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

gamescom 2017

New dates

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

Press Conferences

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

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

Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

gamescom in the media

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

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

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

The Platforms

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

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

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

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

The Games

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

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

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

Closing Words

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

 

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

Like last year, I did a mini-research on games on Kickstarter at the mid-year point. It allows me to keep an eye on any trends, and to check hard data properly a little more often. On top looking at the Games category and the video games and tabletop games sub-categories, I am also throwing in a few numbers on Kickstarter overall.

As a side note, it was interesting to see that our Campaign Review service has been very popular this year, and I updated the page about it.

A few disclaimers on this article and the data:

  • A significant change I have made in my methodology is to use different exchange rates. I used to have a fixed exchanged rate applied to all projects. I now use the average of a given year. It will have an impact on the numbers you saw in the past.
  • I use the term Semester for a half year, from the Latin semestris, “of six months”.
  • Data is, as usual, collected with the help of our friends at Potion-of-Wit.

Kickstarter Overall – a steady course

Before we get into the numbers, I wanted to highlight a few things that have happened in the first half of the year:

  • As a Public Benefit Corporation, Kickstarter has released its first annual Benefit Statement. It is a very interesting read.
  • Kickstarter launched the Hardware Studio initiative. It comes on the heels of increasing reports of Kickstarter projects being copied and beaten to market.
  • Guest Pledging was introduced, allowing to back a project without having to create a user account.
  • And lastly, but more anecdotally, Yancey Strickler, the current CEO of Kickstarter, is looking for a replacement.

The last one I wanted to highlight as I sometimes find my research in media discussing Kickstarter, and they came up quite significantly in relations to that last announcement. But to the numbers, that’s what is of interest here.

As I have mentioned in the past, the Potato Salad campaign had a huge influence on the number of projects submitted on Kickstarter. If you are wondering about that sudden spike in the second half of 2014, that’s why.

Overall, we see a decline in the total number of projects launched on the platform, on quite a steep curve. However, the number of projects that get funded is seeing a very small decline in comparison. It’s also important to note that there are indications that the second half of a year usually performs better than the first half. And that’s usually true across all the categories.

You can see this effect a bit in the total amount of money raised by successful projects:

Despite the slight decline in projects, the first half of 2017 has been the best first half for the platform historically. It is very hard to predict how the second half will go, but it is likely that it will outperform the second half of 2015, making 2017 a record breaking year, improving from 2016.

 

Quick look at the Games category

I will share these numbers and chart as is. The analysis of the two main subcategories are much more telling of the current trend.

Video Games – at a stable pace

You have observed the growth of the Games category? Well, video games are actually not growing.

Video Games are keeping the same rhythm as the previous year, with roughly 30 projects per month getting funded. The second half of the year should probably see a few more projects funded than have been so far in 2017, if it follows the pattern of previous years.

As seen in the past data analysis, the Video Games subcategory is very dependent on hits when looking at the total amount of money raised. In that sense, the first half of 2017 has been the best semester since 2015. And yet, this is a far cry from the best semesters in that subcategory.

A stable number of funded projects, a growth in the total amount raised, despite Kickstarter having lost its novelty years ago now, it is still a platform that is consistent as a source of funding for games, the same conclusion drawn on the blog post from the beginning of the year.

An interesting evolution of the numbers when looking at projects tiered by amount raised, there is a growth of the number of projects raising between $100k and $500k recently. It seems this is a range of funding that is more accessible than it used to be, and could be where Kickstarter could grow its Video games subcategory.

 

The crazy growth of Tabletop Games

If we can’t see how the Games category can be performing so well from looking at Video Games, it probably means that Tabletop Games are doing incredibly well. That is quite the understatement:

Looking first at the number of projects, it is obvious that this subcategory of projects is bonkers:

  • There is a strong and steady growth of the number of projects that are funded.
  • There was no “potato salad” speculation effect in the second half of 2014 (at least, not as visibly as in other parts of the Kickstarter platform).
  • The number of projects failing is stable, meaning the success ratio is steadily increasing (62% of the projects got funded in the first half of 2017)

Following the steady growth of funded projects, it is not surprising to see a record breaking half-year, and if current trends continue there is no way that 2017 is not going to be the best year ever for the subcategory too.

