It has already been six months since my last check on the crowdfunding trends for video games. With everyone taking it slow because the summer is coming (I am joking, everyone is rabidly preparing for gamescom), here is the latest data and what I make of it. This is part one, as I will do another blog post on Tabletop Games. Read more

Like every year, this is the time for a look at the performance of the many E3 announcements in terms of media coverage.
If this the first time you read about our analysis, you can find out more about the methodology used, and read the blog posts for 20152016, and 2017.

Overall trend

Starting with 2016, I set up a media tracker to measure the media coverage for the E3 itself. It tracks all the articles that mention the event, and is a good indicator of the scale of a particular year’s crop.

 

As you can see, 2018 was a decline year in terms of total volume of media articles mentioning the event. I am not sure this should be particularly worrying, or even surprising. While there were great games revealed during the week, it was also particularly light on industry-changing announcements.

We are well into the cycle of this generation of consoles, while the rumours on the next gen are growing, there was nothing to feed many articles. The same goes for new technologies, like VR and the impact it had over the past two E3s.

It’s good to note that there has been a decline, and while it is merely a 5.5% drop, for an event of that scale, it could be an indicator of a trend.

Platforms

Looking at the performance of the key brands for the consoles, the downward trend is much more significant. It is the worst year for the PlayStation since we started measuring, and the worst year for Microsoft since 2014.

I have to confess I am surprised that Microsoft’s performance ended being at this level. I felt they had a very good conference, and while their line-up is still behind, they had better announcement than last year. It seems like it wasn’t enough to compensate a hardware communication, like the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S last year.

As for Nintendo, 2018 was their best year, even if, arguably, the volume of articles mentioning them is very close to last year’s.

This validates very much Nintendo’s strategy to not have a traditional press conference. At the very least, it doesn’t seem to prevent them to secure a significant volume of media coverage. Nintendo also benefitted for the first time in a while from the media coverage around 3rd party titles, with their Fortnite announcement being spot on with the current Battle Royale frenzy.

Looking at the specific platforms mention, we find the same ranking in the top 3. What is significant though here is that the platforms outside of these three consoles have ridiculously low coverage numbers compared to previous years.

And in case you were wondering, E3’s fling with VR is mostly over.

Games

This is my read on those numbers:

  • Fortnite had so much going for it during the week of E3: Nintendo Switch port, Celebrity Pro Am event, and the controversy around the crossplay restrictions on the PlayStation 4. Add to this that Fortnite has been a very popular game with the media in the past few months, it doesn’t come as a surprise it managed to dominate here.
  • Fallout 76 is following in the steps of Fallout 4 when it was first showed at E3 in 2015. It has not dominated the way F4 did then, but it makes sense for the game to be so well covered.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 is the real winner for me. While it didn’t get the most coverage, it certainly did very well for an “original” IP, surfing on the media interest for The Witcher series, and the high expectation everyone has for the next CD Project rpg.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the first console-exclusive of that ranking, beating The Last of Us part 2, an upset in my mind.

Looking at the most mentioned games from the three largest studios with a press event, this year’s numbers are lower than last year’s.

It is quite notable in the case of EA’s games. There has been a decline in the coverage received for their most covered games compared to last year’s. It might come from the fact the lack of renewal of their franchise, considering their 3 most covered in 2017 were Anthem (same as this year, without the novelty factor), Star Wars Battlefront 2 (another FPS from DICE), and FIFA 18 (yearly cycle doesn’t help standing out).

On the overall coverage mentioning the publishers’ brand, Electronic Arts is still ahead. The notable changes from last year is the relative growth of Bethesda’s presence, taking the second spot away from Ubisoft that saw a drop. Also interesting is the seemingly lack of interest in Activision in this year’s E3, losing its ranking at 6th to SEGA.

Closing Words – A Storm is Brewing

This E3 was very much an intermerdiary year. Despite some very exciting games being revealed, the overall numbers are lower than previous year. It sets up 2019 to be a very exciting edition.

I am also looking forward to the next press conferences from Nintendo and Sony, who have not been shy in keeping bombshell announcements for their non-E3 communications.

 

You might be familiar with the different analysis we conduct around key media events of the games industry, such our regular E3 and gamescom media coverage analysis.

We have in the past used the same tools to help games companies better understand their PR actions and identify ways for them to improve their reach. I have been meaning to build a simple case study to illustrate this type of analysis and today we are releasing a case study on the media coverage of Nier: Automata.

 

Why do this case study?

The modern media landscape is evolving very quickly. With these changes, we see new media emerging, and we are also in a better position to measure and understand the impact of specific communication efforts.

However, there are not many benchmarks around to compare performance of these actions. By building a case study, albeit around a popular game, this is a first step towards providing reference points in that field.

Why using Nier: Automata for this?

We wanted to study a game that has been a clear success, with a significant volume of coverage across multiple territories to have statistically relevant numbers.

We avoided titles that have been so successful at securing coverage that anything we would have uncovered would be useless to anyone as it would have been a “black swan”, unique on its own.

I had selected a few potential titles, and I let Twitter decide:

https://twitter.com/icotom/status/888049917482160128

 

What was the methodology used?

We used our internal Media Monitor, a tool used for many of our PR intelligence missions and related blog posts. You can find details on the tool over here: https://icopartners.com/2014/06/pr-monitoring-working/

 

The report is short and to the point – it looks at how well different beats performed for Nier: Automata, from an online media coverage perspective.

And we compared Nier: Automata to a handful of games that seemed relevant because of their genre and their release window.

 

The report is free to download on Gumroad – and you can find it and our other reports in the Publication section of the website.

