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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 coverage analysis – Nintendo Switch January event

Back in October, I did an analysis of the announcement of the Nintendo Switch. It was a rather short one, with very few details shared at the time, with the promise of a more in depth presentation following an event in January. That event was last week, and now is a great time to look at how it went for the Nintendo teams.

The Console

There is no question that, of the three console manufacturers, currently Nintendo is lagging behind Sony and Microsoft and that is very apparent when looking at the media coverage of each console.

In the video games media landscape report that we shared last year, Nintendo received less than a third of the articles that PlayStation had. In that respect, the Switch announcement seems to have been fairly well covered. We are lacking data to compare it with other console announcements, though.

Here is another graph to illustrate how significant the event was for Nintendo’s coverage:

While it is not surprising that the main event showcasing a new console is the single biggest media event for Nintendo in the past 3 years, the scale it reached is significant. It is the single biggest announcement in terms of volume of coverage across all 3 main consoles for that period of time. For Nintendo, a company that is struggling to compete with the media attention its two contenders receive, it looks like a massive achievement.

And with the new cycle of consoles being upgrades from the current gen, rather than brand new iterations, this might stay true for a while for all we know.

 

Games

* Minecraft numbers are only for articles explicitly naming the Switch and Minecraft.

Looking at the games announced at last week’s event, there seems to be 4 categories:

  • Zelda is alone in the lead, with twice as many articles as any other games. Nothing surprising here: it was the crown jewel of the line-up, the game that was playable on-site, and it’s the one key launch title for the console. It is interesting to note though that it is garnering even more coverage than at last E3, where it was one of the leading game in terms of coverage (2,300 articles over a week compared to 2,600 articles since Friday)
  • Nintendo’s first party titles – they benefited from the full support of the firm’s communication effort. It’s also interesting to note that existing licences are performing better than the new brands. This is very normal of course, but interesting to actually see it in numbers.
  • 3rd party titles from key Japanese licences – I put in this bucket Bomberman, Fire Emblem and Xenoblade, that all received 400+ articles from the event.
  • Other 3rd party titles – this is of course more varied and spread out, but I think it’s worth noting Snipperclips and Octopath both securing more than 200 articles – no small feat for projects with their profiles.

That’s it for me (for now).

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.

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As expected, a lot of the articles are coming from German media (this is where I plug our report on the media landscapes – you can download it for free and it can give you a sense of the size of the media in the different languages). Nothing surprising yet there.

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Looking at the number of unique websites mentioning gamescom, we find a different result though… There were more English websites than German websites covering the event (keep in mind that most of our database is very much games websites, there are plenty of General Interest media that we don’t track properly).

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

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Looking at the articles mentioning the platforms during the week of gamescom, the slight drop in articles on the Xbox One was to be expected with no press conference this year. The VR platforms all saw more coverage, with the PlayStation VR taking the spotlight this year.

What is really fascinating, is the significant uptake that the PlayStation 4 had. To put it in context, this is the coverage that the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One had over the past three gamescoms:

006-gamescom-platforms_years

This year was the best for the PS4 presence in the media since we started tracking the data. After looking more in depth, I don’t have one single explanation for this though, but I can offer the ones I have and some that were suggested to me:

  • PlayStation VR. We know that PSVR had a very significant effect, but in the best case, it can only account to half of the extra coverage.
  • Lack of Press Conferences. The absence of an Xbox press event meant that the attention bounced back to PlayStation from last year coverage. This is a good theory, especially when you consider the dominant position of PlayStation, even if the drop of the Xbox coverage, all things considered, is not that significant.
  • Natural growth of gamescom coverage. We saw the significant bump in the English media covering gamescom, there might be a side effect here where that benefited PlayStation in some ways. As we are looking at two different data sets, there might be a growth of the PlayStation coverage from the additional visibility that doesn’t necessarily mention gamescom.
  • Specific games. There are few games that seem to emerge supporting this theory. There is a little bit of extra coverage thanks to No Man’s Sky, and there is also some coverage specifically discussing Titanfall 2 coming to PlayStation 4 after the exclusivity of the first iteration on Xbox One. But in both cases, this seems very limited in volume.

For the sake of completion, here are a few things we know are not related to the increase:

  • PlayStation 4 Slim edition. The rumours only started to show up online in a significant way on the last day of gamescom, a Sunday, and the volume is quite low.
  • PlayStation Now coming to PC. The announcements (and its coverage) only started the following week.

If you have another theory, please let me know on Twitter, I am quite keen to hear your ideas as I might have missed something obvious here. For the moment, I think this is a combination of those factors that took PlayStation to its excellent media coverage this year.

