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.

 

Following up on the two reports that we released last year, we are releasing today another report looking at how video games media cover a specific topic. With the mobile game industry steadily growing year after year, we looked into how this segment of the industry was covered by specialist gaming media specifically.

Using a similar format to the one for the report written on VR in games media, we used the data we collect across more than 900 specialist websites in EFIGS to look at the volume of coverage dedicated to mobile topics during 2016. We also chose 6 mobile games and their coverage to analyse in more depth. Here are some of the findings.

French games media showing the least interest in mobile

Looking at the lowest criteria, this shows the percentage of games media that made at least a passing mention of mobile platforms during the year 2016. Like with VR, English media are the most likely to cover mobile topics, just ahead of Spanish media.

What is interesting to see is that in French, German and Italian games media, VR is covered by a larger portion the websites.

We were quite surprised to find out that, across all languages, both iOS and Android were fairly balanced in the number of sites mentioning them. There was no strong bias for either of the two platforms.

This was also true for the total number of articles mentioning the platforms, with only 3% more articles mentioning the iOS ecosystem.

Pokemon Go is too big

2016 was marked by the Pokemon Go phenomenon, and we had to account for it in the way we presented our findings. For each language that we analyse, we present the “top games” with two graphs. One with all the games, and one without Pokemon Go.

Interestingly, the other Nintendo mobile games got top spots as well, showing the stronger interest media have in mobile projects as soon as a major video game actor is part of it. In the graph above, out of 10 games, only 3 (Clash Royale; Clash of Clans; Candy Crush) are native to the mobile ecosystem. The fact that they are financially far more successful than these other games is irrelevant when it comes to the comparative volume of coverage they received.

Case studies

Following video games news day-to-day tends to warp your perception of what represents a major announcement. Building case studies of specific mobile games was enlightening. The single most successful PR beat for Candy Crush Saga had nothing to do with the game, but was due to the announced acquisition of the game’s studio by video game giant Activision. The second most important event was the launch of Pokemon Go, where collateral mentions of Candy Crush were numerous enough to make it a major PR moment for the franchise.

The report includes case studies of:

  • Pokemon Go
  • Clash Royale
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Game of War
  • Deus Ex Go
  • Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius (compared to 3DS game Final Fantasy Explorers)

 

You can find further insights in the report – we tried to price it low enough for as many people as possible to be able to get access to it.

This is the third article of media coverage analysis for the Nintendo Switch, but it’s the most important one as the console has now been released. While I will discuss previous announcements, you can read again the posts about the console’s first announcement and the January event that revealed most of the details about it.

The console has now been widely available for 3 weeks, and we can look at both the announcement, and some level of data over time, to see how it looks for this new console.

Hardware Coverage Comparison

With our data only going back to early 2014, there are no comparable launches to compare the Nintendo Switch with. For lack of better comparisons, I had a look at the coverage of the first announcements for the PS4 Pro, the PS VR and the Xbox Scorpio, and the coverage of the launches of the PS4 Pro and PSVR.

The PS4 Pro initial announcement was during a Sony event, and set out a lot of details for the new machine. The way the communication was structured for it, there was a short cycle between the announcement and the launch (2 months), and the fact the announcement was done outside of other industry events allowed it to garner significant coverage. The initial announcement also served as in-depth reveal for that matter.

The PSVR initial announcement (as project Morpheus at the time) was done during GDC 2014, and was still very vague on any details. That first reveal wasn’t massive with media coverage. Interestingly, 2 years later, at GDC 2016, the reveal of the details of the device and its price point was its biggest beat.

Project Scorpio (next Xbox One iteration) was first announced during E3 2016, and beyond the fact it would have the highest quality pixels that anybody has seen, Microsoft didn’t provide many details during the announcement. We are basically still waiting for the device’s in-depth announcement, which is likely to be at this year’s E3, leading to a launch before the holiday season.

The communication on the Nintendo Switch was very controlled, and beyond the initial announcement and the in-depth reveal, there were no real major beats before the launch. The only other communication was earlier in the week of the launch with a number of indie titles announced (some officially by Nintendo and a good number of others announced by their respective publishers).

So, what does it mean for the Nintendo Switch announcements and launch?

