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ICO GDC 2016 talk for free: The 5 Pillars & Pitfalls of Indie Games PR

On this blog we mostly talk about topics from the video games consulting part of ICO Partners, but we also have an excellent Public Relations team working on a wide range of clients and titles (from big players like SMITE, Fractured Space, Endless Legend to indie titles such as Evoland, The Lion’s Song and Fragments of Him).

This April I did a talk at GDC about indie games PR titled “Everyone Can do PR – The 5 Pillars & Pitfalls of Indie Games PR”.  You can watch the talk for free on the GDC Vault by clicking on the image below. You can also check out the slides and download them here.

Talk description: “In today’s crowded games market that sees hundreds of game releases each month, getting overlooked is one of the biggest threats for indie games. This session covers the 5 PR pillars indie studios doing their own PR should prioritize in order to get heard by press, youtubers and streamers. This 5 key areas are backed up with practical examples and by showing data such as effects of PR stunts on media coverage and sales. The talk also covers 5 typical pitfalls in indie games PR and 5 future trends that will shape how to do PR as a small game studio in the future.”

talk_preview

GDC 2016 in media coverage

VR dominates the headlines, PlayStation beats Xbox and less but better coverage for the event

Like last year, I have put together a quick summary of the media coverage the Game Developer Conference received. If you have a look at last year’s blog post, you will see the methodology for measuring events’ media coverage has evolved. For events, I am looking at the “Key 20 days”, standing for the 9 days prior to the events and the 11 days from the beginning of the event. For topics, like last year, we look at the coverage for the whole week, from Sunday to Sunday that specifically mentioned the event.

GDC 2016: Fewer articles but higher profile coverage

For anyone attending, this year was a really impressive GDC. The halls were busy right from the beginning of the week and this is the first time since I have been attending the event (about 15 years out of 30 years of its existence) that I saw sessions showing as being full on the Monday.

Surprisingly, the official press release after the event that shows attendance numbers, announced the event has only grown from  “more than 26,000 visitors” to “more than 27,000 visitors“.

Where does GDC 2016 stand from a media coverage perspective though?

001-gdc_articles

There has been a slight decline in the number of articles mentioning GDC this year. It still saw more media coverage than 2 years ago though, and this is a significant amount of media attention for a professional event.

The fact is, even more than other comparable events, GDC media coverage is very dependent on the profile of the announcements made during the week and there are no staple press conferences like the ones at E3 or gamescom. Last year’s HTC Vive reveal, or the Unreal and Unity shifts of business models announcements might be at play here? The single biggest news in this 2016 edition was the Playstation VR’s price point though, but more on this later.

002-gameevents_articles

* Just a reminder that E3 is missing due to technical limitations with our tools.

The GDC stays in the same range of media coverage as the Playstation Experience or the Paris Games Week (the one with the Sony Press Conference).

However, there is one metric on which it stays ahead.

I have mentioned in the past, we give different media outlets a score based on their Alexa ranking. The better the ranking, the higher the score, up to a maximum of 10. This score doesn’t feature very often in the blog post as it is not always relevant and I also try to keep things simple (even if sometimes I fail despite various experiments over on Twitter).

The following graph shows the average score for the articles covering different game events. It is quite telling.

003-gameevents_averagescore

With the exception of the Playstation Experience 2015, the GDC is standing head and shoulders above the other events in terms of the profile of the media covering it. More articles are written that mention GDC from large websites than any other event, and this might be stemming from the professional dimension of the event.

Games engines media coverage comparison

More than any other event, GDC sees more announcements related to game engines and professional software and it is always interesting to see which one is coming on top each edition.

004-gdc_engines

This year was light on announcement around game engines, especially compared to last year. Crytek’s “Pay what you want” communication being the one standing out once the dust settled, but it still didn’t rock the world the way Unreal’s communication last year did.

Virtual Reality wins GDC

While it seems the decline in media coverage from last year could be explained purely by the fewer articles on game engine, it is time to address the biggest topic of this year’s GDC.

And while I wrote this right after the event, it is interesting to see that the general feeling that Virtual Reality took over this year edition is not just an impression:

005-gdc_vr

No question about it, between the eminent release of the Rift, and the Playstation VR announcements, there has been a lot of media coverage for Virtual Reality the week of GDC.

