coverage reflects this, but I think Sony was just playing it safe. There have been enough PlayStation exclusives to come out ahead of the show to allow them to message the console as the better alternative in terms of catalogue. The numerous VR games shown was a great reminder of the PlayStation VR, a strong differentiator when compared to other consoles. My biggest issue with the event was the format. It was hard to understand if the pre-show was meant to be considered as part of the main event – and many of the more interesting projects were revealed there. I will also note that during the show, the dates of this year’s PlayStation Experience were announced. This is a strong message that PSX is becoming the main press event for Sony, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve held back a number of high-profile announcements.
  • Nintendo. The numbers are quite telling – this was the best E3 for Nintendo in years. They were coming off of the back of an excellent launch for the Switch, and announced a number of high-profile games that are coming out very soon for the console. In terms of short-term hype, this was brilliantly executed. I am still somewhat confused by the Pokemon and Metroid Prime 4 announcements – they are likely to hype a core fanbase, and have the risk of setting expectations beyond what is being developed. I find announcements of this type are better done with something to show in order to frame what is being put together. But who knows with Nintendo? They may well knock these titles straight out of the ballpark.

Looking at specific platforms, a few things are interesting to highlight:

The Switch got more coverage than the Xbox One X last week – which is impressive considering the higher profile of the Xbox brand. Also impressive: the 3DS is still getting a decent amount of coverage.

 

The main point to consider, looking at the reach of each console, is the fact that the Xbox brand seems to be very good at getting covered by higher profile media. The short lead the Xbox One has over the PS4 is translated to a more significant lead in reach. And the Xbox One X, being slightly behind in terms of the number of articles compared to the Switch, sees a significant lead when considering the corresponding reach.

Finally, I wanted to check the VR device coverage, to compare it with last years.

Again, PSVR is leading. But, there were about half as many articles as at last E3. That’s a steep decline, most likely due to the fact that the speculation on VR is now in a different phase, with all the devices on the market and being known quantities.

Games

Like the previous year, I looked at the top games based on the volume of media coverage.

 

Here are a few thoughts coming to me immediately after looking at this list of games:

  • [This was what was initially written in the article] EA didn’t do as well as last year. At that time, they had two games that had more than 2,000 articles. This year, Anthem, their best performing game, doesn’t reach that threshold. It’s interesting to note that Anthem is the only newly announced IP on the list.
  • [EDIT –  Anthem and Star Wars Battlefront 2 show up as two very strong titles in the EA line-up, bringing the total number of games passing the 2,000 articles during E3 week to 3 this year, compared to 5 in 2016. EA keeps 2 titles in that threshold though, a solid, constant performance.]
  • Assassin’s Creed Origins is leading for a number of reasons: the game was featured significantly at 2 press events (Microsoft and Ubisoft) on top of being playable at E3.
  • Skyrim is marked with an asterisk because it featured in a few different capacities: the Switch Port during the Nintendo conference, the PSVR port during the Sony conference, as well as the fact that the next expansion for Elder Scrolls Legends is featuring Skyrim. This means it’s more difficult than usual to point to this as a game singularly featured.
  • With only one game in the 2,000+ articles category for coverage, 2017 is a year with weaker big game announcements than 2016 (which had 5 games in the 2,000+). It says nothing about the quality of the games of course – it is purely a statement of their media coverage.

There were 3 publisher-powered press conferences this year, with Square Enix skipping it again this year. Ubisoft, after three years of growth, is finally coming on top, in large part thanks to the Assassin’s Creed Origins coverage.

[This was what was initially written in the article] EA didn’t seem to manage to secure the right attention. It might be the EA Play formula that didn’t work as well as last year (a single location this time), it might mean the lineup didn’t catch the attention in the same way that last year did. It has to be said that FIFA 18 being a top game for EA this year isn’t actually a good sign, as FIFA 18 didn’t get as much coverage as FIFA 17 had last year. The most disappointing of all is the coverage for Battlefront 2, considering the power of the Star Wars brand and the release this winter of Episode 8.

[EDIT – With the proper dataset, EA’s performance is much more in line with the profile of the company over the past few years, with Star Wars Battlefront II as a top game, and Anthem’s performing very well, in great part due to the double featuring at the EA conference and the Microsoft event]

Bethesda did OK – the two new games obviously getting most of the coverage. But the really strong IPs of the publisher, Elder Scrolls and Fallout, had no revolutionary announcements around them, and in that respect, Bethesda still performed quite well considering.

Finally, Ubisoft’s conference was praised by many attendees and analysts as the best of the show. It had a wide range or projects showcased, an unexpected number of new projects revealed. The lineup was very strong, and then Ubisoft also managed to throw a few curve balls. The fact that they’re going after the declining toys-to-life market with Starlink was totally unexpected, for instance.

Looking into the publishers’ names and how often they were mentioned in the media reinforces the apparent success of Ubisoft:

All 3 companies with a press event did far better than all the others which didn’t. Bethesda and EA both had significantly less coverage than last year though (-25% for EA; -15% for Bethesda). And to nail down Ubisoft’s stellar performance this year, you can look at the progression over the past two years:

Case studies

No short selection of games for this year’s case studies. Instead, I looked at how 2 games’ coverage evolved year-on-year, and how two games from Klei compared to each other a year apart.

After its 4th year being featured at E3, Cuphead is finally going to be released. This illustrates quite nicely how much having a release date helps you coverage-wise. At this point, the game has been covered a lot over the years. The fatigue shows through the numbers at E3 2016, so the 2017 numbers overall indicate a very good performance for a game of that profile.

In its third year at E3, the Dontnod title coverage illustrates a few interesting points:

  • Its first year at E3, the game wasn’t featured at any conference, and it had a very decent coverage considering.
  • Last year, it was featured during the PC Gaming Show, showing the significant visibility this smaller press conference can still bring you.
  • This year is the last one before the game releases. The date has been announced, a feature video was released the previous week (and thus mostly absent in the numbers above), gameplay was at the center of the communication at this E3’s beats. A strong coverage overall, even if not in the range of blockbusters.

These projects by Klei are very interesting to compare: they were both revealed at the PC Gaming Show. It is very difficult to get comparable data over time, but this is quite interesting – two games by the same developer, announced at the same conference at E3.

I haven’t shared data over the PC Gaming Show in the past, and it is mostly because the branding is not as strong and many announcements get relayed without mentioning the event. The fact that a games media outlet is attached to the event as the organizer might play a significant part too. Anyhow, there is evidence of growth in coverage for games featured at this event, and Klei’s games illustrate this quite nicely.

Closing words

I have always felt a bit conflicted about titling these articles “Who won E3?” as there is much more to the data than that. However, this year’s E3 is a bit of an exception. The announcements made, the reaction of the media to them, the progress of the media coverage over the past few years; all of this make me want to declare two, very complementary “winners”.