First, launches are not as exciting as the reveals of the details of the console. By the time they hit the market, the story is a bit dull and generally consists of a reminder of what the console is, probably its line up and the fact that “yes, you can buy it now”. The fact they don’t garner as much coverage as the in-depth reveals despite having a line-up of games immediately available that also should drive coverage seem to highlight that media still prioritise hardware news over games. In that respect, the media coverage of the Nintendo Switch, while significantly higher than the other two devices we can compare it to, is nothing incredibly impressive. The fact is, there were fewer articles mentioning the Nintendo Switch than the PlayStation 4 on the days of the launch, and that’s probably a direct consequence from the small line-up on the Switch, and the impressive head-start Sony has when it comes to media relations.

Second, in-depth events are the ones that matter the most to get coverage. Is it obvious? Absolutely, but I think you should always approach analysis with an open mind and getting evidence of the obvious is still a good take away. What is also very interesting is the relative success of this reveals. The Nintendo Switch being in January, outside of any events, and being quite close to the actual launch, really paid off in my opinion there for Nintendo.

To get a better sense of the Nintendo Switch potential for media coverage, let’s look at coverage over time, rather than at scheduled events.

 

Console coverage patterns

[please note that all the data presented here is as of March 26th – all monthly data labelled as March 2017 are until that date]

 

I have added the Wii U to the mix from the graph over time as  I think it is essential to understand where Nintendo is coming from in terms of their console media coverage.

So what is transpiring here:

  • As we mentioned many times before, the PlayStation 4 is the clear leader when it comes to console media coverage, and this is a constant. Even when looking at the weekly coverage volumes, since January 2015, only once did the Xbox One secure more coverage than the PlayStation 4. It was the week of the gamescom 2015, where Microsoft held a press conference and Sony did not. The gap between the two is actually widening over time.
  • Microsoft doesn’t seem to be learning from Sony when it comes to making big announcements outside of major industry events. Or even outside of E3. That dependence on E3 seems like a very risky strategy. Yes, E3 is still clearly the most important event of the year when it comes to coverage of the video games industry, but at the moment, Microsoft is not learning how to also do announcements at other times. Sony’s September event drove coverage to the level of their E3 weekly coverage, and when it comes to monthly coverage, it was their best month since we started tracking the articles mentioning the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One’s best month was June and E3.
  • The Wii U has been lagging behind the other consoles for a long time now. The decline is clearly visible, and even a major release like Zelda Breath of the Wild doesn’t seem to have much of an effect – it is clear the console is a very low priority for the media. Again, this is not an unexpected result, but we can now see the scale of it.
  • The Nintendo Switch is having an excellent start. Of course, a lot of that coverage is thanks to the January in-depth reveal that got really good coverage, and the momentum of the launch, but for a console with such a limited line-up, it seems that there is significant interest for the console, outside of just the launch. If the average weekly coverage stays around 4,000 articles/week, that puts it a bit above half of the Xbox One weekly average and at 40% of the PlayStation 4 weekly average, which would be an excellent foundation for Nintendo to build on.

 

Conclusion

Nintendo is getting a new console cycle, and the media seem to be keen on supporting it for now. It has a long way to go still, but they didn’t make any significant mistakes so far, and despite a very small launch line-up they secured a decent amount of coverage, and the poor interest for the Wii U doesn’t seem to have damaged the interest for the Switch. They also seem to have learned to make their announcements on their own time and not let major events dictate their calendar. Interestingly, they have just announced that they are planning a “big E3”, which is probably the next important series of announcements for them to get right to stay relevant and present in the media.

 

 

To complete the usual series of blog posts reviewing the past year, I present to you 2016 and video games in the media.

Like last year, bear in mind that we are using our internal tool to collect these numbers, and understanding the methodology is important. It is particularly worth mentioning this year Pokemon Go is definitely making things crazy. Or crazier than usual I should say. In order to account for that, a lot of the numbers presented here are limited to video games media. We do have General Interest and Tech media in our tools, but they are not as exhaustively collected on our end.

Games

 

Let’s address Pokemon Go now. I wrote about the game shortly after the launch, and while things have calmed down since July, the game is still receiving an impressive amount of coverage daily, even at times where there is no new update to discuss.

This being said, it wasn’t the number one game mentioned in the games media (important to be specific here), that was Overwatch.

Pokemon Go, while announced in September 2015, received very little coverage until it launched in early July 2016. The amount of coverage collected here is basically only 6 months worth, where Overwatch was already well covered prior to its launch in May.

If we compare these numbers to the ones from last year (which take into account a wider range of types of media), Pokemon Go’s performance is striking as it is a Nintendo game (only Splatoon managed to barely get in the top 15) and a mobile game (there were none in that ranking in 2015).