Comparing E3 and gamescom

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This year’s E3 saw very strong media coverage across the different platforms. In the case of the PlayStation 4, the growth in the media coverage at gamescom (+36% from last year) is triple the one it had at E3 (+12% from last year). For the Xbox One, we see a slight drop at gamescom (-8% from last year) against a significant growth at E3 (+21% from last year). It has to be noted that Microsoft presence at this year’s gamescom was quite timid. Its booth was significantly smaller than the previous year from what I could tell (couldn’t find a proper floor plan of the consumer halls), especially compared to Sony’s (it was probably 6 to 8 times bigger).

It seems to me that Microsoft backed out of gamescom more strongly than Sony, and the discrepancy in the media coverage is showing it.

On the other platforms, I want to specifically mention the Oculus Rift. Year-on-Year, its E3 media coverage increased +18% against a +95% increase for its gamescom coverage. In both cases, the device is now available compared to the previous year, but Oculus seems to have managed to come across to the media at gamescom much more efficiently than the previous year, with media coverage at the same level as its E3 coverage.

Games

Again, I picked the top 30 games in terms of coverage during the week of gamescom.

010-gamescom-platforms_years_b

 

A few things that stood out for me:

  • Pokemon Go and No Man’s Sky both are here despite having no specific announcement at gamescom. They just happen to be the hype-of-the-month, and it is as such a scale that they both take the top spots.
  • Final Fantasy 15 is the third most mentioned game, but only partly because of its gamescom presence. The announcement of the delay early in the week is a significant part of the coverage of the game (and by far the biggest beat the game received).
  • Overwatch had the double effect of announcing (and showing) a new map at gamescom AND the release of one of animated short movie (and an excellent one)
  • Call of Duty PR machine is losing hard to its Battlefield nemesis this year. Also, very interesting to see that Titanfall 2 is also doing very well media wise.
  • Little Nightmares was incredibly well covered for a game of that profile.

 

Concluding thoughts

I find the results of this year’s analysis are fascinating. I was going into it expecting to see some decline due to the lack of the big press events to support the media attention. And while there has been a decline in the total coverage mentioning gamescom, it was not drastic, and as far as the media attention on key game platforms, it certainly was a good week.

It seems that the event has grown to the point of developing an autonomy from the big press-only conferences, and has enough interest on site to stay relevant without them. Of course, all the key industry actors were there, and still supporting it, but until we see an exodus of such companies, gamescom seems to be now well and strongly positioned to be the most relevant game event in Europe when it comes to media, and is probably only second to E3 in the world.

 

Take notes for next year, and remember that the dates have changed again. It will at the same time of the year, but happening from Tuesday to Saturday instead of the traditional Wednesday to Sunday it has been at for years.

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

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

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

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

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

Video Games Media Landscape

cover_vg_2016

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

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

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

blog-002

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

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

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

blog-001

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

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

 

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

blog-003

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

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

 

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

blog-004blog-005

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

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

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

Virtual Reality in games media

cover_vr_2016

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

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

blog-100

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

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

Looking at the volume of content shows another different trend.

blog-101

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

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

blog-103

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

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

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

blog-102

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

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

 

Free Report £200

 

E3 2016 Media Coverage Analysis – aka “Who won the E3 media battle?”

E3 is now over, the weekend has passed, the attendees have flown back to their homes, and it is time for me to go over the media coverage of the events, as is now traditional. If you are new to them, I invite you to first check on the methodology that we use, and then to have a read of last year’s analysis.

Platforms

We now have 3 years’ worth of data to compare, and this constitutes a relatively easy-to-read snapshot of the event, and one that sets the tone for how well the event did, from a media coverage perspective:

001-consoles_over3years

This is the 2nd year where Nintendo as a brand is declining in the media coverage during E3. The lack of any hardware announcement where both Sony and Microsoft made one, and the format of their announcement that focuses on the online audience rather than to the in-person press conferences of its competitors means that the firm is losing out on mindshare with the media during the E3 week.

On the Sony front, 2015 saw a slight dip, but this year has seen the most mentions of any console brand across an E3 week since we began our tracking. This is on the back of the teasing of the PS4 Neo, and a release date and price for Playstation VR. It is also the press conference that had the highest proportion of new games announced:

For Microsoft, this also proved to be an excellent E3, as for the 2nd year media mentions of their console brand has increased, taking it to the level Playstation had in 2014. The double announcements of the Xbox One S and the Project Scorpio with its promise of VR support were the strongest take-aways from their press conference.

 

002-plaftorms

Again this year, the PS4 and the Xbox One are the two leading platforms in terms of media coverage. Interestingly, the Wii platforms and the 3DS have both declined significantly, the former more drastically so than the latter. A lot of this can be also be attributed by the significantly smaller support from 3rd party for the Nintendo devices, that rely on its own games for the majority of coverage.