Nintendo – as they come back into the spotlight and significantly increase their media presence, this has certainly been the best E3 in years for them.

Ubisoft – with their numerous announcements, the way they were orchestrated, and the stellar execution of the Beyond Good and Evil 2 trailer release, all explain how they ended up as the leading publisher of this E3 in terms of coverage.

And I want to think that the two companies’ partnership also played a big role, and is probably not a coincidence considering the position they both have at present in the industry, and their respective challenges.

A few technical notes

Why Nintendo and not the Wii?

In the graphs on consoles over the past 3 years, I am comparing the PlayStation and Xbox brands to Nintendo. The fact is that the other consoles have consistent brands whereas Nintendo machines are using multiple brands. Moreover, Sony and Microsoft are two companies with activities spread across multiple industries and cannot fairly be compared to Nintendo, when we look at articles on games. Nintendo is also a strong publisher, and its brand is more established than one of its consoles, compared to Sony and Microsoft. Comparing platforms to brands is the best way to have comparable results to look at the Nintendo brand, rather than the Wii for instance (or even a combination of the Nintendo consoles).

What is the reach value?

* Like last year, I am referring a few times to the notion of reach. Here is a reminder about it:

The following graph requires some pre-explanation. In order to measure the magnitude of an article, with have created a formula based on the websites’ Alexa ranking to give their articles different “weight”. The more popular the website, the more weight we give to their article. This value is called Reach in our tools and range from 0.1 to 10. For example, currently, Eurogamer.net has a reach of 10, Gamasutra.com has a reach of 8, Road to VR has a reach of 6. So what you see below, is a chart of the total reach of all the articles showed above. We refresh the reach values constantly.

gamescom 2016 – Tally of the media performance

I haven’t recovered (yet) from this year’s gamescom, but I would rather do the customary media coverage analysis blog post while it is still fresh.

If you are so inclined you can read the 2014 and 2015 posts, but I will be comparing previous years to make it easier. The methodology is the same (data is from Sunday to Sunday, across all the media we track).

gamescom 2016

Let’s review the specifics of this year edition.

Dates

The dates changed again, getting closer to the middle of the month compared to last year’s. This year the dates were more “normal” as far as gamescom is concerned, starting on the 17th and closing on the 21st of August.

No press conference from either Sony or Microsoft

Last year Sony did not put together a press conference, leaving the field free for Microsoft. This year Sony again skipped the once traditional Press event at gamescom, and Microsoft has followed their example. While I can see the logic behind Sony’s move, after all they have many other events in lieu of the gamescom for their communication if they follow last year’s pattern, Microsoft hasn’t structured its communication that way in the past, and they haven’t announced anything to make up for the lack of a press event in Cologne.

Last year Sony used the Paris Games Week as its European press event, but there hasn’t been any announcement so far in that regard for 2016. They do have a new event called the PlayStation Meeting in early September, which I will keep an eye on for sure.

Numbers

Here are the gamescom 2016 numbers, as released by the organisers:

  • 345,000 visitors (same as 2015)
  • 30,500 trade visitors (-2,700 from 2015; -1,000 from 2014)
  • 877 exhibitors (+71 from 2015)

The space was the same surface area as last year.

gamescom has reached an interesting size issue, where they can’t welcome more people. The tickets are sold out and there isn’t much more space in the Messe to expand too. There is also the issue that even if they want to have more space, there might not be much interest from exhibitors to expand further than what they currently have, and the companies not exhibiting probably have good reasons not to. I will talk about it at the end of the post, there are some changes coming that might help.

So. What about the media coverage?

gamescom in the media

001-gamescom-year

So, I should preface this year’s analysis by a disclaimer that I don’t pretend to understand all the forces at a play where those numbers are concerned. Most of what you will find are educated guesses and I try to corroborate the theories with the data, but it doesn’t always work.

Here, we see a decline in the total coverage of the gamescom’s brand from last year. But while there was a significant drop, which was expected with the lack of major press conferences, it stayed at the same level as 2014, where there were two press conferences. So I would say that gamescom has reached a point where its relevance to the media (and the publishers and studios planning their communication strategy) has gone beyond the consoles’ press events, and it stands on its own.

002-gamescom-lang

As expected, a lot of the articles are coming from German media (this is where I plug our report on the media landscapes – you can download it for free and it can give you a sense of the size of the media in the different languages). Nothing surprising yet there.

003-gamescom-lang_webs

Looking at the number of unique websites mentioning gamescom, we find a different result though… There were more English websites than German websites covering the event (keep in mind that most of our database is very much games websites, there are plenty of General Interest media that we don’t track properly).

004-gamescom-lang_year 005-gamescom-lang_webs_year

So, looking at the past 3 years, we can see that in every language, there were more articles last year than in the 2016 edition. It all makes sense. The year-on-year drop can be more or less drastic depending on the language. In French and German,  it goes below the 2014 level for instance. But looking at the number of unique websites covering gamescom in English, there is a significant growth over the past 3 years, to the point that they are actually more websites in English covering gamescom, than German ones (again, in our sample).

English media were probably a bit behind the other ones in taking into account gamescom as a major industry event. It seems that this year, they have caught up, and they have increased their coverage of the event considerably. That’s impressive considering that it happened without the support of any major press conference.

 

Platforms

008-gamescom-platforms_years

Looking at the articles mentioning the platforms during the week of gamescom, the slight drop in articles on the Xbox One was to be expected with no press conference this year. The VR platforms all saw more coverage, with the PlayStation VR taking the spotlight this year.

What is really fascinating, is the significant uptake that the PlayStation 4 had. To put it in context, this is the coverage that the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One had over the past three gamescoms:

006-gamescom-platforms_years

This year was the best for the PS4 presence in the media since we started tracking the data. After looking more in depth, I don’t have one single explanation for this though, but I can offer the ones I have and some that were suggested to me:

  • PlayStation VR. We know that PSVR had a very significant effect, but in the best case, it can only account to half of the extra coverage.
  • Lack of Press Conferences. The absence of an Xbox press event meant that the attention bounced back to PlayStation from last year coverage. This is a good theory, especially when you consider the dominant position of PlayStation, even if the drop of the Xbox coverage, all things considered, is not that significant.
  • Natural growth of gamescom coverage. We saw the significant bump in the English media covering gamescom, there might be a side effect here where that benefited PlayStation in some ways. As we are looking at two different data sets, there might be a growth of the PlayStation coverage from the additional visibility that doesn’t necessarily mention gamescom.
  • Specific games. There are few games that seem to emerge supporting this theory. There is a little bit of extra coverage thanks to No Man’s Sky, and there is also some coverage specifically discussing Titanfall 2 coming to PlayStation 4 after the exclusivity of the first iteration on Xbox One. But in both cases, this seems very limited in volume.

For the sake of completion, here are a few things we know are not related to the increase:

  • PlayStation 4 Slim edition. The rumours only started to show up online in a significant way on the last day of gamescom, a Sunday, and the volume is quite low.
  • PlayStation Now coming to PC. The announcements (and its coverage) only started the following week.

