The dust has settled on E3 2019, and it’s time for me to grab my Excel and run the coverage numbers from this year’s show. Read more
This is the yearly look at what is the most important game event in Europe, and the coverage it has generated around its latest edition. 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 2015, 2016, and 2017.
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.
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.
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:
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.
[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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Instead 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.
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.