002-plaftorms_reach

Looking at the reach (details on the method at the end of the blog post), the gap between the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One is a lot narrower. The generally higher profile of media covering the Xbox new devices is probably helping.

Another interesting difference is how good the Oculus Rift’s reach is compared to the number of articles. There seems to be a strong interest in VR devices from bigger media outlets.

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Looking specifically at the 3 leading VR tethered HMDs, the HTC Vive still got a significant amount of media coverage, through announcements made to support it (notably Fallout 4). Last week also saw a lot of controversy pitting the Oculus publishing strategy against the HTC Vive’s, probably feeding media coverage of both devices.

Of course, the Playstation VR was at the heart of VR hardware news with a launch date and price announced.

Games

Following the format set last year, I have looked into the games that got the most media coverage, before getting into the ones specifically presented during the publishers’ press conferences, and then looking at interesting smaller case studies.

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

  • There was no “Fallout 4-style” announcement dominating the media like last year.
  • EA’s strategy to “not attend” E3 has paid off for them. They have the 2 games dominating the media that week. It seems like the notion from last year that going first gives you an edge might be true here as well.
  • Despite Nintendo’s poor media presence, it has one of the most talked about games of the show with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. By comparison, there were no Nintendo games in the top 15 ranking last year.
  • Overwatch is still going incredibly strong (if you follow me on Twitter, it was the game with the most media presence in May), getting into these rankings without having any E3-related news.

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Looking at the reach of the articles on video games, it is impressive to see that the new Zelda has indeed caught the attention of the most influential media. In the same vein, whilst the new Hideo Kojima game Death Stranding didn’t have as many articles as the new PREY, the media covering it are overall bigger ones.

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There were only 3 publisher-powered press conferences this year, with Square Enix skipping it this time around. While Ubisoft had better coverage for its top titles than last year, it is still not doing as well as EA or Bethesda, both having been set prior to the console makers events.

EA sees its two first-person shooters dominating the line up. Whilst Battlefield is a known quantity, and it doing very well is not surprising, Titanfall 2 is a surprising 2nd as the most talked about game of E3. Another surprise is the how a sports title like FIFA, a genre that doesn’t usually get a lot of media to talk about them in comparison, has had more coverage than any of the Ubisoft titles for instance. The announcement of the story mode probably played a very strong part in this. And lastly, Mass Effect: Andromeda, despite having very little shown about it last week AND being an RPG, also not the biggest genre for video games, has performed remarkably well in the media.

Out of the 4 most discussed Bethesda titles, only 1 hasn’t been released yet, and it had already been announced last year, showing an interesting trend for Bethesda’s games to capture the attention of the media beyond their launch – more so than the upcoming titles like PREY or Quake Champions.

As for Ubisoft, Watch Dogs 2 is continuing to get the interest of the media following its recent reveal. The time allocated to For Honor during the Ubisoft presentation was significant, probably helping the game garner media coverage last week. The conference closer though, Steep, despite being set as the piece de resistance, wasn’t as popular as other games from the Ubisoft line up.

For the first time (mostly because we have improved the way our tool works, and can now more properly track names that were tricky in the past for us, notably EA), I have looked into the publishers’ names mentioned in the media and the result is quite as expected:

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All 3 companies with a press event are doing way better than all the other ones. Interestingly, they actually do more or less the same, the excellent coverage that Bethesda got for a few games being counterbalanced by the larger number of games that are present in the Ubisoft line-up, for instance.

Case studies

Looking at specific data points, I have selected a few interesting case studies to quickly present here.

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I mentioned it earlier, but FIFA 17 did much much better than last year’s iteration. We are talking almost twice the coverage from last year. The new key feature announced (the story mode) as well as the timing of the EA press conference are my two strongest theories as to why this is.

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Like last year, I made an arbitrary selection of games to share data on. This is the best way to show the different scales for games using E3 for communication. Here are some thoughts:

  • We Happy Few. It was shown, on stage, during the Xbox press event. The game has never had so much coverage since it was announced (unsurprisingly), and despite the absence of publisher support, it is seeing more coverage than other games with such support.
  • Vampyr. The new title developed by Life is Strange‘s studio DontNod, published by Focus Interactive, was featured during the PC Gaming Show and is probably the game featured there that had the most coverage.
  • Fe. The successor to Unravel as the indie-title-being-published-by-EA. It didn’t capture as much media attention as Unravel though (700+ articles at E3 last year).
  • Dawn of War III. Another game featured during the PC Gaming Show, published by Sega. It makes me think that Sega doesn’t put a lot of energy into E3.
  • Cuphead. This was the 3rd year for the title to be showed at E3. Still getting quite a decent coverage, but not something in the same scale as last year’s.
  • Oxygen Not Included. The new upcoming game from Klei entertainment (Don’t Starve, Shank), the game was one of the few games actually revealed during the PC Gaming Show. The coverage it got makes me wonder if the game might have done better in terms of coverage at a smaller event like PAX.