Overwatch is also impressive as it had 50% more coverage than any game in 2015. The online nature of the game, with its constant updates, coupled with the power of the Blizzard brand, pushed the game to the top here, making it by far the game with the most media presence in 2016.

Overwatch is also striking in the sense that it is one of the only two new IPs in this ranking (The Division being part of the Tom Clancy’s franchise), alongside No Man’s Sky. Many industry commenters pointed to No Man’s Sky’s hype as being the main reason for its fall from grace, and you have to give them credit here, when you see the game is in the top 15 most covered by media game of the year, while coming from a small independent studio. Even the Sony PR machine can’t be the only thing at play here, as many very large productions didn’t manage to make it in these rankings. The game’s hype took on a life of its own, and got big.

For the fans of the respective series, it will interesting to note that Battlefield 1 secured about +40% more coverage than this year’s Call of Duty game. Year-on-year, Call of Duty’s media coverage dropped about -12%.

Monthly Data

For a very long time, we wanted to run these numbers. As ICO is also a PR agency, a lot of the discussions with the studios and the publishers come around to the best timing to do a particular communication. The above is a great way to understand when certain periods are swamped, while some are on the contrary very light.

You’ll see that I removed Pokemon Go from the data. The game was so dominant at its launch that it was skewing the data (more than 7% of the  articles in the games media in July 2016 mentioned Pokemon Go). Removing it is not a perfect solution either, but it draws a slightly better picture.

There are different ways to understand these numbers, but here are my takeaways:

  • You probably want to communicate when the ratio of articles for AAA is lower. It means the coverage is more varied and more likely to be covering your game. From that perspective, November is often deemed a tough month for communications, and both graphs illustrate this well.
  • When there is a lot of coverage, you also have more chances to be covered, however, the communication will also stand out less as higher volume of articles means more noise overall. In that sense, communicating during the E3 period (June) can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.
  • While media coverage does drop during the Christmas period, it is the only time in the year where there is a visible drop in the volume of coverage across all media. It means that any other time, there will always be a minimum number of articles that need to be written, and it can pay off to aim for the periods outside of the AAA games releases, like January or July.

While making these graphs, the question came up about the number of games beyond those top 20 games. The truth is, we don’t know how many games communicate in any given month. We do know how many games are released on Steam on average, and this is where the 500+ number comes from. In reality, you can expect all the games releasing to have some form of communication that month, but you would also need to add all the games that are announced, the games that are communicating about their upcoming release, the released games having some newsworthy announcement, like an expansion, or a DLC release, not to mention the live games with significant updates.

That 500+ figure for games is quite conservative in truth.

Platforms

2016 was interesting as far as platforms are concerned. While there were no new console coming out, there were upgrades, iterations and major accessories announced and released. The Playstation 4 and the Xbox One are hitting their stride while the Wii U is in its last year being the main console for the Nintendo line up, with the Switch being around the corner.

What is interesting in the media coverage is the fact that it was yet again a strong year for the Playstation 4, with even more media coverage than in 2015 (+14%). The console has established its lead, the media follow the trend. The PlayStation VR and the Playstation 4 Pro both helped bring the device in front of the media as well.

For Xbox One, it was also a good year compared to 2015 (+18%), a growth in coverage not necessarily being a given considering the most important announcement, Project Scorpio, related to a new version of the console to be released in 2017.

The Wii U year-on-year numbers see a steep decline overall (-24%). Comparing it to the Oculus Rift, which is a niche platform that had its first release in the year both shows how much Oculus has accomplished, and how much the Wii U has dropped.


Sony’s communication strategy is well established by now, with most of its coverage originating from E3 and a combination of their own events and industry conferences.

gamescom, despite the absence of a press conference, is still an important source of coverage overall, but it does come after the press event ahead of the Tokyo Game Show.

And like last year, the Playstation Experience event in early December was a tremendous success for Sony as far as media coverage is concerned.

The Microsoft coverage over the year has fewer events sparking spikes in coverage. The two most notable ones are the E3 in June, and gamescom in August, even though, like Sony, they didn’t put a press conference together in 2016.

Microsoft seemed to be on the defensive in its communication strategy the whole of 2016 and the fact it still managed to grow the coverage is a good sign. Hopefully they will be more aggressive this year, with the Project Scorpio device coming, to shake things up a bit.