If you have another theory, please let me know on Twitter, I am quite keen to hear your ideas as I might have missed something obvious here. For the moment, I think this is a combination of those factors that took PlayStation to its excellent media coverage this year.

Comparing E3 and gamescom

006-gamescom-v-E3_platforms

This year’s E3 saw very strong media coverage across the different platforms. In the case of the PlayStation 4, the growth in the media coverage at gamescom (+36% from last year) is triple the one it had at E3 (+12% from last year). For the Xbox One, we see a slight drop at gamescom (-8% from last year) against a significant growth at E3 (+21% from last year). It has to be noted that Microsoft presence at this year’s gamescom was quite timid. Its booth was significantly smaller than the previous year from what I could tell (couldn’t find a proper floor plan of the consumer halls), especially compared to Sony’s (it was probably 6 to 8 times bigger).

It seems to me that Microsoft backed out of gamescom more strongly than Sony, and the discrepancy in the media coverage is showing it.

On the other platforms, I want to specifically mention the Oculus Rift. Year-on-Year, its E3 media coverage increased +18% against a +95% increase for its gamescom coverage. In both cases, the device is now available compared to the previous year, but Oculus seems to have managed to come across to the media at gamescom much more efficiently than the previous year, with media coverage at the same level as its E3 coverage.

Games

Again, I picked the top 30 games in terms of coverage during the week of gamescom.

010-gamescom-platforms_years_b

 

A few things that stood out for me:

  • Pokemon Go and No Man’s Sky both are here despite having no specific announcement at gamescom. They just happen to be the hype-of-the-month, and it is as such a scale that they both take the top spots.
  • Final Fantasy 15 is the third most mentioned game, but only partly because of its gamescom presence. The announcement of the delay early in the week is a significant part of the coverage of the game (and by far the biggest beat the game received).
  • Overwatch had the double effect of announcing (and showing) a new map at gamescom AND the release of one of animated short movie (and an excellent one)
  • Call of Duty PR machine is losing hard to its Battlefield nemesis this year. Also, very interesting to see that Titanfall 2 is also doing very well media wise.
  • Little Nightmares was incredibly well covered for a game of that profile.

 

Concluding thoughts

I find the results of this year’s analysis are fascinating. I was going into it expecting to see some decline due to the lack of the big press events to support the media attention. And while there has been a decline in the total coverage mentioning gamescom, it was not drastic, and as far as the media attention on key game platforms, it certainly was a good week.

It seems that the event has grown to the point of developing an autonomy from the big press-only conferences, and has enough interest on site to stay relevant without them. Of course, all the key industry actors were there, and still supporting it, but until we see an exodus of such companies, gamescom seems to be now well and strongly positioned to be the most relevant game event in Europe when it comes to media, and is probably only second to E3 in the world.

 

Take notes for next year, and remember that the dates have changed again. It will at the same time of the year, but happening from Tuesday to Saturday instead of the traditional Wednesday to Sunday it has been at for years.

E3 2016 Media Coverage Analysis – aka “Who won the E3 media battle?”

E3 is now over, the weekend has passed, the attendees have flown back to their homes, and it is time for me to go over the media coverage of the events, as is now traditional. If you are new to them, I invite you to first check on the methodology that we use, and then to have a read of last year’s analysis.

Platforms

We now have 3 years’ worth of data to compare, and this constitutes a relatively easy-to-read snapshot of the event, and one that sets the tone for how well the event did, from a media coverage perspective:

001-consoles_over3years

This is the 2nd year where Nintendo as a brand is declining in the media coverage during E3. The lack of any hardware announcement where both Sony and Microsoft made one, and the format of their announcement that focuses on the online audience rather than to the in-person press conferences of its competitors means that the firm is losing out on mindshare with the media during the E3 week.

On the Sony front, 2015 saw a slight dip, but this year has seen the most mentions of any console brand across an E3 week since we began our tracking. This is on the back of the teasing of the PS4 Neo, and a release date and price for Playstation VR. It is also the press conference that had the highest proportion of new games announced:

For Microsoft, this also proved to be an excellent E3, as for the 2nd year media mentions of their console brand has increased, taking it to the level Playstation had in 2014. The double announcements of the Xbox One S and the Project Scorpio with its promise of VR support were the strongest take-aways from their press conference.

 

002-plaftorms

Again this year, the PS4 and the Xbox One are the two leading platforms in terms of media coverage. Interestingly, the Wii platforms and the 3DS have both declined significantly, the former more drastically so than the latter. A lot of this can be also be attributed by the significantly smaller support from 3rd party for the Nintendo devices, that rely on its own games for the majority of coverage.

002-plaftorms_reach

Looking at the reach (details on the method at the end of the blog post), the gap between the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One is a lot narrower. The generally higher profile of media covering the Xbox new devices is probably helping.

Another interesting difference is how good the Oculus Rift’s reach is compared to the number of articles. There seems to be a strong interest in VR devices from bigger media outlets.

003-VR-plaftorms

Looking specifically at the 3 leading VR tethered HMDs, the HTC Vive still got a significant amount of media coverage, through announcements made to support it (notably Fallout 4). Last week also saw a lot of controversy pitting the Oculus publishing strategy against the HTC Vive’s, probably feeding media coverage of both devices.

Of course, the Playstation VR was at the heart of VR hardware news with a launch date and price announced.

Games

Following the format set last year, I have looked into the games that got the most media coverage, before getting into the ones specifically presented during the publishers’ press conferences, and then looking at interesting smaller case studies.

004-15games

Here are a few thoughts coming to me immediately after looking at this list of games:

  • There was no “Fallout 4-style” announcement dominating the media like last year.
  • EA’s strategy to “not attend” E3 has paid off for them. They have the 2 games dominating the media that week. It seems like the notion from last year that going first gives you an edge might be true here as well.
  • Despite Nintendo’s poor media presence, it has one of the most talked about games of the show with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. By comparison, there were no Nintendo games in the top 15 ranking last year.
  • Overwatch is still going incredibly strong (if you follow me on Twitter, it was the game with the most media presence in May), getting into these rankings without having any E3-related news.

005-15games-reach

Looking at the reach of the articles on video games, it is impressive to see that the new Zelda has indeed caught the attention of the most influential media. In the same vein, whilst the new Hideo Kojima game Death Stranding didn’t have as many articles as the new PREY, the media covering it are overall bigger ones.

006-publishers-press

There were only 3 publisher-powered press conferences this year, with Square Enix skipping it this time around. While Ubisoft had better coverage for its top titles than last year, it is still not doing as well as EA or Bethesda, both having been set prior to the console makers events.