Overall, games that have strong infrastructures behind them (publishers mostly) have much, much better coverage at E3, as one might expect.

009-vr-games

With VR still being a strong topic at this year’s E3, I wanted to give a check on the VR games that were the most talked about during the week.

The two most mentioned games are both backed by very strong franchises, respectively Batman and Star Trek, maybe showing the path for VR to claw its way to the mass market audiences.

Closing words

All things considered, 2016 was a strong E3, although with much of the action happening on the periphery of the event itself, the “E3 show” as we know it is certainly changing. EA, running its event in parallel, actually came out stronger than it had in the past at the event. It might be a new trend starting, with the question of the role the show itself would play if more companies decide to piggy back on the draw it has with media during the week, without actually contributing to it. Would it work out at all without the support of the majority of large publishers?

 

 

A few technical notes

Why Nintendo and not the Wii?

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

What is the reach value?

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

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

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…

 

gamescom 2015 – media coverage analysis

The dust has settled and it is time to have an in-depth look at the media coverage that gamescom received this year. I think you would all benefit checking out my article from last year. I will compare a lot this year and last year, but a proper refresher can be found in that post.

gamescom 2015

This year’s gamescom was particularly interesting due to a number of differences from the previous years.

New dates

gamescom 2015 was 2 weeks earlier than the previous editions. It took place from the 5th of August to the 9th of August. I have heard multiple theories as to why the dates were changed, but couldn’t confirm any of them. What is certain is that on the industry side, I haven’t met anyone who liked those dates. They are in the sacrosanct first half of August during which most of continental Europe is on holidays. While it might have been a motivation, in order to make it easier for consumers to attend the B2C side of the event, the business side hated it. Another point was the proximity with E3 which is further explained below. This said, it didn’t seem to affect much my own meetings (anecdotal evidence there) or the attendance numbers. But it probably impacted the second change from previous years:

No Sony conference

While Sony was present at gamescom and had a massive booth, there was no media briefing the day before the event started. Microsoft was basically on its own this time around, with no other comparable media briefing to face it.

The reason for this is more than likely due the proximity between gamescom and E3 this year. With an extra early gamescom, there were only 6 weeks between the two events and Sony decided to skip gamescom and to have a media briefing ahead of the Paris Games Week this year instead (late October, in Paris as the name suggests).

Expanded halls

This was the first time in a while that the exhibition halls were moved at gamescom. It meant some extra space for the B2B area with Hall 2 and 3 for the first time used at gamescom. The B2C section was also expanded, with the usually only partially used Halls 10.1 and 10.2 better populated, and Hall 5 taken from the B2B for the first time. Hall 1 was also secured for a one night event around German Youtubers.

Riot Games wasn’t present this year, after having occupied half a hall in 2014, but the space they left vacant was filled in with more exhibitors this year.

Numbers

Here are the numbers as announced by the gamescom’s organisers:

  • 345,000 visitors (+10,000 from 2014)
  • 33,200 trade visitors (+1,700 from 2014)
  • 806 exhibitors (+106 from 2014)
  • 6,000 media reps (same as 2014, but according to the organizers they were stricter than previously with the requirements for a press accreditation)

There is a growth for the event, even if it is not a massive one (were are talking about +3% for visitors and +5% for trade visitors). Considering the size the event has already reached, this is not necessarily surprising. I wonder though if the change in dates helped or made it harder for the growth.

Photo: Koelnmesse

Hallendurchblick Halle 7

In short, this year gamescom was again massive. But enough of this, let’s look at *our* numbers.

gamescom in the media

All numbers here are taken as usual from our media monitor. They cover the whole week of gamescom, like last year.

gc14-vs-15_dailies_articles

With only one media briefing taking place on the Tuesday, the peak of the media coverage didn’t happen on that day like last year. Wednesday is an important day at gamescom as this is the one day where the show floor is open to professionals-only. A lot of media meetings happen during that day, and somehow, this year saw a lot more output than last year.

So, despite no press conference from Sony this year, there were more articles published on the Tuesday and way way more articles on the Wednesday. Overall, this year’s media output was significantly bigger than last year.

gc14-vs-15_articles

More than 25% articles published in the week mentioned gamescom. That’s a very significant increase, especially when Sony didn’t have a media brief to announce something major.

gc14-vs-15_languages_articles

Looking only at the 5 top languages, there was some growth across the board, but the largest part of this year’s growth came from German and Italian media outlets.

gc14-vs-15_languages_uniquewebsites

Looking purely at the number of unique websites covering the event, it is interesting to see that there is almost no growth – the increase in the number of articles is coming from a generally bigger output by the media attending, rather than more media attending the event. This is particularly striking when considering the Italian media, where fewer sites covered gamescom, but still had close to 67% more articles than last year.

