Media coverage analysis – Nintendo Switch January event

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

The Console

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

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

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

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

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

 

Games

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

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

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

That’s it for me (for now).

6 PR lessons learned from launching the episodic indie game The Lion’s Song

At ICO Partners we do PR for a wide range of games (from SMITE to Armello) and recently we started working on our first episodic game: The indie title The Lion’s Song.

To celebrate this week’s launch of Episode 2, we want to share some episodic-specific PR lessons we learned from supporting developer Mipumi Games in launching Episode 1 of the game.

the-lions-song-youtube-previewThe announcement trailer of The Lion’s Song.

1) Announce the whole “series” before talking about single episodes

We decided to announce the whole “series” first with a general trailer, describing the game concept and teasing what the individual episodes would entail. The challenge when promoting a game, and particularly when trying to make a strong first impression, is always to find as many strong talking points and PR angles as you can.

Focusing on just one episode for that first announcement would have severely limited the amount of talking points we had to work with, and wouldn’t have allowed us to sell the overarching vision for what the team are trying to achieve with the season as a whole. This additional outlook on the other episodes could also give further incentive for players to buy a Season Pass.

the-lions-song-1-media-coverage

A downside of announcing the season first is that it means you need to nail down details and commit early. Additionally, having a trailer showing footage of all episodes at such an early stage proved to be a challenge because…well, the studio only had footage of Episode 1 at this point. To make this work Mipumi Games had to create individual sections for the later episodes from scratch just for the video, which of course could have a knock-on effect on the development plan and schedule.

the-lions-song-banner

Looking at the coverage breakdown though (graph above), we would highly recommend this approach for promoting smaller episodic games. For us having a general reveal trailer of The Lion’s Song resulted in 74 online articles and got even more articles than the launch of Episode 1, with announcement coverage from high profile sites such as Killscreen, Pocketgamer, France’s (and looking at Alexa also Europe’s) biggest gaming site Jeuxvideo.com and the major German gaming site PCGames.de

2) Be careful with your wording if your first episode is free

Mipumi Games decided to launch Episode 1 – Silence for free: they saw this as an opportunity to expose the game to the largest number of players possible from the beginning, and that would hopefully convince players to stick around for the upcoming episodes.

the_lions_song_screenshot_02

From a PR point of view however, we were concerned that having a free first episode could result in media thinking The Lion’s Song was a small, almost fan made-like game, which could result in them deciding against covering it. After all, it’s a pixel art title from a relatively unknown studio, and all of our messages and promotional assets would say it’s free.

To avoid this from happening we put a lot of work into finding the best phrasing in the communication around the free episode correctly. Whenever we said Episode 1 is free for instance, we would immediately mention that the whole Season Pass costs €9,99. By doing this, we let people know that this is a premium quality game, but a game that we wanted to bring people into and try for themselves by removing that initial barrier to entry.

3) Press seems to focus and your first episode

At ICO, we have developed a tool we call the Media Monitor that basically tracks thousands of websites and shows us how individual games perform in the press (for more info on how it works look here). For The Lion’s Song, we took advantage of the tool and looked into data from other episodic games like Life is Strange, Hitman, King’s Quest or Tales from the Borderlands to see how their coverage evolved over time.

Looking at the coverage per episode it became clear episode 1 gets most media traction, whereas all episodes after that seem to drop in term of media coverage. You can see King’s Quest, Minecraft: Story Mode and Tales from the Borderlands as an example below.

the-lions-song-2-launch-coverage

Based on the data we would recommend to put most of your PR efforts and resources, especially for assets, into the initial announcement instead of saving your PR fireworks for later to build up hype. Of course it makes sense to try to keep pushing to gather press attention, but the first  episode will be the easiest points of your campaign to get eyes on your game, so take advantage of this.

4) Try to boost the news value of your other episodes

the-lions-song-3-life-is-strnage

Life is Strange proved to be an interesting case study in another regard: we looked at how much coverage each episode got when it’s launch day was announced. As you can see, episode 4 clearly breaks the pattern mentioned above. What happened? They announced a newsworthy sales milestone of 1 million copies sold at the same time as announcing episode 4 to boost their announcement – a clever way of helping the “weaker episodes” gather more traction.

That’s something we are looking into for the upcoming episodes of the Lion’s Song.