EA sees its two first-person shooters dominating the line up. Whilst Battlefield is a known quantity, and it doing very well is not surprising, Titanfall 2 is a surprising 2nd as the most talked about game of E3. Another surprise is the how a sports title like FIFA, a genre that doesn’t usually get a lot of media to talk about them in comparison, has had more coverage than any of the Ubisoft titles for instance. The announcement of the story mode probably played a very strong part in this. And lastly, Mass Effect: Andromeda, despite having very little shown about it last week AND being an RPG, also not the biggest genre for video games, has performed remarkably well in the media.

Out of the 4 most discussed Bethesda titles, only 1 hasn’t been released yet, and it had already been announced last year, showing an interesting trend for Bethesda’s games to capture the attention of the media beyond their launch – more so than the upcoming titles like PREY or Quake Champions.

As for Ubisoft, Watch Dogs 2 is continuing to get the interest of the media following its recent reveal. The time allocated to For Honor during the Ubisoft presentation was significant, probably helping the game garner media coverage last week. The conference closer though, Steep, despite being set as the piece de resistance, wasn’t as popular as other games from the Ubisoft line up.

For the first time (mostly because we have improved the way our tool works, and can now more properly track names that were tricky in the past for us, notably EA), I have looked into the publishers’ names mentioned in the media and the result is quite as expected:

006-publishers-press_brands

All 3 companies with a press event are doing way better than all the other ones. Interestingly, they actually do more or less the same, the excellent coverage that Bethesda got for a few games being counterbalanced by the larger number of games that are present in the Ubisoft line-up, for instance.

Case studies

Looking at specific data points, I have selected a few interesting case studies to quickly present here.

007-misc-fifa

I mentioned it earlier, but FIFA 17 did much much better than last year’s iteration. We are talking almost twice the coverage from last year. The new key feature announced (the story mode) as well as the timing of the EA press conference are my two strongest theories as to why this is.

008-misc-selection

Like last year, I made an arbitrary selection of games to share data on. This is the best way to show the different scales for games using E3 for communication. Here are some thoughts:

  • We Happy Few. It was shown, on stage, during the Xbox press event. The game has never had so much coverage since it was announced (unsurprisingly), and despite the absence of publisher support, it is seeing more coverage than other games with such support.
  • Vampyr. The new title developed by Life is Strange‘s studio DontNod, published by Focus Interactive, was featured during the PC Gaming Show and is probably the game featured there that had the most coverage.
  • Fe. The successor to Unravel as the indie-title-being-published-by-EA. It didn’t capture as much media attention as Unravel though (700+ articles at E3 last year).
  • Dawn of War III. Another game featured during the PC Gaming Show, published by Sega. It makes me think that Sega doesn’t put a lot of energy into E3.
  • Cuphead. This was the 3rd year for the title to be showed at E3. Still getting quite a decent coverage, but not something in the same scale as last year’s.
  • Oxygen Not Included. The new upcoming game from Klei entertainment (Don’t Starve, Shank), the game was one of the few games actually revealed during the PC Gaming Show. The coverage it got makes me wonder if the game might have done better in terms of coverage at a smaller event like PAX.

Overall, games that have strong infrastructures behind them (publishers mostly) have much, much better coverage at E3, as one might expect.

009-vr-games

With VR still being a strong topic at this year’s E3, I wanted to give a check on the VR games that were the most talked about during the week.

The two most mentioned games are both backed by very strong franchises, respectively Batman and Star Trek, maybe showing the path for VR to claw its way to the mass market audiences.

Closing words

All things considered, 2016 was a strong E3, although with much of the action happening on the periphery of the event itself, the “E3 show” as we know it is certainly changing. EA, running its event in parallel, actually came out stronger than it had in the past at the event. It might be a new trend starting, with the question of the role the show itself would play if more companies decide to piggy back on the draw it has with media during the week, without actually contributing to it. Would it work out at all without the support of the majority of large publishers?

 

 

A few technical notes

Why Nintendo and not the Wii?

In the graphs on consoles over the past 3 years, I am comparing the Playstation and Xbox brands to Nintendo. The fact is that the other consoles have consistent brands where Nintendo machines are using multiple brands. Moreover, Sony and Microsoft are two companies with activities spread across multiple industries and cannot fairly be compared to Nintendo when we look at articles on games. Nintendo is also a strong publisher, and its brand more established than the one of its consoles, compared to Sony and Microsoft. Comparing platforms to brands is the best way to have comparable results to look at the Nintendo brand rather than the Wii for instance (or even a combination of the Nintendo consoles).

What is the reach value?

* Like last year, I am referring a few times to the notion of reach. Here is a reminder about it:

The following graph requires some pre-explanation. In order to measure the magnitude of an article, with have created a formula based on the websites’ Alexa ranking to give their articles different “weight”. The more popular the website, the more weight we give to their article. This value is called Reach in our tools and range from 0.1 to 10. For example, currently, Eurogamer.net has a reach of 10, Gamasutra.com has a reach of 8, Road to VR has a reach of 6. So what you see below, is a chart of the total reach of all the articles showed above. We refresh the reach values constantly.

PR Intelligence – Video game events

While I had some requests to look into the Tokyo Game Show the way we looked into gamescom or E3, I thought that with the event being at a different scale (on this side of the world, the tool doesn’t track very well coverage from Asian media and they are just excluded from the data on these posts) it could be the opportunity to look at the coverage of different game events instead of an in-depth look at just TGS.

The usual disclaimers from the articles on the media monitor apply, but on top of this, I need to remind everyone that we can’t currently properly track E3 specifically in the media coverage (hence the slightly different methodology applied in the E3 coverage article).

Methodology for events – the Key 20 days

When looking at the way events are covered in the media, there was an interesting pattern on the timing of the coverage. There is some media attention as the event is getting closer and the hype is ramping up. You have rumours of the reveals you can expect, announcements about what to expect on site, this sort of things. Events also happen with very different timing in terms of the week of the day they happen. Business events will take place during the work week, consumer events will usually continue during the weekend. Then, you have such a density of information being thrown at the audience that you also see a good amount of coverage happening the week following the events when some interviews that couldn’t be put formatted properly during the event itself, or some change encounter that could only probably followed up on afterwards, can finally be published.

To cover all those aspects, and looking at patterns of media coverage across different events, I decided on a formula that seemed to apply fairly for all events. Taking on the first day of the event, I take the media coverage of the 9 days preceding the event, and the 11 days from the day the event start. I called them the Key 20 days, for lack of a better terminology.

As you will see, I also consider the media coverage on a daily basis, but this formula gives me a component to compare the events with each other.

Tokyo Game Show

This year’s Tokyo Game Show had a Sony press conference ahead of the show. And comparing the media coverage of this year with the coverage of last year, there is a very interesting effect that immediately noticeable.

tgs14_v_tgs15_daily_articles

The total amount of media coverage is not massively different from last year. But a lot of the media coverage shifted to a few days earlier, coinciding with the Sony conference.