Platforms

With no Sony media brief this year, the results for the platform with the largest media coverage shouldn’t be very surprising.

gamescom2015_platforms_articles

What is quite striking is how the Playstation 4 performance is still strong in regards to its main competitor. A lot was happening for Sony at gamescom, their booth was large and busy, but it also speaks for the strength of the brand (especially in Europe) to keep such a strong media presence.

gc14-vs-15_platform_articles

Compared to last year, where they were holding a press conference, Sony didn’t seem to lose much media presence. It is good to bear in mind that this year was a very strong year in terms of the media output, though. Less media coverage, during a year that saw a significant growth, could well hide a much bigger missed opportunity for Sony.

In the case of Microsoft, the net gain is incontestable, with almost +50% articles on Xbox One from last year’s event. Also notable for them, is the very strong showing of Windows 10 in the media, even though this is across kind of articles and a number of them might just be related to the release of the OS and not be connected to gamescom. By our metrics, it is still a very strong week in terms of media presence.

Nintendo’s consoles performed better than last year as well, following the general growth of the event in term of media coverage.

Finally, while closer than ever to its consumer version launch, Oculus doesn’t seem to have grown massively its media coverage from its presence at gamescom.

Comparing E3 and gamescom

For reference, this is the same comparison I did last year:

09_Week-of-E3-vs-gamescom-2014-of-articles-per-platform

 

Those numbers from last year show a significant difference of scale between the two events, with E3 taking a much more prominent role in the calendar of all actors in the games industry.

gc15-vs-e315_platform_articles

The number for this year are very instructive. Where the Playstation 4 had a similar coverage at E3 year-on-year, the Xbox One had a great E3 compared to last year, and an even greater gamescom. The media coverage it received was at a similar level as E3 last year.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft having free reign at gamescom paid off – but I think it is important to highlight that it didn’t happen purely because of the absence of serious contenders. This year’s gamescom conference was, to me, the best Microsoft has organised in years, across the different E3s and gamescoms. If you ignore the incredibly cringey eSport moment with the commentators going on about a pre-recorded match, the overall line was very strong, quite varied, and had a surprising number of first announcements, without too much of the forced-down-your-throat “we are awesome” lines that are usual for Microsoft (and that I believe is not as well received in Europe as it is in the US).

It is a welcome strong performance and sets up for an interesting gamescom next year, when it will be held at a more usual time of somewhere in mid-August.

Games

Like last year, I have prepared a graph with the top 30 games mentioned during the gamescom’s week. All games highlighted in green are titles that were featured during the Microsoft press conference:

top30_games_articles_gamescom15_b

 

The star of the show last year was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (with about 1,700 articles). This time around, the Call of Duty game ranks 19th. The change of privileged partner from Sony to Microsoft is surely playing a big role (and we should see how it pays off media-wise after Paris Games Week).

EA and Blizzard also both holding press conferences had a big impact. World of Warcraft, while having a very very steady amount of coverage normally, rarely breaks into the most covered in the media. Star Wars Battlefront, FIFA 16 and Mirror’s Edge all benefitted from Electronic Arts media conference.

Metal Gear Solid 5 shows the incredible strength of the brand, and Konami did put a lot out during gamescom to promote their game.

Another very notable performance is DOTA 2. Totally unrelated from gamescom, this is thanks to the final phase of The International 5 taking place the exact same week as gamescom. I am not sure this was ideal for the game, but it still managed to be very present in the news cycles.

Concluding thoughts

While there is already a very interesting picture appearing from this year’s gamescom, the story won’t really be complete until we see how the shift to Paris Games Week will do for Sony. The lead that Microsoft has created in its media presence during gamescom is very real, but it hasn’t translated in something durable so far:

aug2015_ps4xb1_articles

 

E3 2015 Media Coverage Analysis – aka “Who won the E3 media battle?”

A year ago, I did a pretty extensive analysis of the media coverage around E3. Well, I have done it again, and it now benefits from the added experience of data tracking for the past 12 months.

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. For the purpose of this article, I have only looked at the data from articles published during the week of E3 (from Sunday to Saturday).

Last disclaimer: of all the games that were featured in the main press conference, we have one that is problematic to track with our current tools and which has been excluded from all the data below: Just Cause 3. Just keep this in mind, we haven’t ignored it, it is just a slightly problematic game for us at the moment.

 

Platforms

To get started, I wanted to get advantage of some information I didn’t have last year: the data from the previous year.