There are more and more events every year dedicated to video games. Navigating through the annual schedule is getting increasingly complex, and we have many discussions with our different partners about the merits of the different events for them to attend, depending on the profile of their games, the current state of development of the projects, and the company’s long term goals.

 

I spend a fair amount of time at these events for our own reasons, and I have been toying with the idea of a guide for anyone feeling a bit lost on the topic. This blog post is the first attempt at such a guide. The idea is not to tell you which events to attend, mostly because there is not one size fits all answer to this question, but to breakdown what roles these events play in the life of a game, and of a studio.

The other important component is the idea of an event id card (I sometimes call them events stats blocks, because of reasons) – a single-image summary of what an event is about (a two- or three- images summary for those events that have fundamentally different components to them), and what it is good for, hopefully helping you decide which are the ones you should definitely attend.

The blog post is very much structured as a guide to understand these event id cards, explaining the different parts and helping you decide what matters the most to you, your project and business when attending an event, along with a first batch of cards for the main industry events.

 

Events ID cards explained

The event id cards are broken into the following components:

 

  1. Name of the event.
  2. Usual time of the year it happens (the month).
  3. Location (city, country).
  4. Type of audience. Whether this is a professional event (B2B – Business to Business), or  a public event (B2C – Business to Consumer). Events with both components will get an id card for each of them. More details below.
  5. Nature of the event. What the event is. I will go in more details about each category you can find here.  I will also go into detail on each possible option later on.
  6. Event Size. General information about the duration of the event and its size.
  7. Goals. What is the usual motivation to attend the event. I will also go into detail on each factor.
  8. Description. Don’t expect any lengthy text here. It is mostly to provide context.
  9. Cost to attend. These are bare minimum costs and don’t go take into consideration travel and lodging. I think this is important to have, but take this with a massive grain of salt and DO NOT use it for budgeting purposes. Always build your budget using actual pricing information from the organizers.

 

Event ID card for the GDC

 

Types of audience

The most basic categorisation of events is based on what type of audience it is intended for. This quite simple, as there are two possibilities:

  • Public events are intended to be for anyone who cares to attend. They are not necessarily free, but there is an understanding that anyone can go there and the content is aimed at the general public. These are also referred to as B2C events (Business to Consumers) and they can be conventions, exhibitions, or even conferences. Most often these have a showfloor where you can exhibit your game to the general public.
  • Professional events are intended for professionals (or would-be professionals) of the game industry. They are also referred to as B2B (Business to Business events), and there is a huge variety of them.

Of course, some events have both public and professional components – gamescom for instance has an area dedicated to professionals and closed to the public, while  most of the space is taken up by booths showcasing games for the public.

In those cases, I will make an event id card for each side of the event.

 

Nature of the events

This is what will tell you what actually happens at the event. Many events have different types of activities and related content, so expect to see multiple categories to match a single event.

  • Conference. You have speakers, and maybe round tables, sometimes you sit down in the audience and listen, and other times you contribute to the discussions.
    But mostly, you have someone telling you things, you listen to them, and you learn something.
  • Show Floor. You have a space, more or less a large one, where exhibitors have set up booths to present their products. Show floors for Public Events will more likely be about showcasing games that are not out yet, and for the public to discover them ahead of their friends. Show Floors for Professional events can be a mix of showcasing games, presenting new technologies, trying to sell developers the latest ad-technology to maximize users acquisition. Here you will also sometimes find recruitment booths. Certain events have huge dedicated spaces for recruiting activities.
  • Networking. The event is set up so that it is easy for meetings to take place. There might be meeting tables, meeting points, and the event may offer a matchmaking service to make it easier for you to find the type of person you want to meet.
  • Awards. The event includes an award ceremony. Some are more sophisticated than others. These range from taking over a conference room when the time comes to announce the winners, to a full-on dinner party with a host and entertainment around the awards announcements themselves.
  • Competition. These are esports events – competitions organised around a number of video games. Generally, they will be Public Events.

Most of the events I will cover are mainly of the first three types – the vast majority of events relevant to professionals of the game industry would have at least on those component at the heart of what they offer.

Goals

Why do you attend events?

What is it you want to achieve by attending?

These might seem obvious questions, but there are many studios and developers that are attending events, spending significant amounts of money and time, just because they feel that’s what is expected of them, and attending this event or another is what they should do, without going through the process of mapping out what they want out of attending them.

Here are the most common discussed motivations to attend events when working with games studios and publishers:

  • Learn
  • Media Appointments
  • Business Networking
  • Meet your Peers
  • Show your Game to the public
  • Meet your Community
  • Sell
  • Celebrate
  • Building Brand Awareness
  • Market Intelligence

 

Learn

Most commonly seen at conferences, where sharing knowledge is a formalised component of the event, learning can also be expected at any event where you have the opportunity to speak with your peers about specific aspects of your projects, and learn from others’ projects.  This is a very straightforward reason for attending, albeit one not easy to evaluate the ROI on.

You might expect a specific event to be rife with sharing of like-minded individuals, but there is usually no formal process to make that happen; you might attend a conference where the key topics for discussion are on matters that you, or your studio, have already mastered.

It is important to consider the importance of what you want to get from an event in that regard, to double check the speakers’ backgrounds and their previous speaking engagements. To that effect, you can search for their names on YouTube, or you can have a read through their Twitter timeline, to build a better picture in regards to what to expect.

Events that rely heavily on conferences and content are very careful about their reputation, and usually spend a significant amount of energy securing good speakers and curating their program. Checking for an event’s reputation ahead of time, asking previous attendees about their experiences there, is another good idea, and particularly important if your main objective is learning.