It seems that the Sony conference had no effect but to displace when the media coverage happened. To be fair, over the key 20 days, there has been a marginal growth year-on-year, but nothing incredibly significant.

There are two possibilities:

  1. The Sony conference has just shifted when the media coverage is happening and there wasn’t an impact on the volume of coverage.
  2. The general coverage of the event decreased, and the Sony conference is hiding that decrease of media coverage.

I would tend to align with the second option, if only because the Sony Conference happened at a much more convenient time (during the work week). Of course, it shifted a lot of the Sony specific media coverage earlier, but I would have expected to see a more significant growth due to the more friendly timing. This hidden decrease could possibly be related to a weaker lineup of titles at the show this year compared to 2014.

This is just a theory though – at the end of the day TGS this year still had more media presence and any growth is a good sign for them.

 

Video Game Events scales

Events around video games seems to be multiplying every year, be they business events or consumer events. More and more local events are organised, conferences multiply as the industry diversifies.

In a marketing budget, events can represent very significant investments And not just because of the actual cash cost, but also in terms of the human resources that need to be allocated for it, and the disruption they can have on the development of games in order to have playable builds for them.

Getting a sense of the ROI for events is incredibly difficult – and while media coverage is one element to look at, it is definitely not the only measure to take into account. Still, this is the tool I have at my disposal, and one that can provide some interesting frame for references.

events_articles_k20daysb

To clarify this graph, both PAXes in there are the PAX Prime event in Seattle, the largest of the PAX event. PGW is the Paris Games week and I didn’t put the 2015 numbers because the event hasn’t happened yet (it’s at the end of October). I will post the 2015 numbers on Twitter and might do a follow up of this article on it.

The reason the PGW was included, despite being a pretty “small” event from a media coverage point of view is because Sony will do an international press conference ahead of the event. It was presented as the replacement for its gamescom conference that didn’t happen this year (leaving Microsoft alone to take the lead on the event media coverage).

What is very revealing with this graph, is the difference in the magnitude of each event for media coverage. Keeping in mind that the tools we use don’t properly cover Asian media, the TGS is a significantly smaller event compared to gamescom, and it makes sense in that regard. What is more impressive is the difference in scale between those 2 events and PAX Prime.

PAX Prime is a consumer first event, but it saw more and more announcements being made there the years. Cliff Bleszinsky’s upcoming LawBreakers used that event for its first reveal for instance (and to great effect IMHO). There is an impressive discrepancy in the media impact between the premiere shows, with established brands (and strong support from the largest actors) and the rest. While I expected a big difference, this is bigger than I would have expected.

If E3 was in the graph, it would dwarf gamescom, and everything else would look even more ridiculously smaller. If anything, I feel this shows there is probably too much concentration at the moment in terms of the media coverage of events. It will be incredibly interesting to see if the PGW can show the impact of the Sony conference move for the event coverage – it could prove that spreading the communication across more events is a worthy strategy, the way they brilliantly orchestrated the Playstation Experience last year.

Summer 2015 events

With gamescom, PAX and TGS within 2 months of the summer, I thought I could show how they get covered in that period.

events_aug15_articles_daily

It is important to remember that gamescom was unusually early this year. It will be back to the 2nd of August next year, and closer to PAX Prime again.

In the graph, the fact that PAX Prime runs over a weekend is quite apparent. Where gamescom and TGS both peak around the large conferences and the first days, PAX main day is on the Monday (and the last day of the event).

I also went and looked at the media languages of those 3 events:

gc15_paxp15_tgs15_k20days_languages

gc15_paxp15_tgs15_k20days_languages_domains

The first graph is looking at the total number if articles in each languages. The second graph at the number of unique websites in each languages.

For all languages, both in volume of articles and number of unique media, the gamescom is the largest event. It is a lot larger for Germany though, unsurprisingly as the event is hosted there, and a lot more local media is likely to pick up on related news.

It is interesting to note though, that there are more English media covering PAX Prime and the TGS (again, PAX being in the US, they benefit from the locality), but more articles are written in English about TGS. It shows they are just more news announced there (which is also logical considering the events profiles). However, the fact that about the same number of German media are covering PAX as TGS is more unexpected. I suspect the stronger PC profile of German media makes a larger proportion of outlets interested in PAX news, than say French media (about half of the number of websites covering TGS covered PAX). Looking at number of articles in French for the TGS compared to PAX Prime also shows a strong interest in the Japanese event compared to the other languages (and France love history with the Japanese culture could be at play here).

A few more thoughts

Large events are very unique beasts, they concentrate a lot of the communication happening in the game industry. But looking at the data for the smaller events, it is clear they are growing in terms of their media coverage too. They can play a very interesting role for companies that cannot compete with the large budgets the big shows are commanding. I will keep a close eye on those data and likely do a follow up, with a focus on events outside of the “blockbusters” of each continent (E3, gamescom, TGS).

 

gamescom 2015 – media coverage analysis

The dust has settled and it is time to have an in-depth look at the media coverage that gamescom received this year. I think you would all benefit checking out my article from last year. I will compare a lot this year and last year, but a proper refresher can be found in that post.

gamescom 2015

This year’s gamescom was particularly interesting due to a number of differences from the previous years.

New dates

gamescom 2015 was 2 weeks earlier than the previous editions. It took place from the 5th of August to the 9th of August. I have heard multiple theories as to why the dates were changed, but couldn’t confirm any of them. What is certain is that on the industry side, I haven’t met anyone who liked those dates. They are in the sacrosanct first half of August during which most of continental Europe is on holidays. While it might have been a motivation, in order to make it easier for consumers to attend the B2C side of the event, the business side hated it. Another point was the proximity with E3 which is further explained below. This said, it didn’t seem to affect much my own meetings (anecdotal evidence there) or the attendance numbers. But it probably impacted the second change from previous years:

No Sony conference

While Sony was present at gamescom and had a massive booth, there was no media briefing the day before the event started. Microsoft was basically on its own this time around, with no other comparable media briefing to face it.

The reason for this is more than likely due the proximity between gamescom and E3 this year. With an extra early gamescom, there were only 6 weeks between the two events and Sony decided to skip gamescom and to have a media briefing ahead of the Paris Games Week this year instead (late October, in Paris as the name suggests).

Expanded halls

This was the first time in a while that the exhibition halls were moved at gamescom. It meant some extra space for the B2B area with Hall 2 and 3 for the first time used at gamescom. The B2C section was also expanded, with the usually only partially used Halls 10.1 and 10.2 better populated, and Hall 5 taken from the B2B for the first time. Hall 1 was also secured for a one night event around German Youtubers.

Riot Games wasn’t present this year, after having occupied half a hall in 2014, but the space they left vacant was filled in with more exhibitors this year.