Comparing the coverage year-on-year is an important indicator, one I wanted to check first. It is important to note that the number of media we properly track is constantly evolving – some websites die, some news ones emerge, and sometimes the websites break the way we track them, so the system for tracking articles is consistently improved upon. Overall, I think the pure volume of media we track is increasing overtime, but it is a rather slow increase.

E3 - Platforms in the media - number of articles

In terms of number of articles, we can see a decline for both Sony and Nintendo, while Microsoft has a significant increase in the media coverage. This might come from a stronger line up on Microsoft’s part or weaker showing from their competitors. We shall see later, but it might also come from a more clever selection of the multiformat titles featured for the respective conferences (well, between Sony and Microsoft as Nintendo is not invited to play that game).

* 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 9, MondesPersistants.com has a reach of 2. So what you see below, is a chart of the total reach of all the articles showed above. We refresh the reach values constantly.

E3 - Platforms in the media - Total Reach

The graph shows an interesting pattern. It shows that the media coverage might have reduced in volume, but the media covering the event have grown. It could be the websites have a better penetration than last year, or it could be more general interest media (that tend to have a much better reach) are taking a bigger interest in the video games news.

It also shows this year wasn’t a Nintendo year, hardly maintaining its reach from last year when both Microsoft and Sony expanded.

Looking more at the specific platforms more specifically:

E3 2015 - Platforms - number of articles

Leading the pack, the Playstation 4 has roughly the same volume of articles as last year. Xbox One saw a 25% increase in the number of articles mentioning it. The Wii U, the PS3 and the Xbox 360 are all seeing a decline. That’s understandable for the two “old gen” machines, but more concerning for Nintendo.

On the front of the new technology, Oculus Rift (which had its own media conference the week before), Morpheus and Hololens are all holding up nicely in the same range.

I added StarVR, newcomer to the VR scene, as they had just announced their existence and had a presence at E3. With 264 articles, and considering their lower profile, I think this is a good performance.

Games

I have kept things a bit simpler this year and avoided looking at the games as mentioned during the console makers’ conferences. They tend to bleed over the conference of the publishers and not provide much insight. I am going to experiment with the publishers conferences instead – especially as this year two new companies are trying themselves at this perilous exercise with Bethesda and Square Enix joining EA and Ubisoft.

But, first, just looking at all the games we track, here are the top 15 games the most mentioned during E3:

E3 2015 - Top 15 Games

First thing to mention, all the games making the top 15 were featured during one or more of the media conference.

Second thing to mention, FALLOUT 4!!! I have meant to write an article on the media coverage the announcement for the game had but couldn’t make it happen pre-E3. From the current research I made for that article, Fallout 4 announcement is the most covered game announcement since we track these data. By a large margin. But even with such a strong sign of the franchise power, I didn’t expect Fallout 4 to dominate by that much, especially after the storm of coverage that FF7 and Shenmue created.

Bethesda had a brilliant timing and this helps a lot for their presence in that chart (Fallout 4; DOOM; Dishonored 2). By going first on the Sunday, with journalists all already present in LA and with nothing to do for a whole news cycle but write about their games, Bethesda snatched a great spot. Fallout also got double featured, at the Bethesda event as well as the Microsoft briefing.

Sony, despite losing ground to Microsoft year-on-year, still has the knack to bring topics that make the buzz going: Final Fantasy 7; Shenmue on Kickstarter; The Last Guardian. They certainly won’t be able to use a similar trick for next year – unless they can convince Ubisoft to announce Beyond Good and Evil 2 at their press conference that is…

Comparing the publishers’ conferences

E3 2015 - Publishers compared

[click to enlarge]

Looking at publishers one by one, Electronic Arts looks a bit underwhelming. Arguably, Battlefront did very well, considering how loved the franchise is (the movies and the games), it is a bit surprising it didn’t perform even better. It didn’t pass on the coverage Battlefield Hardline received the previous year, a surprising fact. Mirror’s Edge coming as the 2nd game of the publisher is more surprising. While critically acclaimed, Mirror’s Edge wasn’t a big hit. Few details were available ahead of the show (and seemingly not in a controlled fashion that might have compromised the potential) possibly making it a hot topic for journalists on site last week. Interestingly, FIFA 16 has about 20% fewer articles this E3 than what FIFA 15 had last year. Pelé didn’t make up for it.

Bethesda is the clear “winner” this year. They didn’t have many games at the show, but they got the interest of the media. While Fallout and DOOM are strong and well established franchises that haven’t been seen in a while, Dishonored 2 has done very well for itself. For the second title of a new IP, it received 50% more coverage than this year’s Assassin’s Creed. Quite the performance. The other surprise is Fallout Shelter. While Fallout is obviously a strong brand, mobile games are generally not as well covered as PC/Console titles by a very significant margin. Fallout Shelter is not only the 4th Bethesda most talked about game (coming before The Elder Scrolls titles as well as Battlecry), but it received coverage comparable to Ubisoft’s key titles. My theory is that it benefitted from a number of things: the Fallout brand; the 1st game on mobile for Bethesda; being available “right now”; the excellent Bethesda timing mentioned earlier. If you are a journalist in LA on the Sunday before E3, waiting for the big event to start the following day, why not download this now to give it a spin?

