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gamescom 2018 – Media coverage analysis

This is the yearly look at what is the most important game event in Europe, and the coverage it has generated around its latest edition.

gamescom 2018 – factual summary

While the event has always been in August, this is the first time that it’s been staged during the same week of August as the previous year. The event was also on the same days of the week as last year, a change from the previous formula (it now happens from Tuesday to Saturday instead of Wednesday to Sunday).

Press Conferences

There were no major press conferences at gamescom this year from any console manufacturers, or any of the main publishers. There was an official press conference/opening ceremony, though. It was not incredibly impressive.

Numbers

Before getting into the media coverage numbers, I think it is important to put everything in the context of the gamescom attendance numbers:

This is the first time in a while that gamescom has seen significant growth in its consumer attendance. This is impressive, because as an event it doesn’t obviously have much room to grow. The Kolnmesse is a huge exhibition complex, and almost all of its halls are used for gamescom; and while they are not necessarily full, the spaces that are a bit empty are very much welcomed by attendees, considering how packed it can be everywhere else.

This is also the first time that gamescom has passed the 1,000 exhibitors mark.

gamescom in the media

Even more so than last year, there were no very strong media beat coming out of gamescom. There were games that were first shown there, and they naturally created a degree of attention, but in terms of volume of media coverage, there was not much to drive a significant volume of articles. But even then, the results are drastic:

That’s 18% fewer articles than the previous year, and the lowest total since we started tracking this data.

Arguably, the best year, 2015, was the first one that Sony skipped for its conference, but Microsoft had a strong line-up that year.

The most impressive take away from the numbers, when broken down per language, is the massive drop of English media mentioning gamescom. I can easily see why: without a distinct headliner to encourage English-language (especially US) media to attend, outlets have been keener this year to save on their budgets and limit their presence at a European show, in comparison with mainland Europe media numbers (although these also indicate a slower year, compared to 2017’s gamescom).

The Platforms

Both PlayStation and Xbox saw a drop in the number of articles mentioning them during the week of gamescom compared to last year, even though that drop is not as significant as the one in the number of articles mentioning gamescom. The absence of an Xbox conference compared to the previous year means that Xbox’s coverage dropped below PlayStation’s in 2018.

The Nintendo Switch is the one platform actually improving its year-on-year coverage numbers. It is very much the console that has a lot of the media’s attention right now. It also helped that Nintendo broadcast a Nindies Showcase on the Monday. It is still playing catch-up in terms of volume of articles compared to its two competitors, being at half of where the Xbox One is.

The Games

Looking at last year’s main games is quite revealing.

All of the games in 2017’s top 30 were covered by 500+ articles during the week of gamescom.

And here we are in 2018, with only just half of the games in the top 30 having 500+ during the week of gamescom.

Of the games featured during gamescom 2018’s opening ceremony/press event, only Shenmue 3 (announcing the release date) and Man of Medan (game revealed) are in the top 30.

Concluding thoughts

In 2018, gamescom turned 10 years old. On the attendance front, it broke all its records (well, most of them). However, there is something to be said about the media coverage, which seems to have been at it lowest since we’ve been tracking the data.

And while our methodology might be a factor here (the same way it might explain part of the numbers of the last E3), the absence of strong press beats for new games is also very important. At ICO Media, the team has been working on projects present at gamescom for several years, and there is anecdotal evidence that media shied away from this year’s gamescom, if not entirely, at least shortening the number days where they attended.

If gamescom is to keep its status as the second-most prominent event for the game industry from a media point of view (and even this year’s sub-par performance doesn’t challenge this), it will need to find a way to get a few more major announcements back, to make it a must-attend for journalists.

Last Minute Bonus Section – But what about VR?

Sam Watts from make[Real] asked me about the media coverage of VR during gamescom, literally as I was wrapping this up – his timing was so impeccable that I did a very quick check on both Oculus, the HTC Vive, and  PlayStation VR, and the volume of articles mentioning them during the week of gamescom.

Unsurprisingly, the hype around VR, at least at this type of very consumer-focused game events, seems to have moved on.

