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gamescom 2017 – Media coverage analysis

This is the week after gamescom, and as is tradition, I have some numbers to share about the event. I will reference data from previous years (some slightly adjusted), as this exercise has been done now for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

gamescom 2017

New dates

As for the last 3 years in a row, the dates have changed, with gamescom roughly a week later than the previous year. Moreover, it now starts on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, and ends on the Saturday rather than the Sunday. For professionals (at least the ones coming from Europe), it has the advantage of covering the work week, you can easily be back home on Friday.

Press Conferences

Microsoft kind-of had a press event? It was more similar to the Nintendo Direct format, with no onsite event, just a live video event being streamed. For reference, the last time Sony had a press event at gamescom was in 2014; while Microsoft skipped last year.

The Microsoft event seemed very weak to me. They only announced one new game for Xbox, Jurassic World Evolution, and it is not a very strong fit for a console genre-wise. They actually held their best game announcement for the following day, revealing a new Age of Empires is coming. The limited Scorpio edition also got decent coverage, but it seems to me it is more a sign of how light the event was in content.

Numbers

I went and pulled the attendance numbers from the previous years, to see how gamescom is doing in that regard. You can find the 2017 numbers here.

gamescom is not growing much. It seems to have reach its critical mass a few years ago now. I was wondering if the change of dates, especially not having the Sunday anymore, would impact the attendance numbers negatively, but it seemingly had no effect, or it might have even helped that slight growth in attendance.

Trade visitors is also very stable, even if lower than the peak seen in 2015. 30,000 professionals attending is quite impressive, it has to be said.

The number of exhibitors though is ever increasing. The multiplication of smaller companies (indie studios; micro publishers; other vendors) is probably at play here.

There are also the odd exhibitors, whose presence is always a bit confusing:

https://twitter.com/icotom/status/899550107779178497

gamescom in the media

This year’s edition of gamescom was relatively underwhelming when it comes to strong media beats (new games; high profile announcements; trailers on high expectation games) – and the media coverage would reflect this.

gamescom 2017 has seen the worse performance where media coverage is concerned since I started tracking it in 2014. Arguably, the numbers stay in the same range as the ones of 2014 and 2016, but it seems like on one hand Microsoft didn’t put any real show with its media event; while on the other hand no one picked up on the opportunity that gamescom represents.

Looking at the volume of media coverage per languages, it is interesting to see the past trend of increased visibility of the event with English media continues. The drop of German coverage (both in volume of articles and number of media) is intriguing and might be the results of a shift in the German media landscape.

The Platforms

With Xbox having an extra dedicated event, it should not be surprising that it secured more coverage during the week of gamescom, regardless of how weak the announcements there were. Xbox One X is getting a lot of attention as the newest hardware to be available, and the games supporting it got their fair bit of coverage.

Despite 2017 being weak overall, it is the best gamescom for Xbox since I started tracking media exposure. I find it very interesting that at the Cologne Messe, in the public area, the Xbox booth was actually quite small again. Microsoft seems to be careful with their spending there, at least for the second year in a row. Both Nintendo and Sony had vastly larger spaces, but even major publishers, or game studios had more space. It seemed to me that the Farming Simulator’s booth was only a third of Xbox’. And the Wargaming booth, also in the same hall, was probably twice as big.

Despite this being a good year, I can’t help and wonder how much it could have been for Microsoft with a stronger line-up of reveals considering their performance with their half-hearted presence.

Rather than compare the media performance of the Switch to the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One, I found it much more interesting to present it compared to the Wii and Wii U coverage of previous years. Like at E3, Nintendo is really ramping compared to during the Wii era. This weeks Showcase was also very interesting on the indie front, and should contribute to Nintendo media coverage growth.

The Games

Games in orange were the ones first announced during this gamescom (arguably, Biomutant leaked a few days earlier).

Like last year, these were the top 30 games based on their media coverage. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Final Fantasy XV had multiple announcements that week, taking it to the lead in coverage. Interestingly, it was also a top game last year.
  • Overwatch is still very strong in the media. Blizzard is quite careful about always having announcements to make during gamescom, and it is paying off.
  • Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds took a while to build its media presence. The Xbox One port is certainly helping, but the general strong interest in the title is putting it firmly on the list of media darlings, in a similar way to Rocket League.
  • Biomutant’s strong media presence is proving that gamescom is an excellent opportunity for publishers with less muscle than the publishing powerhouses using E3 as their main media event of the year.
  • Jurassic World Evolution and Age of Empires IV, the two new titles announced by Microsoft, secured a significant amount of coverage, but nothing actually crazy. Most of Microsoft media coverage was around the titles supporting the new Xbox One X, rather new games.

Closing Words

Next year, gamescom’s dates are for once not changing. They keep the Tuesday to Saturday formula, at the end of August. It will be interesting to see if more companies decide to use it as a springboard to announce new titles, following the steps of THQ Nordic’s Biomutant.

 

Post-Scriptum – If you have been following us for a while, you might have recognized Martin Rabl, an ICO alumni, on the coverage of Angela Merkel’s visit of gamescom:

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

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

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

Platforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Games

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing words

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

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

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

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

A few technical notes

Why Nintendo and not the Wii?

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

What is the reach value?

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

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

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.

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.