Virtual Reality was such a big topic that of the articles that mention GDC, a significant portion of them were about VR:

tweet_VRandGDC

In those five days, 28% of articles mentioning GDC are about VR. On the 16th of March, the day with the most articles related to the GDC, 38% of those articles mention VR.  Even on the 17th of March, where VR is only in 17% of GDC articles, it was the dominant topic.

Platforms comparison – A strong year for Sony and PlayStation

Looking at the evolution from one year to another in regards to the platforms and their coverage during the GDC week.

006-gdc_platforms

Things have stayed more or less at the same level for Xbox. There was quite a bit of news from Microsoft though, between the announcement they would open their platform for crossplay and the doubling down on the ID@Xbox commitment.

Playstation obviously is surfing on the Playstation VR wave, and probably has a few more things related to this up its sleeve for E3.

Leading up to June, it will be interesting to see how much Sony builds up on the momentum that the VR hype has created.

PR for F2P Games – presentation from GDC15

Following up on Thomas R. post this week on PR for indies, I wanted to share the presentation I gave this year at GDC during the Free-to-Play Summit. The lectured was framed as PR for F2P games in Europe, but at the end, it was more a “PR for F2P games” in general, with a side of European specific comments in it.

As always, the slides would be better in context of the talk, but there are probably informations that are relevant without the context. Once the video is up on the GDC Vault, I will probably notify it here.

Last disclaimer before the slides: I was very much a sock puppet during that lecture. The day-to-day PR work is very much done by my team, so I ended up repeating a lot of what they told me… That’s not me covering my ass, that’s me telling you all that they are the clever knowledgeable bunch, not me.

 

Media Monitor – GDC 2015 results

Coming back fresh from GDC, I thought I would do a rapid follow-up using the Media Monitor and see how well the event performed with regards to the prevalent topics in media coverage. And when I say fresh, I mean seriously jet lagged, but that’s beside the point.

GDC and other events

The GDC tracker was set in July last year, so I don’t really have any previous data I can compare properly. Next year will certainly be different, but for now I have compared GDC to gamescom and the Playstation Experience (especially as I already had some research ready from this post on Playstation Experience).

In many ways, it is not really fair as GDC is not as  media and announcement-focused as the other two, who are specifically built around getting the word about games to their audience. It does give some sense of the respective media these events get though.

Total # of articles - Event's top 3 days

Number of articles published in online media

So, strictly in terms of media coverage, GDC in the same range as the Playstation Experience event, and with about 40% of the coverage gamescom generates over its peak 3 days.

Platforms

GDC week - # of articles - Platforms

As we have seen in past media coverage analysis, PlayStation is keeping its lead on Xbox, but that is actually smaller than the average observed over the course of last year (about 36% more articles for Playstation on average over the last year, against 31% more articles during the week of the GDC). Microsoft made more game-related announcements while the Virtual Reality HMD for Playstation helped in keeping Sony in the news.

Android’s strong presence in the media is due to the Barcelona Mobile World Congress, where a number of mobile manufacturers announce their new devices.

Virtual Reality

One of the most discussed announcements during GDC was, interestingly, *not* made at GDC. Instead it was at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress where on the 1st of March, HTC announced its VR HMD in partnership with Valve.

# of articles - Virtual Reality - GDC 2015

 

Clearly, the HTC/Valve announcement has been the most talked about VR news for the week. It is also incredibly impressive that both Morpheus and Oculus managed to keep such a high media presence with announcements were not as strong. Both were frequently mentioned in relation to the HTC Vive though, often compared to it or just referenced as much more established brand associated to VR.

 

Game Engines

The other very hot topic during the GDC week was the numerous announcements related to the off-the-shelf game engine offerings. With Valve now joining the fray with their Source 2 engine.

Before getting into the numbers, I want to share a tweet from Unity’s David Helgason (and which made me take a mental note to look at the media mentions of engines as soon as I got back):

# of articles - Game Engines - GDC 2015

To be fair, there are many ways to measure victory, and Unity’s booth was very crowded all week long. I am not suggesting that Unity has had a bad GDC by any stretch of the imagination. That said, I think Unreal is showing its longer experience in handling media and announcements, as well as the fact that it is a much more established brand for engine.

I wanted to check with another metric and pulled the Google trends for Unreal and Unity that cover that period:

Unity being a common word, I suspect it explains a lot of the ongoing search results associated with the game engine. But the much bigger bump seen in searches for Unreal Engine over that period (10 times more searches) in comparison to the Unity bump (25%) seems to indicate that at least that one battle was won by Unreal.