5) Youtubers are your friends, especially for episodic games

If you have followed the discussion around That, Dragon Cancer, the developers were not too happy about people streaming and putting together walkthroughs of their narrative game as they felt it hurt sales. Even though The Lion’s Song is a narrative game as well, the whole dynamic changes with episodic games, especially when episode 1 is free.

the-lions-song-youtube-preview-2Youtuber NichBoys playing The Lion’s Song

So while Youtubers might have “spoilered” Episode 1 for some players, we think the benefit of having more exposure and potentially hooking viewers on the upcoming episodes or the Season Pass seemed like a bigger positive for us. In the end, you can never really prevent videos from being released, so why not encourage and assist YouTubers/streamers who are interested in your game and have a direct line into the audience you are trying to reach

6. Consider not announcing the release date of your episodes

Working on many titles in a more traditional release cycle, we are used to announcing release dates before launching a game to get players and press in the right mindset, letting them know the game is coming soon and hopefully getting them excited. Looking at other episodic games, their tactics vary widely: From announcing the release date a week before (Life is Strange) to simply announcing the moment the episode becomes available, like most mobile games.

tls_launchdate

Going through our Media Monitor, we couldn’t make out a clear pattern that generally seems to work best, but we still learned a valuable lesson: a release date announcement for smaller games generally splits your media impact between two news beats (release date and launch shortly after) and can therefore drastically weaken your media impact on launch day – a moment where you usually want most players to hear about your game because they can get their hands on it straight away.

the-lions-song-4-life-is-strange-launch-announcements

For high profile titles like Life is Strange (graph below) this might not matter too much, as media and a large, enthusiastic player base are generally aware of and excited for an episode’s upcoming launch anyway.

For a smaller game gaining traction for two news beats close to each other seems more difficult. As an example we looked at Dreamfall Chapters (which is a bigger project but didn’t reach the scale of The Life is Strange’s media impact) and their media coverage with announcing the release date beforehand.

the-lions-song-5-dreamfall

For our smaller episodic game, splitting the news value per episode into two seemed like it would overall damage the media impact we can have, particularly for launching the traditionally weaker performing episodes. That’s why we decided that after Episode 1, we will only announce the Lion’s Song episodes once they are available to have the best chance of cutting through the media noise that day.  

That’s it for now. Thanks a lot to developer Mipumi Games for letting us share these insights and data points. We hope you found it helpful. If you have questions, or other tips you can reach me under @Olima on Twitter and in the comments.

Media coverage analysis – How good was the Nintendo Switch announcement?

This month has not only been busy with new game releases, as expected for this time of the year, but also with new announcements. On the back of the analysis of the PlayStation VR release and its media coverage, I went and looked at the media coverage that the recent Nintendo Switch reveal has secured.

A tweet and a video

There are not many console announcements; their life cycle is long enough to make them a rare occurrence. Our media monitoring tool has been running since mid-2013, but getting really in shape from early 2014 onwards, so I don’t have much data to properly compare the Nintendo Switch announcement. I will mostly use this year’s PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio announcements, keeping in mind that these are not full-blown new hardware being released, but upgrades of existing consoles.

The way the Nintendo Switch was announced is also unusual. It was outside of any major media event and in the middle of the busiest month for video games media with the release of many AAA titles; a new format for this kind of announcement. Also, Nintendo has been very sparse when it comes to details about the console (no detailed specs, no price point, no confirmed release titles), and stated clearly that they wouldn’t provide any of this until nearly next year.

With all this in mind, how well was the announcement covered by media?

articles_compared

Purely looking at the number of articles, the Nintendo Switch secured fewer than the PlayStation 4 Pro did at its reveal back in September, but way more than the Xbox “Scorpio” did at E3. I would call this a small victory for Nintendo, if only because there is very little to talk about on the Switch at the moment. Of course, there are many speculative articles, but it doesn’t feed the media cycle the way the Sony press conference did, where there was a price point, technical specs, and titles to discuss.

But to call it a win, I have to say I had to double check the number of unique websites that wrote about the consoles first:

websites_compared

The Nintendo Switch managed to secure coverage across more media than the PS4 Pro or the Xbox “Scorpio”, even if not in a massive way. Nintendo is clearly behind the two other console manufacturers, and it shows in the monthly tracking we do on the coverage of each platform, so being able to get this amount of attention is good for them. It is the biggest beat related to the Nintendo brand since we started tracking media coverage (January 2014), but it is still way behind what Sony and Microsoft gained for their biggest announcements in the period (usually around E3, but not exclusively, as the PlayStation Experience managed to build a lot of significant coverage the past couple of years too).