Let me share the number that I find the most mind-boggling in the mid-year update:

24% of the money raised by successful projects on Kickstarter were Tabletop games projects

Of course, the huge success of Kingdom Death Monster 1.5, that raised $12.3m, plays a role in that impressive performance. But the growth is seen across all the strata of funding:

Across all tiers (except the lowest one) this was a record breaking semester in the total amount of money raised.

 

Conclusion

With board games growing so fast, and the rest of Kickstarter being still quite stable, it is clear there is a shift not visible at a first glance on the platform. There is a slight decline, or at best stability, across all categories, with the exception of one that keeps growing steadily.
By the time Kickstarter has found its new CEO, I can easily imagine games representing a third of the money raised through the platform.

And Games projects might be blurring the line between tabletop games and video games further, like the currently live campaign of Beasts of Balance:

We are hiring!

We’re looking for an experienced native English PR executive at ICO Partners with equal amounts of writing skill, creative flair and love of video games. Prior PR/marketing experience is required, but the role could also suit someone with a different background in online communications, like a community or social media manager.

In case you didn’t know, we are based in the South of England, in sunny Brighton, a lively seaside city just one hour from central London by train. Our PR work deals with online games – current projects include Crowfall and World’s Adrift while in the past we have worked together with Hi-Rez Studios and Riot Games, for instance – as well as indie titles such as The Lion’s Song, Northgard and older projects including 2Dark, Blackwood Crossing, the Endless games franchise and Fragments of Him.

If this sounds like you, and you’re interested in joining a small, fun-loving (but hard-working) team, please send your CV to jobs@icopartners.com and/or drop us a line for more info.

Here’s the job spec:

________

Who we are: ICO Partners Ltd., a small but growing online games services consultancy and PR agency based in Brighton, UK. Find out all about us at www.icomedia.eu.

Who we need: A flexible, experienced and motivated communications professional with a passion for video games.

Skills and requirements:

  • Native English speaker with very strong spoken and written communication skills
  • Minimum 3 years of experience in a position involving direct contact with the media
  • A background in PR, journalism, social media or community management is desirable
  • Deep understanding of the UK and English game media and industry
  • Proven organisational and planning skills, including PR planning and strategy
  • Self-motivated approach to work; ability to work to short deadlines and under pressure
  • Ability to work with and analyse data, as well as report writing
  • Experience working in multicultural teams and across languages
  • Additional language skills are a plus
  • Skills and experience in online marketing or social media is a strong plus
  • And last, but not least – A genuine experience and passion for video games

Responsibilities:

  • Managing relationships with journalists across selected European territories with primary care for English media.
  • Working closely with clients to create and implement PR plans, schedules and communications
  • Drafting press releases and media alerts
  • Developing and updating media lists and contact databases
  • Participating in daily media relations tasks, including media outreach, collection and analysis of press coverage, reporting, organization of events, interviews and promotions
  • Assisting with market research projects
  • Participating in product testing as required

Remuneration : TBD

Location:  Brighton, UK
Reports to:  PR manager
Hours:  Full-time, 37.5 hours per week

Contact:  jobs@icopartners.com

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

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

Platforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Games

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing words

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

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

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

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

A few technical notes

Why Nintendo and not the Wii?

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

What is the reach value?

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

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

ICO is hiring again! We’re looking for a native German experienced PR executive with equal amounts of writing skill, good contact network, creative flair and love of video games. Prior PR/marketing experience is required, but the role could also suit someone with a different background in online communications, like a community or social media manager.

If this sounds like you, and you’re interested in joining a small, fun-loving (but hard-working) team based in Brighton, please send your CV to jobs@icopartners.com and/or drop us a line for more info.

Here are the specifics of the job:

________

Who we are: ICO Partners Ltd., a small but fast-growing online games services consultancy and PR agency based in Brighton, UK. Find out all about us at www.icomedia.eu.

Who we need: A flexible, experienced and motivated communications professional with a passion for video games.

