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Games on Kickstarter in 2015

As promised, this is the second part of me looking at the past year and Kickstarter, this time looking at games and only games. It might help for a more general context to have a read of the previous post on Kickstarter as a whole for last year. Like in that article, you can find a fairly substantial deck with slides at the end for you to look at all sorts of numbers on that category.

The Games category

Overall, last year was really a good year for games on Kickstarter. As we saw, it was one of the 3 categories that really pushed the growth of the platform.

31-ks_games_2015_USD_pledged

32-ks_games_2015_USD_raised

 

From a financial point-of-view, the Games category raised 78% more money than in 2014. And even compared to the previous record, 2013, this is a 30% increase. All around, a very strong year in that regard.

 

36-ks_games_2015_fundedratio

What is also very good is that the total number of projects that got funded is also increasing. The growth is of 14% from the previous year. The total number of projects itself is growing much faster, but again, that’s in line with the trend across the board on the platform, and the fact that the growth of funded projects doesn’t follow at the same pace is not necessarily a bad thing – the quality of projects is not necessarily there to justify it.

 

35-ks_games_2015_USDraised_pertier_b

It is also an healthy sign that the financial growth happens across the tiers. It is easy for a few very large projects to carry that growth all by themselves, and while they obviously play a big role, they aren’t the only reason.

The only Tier that stayed flat is the $100k-$500k one, which is also the only tier with fewer projects than the previous year:

34-ks_games_2015_fundedprojects_pertier_c

I am going to look at the subcategories more in detailes. I have decided to do this in 3 parts, following the size they all represent:

37-ks_games_2015_subcategories_moneyUSD

38-ks_games_2015_subcategories_fundedprojects

I will do a quick overview on Games (the generic subcategory), Gaming Hardware, Live Games, Mobile Games, Playing Cards and Puzzles, before delving in Tabletop Games and Video Games, each one having its own part.

Smaller subcategories

The struggles of Mobile gaming

The Games, Gaming Hardware, Live Games, Mobile Games, Playing Cards and Puzzles subcategories, all taken together, represent 497 funded projects for last year, and $7.5m raised. That’s 22% of all the Games category funded projects and 5.5% of the money raised there.

It doesn’t mean those subcategories are not interesting, there are many things happening around them still.

The Games subcategory is a bit of pot-pourri, gathering all the odd projects that the other subcategories didn’t represent properly, in the mind of the creator. There are a surprisingly high number of Pen & Paper roleplaying games in there, despite being usually associated with Tabletop Games. There is not much to say on the trends in that regard. It seems that the addition of more subcategories that happened in 2014 has reduced the number of “orphan” projects that were ending there.

Gaming Hardware is very interesting. When it was added in 2014, Kickstarter retroactively applied it to a few projects, including the OUYA and the Oculus Rift. leading to this:

40-ks_games_2015_hardware_usdraised

41-ks_games_2015_hardware_projectspertier

There hasn’t be a “homerun” gaming hardware in quite a while. Still, 5 projects last year managed to raise between $100k and $500k, led by the FOVE VR device. This is a niche, and I suspect a number of creators actually choose to list projects that could fit here in the Technology category.

The Live Games section is also very niche, serving the LARP community with its own subcategory. The largest project to date (with still 17 days to go) is the revival of the Mind’s Eye Theater for Werewolf and sits currently at $76,000. I can see this growing over time, while still being niche. This is the type of projects that can be very local and community driven and I am not sure many people are aware that more LARP related project are actually being crowdfunded:

42-ks_games_2015_livegames_projects

I noted that the 3rd currency for Live Games is the Swedish Crown, behind the US dollar and the British Pound. LARP is strong up North I hear.

One of the first question to people coming to me with a video game project is “Is it a Mobile Game?”. Those games don’t get funded the way PC or Console games get funded and still many people aren’t aware of this. This is a very small category. First, very few of them get funded:

43-ks_games_2015_mobile_projects

Then, the ones that do get funded, few raise a significant amount of money:

43-ks_games_2015_mobile_raisedpertier

In itself, this is fine, but I think this is often something that people are just not aware, and they try to fund project of a scale comparable to the PC video games projects they see mentioned in the media.

The Playing Cards subcategory is the largest of those small ones. For a long time now, creators have been offering customized playing cards games on all sorts of popular art style or intellectual properties (especially when a company like Bicycle makes it particularly easy to manufacture them). It made sense for Kickstarter to add this as a subcategory, and this is a thriving one:

44-ks_games_2015_cards_raised

There is also an interesting spread across the different sizes of projects:

44-ks_games_2015_cards_projectstiers

Finally, Puzzles is a very niche segment overall. We are talking 15 projects funded last year, the same as in 2014. None of those raising more than $50,000.