Where is the interest?

websites_compared_lg

Looking at the same metric (unique websites covering the announcement), there is a similar level of increased interest for the Nintendo Switch compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro across most languages. The notable exceptions being French and Spanish media, which covered this announcement in a bigger proportion than the other languages (and which makes sense considering the findings from the report on the different media landscapes) and Italian media where the increase was smaller than the other languages (and contrary to the same findings).

The websites parsed by the monitoring tool are also put in different categories and this is where an interesting pattern appears for this announcement:

websites_compared_mt

Nintendo is often seen as a family-friendly brand, one that has a wide appeal and name recognition outside of the video game industry. The bigger reach the Nintendo Switch announcement had with General Interest media would reflect that, and is quite significant here (note that the tool’s database is very much geared towards video games media and is not as exhaustive when it comes to media from different categories). But the significant reach the news had with websites qualified as Special Interest, is one I didn’t expect. Special Interest media cover a range of very specific topics, generally only tangentially related to video games. For example, it includes websites that focus on board games, “geek culture”, and science-fiction in its broadest expression. The news seems to have found a very strong resonance with those media compared to the “upgraded console” announcements.

All in all, this was a massive announcement for Nintendo, one on a scale that they don’t often have. And while it worked and found a significant reach in the media, it was not spectacular. Pokemon Go, at its highest week, saw a lot more coverage than the announcement of a brand new console. Of course, Pokemon Go was an extraordinary phenomenon, but so should be the reveal of your new device.

Here are the last couple of numbers to give some food for thought: at the time of writing this blog post, 5 days after the reveal, the Nintendo Switch reveal video on Youtube had 17m views; the Battlefield 1 reveal trailer had 22m views over the same time period.

 

Media coverage analysis: PlayStation VR’s launch dominates Oculus and Vive

Last week, Sony launched its VR headset, the last of the 3 major tethered HMDs (head mounted display) to release in 2016. This is a perfect opportunity to have a look at the media coverage around the launch and to see how well it has performed compared to the other two. If you have read our blog post on the VR in media report, the result shouldn’t be very surprising, though.

The Launches

To compare the launches, I looked at the 48h cycle around the official release of each headset and the number of articles gathered for each device.

hmd_launches

Sony is a lot better organized in regards to its PR, especially where games and technology media are concerned, and the results shows, with twice the coverage that Oculus had for its launch, that was itself better covered than the HTC Vive’s launch. But even then, the magnitude of the difference is really impressive. Oculus was first to market, in a highly anticipated technological advancement.

hmd_launches_lg

A first explanation can be found with the languages breakdown. It seems Sony has been way better at engaging with non-English media than both Oculus and HTC were. In English, the PlayStation VR is 37% bigger than Oculus’, where in Italian – the biggest gap – it is 249% bigger.

This said I don’t have any good comparisons with other, different hardware launches. The Xbox One S was launched in the middle of the summer with little fanfare, and it is arguably not a very significant launch (667 articles for its launch if you are curious). I guess the NX launch will be the next similar event that we can compare these numbers to.

it is good to note as well, and that’s true for all three HMDs, that the launch is not the biggest media beat of their lifecycle. For example, for the PlayStation VR, the price point announcement earlier this year at GDC and the E3 coverage were both more significant when it comes to the volume of media coverage.

psvr_announcements

The Games

With the launch of the new headset, a slew of VR games were part of the story. To cover the communications, that were spread across the week, I looked at their coverage for the whole of last week. Most of the articles were on the day of the PlayStation VR release or the following day.

vr_games

The odd one out in this top 10 is Robinson: The Journey. The game is not available yet on PSVR, but they announced they release date right around the PSVR release, getting a lot of attention thanks to that timing.

The Batman VR game has been getting a lot of coverage, the brand power probably helping it a bit. This game still has the best performance, getting more coverage than Sony’s first party titles Until Dawn and Driveclub.

EvE Valkyrie is also very well covered, especially for a game that has already been released on Oculus months ago.

These seem like good numbers for games launches overall – however, when looking at established IP’s going into VR such as Driveclub, the numbers are still lagging behind.

driveclub

These are the early days of VR, and it doesn’t seem like a bad start, but there is a long way to go still to get a proper foothold in the media. We can expect this to grow alongside VR adoption.

PAX, Tokyo Game Show & EGX 2016 – Events media coverage

Following up on the blog post looking at the media coverage of E3 and gamescom, I wanted to do one on the “September Events”. The month was rich in games industry events, and I want to try to keep this series of articles as regular as possible to provide more context around the benefits of attending different events, from a media/PR point of view.

As usual, you can read about the tool and methodology here.