Numbers

Here are the numbers as announced by the gamescom’s organisers:

  • 345,000 visitors (+10,000 from 2014)
  • 33,200 trade visitors (+1,700 from 2014)
  • 806 exhibitors (+106 from 2014)
  • 6,000 media reps (same as 2014, but according to the organizers they were stricter than previously with the requirements for a press accreditation)

There is a growth for the event, even if it is not a massive one (were are talking about +3% for visitors and +5% for trade visitors). Considering the size the event has already reached, this is not necessarily surprising. I wonder though if the change in dates helped or made it harder for the growth.

Photo: Koelnmesse

Hallendurchblick Halle 7

In short, this year gamescom was again massive. But enough of this, let’s look at *our* numbers.

gamescom in the media

All numbers here are taken as usual from our media monitor. They cover the whole week of gamescom, like last year.

gc14-vs-15_dailies_articles

With only one media briefing taking place on the Tuesday, the peak of the media coverage didn’t happen on that day like last year. Wednesday is an important day at gamescom as this is the one day where the show floor is open to professionals-only. A lot of media meetings happen during that day, and somehow, this year saw a lot more output than last year.

So, despite no press conference from Sony this year, there were more articles published on the Tuesday and way way more articles on the Wednesday. Overall, this year’s media output was significantly bigger than last year.

gc14-vs-15_articles

More than 25% articles published in the week mentioned gamescom. That’s a very significant increase, especially when Sony didn’t have a media brief to announce something major.

gc14-vs-15_languages_articles

Looking only at the 5 top languages, there was some growth across the board, but the largest part of this year’s growth came from German and Italian media outlets.

gc14-vs-15_languages_uniquewebsites

Looking purely at the number of unique websites covering the event, it is interesting to see that there is almost no growth – the increase in the number of articles is coming from a generally bigger output by the media attending, rather than more media attending the event. This is particularly striking when considering the Italian media, where fewer sites covered gamescom, but still had close to 67% more articles than last year.

Platforms

With no Sony media brief this year, the results for the platform with the largest media coverage shouldn’t be very surprising.

gamescom2015_platforms_articles

What is quite striking is how the Playstation 4 performance is still strong in regards to its main competitor. A lot was happening for Sony at gamescom, their booth was large and busy, but it also speaks for the strength of the brand (especially in Europe) to keep such a strong media presence.

gc14-vs-15_platform_articles

Compared to last year, where they were holding a press conference, Sony didn’t seem to lose much media presence. It is good to bear in mind that this year was a very strong year in terms of the media output, though. Less media coverage, during a year that saw a significant growth, could well hide a much bigger missed opportunity for Sony.

In the case of Microsoft, the net gain is incontestable, with almost +50% articles on Xbox One from last year’s event. Also notable for them, is the very strong showing of Windows 10 in the media, even though this is across kind of articles and a number of them might just be related to the release of the OS and not be connected to gamescom. By our metrics, it is still a very strong week in terms of media presence.

Nintendo’s consoles performed better than last year as well, following the general growth of the event in term of media coverage.

Finally, while closer than ever to its consumer version launch, Oculus doesn’t seem to have grown massively its media coverage from its presence at gamescom.

Comparing E3 and gamescom

For reference, this is the same comparison I did last year:

09_Week-of-E3-vs-gamescom-2014-of-articles-per-platform

 

Those numbers from last year show a significant difference of scale between the two events, with E3 taking a much more prominent role in the calendar of all actors in the games industry.

gc15-vs-e315_platform_articles

The number for this year are very instructive. Where the Playstation 4 had a similar coverage at E3 year-on-year, the Xbox One had a great E3 compared to last year, and an even greater gamescom. The media coverage it received was at a similar level as E3 last year.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft having free reign at gamescom paid off – but I think it is important to highlight that it didn’t happen purely because of the absence of serious contenders. This year’s gamescom conference was, to me, the best Microsoft has organised in years, across the different E3s and gamescoms. If you ignore the incredibly cringey eSport moment with the commentators going on about a pre-recorded match, the overall line was very strong, quite varied, and had a surprising number of first announcements, without too much of the forced-down-your-throat “we are awesome” lines that are usual for Microsoft (and that I believe is not as well received in Europe as it is in the US).

It is a welcome strong performance and sets up for an interesting gamescom next year, when it will be held at a more usual time of somewhere in mid-August.

Games

Like last year, I have prepared a graph with the top 30 games mentioned during the gamescom’s week. All games highlighted in green are titles that were featured during the Microsoft press conference:

top30_games_articles_gamescom15_b

 

The star of the show last year was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (with about 1,700 articles). This time around, the Call of Duty game ranks 19th. The change of privileged partner from Sony to Microsoft is surely playing a big role (and we should see how it pays off media-wise after Paris Games Week).

EA and Blizzard also both holding press conferences had a big impact. World of Warcraft, while having a very very steady amount of coverage normally, rarely breaks into the most covered in the media. Star Wars Battlefront, FIFA 16 and Mirror’s Edge all benefitted from Electronic Arts media conference.

Metal Gear Solid 5 shows the incredible strength of the brand, and Konami did put a lot out during gamescom to promote their game.

Another very notable performance is DOTA 2. Totally unrelated from gamescom, this is thanks to the final phase of The International 5 taking place the exact same week as gamescom. I am not sure this was ideal for the game, but it still managed to be very present in the news cycles.

Concluding thoughts

While there is already a very interesting picture appearing from this year’s gamescom, the story won’t really be complete until we see how the shift to Paris Games Week will do for Sony. The lead that Microsoft has created in its media presence during gamescom is very real, but it hasn’t translated in something durable so far:

aug2015_ps4xb1_articles

 

E3 2015 Media Coverage Analysis – aka “Who won the E3 media battle?”

A year ago, I did a pretty extensive analysis of the media coverage around E3. Well, I have done it again, and it now benefits from the added experience of data tracking for the past 12 months.

As usual, if you are not familiar with the way the data is collected, I invite you to read the blog post on the topic. For the purpose of this article, I have only looked at the data from articles published during the week of E3 (from Sunday to Saturday).

Last disclaimer: of all the games that were featured in the main press conference, we have one that is problematic to track with our current tools and which has been excluded from all the data below: Just Cause 3. Just keep this in mind, we haven’t ignored it, it is just a slightly problematic game for us at the moment.

 

Platforms

To get started, I wanted to get advantage of some information I didn’t have last year: the data from the previous year.

Comparing the coverage year-on-year is an important indicator, one I wanted to check first. It is important to note that the number of media we properly track is constantly evolving – some websites die, some news ones emerge, and sometimes the websites break the way we track them, so the system for tracking articles is consistently improved upon. Overall, I think the pure volume of media we track is increasing overtime, but it is a rather slow increase.

E3 - Platforms in the media - number of articles

In terms of number of articles, we can see a decline for both Sony and Nintendo, while Microsoft has a significant increase in the media coverage. This might come from a stronger line up on Microsoft’s part or weaker showing from their competitors. We shall see later, but it might also come from a more clever selection of the multiformat titles featured for the respective conferences (well, between Sony and Microsoft as Nintendo is not invited to play that game).