You should also consider whether the event is recording its content and distributing it afterwards (some will will have their content behind a paywall while others will share it for free). You might not get the extra warm feeling that you have when you breathe in the same air of a respected expert of your field, but you will likely save a lot of money.

 

Media appointments

You have a great game, and you want to put it in the hands of journalists, getting them excited about it and, hopefully, to write about it.

For certain events, the media attendance can be one of the main motivation for studios to go. This is certainly true for gamescom in Europe, for instance, where the calendar of the event has even a dedicated day for press (even though at gamescom media appointments will happen throughout the event, as well as in the halls dedicated to the public side).

The trick is here is not to expect that showing up is all you have to do. At any event, if your goal is to present your game to the press, you need to work ahead of the event to invite them to drop by your booth. Many events will provide you with a list of the attending media, as long as you are yourself a paying attendee, most often with a booth. But these media lists can be deceptive. They will include everyone who has registered to get a press accreditation and received it. It means multiple things:

  • Some will be very small. Possibly so small that it can be difficult to appreciate how much of your time is worth investing with them.
  • Some will be attending with a specific agenda in mind. Whether or not you fit that agenda can be hard to appreciate ahead of time.
  • Some outlets won’t have many people on site. If you know a major website is attending, don’t rejoice until you know how many journalists are coming. If they send a single person to a large event, they will likely prioritize larger games, and getting their attention will be hard.
  • Some will have registered “just in case”. They are on the list, but they might not be coming at all. They just ensured they had a badge ahead of time, before even deciding if they’d attend.
  • Some will not attend the whole event. They might be in there for a day, an afternoon, or even just a couple of hours. Do not assume that everyone is on site for the full event’s worth of time. It is also common for media to skip the weekend days, most often the B2C period, to stick to week days, and many journalists will go home on Friday evening.

You will have some foot traffic, the odd media person whose meeting was canceled and they’re wandering around, trying to find a hidden gem in the giant haystack that conventions can be, but it will more likely be a smaller media representative who was not significant enough to secure appointments with bigger projects, and has more time on their hands than their larger counterparts. And if you have free time of your own, small streams can make big rivers, but keep an eye on the objective and your priorities at all time.

Another point to keep in mind in regards to taking media appointments, be aware of the media that are important to your specific niche. The big generalist outlets are great, but so are niche websites that represent a perfect fit with your project. The return you can get from those highly specialised journalists can prove more beneficial than a small paragraph produced quickly for a larger publication.

Lastly, make sure you double check an event’s media presence. You might assume that some festivals are bursting with journalists left and right, only to realize they are rather poorly attended by media and you made your assumption because your own media bubble has a particular affinity with those events. Time is at a premium for video games editors and journalists, and they only attend events they know will provide them opportunities for content that makes up for the time spent away from their desks.

 

Business Networking

Whether you want to present a game to a publisher, you want to find some contract work to help your cashflow, or you want to meet with a service provider, your goal is business oriented and you want to spend time to discuss your project with potential partners.

Some events are designed to facilitate these types of discussions. Ahead of the first day, they will invite you to list your company and your project on a matchmaking system, and you will have the ability to consult all the attending companies and their projects, and contact them through said matchmaking system. This is where a couple important disclaimers need to be made:

  • Not all matchmaking solutions are of equal quality. The worst one I had to use was probably at Gstar, the biggest game event in Korea, in November every year in Busan. Gstar is great, but their matchmaking is horrendous! Or it was last time I attended, a couple of years ago, but I haven’t heard anything hinting at it having improved. Be prepared to suffer, though, as they still provide very valuable information on who is attending.
  • Not all matchmaking solutions are actually used. And this can be related to the point above – bad systems are avoided by most attendees – but it can also be because of the profile of the event and habits that attendees have built prior to a matchmaking system being added. Don’t necessarily assume that everyone is using the matchmaking, and always pursue other channels to get in touch with the person you want to meet.

In the absence of a matchmaking solution, you have other ways to find out who is attending an event. At conferences, the list of speakers is the first resource to leverage. They will be busy when they are having their own talks, but most of them are likely attending to network as well. Then, you can check the exhibitors lists, and the sponsors list. These companies are spending money to let the world know they are attending – they will likely be open to meet you. Then, many people in the industry announce their attendance to events through social media – a quick search for the name of the event on Twitter can give you ideas on who to reach out to for your meetings.

Of course, you can also just reach out to people you would like to meet and ask them whether they are attending or not. Even if they are not, that’s an opportunity to find out which events they are headed to, or to arrange a follow up to present your project through a Skype call, or equivalent, when they are not too busy.

When your goal is to organise business meetings, it is likely you have a very specific idea of what you want to get out of your attendance, and whether the event was fruitful should be easy to determine. How many publishers have you met? How many of them showed interest and asked for a follow up after the show? Have you identified potential partners looking for help and who are interested in contracting you? Just keep in mind that while events are great to network and create business leads, the hard work happens after those meetings (and sometimes before, as you have to  make sure you show the best you can do during at those discussions), and any positive business discussion you had will take time to bear fruits, and many of them won’t.

I also find it is important to keep an eye on the long-term benefits of those encounters. While you might be disappointed that the publisher you wanted to work with told you they have a full portfolio and they are not looking for more new games at the moment, that encounter can be beneficial further down the road as they now know you, and they will be more likely to meet you again in the future for other projects. You will also have a better understanding of what they like, and how to pitch to them.

 

Meeting Your Peers

Making a game can be a very exhausting process. Many studios end up working on their game for several years, with the same team of people involved  every day. And even if you can share your thoughts and listen to others going through the same process online, there are proven benefits in going out into the world, taking a break from development, and meet with likeminded people at an event.