Media coverage analysis: PlayStation VR’s launch dominates Oculus and Vive

Last week, Sony launched its VR headset, the last of the 3 major tethered HMDs (head mounted display) to release in 2016. This is a perfect opportunity to have a look at the media coverage around the launch and to see how well it has performed compared to the other two. If you have read our blog post on the VR in media report, the result shouldn’t be very surprising, though.

The Launches

To compare the launches, I looked at the 48h cycle around the official release of each headset and the number of articles gathered for each device.

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Sony is a lot better organized in regards to its PR, especially where games and technology media are concerned, and the results shows, with twice the coverage that Oculus had for its launch, that was itself better covered than the HTC Vive’s launch. But even then, the magnitude of the difference is really impressive. Oculus was first to market, in a highly anticipated technological advancement.

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A first explanation can be found with the languages breakdown. It seems Sony has been way better at engaging with non-English media than both Oculus and HTC were. In English, the PlayStation VR is 37% bigger than Oculus’, where in Italian – the biggest gap – it is 249% bigger.

This said I don’t have any good comparisons with other, different hardware launches. The Xbox One S was launched in the middle of the summer with little fanfare, and it is arguably not a very significant launch (667 articles for its launch if you are curious). I guess the NX launch will be the next similar event that we can compare these numbers to.

it is good to note as well, and that’s true for all three HMDs, that the launch is not the biggest media beat of their lifecycle. For example, for the PlayStation VR, the price point announcement earlier this year at GDC and the E3 coverage were both more significant when it comes to the volume of media coverage.

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The Games

With the launch of the new headset, a slew of VR games were part of the story. To cover the communications, that were spread across the week, I looked at their coverage for the whole of last week. Most of the articles were on the day of the PlayStation VR release or the following day.

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The odd one out in this top 10 is Robinson: The Journey. The game is not available yet on PSVR, but they announced they release date right around the PSVR release, getting a lot of attention thanks to that timing.

The Batman VR game has been getting a lot of coverage, the brand power probably helping it a bit. This game still has the best performance, getting more coverage than Sony’s first party titles Until Dawn and Driveclub.

EvE Valkyrie is also very well covered, especially for a game that has already been released on Oculus months ago.

These seem like good numbers for games launches overall – however, when looking at established IP’s going into VR such as Driveclub, the numbers are still lagging behind.

driveclub

These are the early days of VR, and it doesn’t seem like a bad start, but there is a long way to go still to get a proper foothold in the media. We can expect this to grow alongside VR adoption.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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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

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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.

Video Games in the Media Landscape – 2 New Reports Available Now

Today, we are releasing two new reports, both available from our website. These are our first public reports built using the data gathered using our media monitor and you can probably expect more like these two in the future.

The first report, which is free (you can make a donation when you get it on Gumroad, if you do, we won’t mind), is a look at the overall landscape of those media that are dedicated to video games.

The second report, which is not free, is a deeper and more specific look at video games media and their coverage of VR, focusing on the key platforms (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR), the mist VR-friendly media, and the key VR games that were covered.

Rather than describing them, let me share some of the findings of the reports.

Video Games Media Landscape

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One of the things the report looks specifically at is the coverage received by the major gaming platforms over a year.

There are two things we considered when looking at the relative media presence of those platforms.

First, the percentage of websites that mentioned the platform at all.

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There are two very clear leaders, with both Xbox and PlayStation having 95+% of the games websites mentioning them. The main consoles are so ubiquitous that it is surprising that they aren’t at 100%, to be honest. But you have to account for PC-only media as well, and they are unlikely to have much coverage of the consoles.

More surprising is how Steam, which is not a platform that has a very pro-active communication strategy, still has 90% of the websites mentioning it. This is ahead of the Nintendo platforms (Wii, Wii U, 3DS) standing at 86%.

Then, beyond the websites, we also looked at the volume of articles for each platform:

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If you are familiar to the blog, you won’t be surprised to see PlayStation ahead here. They have a very strong media presence, and they are constantly ahead of the other platforms in terms of media coverage. In terms of scale, that’s still 3 times the total number of articles mentioning the Nintendo brands, and almost 30% more than the volume of articles mentioning the Xbox brand.