* The following graph requires some pre-explanation. In order to measure the magnitude of an article, with have created a formula based on the websites’ Alexa ranking to give their articles different “weight”. The more popular the website, the more weight we give to their article. This value is called Reach in our tools and range from 0.1 to 10. For example, currently, Eurogamer.net has a reach of 10, Gamasutra.com has a reach of 9, MondesPersistants.com has a reach of 2. So what you see below, is a chart of the total reach of all the articles showed above. We refresh the reach values constantly.

E3 - Platforms in the media - Total Reach

The graph shows an interesting pattern. It shows that the media coverage might have reduced in volume, but the media covering the event have grown. It could be the websites have a better penetration than last year, or it could be more general interest media (that tend to have a much better reach) are taking a bigger interest in the video games news.

It also shows this year wasn’t a Nintendo year, hardly maintaining its reach from last year when both Microsoft and Sony expanded.

Looking more at the specific platforms more specifically:

E3 2015 - Platforms - number of articles

Leading the pack, the Playstation 4 has roughly the same volume of articles as last year. Xbox One saw a 25% increase in the number of articles mentioning it. The Wii U, the PS3 and the Xbox 360 are all seeing a decline. That’s understandable for the two “old gen” machines, but more concerning for Nintendo.

On the front of the new technology, Oculus Rift (which had its own media conference the week before), Morpheus and Hololens are all holding up nicely in the same range.

I added StarVR, newcomer to the VR scene, as they had just announced their existence and had a presence at E3. With 264 articles, and considering their lower profile, I think this is a good performance.

Games

I have kept things a bit simpler this year and avoided looking at the games as mentioned during the console makers’ conferences. They tend to bleed over the conference of the publishers and not provide much insight. I am going to experiment with the publishers conferences instead – especially as this year two new companies are trying themselves at this perilous exercise with Bethesda and Square Enix joining EA and Ubisoft.

But, first, just looking at all the games we track, here are the top 15 games the most mentioned during E3:

E3 2015 - Top 15 Games

First thing to mention, all the games making the top 15 were featured during one or more of the media conference.

Second thing to mention, FALLOUT 4!!! I have meant to write an article on the media coverage the announcement for the game had but couldn’t make it happen pre-E3. From the current research I made for that article, Fallout 4 announcement is the most covered game announcement since we track these data. By a large margin. But even with such a strong sign of the franchise power, I didn’t expect Fallout 4 to dominate by that much, especially after the storm of coverage that FF7 and Shenmue created.

Bethesda had a brilliant timing and this helps a lot for their presence in that chart (Fallout 4; DOOM; Dishonored 2). By going first on the Sunday, with journalists all already present in LA and with nothing to do for a whole news cycle but write about their games, Bethesda snatched a great spot. Fallout also got double featured, at the Bethesda event as well as the Microsoft briefing.

Sony, despite losing ground to Microsoft year-on-year, still has the knack to bring topics that make the buzz going: Final Fantasy 7; Shenmue on Kickstarter; The Last Guardian. They certainly won’t be able to use a similar trick for next year – unless they can convince Ubisoft to announce Beyond Good and Evil 2 at their press conference that is…

Comparing the publishers’ conferences

E3 2015 - Publishers compared

[click to enlarge]

Looking at publishers one by one, Electronic Arts looks a bit underwhelming. Arguably, Battlefront did very well, considering how loved the franchise is (the movies and the games), it is a bit surprising it didn’t perform even better. It didn’t pass on the coverage Battlefield Hardline received the previous year, a surprising fact. Mirror’s Edge coming as the 2nd game of the publisher is more surprising. While critically acclaimed, Mirror’s Edge wasn’t a big hit. Few details were available ahead of the show (and seemingly not in a controlled fashion that might have compromised the potential) possibly making it a hot topic for journalists on site last week. Interestingly, FIFA 16 has about 20% fewer articles this E3 than what FIFA 15 had last year. Pelé didn’t make up for it.

Bethesda is the clear “winner” this year. They didn’t have many games at the show, but they got the interest of the media. While Fallout and DOOM are strong and well established franchises that haven’t been seen in a while, Dishonored 2 has done very well for itself. For the second title of a new IP, it received 50% more coverage than this year’s Assassin’s Creed. Quite the performance. The other surprise is Fallout Shelter. While Fallout is obviously a strong brand, mobile games are generally not as well covered as PC/Console titles by a very significant margin. Fallout Shelter is not only the 4th Bethesda most talked about game (coming before The Elder Scrolls titles as well as Battlecry), but it received coverage comparable to Ubisoft’s key titles. My theory is that it benefitted from a number of things: the Fallout brand; the 1st game on mobile for Bethesda; being available “right now”; the excellent Bethesda timing mentioned earlier. If you are a journalist in LA on the Sunday before E3, waiting for the big event to start the following day, why not download this now to give it a spin?

I have already mentioned Ubisoft twice in this section, not in a very positive manner. What happened? To be honest, I like Ubisoft’s conferences. But maybe the formula is a bit too established? The Division‘s very decent performance is the saving grace, and a surprising one to me: this is not the first time the game is presented at E3. But it managed to garner more coverage than last year (about 10% more). Possibly, the fact it got featured during 2 of the conferences helped significantly? I imagine the game was playable on the show floor and that, along with a release date, was a contributing factor. Rainbow 6 Siege was also present at last year E3, and it also received more coverage this time around. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the disappointing element of the Ubisoft line up. Assassin’s Creed Unity had about 2,300 articles during last year show – compared to this, Syndicate doesn’t even reach the 1,000 articles threshold. I found the trailer quite compelling, I suspect something different happening in the strategy for the game this time around: looking at the daily data for the two games, it is obvious there was significantly more coverage on the days after the conference for Unity than for Syndicate. Overall, a weak media presence, especially considering that last year, Ubisoft had Assassin’s Creed Unity as the most covered game of E3 and Far Cry 4 as the 3rd most covered game of E3.

To conclude this section, Square Enix returned as a publisher hosting a conference. It wasn’t an easy ride for them – they had to postpone their conference after realizing they would collide with Nintendo’s; and the conference itself was… let’s say there is a huge margin for them to improve for next year. But beyond those considerations, the numbers are showing up. Even if you are ready to consider the Final Fantasy VII as a unique anomaly (how often will you be able to reboot one of the most well-loved games in the world?), the Hitman announcement has been very well received (arguably, I think the Deus Ex announcement in April was a better announcement, but that will be for its own case study). Deus Ex Mankind Divided did very well. It was supported massively by the 20 minutes demo on the show floor – a video of which was shared later in the week, leading to a lot of additional coverage for the game. Tomb Raider is getting a very decent amount of coverage, but maybe not to the extent I would have expected for the franchise. Overall, Square Enix did incredibly well (and that’s without being able to properly track Just Cause 3). Not sure how much more coverage they got through this though – a lot of their coverage was supported by console makers conferences (FF7 with Sony and Tomb Raider with Microsoft).

