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New report available: Mobile in games media

Following up on the two reports that we released last year, we are releasing today another report looking at how video games media cover a specific topic. With the mobile game industry steadily growing year after year, we looked into how this segment of the industry was covered by specialist gaming media specifically.

Using a similar format to the one for the report written on VR in games media, we used the data we collect across more than 900 specialist websites in EFIGS to look at the volume of coverage dedicated to mobile topics during 2016. We also chose 6 mobile games and their coverage to analyse in more depth. Here are some of the findings.

French games media showing the least interest in mobile

Looking at the lowest criteria, this shows the percentage of games media that made at least a passing mention of mobile platforms during the year 2016. Like with VR, English media are the most likely to cover mobile topics, just ahead of Spanish media.

What is interesting to see is that in French, German and Italian games media, VR is covered by a larger portion the websites.

We were quite surprised to find out that, across all languages, both iOS and Android were fairly balanced in the number of sites mentioning them. There was no strong bias for either of the two platforms.

This was also true for the total number of articles mentioning the platforms, with only 3% more articles mentioning the iOS ecosystem.

Pokemon Go is too big

2016 was marked by the Pokemon Go phenomenon, and we had to account for it in the way we presented our findings. For each language that we analyse, we present the “top games” with two graphs. One with all the games, and one without Pokemon Go.

Interestingly, the other Nintendo mobile games got top spots as well, showing the stronger interest media have in mobile projects as soon as a major video game actor is part of it. In the graph above, out of 10 games, only 3 (Clash Royale; Clash of Clans; Candy Crush) are native to the mobile ecosystem. The fact that they are financially far more successful than these other games is irrelevant when it comes to the comparative volume of coverage they received.

Case studies

Following video games news day-to-day tends to warp your perception of what represents a major announcement. Building case studies of specific mobile games was enlightening. The single most successful PR beat for Candy Crush Saga had nothing to do with the game, but was due to the announced acquisition of the game’s studio by video game giant Activision. The second most important event was the launch of Pokemon Go, where collateral mentions of Candy Crush were numerous enough to make it a major PR moment for the franchise.

The report includes case studies of:

  • Pokemon Go
  • Clash Royale
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Game of War
  • Deus Ex Go
  • Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius (compared to 3DS game Final Fantasy Explorers)

 

You can find further insights in the report – we tried to price it low enough for as many people as possible to be able to get access to it.

Games in the media in 2016 – Overwatch comes out on top

To complete the usual series of blog posts reviewing the past year, I present to you 2016 and video games in the media.

Like last year, bear in mind that we are using our internal tool to collect these numbers, and understanding the methodology is important. It is particularly worth mentioning this year Pokemon Go is definitely making things crazy. Or crazier than usual I should say. In order to account for that, a lot of the numbers presented here are limited to video games media. We do have General Interest and Tech media in our tools, but they are not as exhaustively collected on our end.

Games

 

Let’s address Pokemon Go now. I wrote about the game shortly after the launch, and while things have calmed down since July, the game is still receiving an impressive amount of coverage daily, even at times where there is no new update to discuss.

This being said, it wasn’t the number one game mentioned in the games media (important to be specific here), that was Overwatch.

Pokemon Go, while announced in September 2015, received very little coverage until it launched in early July 2016. The amount of coverage collected here is basically only 6 months worth, where Overwatch was already well covered prior to its launch in May.

If we compare these numbers to the ones from last year (which take into account a wider range of types of media), Pokemon Go’s performance is striking as it is a Nintendo game (only Splatoon managed to barely get in the top 15) and a mobile game (there were none in that ranking in 2015).

Overwatch is also impressive as it had 50% more coverage than any game in 2015. The online nature of the game, with its constant updates, coupled with the power of the Blizzard brand, pushed the game to the top here, making it by far the game with the most media presence in 2016.

Overwatch is also striking in the sense that it is one of the only two new IPs in this ranking (The Division being part of the Tom Clancy’s franchise), alongside No Man’s Sky. Many industry commenters pointed to No Man’s Sky’s hype as being the main reason for its fall from grace, and you have to give them credit here, when you see the game is in the top 15 most covered by media game of the year, while coming from a small independent studio. Even the Sony PR machine can’t be the only thing at play here, as many very large productions didn’t manage to make it in these rankings. The game’s hype took on a life of its own, and got big.

For the fans of the respective series, it will interesting to note that Battlefield 1 secured about +40% more coverage than this year’s Call of Duty game. Year-on-year, Call of Duty’s media coverage dropped about -12%.

Monthly Data

For a very long time, we wanted to run these numbers. As ICO is also a PR agency, a lot of the discussions with the studios and the publishers come around to the best timing to do a particular communication. The above is a great way to understand when certain periods are swamped, while some are on the contrary very light.

You’ll see that I removed Pokemon Go from the data. The game was so dominant at its launch that it was skewing the data (more than 7% of the  articles in the games media in July 2016 mentioned Pokemon Go). Removing it is not a perfect solution either, but it draws a slightly better picture.

There are different ways to understand these numbers, but here are my takeaways:

  • You probably want to communicate when the ratio of articles for AAA is lower. It means the coverage is more varied and more likely to be covering your game. From that perspective, November is often deemed a tough month for communications, and both graphs illustrate this well.
  • When there is a lot of coverage, you also have more chances to be covered, however, the communication will also stand out less as higher volume of articles means more noise overall. In that sense, communicating during the E3 period (June) can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.
  • While media coverage does drop during the Christmas period, it is the only time in the year where there is a visible drop in the volume of coverage across all media. It means that any other time, there will always be a minimum number of articles that need to be written, and it can pay off to aim for the periods outside of the AAA games releases, like January or July.