Steam being behind matches with what we were referring to earlier, and the lack of a concerted communication strategy on the platform from Valve. Much of the coverage is inherited from studios and publishers launching their game on the platform, and without consideration for the brand presence.

 

One objective of the report is to provide some reference points in regards to how different the media from the different countries are a different from one another. We are able to put together this table to show what we called the “media affinity” for certain platforms based on the language of a website.

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One very interesting pattern is how French, Spanish and Italian media, all based in Mediterranean countries, have a stronger affinity to Nintendo platforms compared to websites in German or English.

This is not to be interpreted, for instance, French websites having more coverage on the Nintendo consoles than on the Xbox ones. But in proportion, French media are writing more articles on Nintendo than the German media. I think this is an important consideration – as this helps understand the different sensibilities of the different cultures when it comes to games platforms.

 

Here is another very telling example. Below are the top 10 games in terms of media coverage in English and in German, for the calendar year 2015, set at the same scale.

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We discussed in the past how The Witcher 3 was the most mentioned game of 2015, across all the languages we track. But in English it only came second, behind Fallout 4. In German, The Witcher 3 is the clear winner with a third more coverage than the second best game… Star Wars Battlefront!

Another interesting takeaway is the very strong media coverage in German for World of Warcraft. The game doesn’t make it to the top 10 in any other language. World of Warcraft had more articles in German than Metal Gear Solid 5 had in English.

We made the landscape report free to anyone, you just need to enter your email and ask for a download link. We wanted this report to serve as a foundation for other reports we are writing, and making it free allows us to use it as a reference points across different things we are building.

Virtual Reality in games media

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Our second report is more in-depth, is not free, and is looking into the media coverage of one of this year’s strongest trends, Virtual Reality. This report is also covering a full 12 months of coverage, from May 2015 to April 2016.

One of our findings was done by looking at the ratio of websites that covered VR in some way, compared to the ones that didn’t cover the topic at all.

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The criteria being very generous (any mention of VR or a VR related device), we were expecting very high percentages. We found two things we didn’t expect:

  • 100% of the English websites we track mentioned VR in a way or another during the 12 months period. It is very unusual to have such a perfect score, especially considering the tool has it own flaws, and it would tend more towards missing mentions rather than finding false positives. VR as a topic for video games English media is there and is very strong.
  • More than 25% of both French and German media didn’t cover VR in any way during the period. That’s significantly behind the average observed, especially considering the very generous criteria we used there.

Looking at the volume of content shows another different trend.

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VR as a topic is incredibly weak among the French video games media. They saw fewer articles than in any other languages. While the percentage of German media covering media is the lowest, the ones that did cover VR wrote more than 6,000 articles referring to it. This is still a lot lower than the total number of games articles in English and highlights the fact that, at the  moment, VR as a topic for video games media is a higher priority for English media than for the others studied.

We put together a formula called “VR Media Impact” to help us identify the most enthusiastic and influential websites about VR. We took into account the number of articles about VR and the popularity of the websites (based on its Alexa ranking):

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There is a clear majority of English websites (and lack of French media), but tellingly, the top 2 media are dedicated to VR. For them to appear here is not only based on the fact they have written a lot on the topic, but also speaks to the fact that they managed to build an audience and have a strong enough following.

The report has more detailed ranking for each language if you are involved in the VR scene and would like to see more.

Lastly, I wanted to show how the coverage for the key 3 VR HMDs (Head Mounted Devices) has evolved over those 12 months.

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All 3 platforms are trending towards more coverage overall. However, while Oculus is leading the way most months, it is slowly losing its lead. Playstation VR secured more coverage in March 2016, where it announced its release date and pricing, showing promise for when it releases towards the end of the year.

It is also very interesting to note the slow but steady growth of the HTC Vive media coverage. The lead in brand awareness that Oculus built over the years probably helped in getting good coverage for the important announcement, but the HTC Vive is now catching up to it, with the media at least.

 

Free Report £200

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

GDC 2016 in media coverage

VR dominates the headlines, PlayStation beats Xbox and less but better coverage for the event

Like last year, I have put together a quick summary of the media coverage the Game Developer Conference received. If you have a look at last year’s blog post, you will see the methodology for measuring events’ media coverage has evolved. For events, I am looking at the “Key 20 days”, standing for the 9 days prior to the events and the 11 days from the beginning of the event. For topics, like last year, we look at the coverage for the whole week, from Sunday to Sunday that specifically mentioned the event.

GDC 2016: Fewer articles but higher profile coverage

For anyone attending, this year was a really impressive GDC. The halls were busy right from the beginning of the week and this is the first time since I have been attending the event (about 15 years out of 30 years of its existence) that I saw sessions showing as being full on the Monday.

Surprisingly, the official press release after the event that shows attendance numbers, announced the event has only grown from  “more than 26,000 visitors” to “more than 27,000 visitors“.

Where does GDC 2016 stand from a media coverage perspective though?

001-gdc_articles

There has been a slight decline in the number of articles mentioning GDC this year. It still saw more media coverage than 2 years ago though, and this is a significant amount of media attention for a professional event.

The fact is, even more than other comparable events, GDC media coverage is very dependent on the profile of the announcements made during the week and there are no staple press conferences like the ones at E3 or gamescom. Last year’s HTC Vive reveal, or the Unreal and Unity shifts of business models announcements might be at play here? The single biggest news in this 2016 edition was the Playstation VR’s price point though, but more on this later.

002-gameevents_articles

* Just a reminder that E3 is missing due to technical limitations with our tools.

The GDC stays in the same range of media coverage as the Playstation Experience or the Paris Games Week (the one with the Sony Press Conference).

However, there is one metric on which it stays ahead.

I have mentioned in the past, we give different media outlets a score based on their Alexa ranking. The better the ranking, the higher the score, up to a maximum of 10. This score doesn’t feature very often in the blog post as it is not always relevant and I also try to keep things simple (even if sometimes I fail despite various experiments over on Twitter).

The following graph shows the average score for the articles covering different game events. It is quite telling.

003-gameevents_averagescore

With the exception of the Playstation Experience 2015, the GDC is standing head and shoulders above the other events in terms of the profile of the media covering it. More articles are written that mention GDC from large websites than any other event, and this might be stemming from the professional dimension of the event.

Games engines media coverage comparison

More than any other event, GDC sees more announcements related to game engines and professional software and it is always interesting to see which one is coming on top each edition.

004-gdc_engines

This year was light on announcement around game engines, especially compared to last year. Crytek’s “Pay what you want” communication being the one standing out once the dust settled, but it still didn’t rock the world the way Unreal’s communication last year did.

Virtual Reality wins GDC

While it seems the decline in media coverage from last year could be explained purely by the fewer articles on game engine, it is time to address the biggest topic of this year’s GDC.

And while I wrote this right after the event, it is interesting to see that the general feeling that Virtual Reality took over this year edition is not just an impression:

005-gdc_vr

No question about it, between the eminent release of the Rift, and the Playstation VR announcements, there has been a lot of media coverage for Virtual Reality the week of GDC.

Virtual Reality was such a big topic that of the articles that mention GDC, a significant portion of them were about VR:

tweet_VRandGDC

In those five days, 28% of articles mentioning GDC are about VR. On the 16th of March, the day with the most articles related to the GDC, 38% of those articles mention VR.  Even on the 17th of March, where VR is only in 17% of GDC articles, it was the dominant topic.

Platforms comparison – A strong year for Sony and PlayStation

Looking at the evolution from one year to another in regards to the platforms and their coverage during the GDC week.

006-gdc_platforms

Things have stayed more or less at the same level for Xbox. There was quite a bit of news from Microsoft though, between the announcement they would open their platform for crossplay and the doubling down on the ID@Xbox commitment.

Playstation obviously is surfing on the Playstation VR wave, and probably has a few more things related to this up its sleeve for E3.

Leading up to June, it will be interesting to see how much Sony builds up on the momentum that the VR hype has created.

Top games in the media in 2015 (and how well the platforms did too)

With 2015 behind us, and the new year already under way, it is time for the traditional year-in-review articles, and I don’t see any reason for us to avoid the trend. I went to Twitter to ask about what to tackle first, and the media overview won over a Kickstarter post (probably due to my recent article on GI.biz satisfying the need for the time being, but don’t worry, a Kickstarter related article will happen too).

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.

Games

As a reminder, we mostly look at the top games for every single month. While this is not ideal, at least it provides some insights on what the top topics in the media are. I have selected a few games to look at in more detail to help give some sense of scale.

But to start things, here are the top 15 games that garnered the most media coverage in 2015:

games_top15_year_2015

First thing, please note the scale starts at 20,000 articles over the whole year. It is a bit deceiving, but it does make the  chart easier to read.

At the top, at a comparable amount of coverage, we have 3 different games:

  • The Witcher 3. An action RPG, historically a PC franchise, from a smaller publisher (smaller doesn’t mean small though) and that got a fantastic amount of coverage which I believe is mostly because of how good it is and how much its audience wanted to read about it. CD Project also managed the communication on the title very well, including after launch and with a strong and clever DLC strategy.
  • Fallout 4. I have talked a lot about Fallout 4 in the past already. The game got a huge amount of coverage, but is not the first on the list only because it was announced until we were already 5 months into the year.
  • Grand Theft Auto V. A game launched released in 2013, but the franchise is strong in the family (should have kept that one for the next game in the list, but hey). If you look at the key events for this game in the year, it was mostly the PC release. For a strong console franchise this is not considered key, but it seems there is a never-ending interest for the GTA games in the media.

Next in the line is Star Wars Battlefront, which did significantly well in terms of coverage. However, considering this is the comeback of a beloved name, a Star Wars game released close to the 7th Episode of the movie saga, and the Battlefield/DICE FPS of the holidays, it came to be expected that it would do well with the media.

A few other things I feel like pointing out:

  • Minecraft is a regular performer in the monthly media performance overview, and it is a game that is incredibly steady (few spikes, but few lows) and expected to be in this ranking. League of Legends, though, is rarely in the monthly Top 15 games, but is incredibly steady in the amount of media coverage it gets. While I expected the game to have a wider reach due to the final Worlds being in Europe (with events across different countries for about a month), it makes it one of the most presented game in online media in 2015.
  • There are 4 games in that list that are exclusives: Bloodborne (released in spring with less high profile competition and more time to gather coverage through the year), Halo 5 (the strongest Microsoft game franchise… after Minecraft), Rise of the Tomb Raider (an iconic, hall-of-famey franchise) and… Splatoon. Incredibly good media coverage for the Nintendo squid-shooter game, and again I believe the quality of the game resulted in its excellent media presence.

Highlighted games through 2015

game_SELEC_2015

In order to give some sense of the media coverage for games, I arbitrarily picked 5 games with fairly different patterns on the way they are covered. Right away, with this first comparison, we can see the difference in the scale of the coverage between 3 of the top 15 games in media coverage, and 2 indie games that were very well covered by media.

game_fallout_2015

 

Fallout 4 had a dream start at E3, getting record breaking coverage during the event. But the coverage it received on release, 16,000 articles in the month of November, is way, way more than the highest number of articles for a single game in a month. In 2014, the game with the most articles in a given month was Watch Dogs with close to 11,000 articles when it was released in May, with the close second GTA 5 with 9,600 articles in November, both of those performances being quite unique during the year. Here we have Fallout 4 with close to 50% more articles than the best of those performance in November. Truly a phenomenon.

 

game_minecraft_2015

I was talking about the steadiness of the Minecraft media coverage and I really wanted to show it off. There were never less than 2,000 articles per month and there was a nice flow of new releases, as well as the announcements of the support with new devices like the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens for instance.

game_tombraider_2015

Rise of the Tomb Raider illustrates nicely the media cycle for a game as part of a big franchise. The game had been announced earlier in the previous year and before E3 had very few communications pushed by out by Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics. The February spike is coming from the one announcement in that period, about the fact the game would be released on the Xbox 360 as well.

Then E3 kicked in, the machine was in motion, steadily ramping up till the launch of the game in November.

game_goatsim_2015

I make no secret of my undying love for Goat Simulator and its incredibly efficient communication style. The DayZ parody DLC (even though I no longer know if this is still a parody with Goat Sim) in May was the height of the media coverage for the game, followed by the media coverage of the PS3/PS4 version of the game in August. It is interesting to see how the larger overall coverage observed for the different platforms is echoed here for Goat Simulator where, while released earlier on Xbox 360 and Xbox One (in April), it didn’t receive as many mentions in the media.

 

game_dontstarve_2015

Looking at the most important months in terms of coverage for Don’t Starve:

  • June saw two very large announcements with the release of Don’t Starve Together and Don’t Starve coming to Xbox One.
  • In December, Don’t Starve Shipwrecked was released in Early Access on Steam and Don’t Starve Together was featured at the PlayStation Experience.
  • May had the Wii U version of the game released.
  • April, July, August and November have a remarkably close amount of coverage which was (mostly) coming in respective order from the release of Invisible Inc. (where many media mentioned Klei as “The makers of Don’t Starve”), the Don’t Starve Pocket edition release, the announcement of Don’t Starve Shipwrecked, and the announcement of the release date of Don’t Starve Shipwrecked on Early Access.

More games data

Platforms

I won’t be looking at 2015 year month by month, but will rather mention a few things that happened that are worth highlighting before sharing slides with the monthly data for anyone who wants to dig into those in more detail.

What’s is interesting to note is that looking at the whole year, there are big differences in the global coverage across the different platforms.

platforms_articles_2015b

The PlayStation brand is having a very strong lead over Xbox, with 66% more articles taken over the whole period. The brand not only has more usage (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation VR) but also leads across products in a similar generation, with PlayStation 4 for instance having 35% more mentions in the media than the Xbox One.

Worth noting is that at the end of the year, mobile platforms are neck and neck in terms of coverage. The media samples we use are not heavily geared towards tech websites though, and it might be a totally different story if they were. We mostly have websites covering the game side of mobile (and sometimes also other news in that space), but regardless it is a very interesting outcome.

The Nintendo brands are very much behind the other consoles. This is not necessarily very surprising as there is a strong correlation between the number of title releases each console see every year, and Nintendo consoles don’t have as many title launches. Looking at the monthly data, Nintendo is also very much behind the curve on the media coverage.

PlayStation and Xbox

playstation_monthly_articles_2015

xbox_monthly_articles_2015 xboxvps_monthly_articles_2015

Unsurprisingly, the biggest month for the media coverage was E3. We have seen in the past that it is the event in the year that has the biggest media impact. Interestingly, March is next for both platforms. That month sees a lot of game releases, and I suspect a harder push on the media side because of  the fiscal year ending. Events such as GDC and PAX East, while having some effect, are not covered enough to be the reason behind the March spike. September is the third biggest month for PlayStation; it sees the double effect of the first wave of the year-end releases and the Tokyo Game Show.

Of course, we can see the outcome of Microsoft being the only platform holder with a media conference at gamescom. It is the one month in the year where they clearly close the gap with Sony’s console, even if they don’t necessarily reach the same level.

Finally, the steady performance of the PlayStation over the last quarter is quite remarkable. A steady release of AAA games helps, but the positive effect of the PlayStation Experience on the media coverage is tremendous and the one reason that December, an otherwise slow month for the other platforms, is one of the strongest for Son – right in time for Christmas.

I think the competitors should take a page from Sony’s playbook on this.

Oculus

While I plan to delve further into VR in the media later this year, it is interesting to have a look at Oculus specifically. We are still far from the media coverage the large game platforms have, but this is still quite significant.

oculus_monthly_articles_2015

A lot of the Oculus media coverage is lead by announcements and events. June 2015 had the Oculus media event the week before E3, as well as coverage from the VR company’s presence at E3. May 2015 saw the announcement of the release of the commercial version for 2016, and while expected, this had been a confirmation as there were still discussions of the device being a Christmas 2015 release. September 2015 was when the Oculus Connect 2 event happened, and even while this is a developer event and the device not being available yet, it is a strong platform for announcements such as Minecraft coming to the Oculus Rift. Interestingly, December 2015 saw a more incremental build-up from multiple beats during the month, even if the Games Awards announcement (Guitar Hero VR leading the charge) had a strong effect there too.

Even though I was expecting to see a growth from last year (there were almost 30,000 articles in 2014, with at least 1,500 articles just on the Facebook acquisition of the company though), all in all, this is a decent point to build up from and we shall see how much VR will evolve in 2016 as the first time when you can actually buy the first commercial headset. Personally, I can’t wait to get our CV version that we will receive as Kickstarter backers.

More platforms data…

 

Media Monitor – Q1 2015 review

In an attempt to go further with the media monitor analysis, I will change the rhythm to a quarterly review schedule, in addition to Special Editions whenever a major event has occurred like the latest GDC one. Now, because I haven’t done an analysis for December 2014, you will get a 4 months special Quarterly review.

December 2014

Platforms

12_Platforms - Number of Articles - DECember 2014

 

We talked about it extensively, in December, Sony played a master move with the Playstation Experience.

This is very apparent in the month data, with the Playstation brand getting more than 80% more mentions than the Xbox one. It pushed December above June as the best month for media awareness for Sony, despite the incredible coverage that E3 is getting.

Games

12_Games - Total Reach - DECEMBER 2014

Grand Theft Auto lead the charge, fresh off a November release on the PS4 and Xbox One, and the upcoming PC version in early 2015.

It is interesting and unusual to see The Crew, a game with a lower profile than many of the others in the above ranking. The early December release may have helped, it is the only listed game that released that month.

Finally, last note on my part, is the excellent performance of Hearthstone. The Goblins vs. Gnomes set was the first significant beat that month, followed by the release of the Android version, that also received extensive coverage (about 280 articles just on this).

January 2015

 

Platforms

01_Platforms - Number of Articles - January 2015

January is usually a quiet month announcement-wise. The most significant growth in media mentions for a platform is Windows 10. It shows Microsoft ramped up its effort with the new year, mostly it’s coverage on the preview event from January 21st.

Interestingly, Oculus had a stronger-than-usual media presence thanks to Microsoft too. The Hololens announcement generated a lot of articles mentioning the Oculus device as a comparison and/or reference to the Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality arms race.

Games

 

01_Games - Total Reach - january 2015

 

Dying Light was released end of January, getting the new release spotlight for itself. Similarly to the previous month though, most of the most mentioned games are actually not out during that month, January being relatively quiet releases-wise.

It is interesting also that it is probably the month that has the widest “spread” of news. From our usual top 15 games, we rarely see games with fewer than 2,000 mentions in the month. For example, League of Legends’ 1,751 articles is actually a pretty regular performance for the game (even if it was a good month with a few nice news items, including the release of music tracks related to the game), and not something particularly exceptional.

February 2015

Platforms

02_Platforms - Number of Articles - february 2015

February saw similar numbers to January. Windows 10 dropped off, but not dramatically, entering an ongoing phase of promotion from Microsoft.

Games

02_Games - Total Reach - february 2015

The Order: 1886, released that month, topped the ranks. It is very hard to measure how much the controversy around the lifespan of the game helped those numbers. In the past, when looking at controversies, it seemed they didn’t add that much volume though.

Dying Light being released at the end of the previous month pushed it further into February’s media presence.

And while Battlefield Hardline’s strong performance was a ramp up towards its March release, it is also notable that Mortal Kombat X picked up up nicely while its release wouldn’t be until mid-April.

March 2015

Platforms

03_Platforms - Number of Articles - march 2015

March was GDC. So a lot of the extra media coverage came from the news around the event and I would encourage you to read the article written on this.

Android’s strong presence is coming from the MWC in Barcelona, with its numerous Android-related announcements. The nVidia New Shield micro console reveal at GDC also helped a little bit.

Microsoft was also quite aggressive with its Windows 10 announcements during GDC, supporting its strong media presence.

Games

03_Games - Total Reach - march 2015

March saw a similar trend as in February, but with Bloodborne taking the top spot. The game’s excellent critical reception explains the sudden burst of media coverage, beating Battlefield Hardline despite being a new brand.

The Witcher 3 edges closer to release and re-appreared in the top 15, roughly at the same level as in January.

Hearthstone, as in December, had its upcoming expansion to thank for entering the top ranks.

 

Upcoming content

As I move towards quarterly reviews, I will try to use the free time to get more case studies and carry out analysis of specific events. On my list at the moment, the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided announcement and Goat Simulator. Let me know if you have specific games whose media presence you would like me to break down.

 

Methodology reminder: For more details on the methodology and the way the tool we are using is working, check the dedicated blog post.

Media Monitor – GDC 2015 results

Coming back fresh from GDC, I thought I would do a rapid follow-up using the Media Monitor and see how well the event performed with regards to the prevalent topics in media coverage. And when I say fresh, I mean seriously jet lagged, but that’s beside the point.

GDC and other events

The GDC tracker was set in July last year, so I don’t really have any previous data I can compare properly. Next year will certainly be different, but for now I have compared GDC to gamescom and the Playstation Experience (especially as I already had some research ready from this post on Playstation Experience).

In many ways, it is not really fair as GDC is not as  media and announcement-focused as the other two, who are specifically built around getting the word about games to their audience. It does give some sense of the respective media these events get though.

Total # of articles - Event's top 3 days

Number of articles published in online media

So, strictly in terms of media coverage, GDC in the same range as the Playstation Experience event, and with about 40% of the coverage gamescom generates over its peak 3 days.

Platforms

GDC week - # of articles - Platforms

As we have seen in past media coverage analysis, PlayStation is keeping its lead on Xbox, but that is actually smaller than the average observed over the course of last year (about 36% more articles for Playstation on average over the last year, against 31% more articles during the week of the GDC). Microsoft made more game-related announcements while the Virtual Reality HMD for Playstation helped in keeping Sony in the news.

Android’s strong presence in the media is due to the Barcelona Mobile World Congress, where a number of mobile manufacturers announce their new devices.

Virtual Reality

One of the most discussed announcements during GDC was, interestingly, *not* made at GDC. Instead it was at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress where on the 1st of March, HTC announced its VR HMD in partnership with Valve.

# of articles - Virtual Reality - GDC 2015

 

Clearly, the HTC/Valve announcement has been the most talked about VR news for the week. It is also incredibly impressive that both Morpheus and Oculus managed to keep such a high media presence with announcements were not as strong. Both were frequently mentioned in relation to the HTC Vive though, often compared to it or just referenced as much more established brand associated to VR.

 

Game Engines

The other very hot topic during the GDC week was the numerous announcements related to the off-the-shelf game engine offerings. With Valve now joining the fray with their Source 2 engine.

Before getting into the numbers, I want to share a tweet from Unity’s David Helgason (and which made me take a mental note to look at the media mentions of engines as soon as I got back):

# of articles - Game Engines - GDC 2015

To be fair, there are many ways to measure victory, and Unity’s booth was very crowded all week long. I am not suggesting that Unity has had a bad GDC by any stretch of the imagination. That said, I think Unreal is showing its longer experience in handling media and announcements, as well as the fact that it is a much more established brand for engine.

I wanted to check with another metric and pulled the Google trends for Unreal and Unity that cover that period:

Unity being a common word, I suspect it explains a lot of the ongoing search results associated with the game engine. But the much bigger bump seen in searches for Unreal Engine over that period (10 times more searches) in comparison to the Unity bump (25%) seems to indicate that at least that one battle was won by Unreal.

PR Monitor – 2014 in review [updated]

While I missed the traditional January window to do a “Year in Review” – I thought I should do one as the information should still have value. As usual, I encourage you to check the previous blog post explaining how the monitoring tool works. This time though, I have a couple of things to further add. First, there was a lot that has been added to the tool in February last year. Most AAA games and key platforms were already properly tracked (and had been for a few months prior) so I don’t think it should massively impact what I am going to share today.

[Update] Why the hell are the Nintendo consoles missing? Short version: I didn’t track Nintendo consoles properly until after a few months in 2014. It didn’t seem fair to compare incomplete data.  Read more