As promised last week, here is a deep dive into the Games category on Kickstarter for the year 2016. The format will follow the same as the article I did last year on the same topic. Please bear in mind that I will exclusively look at Kickstarter, and not any other crowdfunding platform here. For a more general outlook, specifically on video games, you can read my guest article on GamesIndustry.biz.

As usual, at the end of the article you can find more graphs in the dedicated SlideShare presentation.

The whole Games category

As seen last week, like most categories on Kickstarter, Games saw a decline in 2016 in money raised compared to 2015 (-8%). This is still the second biggest year on record in terms of money raised, and in fact, there were more projects funded in the category than ever before (+14%).

The growth in the number of funded projects however comes with a decline in the total number of projects seeking funding on the platform. Fewer projects on the platform, but more projects funded – the ratio of success is climbing. The platform is maturing, the general audience understanding of what it takes to get funded is getting more sophisticated.

In terms of money, it’s interesting to observe that the overall year-on-year decline only happened at the highest tier, with the projects raising $500,000 and more. All other tiers showed growth (+18% across all those projects).

Interestingly, there were a similar increase in the number of funded projects across all tiers except for the highest tier. There was 1 less project funded in the highest tier (but considering there are fewer projects, that represents -2%). All the other tiers had at least +12% growth in the number of funded projects.

In both number of funded projects and money raised, the tier with the largest growth is the $100,000-$500,000 tier (respectively +23% and +27%). In last week’s blog post, the trends were interpreted as showing an increase in the professionalism of the campaigns on Kickstarter, and this again reinforces that sentiment.

 

Like last year, there are two subcategories making up the most of the Games category: Tabletop Games and Video Games. All the other subcategories only account for 7% of the money raised and 30% of the funded projects.

Overall, most of the decline in the games category happened for the Video Games projects. Less money (-57%) and fewer funded projects (-13%) account for the difference from last year for the Game category.

Smaller Subcategories

Before getting into the two main actors of the Games category on Kickstarter, here are a few new insights on the smaller subcategories from 2016:

  • Games. This catch-all subcategory, meant to cover any project that the existing labels don’t properly represent, has declined again. I suspect this is more due to project creators opting more and more for existing subcategories, and hoping for success by association, than any actual revealing trend.
  • Gaming Hardware. The Ouya and the Oculus campaigns haven’t had many successors. In 2016, less than $800,000 was raised by 26 projects in this category. It’s not much when you consider that the Smach Z campaign alone raised more than $500,000 (the first project to manage to do so in this subcategory since 2013). A campaign ran in EUR, it also means that it was the leading currency platform for that subcategory, raising more money than all the other currencies combined.
  • Live Games. A niche subcategory, but growing every year. It more than doubled the money raised year-on-year, with only +4% more projects. For the first time, projects in this category raised more than $50,000 (3 projects in fact). No project managed to raise more than $100,000 yet, but the highest managed to reach $90,000 in funding, so it might be a threshold passed this year.
  • Mobile Games. I have a very strong opinion on Mobile Games and crowdfunding – I believe they are not meant to do well together. It doesn’t mean nothing is happening in this subcategory. 40 projects got funded, raising a total of $460,000 between them. Also, for the first time since the subcategory was added, a project raised more than $100,000 (this game) too. Surprisingly, the 2nd currency is AUD, with 4 funded projects that raised between them $64,000. Good job, Australia! (If you believe I’m being snarky, you might be onto something)
  • Playing Cards. The 3rd largest subcategory, it saw a small decline from last year in money raised (-2%) and small increase in the number of funded projects (+4%). This said, there were larger projects than ever before. The number of projects raising more than $100,000 went from 2 in 2015 to 5 in 2016.
  • Puzzles. The smallest of all the Games Subcategories, it had 17 projects funded last year, and together they raised $350,000, almost triple the amount from 2015. This is mainly thanks to the amazing Codex Silenda campaign, that raised $210,000 by itself – and would have raised much much more had the creator not been humble (and sane) and capped the number of items you could back. Seriously, check it out, it’s incredible.

And now, to the main contenders.

Video Games

 

There is no ignoring the significant drop in the total amount of money raised for video games in 2016. With $16m, this is the lowest raised on the platform for this category since it exploded in 2012 after the initial funding of The Broken Age by Double Fine.

When accounting for the total number of projects funded though, the year-on-year change is a lot less drastic (-13%). That’s the platform 3rd best year in that regard. Before diving into the breakdown of projects per tier, it is obvious that the significant drop in the total amount of money raised is significant partly due to the absence of large projects.