I have already mentioned Ubisoft twice in this section, not in a very positive manner. What happened? To be honest, I like Ubisoft’s conferences. But maybe the formula is a bit too established? The Division‘s very decent performance is the saving grace, and a surprising one to me: this is not the first time the game is presented at E3. But it managed to garner more coverage than last year (about 10% more). Possibly, the fact it got featured during 2 of the conferences helped significantly? I imagine the game was playable on the show floor and that, along with a release date, was a contributing factor. Rainbow 6 Siege was also present at last year E3, and it also received more coverage this time around. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the disappointing element of the Ubisoft line up. Assassin’s Creed Unity had about 2,300 articles during last year show – compared to this, Syndicate doesn’t even reach the 1,000 articles threshold. I found the trailer quite compelling, I suspect something different happening in the strategy for the game this time around: looking at the daily data for the two games, it is obvious there was significantly more coverage on the days after the conference for Unity than for Syndicate. Overall, a weak media presence, especially considering that last year, Ubisoft had Assassin’s Creed Unity as the most covered game of E3 and Far Cry 4 as the 3rd most covered game of E3.

To conclude this section, Square Enix returned as a publisher hosting a conference. It wasn’t an easy ride for them – they had to postpone their conference after realizing they would collide with Nintendo’s; and the conference itself was… let’s say there is a huge margin for them to improve for next year. But beyond those considerations, the numbers are showing up. Even if you are ready to consider the Final Fantasy VII as a unique anomaly (how often will you be able to reboot one of the most well-loved games in the world?), the Hitman announcement has been very well received (arguably, I think the Deus Ex announcement in April was a better announcement, but that will be for its own case study). Deus Ex Mankind Divided did very well. It was supported massively by the 20 minutes demo on the show floor – a video of which was shared later in the week, leading to a lot of additional coverage for the game. Tomb Raider is getting a very decent amount of coverage, but maybe not to the extent I would have expected for the franchise. Overall, Square Enix did incredibly well (and that’s without being able to properly track Just Cause 3). Not sure how much more coverage they got through this though – a lot of their coverage was supported by console makers conferences (FF7 with Sony and Tomb Raider with Microsoft).

 

It is fascinating to see the two publishers that aren’t traditionally seen hosting an E3 conference performing so well in comparison to EA and Ubisoft. I am pretty sure the devil is in the details, and the fact they elected to have a conference this year of all years was also driven by the strength of their announcements. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have predicted such an outcome.

 

Mobile titles

This segment is a bit of a stretch as they aren’t many mobile titles that are part of the E3 line-ups, but it is the opportunity for me to make a point that I already discussing on the Goat Simulator case study.

E3 2015 - Mobile titles - number of articles

A quick overview of the games, from the publicly available information:

Fallout Shelter (Bethesda) – a management game, set in the Fallout universe, revealed at the conference and available to all at the same time.

The Elder Scrolls Legends (Bethesda) – a CCG set in Tamriel, the universe of The Elder Scrolls series. Revealed at the conference, it will be available on iPad and PC but no release date for now.

Lara Croft Go (Square Enix) – a turn-based puzzle adventure game, based on the Tomb Raider franchise. Announced at the conference, nothing specific on devices required and no release date announced yet.

Minions Paradise (EA) – a management game, set in the Despicable Me universe. I am a bit confused on the whole announcement, trying to do some quick fact checks, it seems the app is already on the different stores, since end of April, but the conference presented it as an upcoming game, the host even stating “later this year”. So, go figure. Not sure it would have made a massive difference for the media present.

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (EA) – a CCG set in the Star Wars universe. Announced at the EA conference, no release dates and no devices specified.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key (Square Enix) – an adventure game (I think) set in the Kingdom Hearts universe (now, that’s the easy way out for me to avoid explaining that setting). Announced at the Square Enix press conference, with no release date.