 

It is fascinating to see the two publishers that aren’t traditionally seen hosting an E3 conference performing so well in comparison to EA and Ubisoft. I am pretty sure the devil is in the details, and the fact they elected to have a conference this year of all years was also driven by the strength of their announcements. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have predicted such an outcome.

 

Mobile titles

This segment is a bit of a stretch as they aren’t many mobile titles that are part of the E3 line-ups, but it is the opportunity for me to make a point that I already discussing on the Goat Simulator case study.

E3 2015 - Mobile titles - number of articles

A quick overview of the games, from the publicly available information:

Fallout Shelter (Bethesda) – a management game, set in the Fallout universe, revealed at the conference and available to all at the same time.

The Elder Scrolls Legends (Bethesda) – a CCG set in Tamriel, the universe of The Elder Scrolls series. Revealed at the conference, it will be available on iPad and PC but no release date for now.

Lara Croft Go (Square Enix) – a turn-based puzzle adventure game, based on the Tomb Raider franchise. Announced at the conference, nothing specific on devices required and no release date announced yet.

Minions Paradise (EA) – a management game, set in the Despicable Me universe. I am a bit confused on the whole announcement, trying to do some quick fact checks, it seems the app is already on the different stores, since end of April, but the conference presented it as an upcoming game, the host even stating “later this year”. So, go figure. Not sure it would have made a massive difference for the media present.

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (EA) – a CCG set in the Star Wars universe. Announced at the EA conference, no release dates and no devices specified.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key (Square Enix) – an adventure game (I think) set in the Kingdom Hearts universe (now, that’s the easy way out for me to avoid explaining that setting). Announced at the Square Enix press conference, with no release date.

 

Here are my takeaways (based on a very small sample, so it might not be worth much):

  • I don’t understand how the Elder Scrolls CCG got so well covered. It might be the brand; it might be the fact it was announced as coming to PC; it might be because Sunday was a pretty boring day in LA.
  • Minions Paradise had a whole part of the EA conference presentation dedicated to itself. With a trailer followed by a gameplay demo. Nobody cared. Planning your communication for your mobile title like a console or a PC game seems like a bad idea.
  • But not as bad an idea as just announcing “a Star Wars CCG with all the characters of the franchise you love”. I don’t think you can make it sound more generic and bland. At least, the Elder Scrolls CCG had a trailer of sort.
  • Lara Croft Go was very well covered all things considered. I suspect Hitman Go and the relatively good feedback it received helped, along with a peek at the art direction and the game style.
  • Nobody cared about Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key, despite providing a (cryptic, I admit) gameplay video.
  • Announcing your mobile game as it becomes available seems like a good idea. The brand is a multiplier if you have one.

 

Non-AAA titles

Finally, I wanted to also provide a sample of smaller titles, across the board from the games presented at E3, to provide some benchmark materials beyond the big titles. Here is the selection with some context:

American Truck Simulator (Excalibur Publishing) – announced during the PC games conference. A simulator where you drive trucks in America.

Beyond Eyes (Team17) – announced during the Xbox conference and featured during the PC games conference. A game where you play as a blind girl named Rae in search for her missing cat.

Crossing Souls (Devolver) – featured during the Sony conference. An action-adventure game in pixel art and with a goonies vibe to it.

Cuphead (Studio MDHR) – featured during the Xbox conference (and revealed last year IIRC). A run and gun Platform game drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons. Also, my personal favourite concept (along with SUPERHOT).

Mother Russia Bleeds (Devolver) – featured during the Sony conference. An ultra violent Beat ‘Em Up game set in an alternate 1980s USSR.

No Man’s Sky (Hello games) – featured during the Sony conference and during the PC games conference. A science-fiction game set in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy.

Unravel (EA) – announced during the EA press conference. A physically based platformer with a character made of yarn.

Vampyr (Focus Interactive) – not featured during any of the high profile conference but presented during the show.  An Action RPG set in early 20th Century England.

With the selection I tried to have games with different profiles, that were presented through different medium during the event and with interesting comparison points.

E3 2015 - Non AAA titles - number of articles

 

Crossing Souls and Mother Russia Bleeds are both published by Devolver, they both got the same visibility during the Sony press conference and they were both hands on at the show (from what I could gather). Mother Russia Bleeds also released a trailer later in the week. Ignoring the media that trailer generated, Mother Russia was still getting more media coverage than Crossing Souls. The more immediately understandable gameplay, and the very graphic violence possibly making it an easier story to relay.

Cuphead has received a lot of coverage, thanks to its very unique art direction. Considering that Beyond Eyes was featured at a similar level at the Xbox conference, and was featured again at the PC conference, Cuphead has been resonating better with the media (and makes for very shareable gifs).

No Man’s Sky and Unravel are two games that have been incredibly well covered, while being outside of the AAA norm. No Man’s Sky has been announced in December 2013 and was already featured at E3 2014 (at the Sony conference). Coverage this year has progressed from last year (about 200 more articles). Unravel on the other hand is one of EA’s rare venture into games outside of the AAA formula, and with its reveal garnered almost as much coverage as FIFA 16. What made those two games perform so well? With No Man’s Sky, there is no doubt since its announcement that there is a strong following for the game and media is following suit. The details are quite rare and the E3 demo, while short, illustrated elements of the game never shown before. Unravel on the other hand was an announcement (more case studies on those to come), garnering extra attention thanks to this, and the incredibly emotional designer that presented the character on stage (a real doll made out of yarn) probably resonated well with the audience, while being at odds with the usually dry and corporate image that people have of EA.

Vampyr  finally is very interesting. For not being featured at any of the conference, this game made by Remember Me and Life is Strange developer Don’t Nod, was relatively well covered with its presence at E3, illustrating that the press conference are not necessarily the end all solution for a decent media presence from your E3 show.

 

Closing words

I have tried to keep the size of the article under a manageable size. There are more that could be dug from the data gathered (and I might do some follow ups), but I hope this gives a good view of last week’s E3 and the media outcome from the different announcements.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bethesda is the clear “winner” of this E3. They brilliantly managed the event (from a media presence perspective at least) and I will be very curious to see next year who will try to get the Sunday conference spot. Prior to the event, I was very skeptical about Bethesda decision to do a conference at E3. Those conferences are expensive to set up and a massive burden on your teams to organise properly. I also tend to question the wisdom to share the limelight with your competition during the same week. Sony’s Playstation Experience was a great illustration of how running your own media event could benefit you in a great (better?) way than a shared global event. With Bethesda running Quakecon, I was thinking they would be diluting their effort in an event where it would difficult for them to shine. I was wrong – they did great. Which makes me wonder if the others were not wrong in sharing their audience with them this time around.

 

I will leave you with this comic from @TheMeatly, illustrating nicely those concluding thoughts: