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Media coverage analysis – Launch of the Nintendo Switch

This is the third article of media coverage analysis for the Nintendo Switch, but it’s the most important one as the console has now been released. While I will discuss previous announcements, you can read again the posts about the console’s first announcement and the January event that revealed most of the details about it.

The console has now been widely available for 3 weeks, and we can look at both the announcement, and some level of data over time, to see how it looks for this new console.

Hardware Coverage Comparison

With our data only going back to early 2014, there are no comparable launches to compare the Nintendo Switch with. For lack of better comparisons, I had a look at the coverage of the first announcements for the PS4 Pro, the PS VR and the Xbox Scorpio, and the coverage of the launches of the PS4 Pro and PSVR.

The PS4 Pro initial announcement was during a Sony event, and set out a lot of details for the new machine. The way the communication was structured for it, there was a short cycle between the announcement and the launch (2 months), and the fact the announcement was done outside of other industry events allowed it to garner significant coverage. The initial announcement also served as in-depth reveal for that matter.

The PSVR initial announcement (as project Morpheus at the time) was done during GDC 2014, and was still very vague on any details. That first reveal wasn’t massive with media coverage. Interestingly, 2 years later, at GDC 2016, the reveal of the details of the device and its price point was its biggest beat.

Project Scorpio (next Xbox One iteration) was first announced during E3 2016, and beyond the fact it would have the highest quality pixels that anybody has seen, Microsoft didn’t provide many details during the announcement. We are basically still waiting for the device’s in-depth announcement, which is likely to be at this year’s E3, leading to a launch before the holiday season.

The communication on the Nintendo Switch was very controlled, and beyond the initial announcement and the in-depth reveal, there were no real major beats before the launch. The only other communication was earlier in the week of the launch with a number of indie titles announced (some officially by Nintendo and a good number of others announced by their respective publishers).

So, what does it mean for the Nintendo Switch announcements and launch?

First, launches are not as exciting as the reveals of the details of the console. By the time they hit the market, the story is a bit dull and generally consists of a reminder of what the console is, probably its line up and the fact that “yes, you can buy it now”. The fact they don’t garner as much coverage as the in-depth reveals despite having a line-up of games immediately available that also should drive coverage seem to highlight that media still prioritise hardware news over games. In that respect, the media coverage of the Nintendo Switch, while significantly higher than the other two devices we can compare it to, is nothing incredibly impressive. The fact is, there were fewer articles mentioning the Nintendo Switch than the PlayStation 4 on the days of the launch, and that’s probably a direct consequence from the small line-up on the Switch, and the impressive head-start Sony has when it comes to media relations.

Second, in-depth events are the ones that matter the most to get coverage. Is it obvious? Absolutely, but I think you should always approach analysis with an open mind and getting evidence of the obvious is still a good take away. What is also very interesting is the relative success of this reveals. The Nintendo Switch being in January, outside of any events, and being quite close to the actual launch, really paid off in my opinion there for Nintendo.

To get a better sense of the Nintendo Switch potential for media coverage, let’s look at coverage over time, rather than at scheduled events.

 

Console coverage patterns

[please note that all the data presented here is as of March 26th – all monthly data labelled as March 2017 are until that date]

 

I have added the Wii U to the mix from the graph over time as  I think it is essential to understand where Nintendo is coming from in terms of their console media coverage.

So what is transpiring here:

  • As we mentioned many times before, the PlayStation 4 is the clear leader when it comes to console media coverage, and this is a constant. Even when looking at the weekly coverage volumes, since January 2015, only once did the Xbox One secure more coverage than the PlayStation 4. It was the week of the gamescom 2015, where Microsoft held a press conference and Sony did not. The gap between the two is actually widening over time.
  • Microsoft doesn’t seem to be learning from Sony when it comes to making big announcements outside of major industry events. Or even outside of E3. That dependence on E3 seems like a very risky strategy. Yes, E3 is still clearly the most important event of the year when it comes to coverage of the video games industry, but at the moment, Microsoft is not learning how to also do announcements at other times. Sony’s September event drove coverage to the level of their E3 weekly coverage, and when it comes to monthly coverage, it was their best month since we started tracking the articles mentioning the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One’s best month was June and E3.
  • The Wii U has been lagging behind the other consoles for a long time now. The decline is clearly visible, and even a major release like Zelda Breath of the Wild doesn’t seem to have much of an effect – it is clear the console is a very low priority for the media. Again, this is not an unexpected result, but we can now see the scale of it.
  • The Nintendo Switch is having an excellent start. Of course, a lot of that coverage is thanks to the January in-depth reveal that got really good coverage, and the momentum of the launch, but for a console with such a limited line-up, it seems that there is significant interest for the console, outside of just the launch. If the average weekly coverage stays around 4,000 articles/week, that puts it a bit above half of the Xbox One weekly average and at 40% of the PlayStation 4 weekly average, which would be an excellent foundation for Nintendo to build on.

