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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.

 

 

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.

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…