 

Here are my takeaways (based on a very small sample, so it might not be worth much):

  • I don’t understand how the Elder Scrolls CCG got so well covered. It might be the brand; it might be the fact it was announced as coming to PC; it might be because Sunday was a pretty boring day in LA.
  • Minions Paradise had a whole part of the EA conference presentation dedicated to itself. With a trailer followed by a gameplay demo. Nobody cared. Planning your communication for your mobile title like a console or a PC game seems like a bad idea.
  • But not as bad an idea as just announcing “a Star Wars CCG with all the characters of the franchise you love”. I don’t think you can make it sound more generic and bland. At least, the Elder Scrolls CCG had a trailer of sort.
  • Lara Croft Go was very well covered all things considered. I suspect Hitman Go and the relatively good feedback it received helped, along with a peek at the art direction and the game style.
  • Nobody cared about Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key, despite providing a (cryptic, I admit) gameplay video.
  • Announcing your mobile game as it becomes available seems like a good idea. The brand is a multiplier if you have one.

 

Non-AAA titles

Finally, I wanted to also provide a sample of smaller titles, across the board from the games presented at E3, to provide some benchmark materials beyond the big titles. Here is the selection with some context:

American Truck Simulator (Excalibur Publishing) – announced during the PC games conference. A simulator where you drive trucks in America.

Beyond Eyes (Team17) – announced during the Xbox conference and featured during the PC games conference. A game where you play as a blind girl named Rae in search for her missing cat.

Crossing Souls (Devolver) – featured during the Sony conference. An action-adventure game in pixel art and with a goonies vibe to it.

Cuphead (Studio MDHR) – featured during the Xbox conference (and revealed last year IIRC). A run and gun Platform game drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons. Also, my personal favourite concept (along with SUPERHOT).

Mother Russia Bleeds (Devolver) – featured during the Sony conference. An ultra violent Beat ‘Em Up game set in an alternate 1980s USSR.

No Man’s Sky (Hello games) – featured during the Sony conference and during the PC games conference. A science-fiction game set in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy.

Unravel (EA) – announced during the EA press conference. A physically based platformer with a character made of yarn.

Vampyr (Focus Interactive) – not featured during any of the high profile conference but presented during the show.  An Action RPG set in early 20th Century England.

With the selection I tried to have games with different profiles, that were presented through different medium during the event and with interesting comparison points.

E3 2015 - Non AAA titles - number of articles

 

Crossing Souls and Mother Russia Bleeds are both published by Devolver, they both got the same visibility during the Sony press conference and they were both hands on at the show (from what I could gather). Mother Russia Bleeds also released a trailer later in the week. Ignoring the media that trailer generated, Mother Russia was still getting more media coverage than Crossing Souls. The more immediately understandable gameplay, and the very graphic violence possibly making it an easier story to relay.

Cuphead has received a lot of coverage, thanks to its very unique art direction. Considering that Beyond Eyes was featured at a similar level at the Xbox conference, and was featured again at the PC conference, Cuphead has been resonating better with the media (and makes for very shareable gifs).

No Man’s Sky and Unravel are two games that have been incredibly well covered, while being outside of the AAA norm. No Man’s Sky has been announced in December 2013 and was already featured at E3 2014 (at the Sony conference). Coverage this year has progressed from last year (about 200 more articles). Unravel on the other hand is one of EA’s rare venture into games outside of the AAA formula, and with its reveal garnered almost as much coverage as FIFA 16. What made those two games perform so well? With No Man’s Sky, there is no doubt since its announcement that there is a strong following for the game and media is following suit. The details are quite rare and the E3 demo, while short, illustrated elements of the game never shown before. Unravel on the other hand was an announcement (more case studies on those to come), garnering extra attention thanks to this, and the incredibly emotional designer that presented the character on stage (a real doll made out of yarn) probably resonated well with the audience, while being at odds with the usually dry and corporate image that people have of EA.

Vampyr  finally is very interesting. For not being featured at any of the conference, this game made by Remember Me and Life is Strange developer Don’t Nod, was relatively well covered with its presence at E3, illustrating that the press conference are not necessarily the end all solution for a decent media presence from your E3 show.

 

Closing words

I have tried to keep the size of the article under a manageable size. There are more that could be dug from the data gathered (and I might do some follow ups), but I hope this gives a good view of last week’s E3 and the media outcome from the different announcements.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bethesda is the clear “winner” of this E3. They brilliantly managed the event (from a media presence perspective at least) and I will be very curious to see next year who will try to get the Sunday conference spot. Prior to the event, I was very skeptical about Bethesda decision to do a conference at E3. Those conferences are expensive to set up and a massive burden on your teams to organise properly. I also tend to question the wisdom to share the limelight with your competition during the same week. Sony’s Playstation Experience was a great illustration of how running your own media event could benefit you in a great (better?) way than a shared global event. With Bethesda running Quakecon, I was thinking they would be diluting their effort in an event where it would difficult for them to shine. I was wrong – they did great. Which makes me wonder if the others were not wrong in sharing their audience with them this time around.

 

I will leave you with this comic from @TheMeatly, illustrating nicely those concluding thoughts:

 

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.

PR Monitor – 2014 in review [updated]

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

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