And take this with a pinch of salt, as always. Media coverage shouldn’t be the only reason to attend any event. And it’s also sometimes beneficial to be the biggest announcement of a smaller event rather than one-in-a-million at E3.

PAX West 2016

Going by chronological order, the PAX main event (even if it is getting challenged by PAX East), renamed PAX West this year after being PAX Prime for so long, took place early September in Seattle.

pax_years

Collecting data prior to 2015 proved complicated this time around, so I only look at this year and the previous one.

Overall coverage is lower, but stayed in the same order of magnitude. PAX being an American event, I was more curious about the coverage spread across different languages.

pax_lg_years

The year-on-year coverage stayed the same for English media, but there were fewer articles mentioning the event in Italian and German media. Looking at the media coverage, it seems there were fewer larger AAA games present at this year’s event, or at least, there were fewer announcements around the event. The fact that overall coverage in English stayed about the same should be seen as a sign that the event stayed strong despite fewer key news beats taking place at the show.

Tokyo Game Show

Next in line, the main games event in Japan, the Tokyo Game Show (TGS for short) started on the 15th September.

tgs_years

With Sony having its PlayStation Meeting earlier in the month in New York, it deprived the TGS from announcements that would have been done there in previous years. Sony still held a press conference during TGS, but it didn’t get as many headlines as the one from the previous year.

The major announcements for 2016 were related to the Final Fantasy games, the new Resident Evil, and the controversy around the new Metal Gear title (and it being disavowed by Hideo Kojima).

tgs_lg_2016

When looking at the EFIGS coverage, there is a surprising balance between the amount of articles referring to TGS in French, Italian, German and Spanish.

tgs_lg_years

The international appeal of the TGS is clear when looking at the distribution of the EFIGS coverage. Interesting to note that the English media are the only ones that covered this year’s edition more than last year’s.

EGX

Coming last in September was EGX. The event is very much geared towards consumers, but benefits from being the largest games event in the UK, with local studios using it as a platform for their own announcements. This year, the latest Yooka-Laylee trailer (that includes Shovel Knight as a guest star) was probably one of the biggest announcements tied to the event.

egx_years

After seeing a significant growth in coverage from 2014 last year, this year’s media mentions of the event saw a slight decline. EGX 2015 saw a lot of media attention due to some of the comments made by Sony’s president Shuhei Yoshida.

egx_lg_years

Unlike the more internationally covered PAX West and TGS, EGX is mostly covered and mentioned by English speaking media. The amount of coverage in French is actually surprisingly low considering that the event is still a vehicle for announcements that see significant relay in other languages.

Comparing the reach

As a last exercise, I compared the actual number of unique English websites that covered each event, as a way to compare their reach and presence in that media landscape that is less reliant on the number of news beats relayed at the event.

websites

It is quite interesting to see PAX being at the level of TGS, and while EGX is significantly behind, it is not an insurmountable gap. In 2014, there were 143 unique English websites reporting on TGS, by then already a very well established event. I can see EGX reaching similar numbers in a couple of years if they keep building their profile as a good platform for reaching media and the right people in the industry.

gamescom 2016 – Tally of the media performance

I haven’t recovered (yet) from this year’s gamescom, but I would rather do the customary media coverage analysis blog post while it is still fresh.

If you are so inclined you can read the 2014 and 2015 posts, but I will be comparing previous years to make it easier. The methodology is the same (data is from Sunday to Sunday, across all the media we track).

gamescom 2016

Let’s review the specifics of this year edition.

Dates

The dates changed again, getting closer to the middle of the month compared to last year’s. This year the dates were more “normal” as far as gamescom is concerned, starting on the 17th and closing on the 21st of August.

No press conference from either Sony or Microsoft

Last year Sony did not put together a press conference, leaving the field free for Microsoft. This year Sony again skipped the once traditional Press event at gamescom, and Microsoft has followed their example. While I can see the logic behind Sony’s move, after all they have many other events in lieu of the gamescom for their communication if they follow last year’s pattern, Microsoft hasn’t structured its communication that way in the past, and they haven’t announced anything to make up for the lack of a press event in Cologne.

Last year Sony used the Paris Games Week as its European press event, but there hasn’t been any announcement so far in that regard for 2016. They do have a new event called the PlayStation Meeting in early September, which I will keep an eye on for sure.