While making these graphs, the question came up about the number of games beyond those top 20 games. The truth is, we don’t know how many games communicate in any given month. We do know how many games are released on Steam on average, and this is where the 500+ number comes from. In reality, you can expect all the games releasing to have some form of communication that month, but you would also need to add all the games that are announced, the games that are communicating about their upcoming release, the released games having some newsworthy announcement, like an expansion, or a DLC release, not to mention the live games with significant updates.

That 500+ figure for games is quite conservative in truth.

Platforms

2016 was interesting as far as platforms are concerned. While there were no new console coming out, there were upgrades, iterations and major accessories announced and released. The Playstation 4 and the Xbox One are hitting their stride while the Wii U is in its last year being the main console for the Nintendo line up, with the Switch being around the corner.

What is interesting in the media coverage is the fact that it was yet again a strong year for the Playstation 4, with even more media coverage than in 2015 (+14%). The console has established its lead, the media follow the trend. The PlayStation VR and the Playstation 4 Pro both helped bring the device in front of the media as well.

For Xbox One, it was also a good year compared to 2015 (+18%), a growth in coverage not necessarily being a given considering the most important announcement, Project Scorpio, related to a new version of the console to be released in 2017.

The Wii U year-on-year numbers see a steep decline overall (-24%). Comparing it to the Oculus Rift, which is a niche platform that had its first release in the year both shows how much Oculus has accomplished, and how much the Wii U has dropped.


Sony’s communication strategy is well established by now, with most of its coverage originating from E3 and a combination of their own events and industry conferences.

gamescom, despite the absence of a press conference, is still an important source of coverage overall, but it does come after the press event ahead of the Tokyo Game Show.

And like last year, the Playstation Experience event in early December was a tremendous success for Sony as far as media coverage is concerned.

The Microsoft coverage over the year has fewer events sparking spikes in coverage. The two most notable ones are the E3 in June, and gamescom in August, even though, like Sony, they didn’t put a press conference together in 2016.

Microsoft seemed to be on the defensive in its communication strategy the whole of 2016 and the fact it still managed to grow the coverage is a good sign. Hopefully they will be more aggressive this year, with the Project Scorpio device coming, to shake things up a bit.

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.

Pokémon Go media coverage is truly insane – analysis

 

Currently there is no way to miss Pokémon Go. In its short lifetime, the game is breaking records left and right like being the biggest mobile game in the US ever or attracting more users than services like Twitter or Tinder.

We looked into our coverage tracking tool (more info on the tracking method here) to see how well Pokémon Go is doing in terms of press coverage. To make the coverage of the only recently released title comparable to other games we looked at data from the last three years and picked the highest performing week in terms of number of articles for each title (technically, the best 7 consecutive days).

In the graph below you can see that Pokémon Go managed to get by far the most articles on it’s highest performing week.
graph_01 One of the main reasons Pokémon Go was able to achieve such a high amount of coverage is the fact that many general interest websites and gaming websites currently cover the game with several articles a day.

This makes sense as the appetite for Pokémon Go coverage is remarkable at the moment. For instance, Game Network (a publishing house hosting some of the biggest gaming sites in the world including Eurogamer, VG247 and Rock Paper Shotgun) noted that they had their biggest traffic day so far thanks to Pokémon Go:

And Kotaku’s Keza MacDonald stated that Pokémon Go articles see outstanding traffic numbers, with over half a million clicks at least per article, making it “considerably bigger than E3”:

In short: there seems to be no game in the last three years that managed to generate nearly as many articles per day as Pokémon Go.

Of course this only shows a snapshot of the media coverage for the games listed. While Pokémon Go had an impressive start, games like Overwatch manage to keep up media buzz over a long period of time.

Even so, looking at the coverage from Pokémon Go, Fallout 4, Overwatch and Zelda: Breath of the Wild over a longer period of time (June 2015 to July 2016) it became apparent that Pokémon Go has an impressive head start. It even even stacks up well against Fallout 4 which saw outstanding coverage numbers and is internally our benchmark to see how much coverage it is possible for a game to get. For the overview graph we also highlighted the biggest news beats where possible. Some titles like Overwatch didn’t see one particularly strong communication topic but rather saw a very high amount of coverage from a mix of sources.

graph_02

What makes the extremely high number of Pokémon Go articles even more impressive is the setup of the game: Whereas Fallout 4 perfectly orchestrated a genius PR coup last year by revealing and extensively showing the game just a day before E3 started, with press and players already eager for news, Pokémon Go was simply released in a few countries without any event, fancy videos or much fanfare.

I will offer some extra food for thoughts for you as you ponder the cheer scale of the coverage that Pokémon Go has received recently. The below graphs shows the repartition of the recent coverage for both Overwatch and Pokémon Go based on the type of media:

graph_03

graph_04

Our tools have been built around media outlets that cover video games. In terms of the media that we properly track, I am very confident in regards to what we consider “games” media. However, there are plenty of “general interest” media that we are missing, because they focus much more on local news and have historically mentioned video games only anecdotally (if ever). I believe that what we see in our tools, while probably fairly accurate and representative for most video games, is missing many of those media from our data set.

This would mean that despite being so overwhelmingly dominant already, it is actually strongly under-representing the actual media coverage of Pokémon Go.

While it’s hard to predict how the Pokémon Go hype will develop over the next couple of days, it is already clear that it’s the strongest covered Nintendo title in years and it will almost certainly be the most covered game of 2016.

 

Nota bene: many thanks to Thomas Reisenegger for putting together most of the elements of the article.