For some, this is a way to get inspired by their peers’ stories; others are driven by the positive feedback they can get by sharing the details of their project; or they can be recharging their batteries by making sure that they are not alone and that there is a whole industry, comprised of many peers, helping them and validating what they are doing.

This is obviously a motivation where the ROI is much harder to define, and very personal. I have met developers who hate attending events as it takes them away from “the real work”, while others say they regularly need to connect with other game makers.

Certain events are more suitable than others for this. First, you should consider what are the other motivations that will attract other industry folks there. It is harder to connect and casually discuss at a large B2C event where everyone also has to man a booth, while it would be much easier at a conference, where the schedules are more flexible, and often have breaks to allow attendees to connect. Then, you need to consider the type of person that you are likely to get along with, and whether they are likely to attend the event  in significant numbers. An indie developer is likely to have a hard time finding like-minded individuals at a free-to-play mobile event, for example.

Twitter is again a good source to determine whether or not an event would be suitable for you. You are likely following said like-minded persons, and whether or not some of them are going to attend (or would consider attending, as you can ask them), is an excellent indicator.

Ultra-niche events tend to be good for this purpose. Attending AdventureX in London if you are making a point-and-click adventure game is probably a good idea if you want to meet your peers. And of course, meeting game people will also help you fulfil other motivations (business networking; learning), but I think purely meeting your peers is a valid and often not mentioned motivation.

 

Show Your Game to the Public

You have been working on your game for a number of months, and even though it is not done, you are itching to show it to the world, and to put controllers into the hands of strangers, seeing the project with fresh eyes.

You can arrange this in very different environments – as long as you have space where you can get someone to play, you are good. This could be at a B2C expo, on the show floor, where you have taken a booth specifically for that purpose; it can be in the exhibitors area of a B2B event; or it can even on your laptop, in the corridors of a conference where you persuade friends of friends to give your baby a spin.

There is value in getting your game into the wild, but I think it also comes with some caveats, and this is from talking to many developers but also UX specialists, about the benefits of such endeavours:

  • Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it can be the equivalent of a focus group. Players at an event are not experiencing your game in a good environment to provide structured feedback. They have their friends looking over their shoulder, they know the parents of the baby, so to speak, are looking at their every move, the environment is loud, maybe hot, with many distractions. They are not very likely to tell you your baby is ugly after playing for 10 minutes – they will see the  eagerness in your eyes and they will tell you, “Absolutely, I had a blast, good job mate!”
  • Games are not equal in how they are fit for being played at an event. Your couch multiplayer battle game with short sessions will garner a lot more interest than a turn-based 4X game. When planning to attend an event, if you want to put your game in the hands of others, think about how long you want them to play for, and what you want them to take away from playing the game. There could be a whole blog post on how to structure a game demo for an event, just think it through.

I think it is important for you to decide what you want to take away from the exercise. There are various options I can think of:

  • Get a sense of the appeal of the game. So, it won’t be a focus group testing, but you can see if people are playing through the whole demo or not, and if they come back to try again. They might be drawn in by the visuals, or maybe they pass by your booth without a second look at it. Are other people intrigued by what is happening on the screen when someone is already playing?
  • Recruit players. You want to get potential buyers of the game to learn about it and create interest for them. That’s a valid outcome to want from getting event attendees to play your game, but make sure you present a strong call to action to maximize the opportunity. If they play the game and then leave, how will they know the game is out months later? Give them flyers (not a big fan personally, even of the ones that are business cards size, they tend to end up in the nearest bin), get them to register to a mailing list (have a laptop at your station/booth, dedicated to this) or to follow you on your social networks. If you can think of a nice way to reward them for tagging you on Twitter, do it. If they enjoyed the game, they will want to make sure they can keep track of it – so give them the tools to do so.

While discussing this blog post with developers, one studio mentioned that to have the public play their game was an important part of their creative process. Being a small team, with no publisher, they found this was the best way for them to motivate themselves to meet milestones, and ensure the game was progressing constantly, with hard deadlines they had to meet.

This was very interesting, something I had not considered, and an excellent example of understanding the true motivation for you attending an event, and how you attend it.

 

Meet Your Community

Events represent an opportunity for you to meet your players. And I am not talking about your prospective players, the ones that might one day join your community, but actual, engaged fans that love what you do.

Connecting with those players in the flesh can be very interesting for developers. You can put a face to a name on forums, and they learn about the actual humans being behind the game. It is an opportunity to understand more directly what they are like, and what they like about your game. Not all games lend themselves to a highly engaged community over time, though, and it is not a goal that you will necessarily have for your own project. Moreover, meeting the creative team is usually more of an excuse for them to meet together than the actual end game. Creating a catalyst for your community to meet together and exchange is a positive aspect of this as well. It can be pretty casual, and you can meet them through a booth on the public showfloor you have at an event, or you can leverage the fact the event is happening to put together a dedicated, after-hours meet-up to make more out of your players gathering in the same place.

Evaluating the value of such endeavours is also complicated, but if you are unsure you can limit this to when other goals justify your attendance, and that way you can organise a meet-up for relatively low costs.

Events that are suitable for meeting your community will be ones that are open to consumers (for obvious reasons), and events that have a strong synergy or theme related to your own product. If your game is competitive, esports events are good for a meet-up, for instance.