Numbers

Here are the gamescom 2016 numbers, as released by the organisers:

  • 345,000 visitors (same as 2015)
  • 30,500 trade visitors (-2,700 from 2015; -1,000 from 2014)
  • 877 exhibitors (+71 from 2015)

The space was the same surface area as last year.

gamescom has reached an interesting size issue, where they can’t welcome more people. The tickets are sold out and there isn’t much more space in the Messe to expand too. There is also the issue that even if they want to have more space, there might not be much interest from exhibitors to expand further than what they currently have, and the companies not exhibiting probably have good reasons not to. I will talk about it at the end of the post, there are some changes coming that might help.

So. What about the media coverage?

gamescom in the media

001-gamescom-year

So, I should preface this year’s analysis by a disclaimer that I don’t pretend to understand all the forces at a play where those numbers are concerned. Most of what you will find are educated guesses and I try to corroborate the theories with the data, but it doesn’t always work.

Here, we see a decline in the total coverage of the gamescom’s brand from last year. But while there was a significant drop, which was expected with the lack of major press conferences, it stayed at the same level as 2014, where there were two press conferences. So I would say that gamescom has reached a point where its relevance to the media (and the publishers and studios planning their communication strategy) has gone beyond the consoles’ press events, and it stands on its own.

002-gamescom-lang

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

003-gamescom-lang_webs

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

004-gamescom-lang_year 005-gamescom-lang_webs_year

So, looking at the past 3 years, we can see that in every language, there were more articles last year than in the 2016 edition. It all makes sense. The year-on-year drop can be more or less drastic depending on the language. In French and German,  it goes below the 2014 level for instance. But looking at the number of unique websites covering gamescom in English, there is a significant growth over the past 3 years, to the point that they are actually more websites in English covering gamescom, than German ones (again, in our sample).

English media were probably a bit behind the other ones in taking into account gamescom as a major industry event. It seems that this year, they have caught up, and they have increased their coverage of the event considerably. That’s impressive considering that it happened without the support of any major press conference.

 

Platforms

008-gamescom-platforms_years

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

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

006-gamescom-platforms_years

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing E3 and gamescom

006-gamescom-v-E3_platforms

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

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

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

Games

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

010-gamescom-platforms_years_b

 

A few things that stood out for me:

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

 

Concluding thoughts

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Games Media Landscape

cover_vg_2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Virtual Reality in games media

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

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

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

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

Looking at the volume of content shows another different trend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Pokémon Go media coverage is truly insane – analysis

 

Currently there is no way to miss Pokémon Go. In its short lifetime, the game is breaking records left and right like being the biggest mobile game in the US ever or attracting more users than services like Twitter or Tinder.

We looked into our coverage tracking tool (more info on the tracking method here) to see how well Pokémon Go is doing in terms of press coverage. To make the coverage of the only recently released title comparable to other games we looked at data from the last three years and picked the highest performing week in terms of number of articles for each title (technically, the best 7 consecutive days).

In the graph below you can see that Pokémon Go managed to get by far the most articles on it’s highest performing week.
graph_01 One of the main reasons Pokémon Go was able to achieve such a high amount of coverage is the fact that many general interest websites and gaming websites currently cover the game with several articles a day.

This makes sense as the appetite for Pokémon Go coverage is remarkable at the moment. For instance, Game Network (a publishing house hosting some of the biggest gaming sites in the world including Eurogamer, VG247 and Rock Paper Shotgun) noted that they had their biggest traffic day so far thanks to Pokémon Go:

And Kotaku’s Keza MacDonald stated that Pokémon Go articles see outstanding traffic numbers, with over half a million clicks at least per article, making it “considerably bigger than E3”:

In short: there seems to be no game in the last three years that managed to generate nearly as many articles per day as Pokémon Go.

Of course this only shows a snapshot of the media coverage for the games listed. While Pokémon Go had an impressive start, games like Overwatch manage to keep up media buzz over a long period of time.

Even so, looking at the coverage from Pokémon Go, Fallout 4, Overwatch and Zelda: Breath of the Wild over a longer period of time (June 2015 to July 2016) it became apparent that Pokémon Go has an impressive head start. It even even stacks up well against Fallout 4 which saw outstanding coverage numbers and is internally our benchmark to see how much coverage it is possible for a game to get. For the overview graph we also highlighted the biggest news beats where possible. Some titles like Overwatch didn’t see one particularly strong communication topic but rather saw a very high amount of coverage from a mix of sources.

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What makes the extremely high number of Pokémon Go articles even more impressive is the setup of the game: Whereas Fallout 4 perfectly orchestrated a genius PR coup last year by revealing and extensively showing the game just a day before E3 started, with press and players already eager for news, Pokémon Go was simply released in a few countries without any event, fancy videos or much fanfare.