Looking at the amount of money raised per tier first, the highest tier of funding was almost a 1/10th of what it was in 2015. If you ignore that tier, there actually was more money raised on Kickstarter than the previous year. Kickstarter in 2016 missed out significantly from this lack of high level projects. Of course, Fig.co hosting Psychonauts 2 and Wasteland 3 didn’t help. But even if these two projects had been funded on Kickstarter, 2016 would have been a low performing year (whether you account for the project equity of the Fig.co or not).

It seems that there’s only ever a limited volume of such large projects considering crowdfunding, meaning there will be a visible effect on the overall performance for the video games category in crowdfunding in any given year based on the volume of these high performance projects – there will naturally be years where lower numbers of these big projects come to the platform due to factors such as the long development cycles. This will likely continue, unless crowdfunding suddenly becomes more popular with studios (in the way it’s popular for Tabletop Games as we will see next), but this seems very unlikely given the current trends and the nature of what it takes to create big video game projects.

The share the projects in USD represents has drastically dropped this year. The common idea that you have to launch your project in that currency to succeed for video games should be dismissed by looking at this year’s numbers. With the projects in EUR seeing a considerable increase, they represented 18% of the money raised for video games last year, with GBP projects representing 15% of the total. USD projects, that raised 81% of the total amount of money raised in 2015 for video games, represented only 60% of the total amount raised last year.

Looking at the number of projects every week on Kickstarter, the trend is not of a collapse in the number of funded projects. There were fewer projects launched on the platform, and across all categories, but for the past 2 years it seems that the volume of projects being funded is actually quite stable.

Another unseen competitor is Steam Early Access. The minimum required quality to launch a crowdfunding campaign for a video game is such (beautiful assets, good video, demonstrable gameplay) that it wouldn’t be surprising if many projects considering crowdfunding simply decided to skip it, and go in Early Access instead, with the idea to be able to start getting revenue regularly directly on the main platform the game is sold on to the end users.

Tabletop Games

 

Over the years, Tabletop games have become the crown jewel of the Games category on Kickstarter. More projects got funded (+21%) for a larger total amount of money (+18%) than in the previous year, with more than $100m pledged to successful projects.

Recently, in a Polygon article about the upcoming PAX unplugged, the ICV2 estimate of $1.2bn for the size of the tabletop North American market was mentioned. If we estimate the market has grown a bit since that estimate, say $1.4bn, and if North America represents 45% of that market (making up numbers here, just for the thought exercise), that’s a $3.1bn global market. With $100m a year on Kickstarter, that’s 3% of the whole market transaction happening solely through Kickstarter. My estimates are of course very shaky, but they’re not totally unrealistic. That percentage is likely to be even higher when considering purely the North American market, which has historically been more culturally friendly to crowdfunding.

In the tabletop games industry, Kickstarter is not only the primary platform for crowdfunding, but is also now a key actor to the whole ecosystem.

There was more money and more funded projects across all the different tiers in 2016. Interestingly, compared to video games, the lowest tier (under $10,000)  grew 32% in the total amount of money raised.

The most significant change is for the $100,000 to $500,000 tier again. More funded projects (+30% with +31 projects) and more money raised (+39%), the average per project in that tier increased to $216,000. Again, this can be seen as a result of a more professional approach to the way the campaigns are managed.

The biggest relative increase this year was for the GBP projects, more than doubling the amount raised year-on-year, and this despite the currency taking a nosedive in the second half of the year due to the Brexit referendum results.

The USD projects are still largely dominating though, representing almost 80% of the total amount of money raised.

There seems to be a lot of growth potential for European tabletop projects on Kickstarter, especially considering the cultural importance of the region for the tabletop games business. The lower numbers at present might also be due to local crowdfunding platforms performing particularly well. For instance, Blackbook Edition, that runs its own crowdfunding platform for tabletop roleplaying games in French, has raised $1m in 2016 alone.

Compared to the relatively even and stable video games chart, it is very clear that the Tabletop Games category has steady growth in the number of projects that get funded each week.

 

Finally, at the beginning of the year, and thus not showing in any of the data present, the largest Games campaign ever funded on Kickstarter ended, raising a staggering $12.3m. Alone, it raised about 12% of what all Tabletop games raised in 2016. That was on January 7th. I feel very confident that 2017 will again be a record year for Tabletop Games on Kickstarter.