 

Sell

While this is rarely the main goal, this is also something that is often forgotten or ignored as an option when considering the attendance of an event. Of course, there are events that actually prohibit you from selling anything on your booth, or force you to sell your product through dedicated shops (which might be perfectly fine options). Historically, video games events have been focused on games that are not yet available, making the selling of them a non-starter. However, it is now not so rare to see games exhibited at events after they have been launched, when they are readily available on various digital stores. Printing and selling Steam keys is not incredibly complex (make sure you do the proper accounting for them), and if visitors really enjoy your game, and they have the opportunity to purchase it there and then, they will. This is the strongest call to action you can have for a game. I worked the booth for a game a few years ago where we sold Steam keys, and we made enough money just from those sales to cover the cost of the booth and our travel expenses. It was a nice feeling to see at the end of the show that at the very least we had broken even, and we had also fulfilled all sorts of other objectives along the way.

If you happen to have t-shirts, badges, or other merchandise, they can nicely complement your games sales, or even serve as a valuable and profitable substitute, for them if the game itself is not available for sale.

It does take some extra effort, but even considering games sales, or related merchandising, is already more than what most companies I talk to usually manage.

Public events are the obvious fit for this (if you are selling B2B solutions, I would have to rethink the way I am presenting this blog post). Check whether the organisers allow selling at all, and if there are any event-specific restrictions or fees to acknowledge; what kind of audience is expected, and whether or not they would be likely to enjoy your game enough to buy it straight away, on site.

 

Celebrate

Having fun. It might be celebrating a milestone of your project, or even its release. Or it might be celebrating the joy of making games. Basically, the idea is that you are attending the event to have fun with your peers, maybe taking time off, away from the coal mine, to enjoy a bit of fresh air away from what you are toiling on.

I think it is important to recognize this motivation for what it is, and be very honest when it is driving your decision to attend. I think it is very easy to hide behind the other goals listed here, but it might not do you any good if you don’t recognize the true reason driving your decision. Otherwise, how can you make sure you accomplish what you had set your mind to? Here: did you have fun? Was the fun you had worth the time and expenses?

Not all events will offer the same type of opportunities, and how these opportunities are taken advantage of will vastly differ from one person to another. What matters is to understand what you are looking for, and whether or not the event is suitable for it. If you like late-night parties, with alcohol, then larger events, where companies are trying to woo the rest of the industry into liking them, are more likely to have multitude of such soirees. If your idea of celebrating is meeting players and the community, then check events with a good set-up for managing those kind of logistics. If you enjoy more quiet get togethers, where you can easily talk with other attendees, maybe look into what kind of official afterdark plans are organised at the event (that don’t involve a DJ, not enough seats for attendee bottoms, and copious free shots)

 

Building Brand Awareness

This is more likely to resonate with larger projects, the ones that you would consider the highlights of public events. As your marketing budget expands, attending an event in order to push the image that the project matters, and the world should pay attention to it, becomes a bigger priority. I think a project that illustrates this nicely is World of Tanks. While massively successful in its early days, it was often discarded as a Russian exception at best, and a mafia-money-laundering-front at worst. Once Wargaming put together a strategy to have the game present at all public events, usually with a massive booth and a real tank parked nearby, the perception shifted. It is one thing to hear about a game’s success on a website, but quite another to witness, in the flesh, hundreds of fans squeezed into a gigantic booth.

Brand awareness is also one of the motivations for most of the large booths at gamescom, whether you think of Farming Simulator or PlayStation. I guess it could be expanded to a general marketing goal, but really, I believe awareness is at the core here.

With this type of focus in mind, the one criteria for attendance at an event is going to be the scale of the event (how many people will attend) and how much of that audience you haven’t reached yet (for instance, it doesn’t matter if an event is smaller if it happens to be in a country where you haven’t showed the game yet). Of course, this is mostly considered for B2C events, with exceptions like E3 coming to mind. Media appeal should also be part of your consideration, as a strong media attendance  can significantly multiply the visibility of your project.

 

Market Intelligence

Last in my list, and if you do have other goals let me know, is getting a sense of the industry trends. I guess all events will offer a window onto those in some ways, but I would say, to get a prospective look at them, conferences are usually the best. While there is content that is about looking backwards, a lot of the program managers try to get ahead of the trends and invite lecturers with an eye on what’s on the horizon. You will still learn a lot from walking the halls of a professional convention, though – there will be games you had not heard of, or that you forgot about. Also, there will be creative  ways to present a game you had not thought about, and genres you didn’t know were popular, with hordes of fans queueing to get their hands on some of its swag.

It should be relatively easy for you to estimate if you met that goal after an event. Do you feel you have a better sense of the trends? Can you list them? Were you surprised by any of them? If you can answer those questions, you are in a good place to understand whether or not it was worth attending, when it comes to this motivation.

 

Description

The idea is for the id cards to be as easy to read as possible. I want the description to be as short and to the point as possible, and mostly just have it provide some context for the event.

I will try to avoid to editorialize them too much, but each will be based on my inevitably, and naturally biased understanding of the event.

Costs

When I was discussing the idea of the id cards with peers, the information about the cost to attend came up very frequently. But do bear in mind that such figures can be difficult to estimate and subsequently communicate properly. The cost list will always be illustrative of the bare minimum to attend or exhibit at the event itself, representing a ballpark figure to help compare different events with each other.

Equally, you can benefit from an event without attending its main component, and save a significant amount of money.

And as I mentioned earlier, I won’t take into account travel and other expenses, such as hotel and food. There are just too many variations, and you should be able to run your own estimates for these.