I will offer some extra food for thoughts for you as you ponder the cheer scale of the coverage that Pokémon Go has received recently. The below graphs shows the repartition of the recent coverage for both Overwatch and Pokémon Go based on the type of media:

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Our tools have been built around media outlets that cover video games. In terms of the media that we properly track, I am very confident in regards to what we consider “games” media. However, there are plenty of “general interest” media that we are missing, because they focus much more on local news and have historically mentioned video games only anecdotally (if ever). I believe that what we see in our tools, while probably fairly accurate and representative for most video games, is missing many of those media from our data set.

This would mean that despite being so overwhelmingly dominant already, it is actually strongly under-representing the actual media coverage of Pokémon Go.

While it’s hard to predict how the Pokémon Go hype will develop over the next couple of days, it is already clear that it’s the strongest covered Nintendo title in years and it will almost certainly be the most covered game of 2016.

 

Nota bene: many thanks to Thomas Reisenegger for putting together most of the elements of the article.

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

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

Platforms

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing words

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

 

 

A few technical notes

Why Nintendo and not the Wii?

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

What is the reach value?

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

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

The clash of Titans – Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1 reveals media coverage

It is human nature to want to take sides when you perceive there to be a conflict, and in the EA versus Activision video game publishing war, the recurring battle pitting their FPS franchises against one another is one of the favourite conflicts of the gaming landscape.

Last week saw this year’s protagonists being revealed within days of each other, and I thought I would share the numbers we have gathered on the two games, alongside with the data related to the video reveals.

Context

To understand the different results, it is very important to look at the context of each announcement.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

The name was first leaked through a listing on the PlayStation store end of April, alongside further leaks about a remastered version of Call of Duty Modern Warfare. The proper reveal really happened on the 2nd of May (Monday last week).

Battlefield 1

Battlefield had made a pre-announcement the 29th of April, announcing the date of the reveal for the 5th of May (Friday last week) at 9pm BST. Included in the coverage was a number of speculations around the setting of the game due to leaks of materials related to the event on the Friday.

Basically, there were hints of both game reveals (the exact time and date for BF1) ahead of their video reveals.

 

Media presence

Let’s look at the number of articles first. As a reminder, I am using our media monitoring tool for this.

As Battlefield 1 announced late on a Friday, it probably suffered a lot from a coverage perspective. I would usually compare an announcement over the first 2 days, but clearly, that was not representing fairly the actual coverage for that game. So this time, I looked at the first 5 days, from the moment the reveal trailer was available for each game.

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Despite having gone through a weekend, Battlefield 1 is still quite close to the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare numbers. But even for media, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Looking purely at the unique number of websites covering each game, Battlefield 1 is slightly ahead. Considering the power of each franchise, Call of Duty being the regular better seller between the two, this is quite an achievement here. Both games have been incredibly well covered though, it is fair to say.

As my interest often lies with European specific issues, I dug a bit further to find out where the discrepancy came from.

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We have a negligible difference in numbers for English, French, Italian and Spanish. Where the difference lies is with German websites, and that very wide “Others” category which is mostly websites from Eastern Europe and Russia.

 

Video statistics

Over the weekend, there was a very interesting article link to the Forbes article titled “‘Battlefield 1’ Is The Most Liked Trailer In YouTube History, ‘Infinite Warfare’ The Most Disliked“. I encourage you to read it, I will mostly share similar data points here (post-weekend numbers though) to put them in light of the media coverage numbers above.

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Both videos have received an insane amount of views, but despite a head start of almost 5 days, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is falling short of the Battlefield 1 numbers.

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The comparison for the “likes” and “dislikes” on Youtube highlight a very clear division between the two. There is a very clear statement of which video is more popular beyond the views, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare having almost as many dislikes as Battlefield 1 has likes (in terms of the percentage of overall sentiment).

Battlefield 1’s popularity lead also echoes through the social media data from VidIQ on the two videos:

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Conclusion

This is only the first part of this year’s confrontation, but it is quite an interesting one as the timing really puts them in a head-to-head position from which comparing their relative performance is quite easy. But we shouldn’t lose perspective on the fact that both games actually got a massive amount of visibility.

While we are not quite at the level that Fallout 4 had for its pre-E3 reveal (almost 3,500 articles over the same 5 days period), this is still quite close. Since we have been tracking those two franchises (from early 2014), these two announcements were both the biggest (probably for very different reasons), which is quite promising for things to come.

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