Skills and requirements:

  • Native German speaker with very strong spoken and written communication skills
  • Minimum 3 year’s experience in a position involving direct contact with the media
  • A background in PR, journalism, social media or community management is desirable
  • Deep understanding of the German games media and industry
  • Proven organisational and planning skills, including PR planning and strategy
  • Self-motivated approach to work; ability to work to short deadlines and under pressure
  • Ability to work with and analyse data, as well as report writing
  • Experience working in multicultural teams and across languages
  • Additional language skills are a plus
  • Skills and experience in online marketing or social media is a strong plus
  • And last, but not least – A genuine experience and passion for video games

Responsibilities:

  • Managing relationships with journalists across selected European territories with primary care for German-speaking media
  • Working closely with clients to create and implement PR plans, schedules and communications
  • Drafting and translating press releases and media alerts
  • Developing and updating media lists and contact databases
  • Participating in daily media relations tasks, including media outreach, collection and analysis of press coverage, reporting, organization of events, interviews and promotions
  • Assisting with market research projects
  • Participating in product testing as required

Remuneration : TBD

Location:  Brighton, UK
Reports to:  PR manager
Hours:  Full-time, 37.5 hours per week

Contact:  jobs@icopartners.com

For almost seven years, part of my job in the video games industry has been to look at, analyze and predict review scores of games. I’ve done this for a variety of different clients, from my previous employer EA to a host of smaller and bigger indie developers. At ICO, we have quite a bit of experience and knowledge in supporting game launches. Whenever a release of a game comes close, one of the things that always pops up, without fail, is Metacritic and review scores.

Quite a lot of times, we are answering the same questions and dispelling the same myths. That’s why I thought it would be nice to have all those answers in a handy, online guide. If you use or are interested in Metacritic, the following Six Tips to Get a (Better) Metacritic Score might be for you.

Before we start, a little disclaimer. We won’t be talking about the ramifications of a review score, or if they are really necessary, or if we should just use user or Steam reviews instead. We also won’t be talking about that other excellent aggregated score platform, Opencritic.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Why Care About a Metacritic Score?

Well, why should you care about Metacritic? First off, regardless of whether you think Metacritic is relevant or not, it shows up in some interesting places: for instance, on the Steam store page of a game, as well as in Google results if you search for a specific title. And, of course, it is still relevant if your client, employer or publisher cares about it for internal accountability or development milestones.  

Depending on the genre, platform, type of outlet and popularity of a game, an AAA title can see over 100 critic reviews on Metacritic, but the vast majority of the games will only be reviewed by a handful of outlets. In most cases, indie games won’t get a Metascore at all.

That’s a shame because there are some relatively easy tricks to get listed and to boost the number of review scores.

 

Tip 1: Understand how Metacritic works

Information on how Metacritic works is readily available and can be found on for instance on the official website.To lift their own description from the site itself:

To put it simply, a METASCORE is a weighted average of reviews from top critics and publications for a given movie, TV show, video game, or album.”

If you delve a bit deeper, a couple of important details, easily overlooked due to their simplicity but important nonetheless, start appearing:

  • A game needs 4 reviews to receive a Metascore.
  • If your game is multiplatform, each individual platform will need a further four scores before a Metascore for that platform is listed.
  • Reviews are never counted twice across the platforms.
  • Metascores change their colour from acclaimed green to yellow at 75, and from yellow to that fearful red at 50.  
  • A Metascore stabilizes around 20 reviews. Before this happens, every new score added can change the aggregated Metascore pretty significantly.

 

Tip 2: Find out what Metacritic listed sites are out there

Actually, Metacritic provides an official list, which you can find here. It is easily overlooked but tells us which outlets are in the system. It gives the developer, publisher, or PR agency quite a bit of agency because it’s from this list of accredited media the aggregated scores are pulled from. Take a closer look and you’ll find the following:

The official media list is divided in general interest media (left) and game media, both print and online websites (right). The outlets on the right are the ones to watch out for.

  • The total list contains roughly 170 different game websites, from the well-known IGN to Spanish big hitter Meristation and renowned general interest news site, The Guardian. There are also some other general interest media such as the Washington Post or the New York Times listed, but these only are relevant for the biggest of titles.  
  • There is no country listing, but at a glance, it’s easy to see that the vast majority of the media listed are English speaking. There are currently around 70 European media listed, not accounting for English outlets which publish both in the UK and USA.
  • Some websites don’t provide scores but are still listed, such as the venerable Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Kotaku or Eurogamer. They are shown on a game’s page, but unprocessed and don’t add up to the final score.