On Reducing Costs

There are many ways to reduce the costs of your attendance, and I thought I would mention a few here, even though this could be a topic in itself:

  • Be a speaker. That will only work for conferences, but many events have a conference component. Be aware, however, that it is uncommon for the organizers to cover more than the ticket to attend, and it is even rarer to be paid to be a speaker.
  • Work with a “booth aggregator”. Is there another word for the likes of the Indie Megabooth or the Indie Arena? Anyhow. These folks. Working with them to be an exhibitor might not always save you money directly, but it will save you a lot of hassle and lot of energy ahead of the event, and that equates to time you can spend on other things, and is as good as money.
  • Keep an eye on the free opportunities. Some events save space to invite projects that are different from their regular, mainline programming, or that don’t have the budget to normally attend. Jump on those opportunities. A good example is the Leftfield Selection at EGX.
  • Talk to your local trade body. Many of them arrange combined booths, or export missions, and they can be subsidized partly or in their entirety. ICO’s presence at gamescom every year is made so much better because we do it with UKIE.
  • Double check you are not entitled to some discounts. Students often receive discounts for conference tickets, having an IGDA membership can lead to some discounts at game events, and discounted Early Bird pricing is the norm for a lot of events.

 

The first set of cards

And to conclude, please find my first set event of events cards. They are all hosted on Imgur, you can save the url of the album for future reference, and I will tweet new cards on my account as well as ICO Partners’ as I make them.

 GDC (click)  gamescom - B2B side (click)

 

 

 

If there is a specific event for which you would like a card made, let me know. This is just the beginning, and I plan on adding to this regularly.

 

Where to find more events?

I use two websites to keep track of industry events:

  • Game Confs. Very simple list of events, with filters per country or per continent.
  • Events for Gamers. A bigger website, with many events listed. They also have a Google calendar. It’s just one click to add it.

 

Many of these lists are difficult to maintain, so don’t rely solely on them. My next best source for industry events is Twitter, which I keep an eye on for events announcements.

As is the tradition, this is the follow-up from the overall Kickstarter annual review from last week, with a focus on the Games category. Again, I will talk about Kickstarter, but I shared some insight on crowdfunding across different platforms for video games in a piece on PC Games Insider.

Games category now leading on Kickstarter

We talked about it last week, but that’s a notable change from 2016. Games represented 26% of all the money pledged in 2017, and 15% of all the funded projects.

There are two very important things to notice here.

First, the overall money raised by Games projects saw a significant bump in 2017. Secondly, the total number of Games projects that tried their luck on the platform has stayed roughly the same, at just under 7,000 campaigns total, but more of them achieved their funding targets in 2017, compared to the previous year.

We can consider that the platform has reached a better maturity point, where the projects trying to get funded having a better sense of what is required to meet their funding goal. There were 15% more Games projects funded in 2017, compared to 2016.

More money was raised all projects tiers. The top-tier, $500k+ projects represent a lot of the total money raised, of course – there was $70m raised by these projects alone. But the number of projects successfully raising between $100k and $500K is also up on previous years, representing about a third of all the money raised in 2017.

The number of projects in the top tier didn’t move from its 2016 figure – 38 Games projects raised more than $500k in 2017, the same number as the year before. A few very large projects represented a lot of the money raised. Notably, the record breaking Kingdom Death Monster 1.5, that became the #1 project in the Games category, raising $12.4m, and The 7th Continent, that raised $7m on its own. Together, these two campaigns represent more than 12% of all the money raised in the Games category, in 2017. And it is no surprise that they are both tabletop games project, and both of them are sequels/reprints of already successful Kickstarter projects.

Looking at the subcategories, the number of funded projects for video games has dropped a bit from 2016. There are a few more Playing Cards projects and generic Games projects funded. But more significantly, the number of Tabletop Games projects has grown significantly, up 18% from 2016.

And of course, almost all of the growth in the total amount of money raised by Games projects is fed by the Tabletop Games subcategory.

A look at the minor subcategories

  • Games. This catch-all subcategory, meant to cover any project that the existing labels don’t properly represent, doubled in size in 2017, both in total number of funded projects and total amount of money raised. It is still a relatively small total, as it only covers those odd projects with an identity that’s hard to define, but it ought to be mentioned. To understand what this kind of projects these are, I give you the top two projects of 2017, both “golf” related: Chip-Down: Golf for the Non-Golfer and Beer Pong Golf : Golf Spieth Can’t Master
  • Gaming Hardware. We saw more hardware projects getting funded in 2017, but none of them was a mega hit. It is still worth noting than more projects passed the $100k bar than last year (five in 2017, compared to only one in 2016). And if you are curious, the largest project of the category was The Dreamcade Replay retro console.
  • Live Games. A niche subcategory, it has declined a bit in 2017, for the first time since its addition. One project passed the $100k mark for the first time for the subcategory. However, it’s a little bit at odds with the kind of projects you usually find there, and would probably be more at home beside the two previously mentioned golf titles in the Games subcategory. Take a look at CHIPPO: The New Golf Game for Beach, Backyard & Tailgate.
  • Mobile Games. A regular piece of advice I give to people is to not crowdfund mobile games, so I am quite biased when it comes to analysing this category. In 2017, it passed the $500,000 in total funding raised. That’s probably the equivalent of one day of Supercell’s marketing budget for Clash of Clans. There are still about 37 projects that got funded, about 10% of all the projects submitted, way below the average for games’ projects. One project raised more than $100k, Epic Digital Card Game, but it happens to be a port of a very successful tabletop game.
  • Playing Cards. The third-largest subcategory, it saw some growth in 2017 both in terms of the total amount of money raised (+21%) and the number of projects that were successfully funded (+19%). Very noteworthy as well, is the fact this is the first year we’ve seen a Playing Cards category project raising more than $500k – The Name of the Wind Art Deck raised $630,000.
  • Puzzles. The smallest of all the Games subcategories, it had 17 projects funded in 2016, and 18 projects funded in 2017. The total amount of money raised was less than half the amount from 2016, but with so few projects, big variances are to be expected.