 

Conclusion

Nintendo is getting a new console cycle, and the media seem to be keen on supporting it for now. It has a long way to go still, but they didn’t make any significant mistakes so far, and despite a very small launch line-up they secured a decent amount of coverage, and the poor interest for the Wii U doesn’t seem to have damaged the interest for the Switch. They also seem to have learned to make their announcements on their own time and not let major events dictate their calendar. Interestingly, they have just announced that they are planning a “big E3”, which is probably the next important series of announcements for them to get right to stay relevant and present in the media.

 

 

Media coverage analysis – How good was the Nintendo Switch announcement?

This month has not only been busy with new game releases, as expected for this time of the year, but also with new announcements. On the back of the analysis of the PlayStation VR release and its media coverage, I went and looked at the media coverage that the recent Nintendo Switch reveal has secured.

A tweet and a video

There are not many console announcements; their life cycle is long enough to make them a rare occurrence. Our media monitoring tool has been running since mid-2013, but getting really in shape from early 2014 onwards, so I don’t have much data to properly compare the Nintendo Switch announcement. I will mostly use this year’s PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio announcements, keeping in mind that these are not full-blown new hardware being released, but upgrades of existing consoles.

The way the Nintendo Switch was announced is also unusual. It was outside of any major media event and in the middle of the busiest month for video games media with the release of many AAA titles; a new format for this kind of announcement. Also, Nintendo has been very sparse when it comes to details about the console (no detailed specs, no price point, no confirmed release titles), and stated clearly that they wouldn’t provide any of this until nearly next year.

With all this in mind, how well was the announcement covered by media?

articles_compared

Purely looking at the number of articles, the Nintendo Switch secured fewer than the PlayStation 4 Pro did at its reveal back in September, but way more than the Xbox “Scorpio” did at E3. I would call this a small victory for Nintendo, if only because there is very little to talk about on the Switch at the moment. Of course, there are many speculative articles, but it doesn’t feed the media cycle the way the Sony press conference did, where there was a price point, technical specs, and titles to discuss.

But to call it a win, I have to say I had to double check the number of unique websites that wrote about the consoles first:

websites_compared

The Nintendo Switch managed to secure coverage across more media than the PS4 Pro or the Xbox “Scorpio”, even if not in a massive way. Nintendo is clearly behind the two other console manufacturers, and it shows in the monthly tracking we do on the coverage of each platform, so being able to get this amount of attention is good for them. It is the biggest beat related to the Nintendo brand since we started tracking media coverage (January 2014), but it is still way behind what Sony and Microsoft gained for their biggest announcements in the period (usually around E3, but not exclusively, as the PlayStation Experience managed to build a lot of significant coverage the past couple of years too).

Where is the interest?

websites_compared_lg

Looking at the same metric (unique websites covering the announcement), there is a similar level of increased interest for the Nintendo Switch compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro across most languages. The notable exceptions being French and Spanish media, which covered this announcement in a bigger proportion than the other languages (and which makes sense considering the findings from the report on the different media landscapes) and Italian media where the increase was smaller than the other languages (and contrary to the same findings).

The websites parsed by the monitoring tool are also put in different categories and this is where an interesting pattern appears for this announcement:

websites_compared_mt

Nintendo is often seen as a family-friendly brand, one that has a wide appeal and name recognition outside of the video game industry. The bigger reach the Nintendo Switch announcement had with General Interest media would reflect that, and is quite significant here (note that the tool’s database is very much geared towards video games media and is not as exhaustive when it comes to media from different categories). But the significant reach the news had with websites qualified as Special Interest, is one I didn’t expect. Special Interest media cover a range of very specific topics, generally only tangentially related to video games. For example, it includes websites that focus on board games, “geek culture”, and science-fiction in its broadest expression. The news seems to have found a very strong resonance with those media compared to the “upgraded console” announcements.

All in all, this was a massive announcement for Nintendo, one on a scale that they don’t often have. And while it worked and found a significant reach in the media, it was not spectacular. Pokemon Go, at its highest week, saw a lot more coverage than the announcement of a brand new console. Of course, Pokemon Go was an extraordinary phenomenon, but so should be the reveal of your new device.

Here are the last couple of numbers to give some food for thought: at the time of writing this blog post, 5 days after the reveal, the Nintendo Switch reveal video on Youtube had 17m views; the Battlefield 1 reveal trailer had 22m views over the same time period.