This line-up doesn’t change often but it’s worthwhile to check the list on a regular basis.

 

Tip 3: Choose your Metacritic targets accordingly

It’s pretty obvious that if you want to have a Metacritic score, you’ll only have to deal with those 130+ outlets which are listed on the site itself. Not only that, a fair number of these might not even be relevant to you for instance if they only cover mobile games (148Apps) or only cover Xbox titles (SomosXbox).

The main issue with not getting reviews has everything to with the limited amount of time and manpower most of these media have to cover new games. They are overworked, and at certain times of the year (E3, Christmas period) have all their time booked up by triple AAA titles weeks and weeks in advance. Finding a spot to check out a new game is a difficult undertaking for a critic, especially with the vast amount of games being released. For instance, Steam sees on average between 70 to 120 titles launching every week.

You want to know the best way to make your game grab attention AND get those elusive journalists to talk about your game? Do check out this excellent GDC talk from my esteemed colleague Thomas Reisenegger.

By the way: did you know that at ICO, we have a free weekly newsletter which will show you all the weekly Steam releases? If you are interested, don’t hesitate to follow this link and subscribe.

 

Tip 4: Focus on the right Metacritic-friendly countries

Research the list and concentrate your effort. Certain countries are under-represented while others have a greater proportion of their outlets featured. Case in point: France versus Italy, with the former only having 2 smaller, Metacritic-listed websites (Gameblog.fr and JeuxActu) while the latter has 7 (Eurogamer.it, Everyeye, The Games Machine, Spaziogames, etc.)  

Smaller media in smaller countries are way easier to reach out to. They have a much a higher chance of being able to spend some time reviewing a game flying under the radar.

 

Tip 5:  Remind the media

One of the reasons that there is a discrepancy in the number of high-profile critics for each country on Metacritic is that most of the traffic on the platform is English. Accredited media outlets must submit their own score, plus a written summary in English, to be included on the site. This clearly decreases the incentive for other-language based media to receive the fruits of Metacritic (more traffic, more clicks).

What this also means is that media outlets sometimes review a game but forget to submit their score. If they’ve reviewed your game but the review is not yet on Metacritic: give them a gentle nudge and a friendly reminder, and more likely than not, they will update their review on Metacritic.  

 

Tip 6:  Don’t try to change a score

It will happen that reviews will come in with a score that feels unfair. What also happens is that a review can read positively, but the score doesn’t correspond. Also, when you have a multiplatform release, you don’t know under which platform certain scores will appear. All these things can have an effect on the Metascore and one thing we notice with the above concern is that developers or publishers always want to do something about this.

 rick and morty show me what you got GIFInstead of just saying it, better to use the power of the GIF in combination with one of the greatest animated series to underscore this tip. 

Truth be told, there is little to be done. For instance, most critics specifically list which platform a game was reviewed upon (and this will be duly reflected on which platform the score will appear).

The following is a bit bleak but deserves to be mentioned. Asking a media outlet to change a score is a big no-no. The same goes for asking Metacritic to switch scores around. If you update a game after it’s release, expecting an update on a score, it won’t happen. Once an outlet submits a score, it will remain.

Who can forget Polygon’s glowing review of 2013’s Simcity, a resounding 9.5 which was duly posted to Metacritic? One of the first out of the gate, the review got published before the game had launched, but after server problems snowballed out of control and the game saw some very harsh criticism, Polygon changed their review score not once, not twice, but three times before settling on a final score of 6.5. The original review on Metacritic never changed, as the site’s policy is to only accept a publication’s first score. When a score hits Metacritic, it sticks.

 

Final thoughts

Boiling it down to a tl;dr section, we would finish off by condensing the above into a few supertips:

  • Supertip 1: Do your homework on which Metacritic-approved media outlets you’d like to target.
  • Supertip 2: Try to get at least 4 scores in order to get listed.
  • Supertip 3: Reach out to smaller media in non-English-speaking countries.
  • Supertip 4: Focus on websites that take an interest in the genre or specific platform of the game.
  • Supertip 5: Don’t forget to remind media outlets to post their reviews on Metacritic.
  • Supertip 6: Don’t try to change a score.