And now, looking at the two big subcategories.

A stable year for Video Games

With slight growth in the total amount of money raised, and a slight decline in the total number of projects funded, 2017 doesn’t appear to be exceptional one way or another for video games on Kickstarter.

There are a few things worth noting, though:

  • The total number of video games projects submitted to Kickstarter is rising faster than the number of funded projects is declining. It means the ratio of funded projects is going up.
  • This is the first time we see a decline in the number of funded projects in the Less than $10,000 raised tier. The other tier that sees a decline is the $50k to $100k tier. So, notable changes in 2017 seemed to occur within more the very small, hobbyist projects, as well as the projects raising between $50,000 and $100,000. For all the other tiers, there were a similar number of funded projects across 2016 and 2017.

My theory for the decline of the smallest tier is that fewer creators are trying to crowdfund their projects, and it directly affects that range more than the others. Kickstarter doesn’t have the visibility it had in the media, and it doesn’t come up as often as it used to as a viable platform for small projects.

2017 was mostly a better year for video games projects launched in USD and CAD. A higher proportion of projects in those currencies got funded than those in EUR and GBP.

I found it interesting to see that 12 video games projects launched from Mexico got funded, even if that represents a small total amount in the end. Also notable is the absence of projects launched through the Japanese version of the portal, especially considering how some of the biggest crowdfunded video games of all time originate from there. Kickstarter’s September 2017 launch in Japan looks like a flop so far, and the video game category seems to be the best illustration of that.

Tabletop Games: The Kings of Kickstarter

These two graphs tells the most significant story of 2017’s figures.

Tabletop Games have constantly grown over the past few years, both in terms of the total amount of money raised, and the number of projects funded. After a record year in 2016, the subcategory grew again, by +36% in 2017. The number of funded projects grew by +20%.

The growth invites questions, though. Will the subcategory stabilize? Will it crash? Can it keep growing?

There is no indication that its upward momentum will slow down anytime soon, even if record-breaking campaigns make it that much harder to keep up with the total amounts raised over a given year.

All the indicators for the subcategory are really healthy at the moment.

There has been growth across all tiers. This is, for me, a very important factor in determining how healthy the environment is, within this subcategory. If it were only good for the large, massive campaigns, it would not be a good sign; but having projects across all tiers growing shows that the ecosystem is not built upon a couple of metaphorical black swans, painting an inaccurate interpretation of the picture.

Projects across currencies are also finding success. Even if projects in USD represent the vast majority of the money raised and of the number of funded projects, projects in EUR and GBP are also healthy, representing more than 25% of the total funded projects.

This is especially interesting when you see campaigns that know that they will perform very well deciding to launch in USD, regardless of where they are based geographically. For example, 7th Continent, from a Paris-based company, launched their project in USD rather than in EUR.

 

Concluding thoughts

Last week, at the PC Connects in London, I delivered a presentation about the state of crowdfunding in video games. One point I made was the fact that Early Access is a much bigger competitor to Kickstarter than any other platform. One reason for this is the fact that, over the last year, the optimal window to launch a crowdfunding campaign for a video game has moved closer and closer to its ultimate launch. This is how I illustrated this (you need to click the image to see the gif in action):

What is very interesting is that, for tabletop games, that window has moved as well. Projects need to be more and more polished to get funded, but physical production means that the optimal window cannot move any further to the right.

The other important difference between video games and tabletop games is the fact that, for the latter, Kickstarter is the end solution for distribution for most projects. Whereas for video games, the end solution is Steam – Kickstarter helps a bit, but you still need to go to Steam.

So if your game in Alpha or Beta has a lot of appeal and replayability already, the chances are that when it is good enough to be showed on Kickstarter, it is also good enough to launch in Early Access. It is a lot less hassle, as you only have to concern yourself with the end game distribution platform. Early Access, however, doesn’t provide a lot of the perks that crowdfunding does – building the community, the opportunity to test your publishing skills, and building awareness – but I suspect to many studios, this is secondary, or underestimated.

What is also true, and a strong trend, is that many video games projects on Kickstarter are games that, by their nature, don’t have a lot of replayability (like, say, Point-and-Click adventure games) or immediate accessibility and audience appeal, making Early Access a path they cannot take.

 

All the Slides

A note on the methodology

Like for all previous blog posts on the topic, we have been using the data on the Kickstarter pages themselves (with the help of Potion of Wit) and the collection method is not without its own issues. Please consider all of the numbers presented here as estimates.

 

 

Before January is out, here is the annual look at Kickstarter for the year 2017. Where is Kickstarter going?

Overall funding bounces back


After its very first year of decline in funding of projects in 2016, Kickstarter sees a bounce back in the overall money actually raised.

That bounce is very timid though, even if it is enough to make 2017 the best year ever for the platform, this is a 0.03% increase from 2015, the previous record holder.


The number of funded projects doesn’t break the record though (from 2014), but it sees an increase from 2016 still.

What is remarkable though, is the number of projects submitted to the platform is still stumbling down, almost 6,000 fewer projects than the previous year, a -15% drop.

More funded projects, fewer projects overall, obviously the “success ratio” is looking better in 2017 than it has in a while.

Alongside the success ratio, we observed a drop in the ratio of project that raise $0 (also called the junk ratio). We are probably seeing the tail-end of the Potato Salad Effect.

 

Record breaking number of projects raising more than $100,000

If you are not familiar with the format I usually use, the following graphs are showing the breakdown of projects based on the amount they have raised (in USD).


Looking at the size of projects per tiers, there were more projects in all the funding tiers except the top ones. Even with fewer $500k+ projects than in 2016, there was more money raised on Kickstarter.

This comes from a record number of projects raising between $100k and $500k, and a sign of positive growth for the platform.

For the first time, in 2017, there were more than 1,000 projects raising more than $100,000.

 

Growth is almost coming all from the Games category


Looking at the categories in more detail, we can see that the growth observed in the amount of money raised is almost entirely coming from the Games category.

All other categories saw some declined in the amount of money raised, with the exception of Art, Photography and Publishing, respectively 2.5%, 1% and 3.8% of all the money pledged, where Games are now 26% of that amount.

Of course, the top three categories are still Design, Games and Technology, representing together 74% of all the money pledged in 2017. But this is the first time that the Games category takes the top spot.

 

Growth driven by non-US projects

There was more money raised across all currencies in the past year, except for the USD and CAD. Most of the of the money is raised in USD still, but since Kickstarter was launched in Europe, the total amount of money raised in EUR has grown every year, making it the 2nd ranking currency on the platform and representing almost 10% of all the money pledged.

 

A look at the categories

Kickstarter asks creators to put their projects in different categories. This allows us to look at the different trends of each of those categories. While you can find a lot more details in the documents on Slideshare, I have summarized some key takeaways for each of them below.

As usual, a dedicated blog post on the Games category will come soon.

Art

A record breaking year for Art. It passes the bar of $14m raised for the first time, including $2m raised by projects in GBP.

A significant growth in the number of projects that got funded as well, +24% compared to 2016.

Crafts

A relatively small category, the money raised by it dropped below $2,5m in total, while the number of funded projects grew a little bit. 25% of the money raised was done by projects in GBP.

Comics

The total amount of money raised in the category stayed about the same, but the number of funded project grew, and it has seen a constant growth for the past 6 years. There were more Comics projects funded than ever before in 2017.

Dance

Another small category, the amount of money raised and the number of  funded projects are at their lowest since 2011.

Design

After constant growth in the past few years, in 2017, the category saw its first dip, albeit a small one (-2.5%).

On the other hand, the number of funded projects is still growing, and across all tiers of funding, except the $500k+ tier which had the same number of funded projects it had in 2016 (55 projects).

Also noteworthy, projects in EUR represented 14% of the money pledged in the category, up from 8.5% in 2016.

More funded projects but less money raised overall, the Design category illustrates very well the 2017 trend.

Fashion

The Fashion category saw a small decline in the amount of money raised, and a significant growth in the number of funded projects (best year to date).

Projects in EUR represented 16% of the money pledged last year, another category where projects in EUR grew in their shares of the category.

Film & Video

Once the poster child of Kickstarter, the category has been in decline for the past 4 years, with 2017 at record low levels.

The amount of money pledged has almost halved in two years and the number of funded projects is the lowest since 2011.

Two notable subcategories saw an increase in the amount of money raised, though: Documentaries and Animation.

Food

The Food category saw a small drop in the number of funded projects and the total amount of money raised, but it remained at a stable level from the previous year.

Games

Like last year, I will do a deeper dive into this category soon.

To note though, the vast majority of the growth observed in the category is coming from the Tabletop Games subcategory (more than 2,000 projects funded in 2017).

Music

The other former crown jewel of the platform, along with Film & Video, that is seeing a constant decline over the past 5 years. The decline is both significant on the financial side and the amount of money raised. The total number of projects that achieved funding was at 2,200 in 2017, down from more than 5,000 funded projects in 2012.

Photography

The category has been stable in terms of total amount of money raised, as the total number of funded projects here saw a decline for a second year. It is interesting to note though that the amount of money raised by projects in EUR has doubled year-on-year.

Journalism

This is still a small category. It saw a decline in both the total amount raised and the total number of funded projects for the second year in a row. However, the amount raised by projects in EUR and GBP has increased significantly, both representing almost 14% of the total of money raised.

Publishing

This was a year of growth for this category, on all fronts, money raised as well as number of funded projects. The growth was across projects in USD, GBP and EUR. Children’s Books is again the top subcategory.

Technology

Another year with a small decline of the money raised and number of funded projects for the category, even for projects in EUR.

Theatre

A fairly small category that continued its decline. It dropped to its lowest amount of money raised and number of funded projects since 2010 (when Kickstarter was just a year old).

 

Concluding words

2017 was not the best year for Kickstarter, but it still maintained a good level of funding. The good news is evident when you look at the number of projects that are funded on the platform. These are quite stable, and even growing in some categories, but the number of projects submitted to the platform are also going down. I believe that Kickstarter has suffered from the fact that many low-quality projects have been creating noise, presenting an image of a platform where “bad” projects are welcome. The fact that the number of junk projects is going down can only help the platform.

I have concerns though on how the communication of the platform hasn’t adapted to its new paradigm. It wants to be this platform for cultural projects, but films and music projects are becoming rarer, and it is not addressing the fact that games, especially tabletop games, along with design and technology projects, are what the platform is now about.

I am not suggesting to ignore its cultural roots, but very little has been done to improve the way the platform supports the current top categories. And the same could be said about the lack of features developed to support the expansion of the platform in non-English territories.

All the slides

A note on the methodology

Like for all previous blog posts on the topic, we have been using the data on the Kickstarter pages themselves (with the help of Potion of Wit) and the collection method is not without its own issues. Please consider all of the numbers presented here as estimates.