Tabletop Games

2015 is the best year across the board

It seems fair to say that board games are doing incredibly well on Kickstarter. I would love to see some industry-wide numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if crowdfunding was a notable portion of those.

45-ks_games_2015_tabletop_usdraised

46-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectsratio

So, not only 2015 was a great year financially, with a significant growth from 2014, but also the best year to date, it was also a good year for the total number of projects that got funded. also an all time high and in constant growth since the launch of the platform.

47-ks_games_2015_tabletop_usdraisedpertier

Again, looking at the amount of money raised for each “tier” of project, this is a very healthy trend: there has been more money across all the tiers. the large projects weigh heavily, but that doesn’t mean we have an issue of a growth happening only from the top.

47-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectspertier

Doubling on the previous statement, more projects got funded on all tiers.

48-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectpercurrency

There are many stories that projects need to be released in USD on Kickstarter to get funded. And while there is a high ratio of funded project there, I suspect the rumours are pushing a confirmation bias.

Well, actually, projects in GBP have a higher success rate. Good job on the British tabletop industry!

47-ks_games_2015_tabletop_0usdratio49-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectsuspended

Trying to find anything to compensate those excellent trends, I wanted to share the ratio of $0 projects (my junk ratio) and the number of projects that got suspended by Kickstarter. In both cases, the tabletop subcategory is actually performing very well.

2015, officially the best year ever for boardgames on Kickstarter.

Video Games

Maturation means more money, but not for more people

I suspect the main interest for many of you, the Video Games subcategory had a good year in 2015, financially:

50-ks_games_2015_videogames_usdraised

But looking at the number of projects funded, it is clear the good performance was driven by large projects:

50-ks_games_2015_videogames_projectsratio

This is the 2nd year in a row that we see fewer projects being funded on Kickstarter. There is no sharp drop, so this well be the system being refined and the communities being more demanding in terms of quality before funding projects.

51-ks_games_2015_videogames_usdpertier

52-ks_games_2015_videogames_projectspertier

The range of projects that are less common from 2014 are the $10k-$50k and the $50k-$100k ones. We keep seeing a growth of the very small projects, year-on-year, though.

There are more projects than ever trying their hand at getting funded on the platform though. I suspect the quality bar to get funded is just getting higher. For most projects, it now necessary to have a demo of the game already available and the ability to show a rather advanced stage of the development process, much more so than in 2013. The fact is also that video games projects don’t scale the way board games to. The average for a funded Video Games project is $43,000 while  the average goal for a funded Tabletop Games project is $9,700. There are many differences in the way both medium are built and developed and the ecosystem in which they evolve that mean that they will always behave differently as far as crowdfunding is concerned.

Now, last year, Kickstarter opened up to many important European countries, including Framce, Germany and Spain. And while it help with the growth, it was rather disappointing:54-ks_games_2015_videogames_usd-percurrency_b

54-ks_games_2015_videogames_projects-percurrency

Projects in EUR as their currency are ranked 4th, ex aequo with projects in Australian dollars. I would expect there is a significant margin of growth there.

Finally, I wanted to mention those two indicators as with the Tabletop games:

 

52-ks_games_2015_videogames_0usdratio

56-ks_games_2015_videogames_suspended

The junk ratio (proportion of projects that raised $0), while higher than the one for boardgames, is quite under the average you see on Kickstarter (20%). And even there has been a significant increase in the number of projects suspended by Kickstarter, overall the subcategory has not a massive amount of those.

As a conclusion, despite seeing a larger amount of money being raised for video games, I would put 2015 at the same level as 2014. There has been a small decline in the total number of projects being funded – no bubble bursting here IMHO – and opening up to more European countries didn’t have any significant effect for video games. Overall, it seems crowdfunding for games get a bit more sophisticated, increasing the bar for funding, while still being a very beneficial process for the few projects perfectly fit for the model, such as were Shenmue 3 and Bloodstained last year.

 

Parting words

To finish this blog post though, I wanted to share 3 projects, currently live now, each one quite original, all of them with an art direction I particularly appreciate, and that I hope you will find interesting.

If you do, you can back them of course, but more importantly share them around.


 

All the slides

The crowdfunding bubble isn’t bursting – Gamesindustry.biz feature

The fine folks of GamesIndustry.biz have invited me to be part of their year end series to write an article on crowdfunding and video games in 2015.

So for once, I encourage you to go read me elsewhere: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-12-08-crowdfunding-for-video-games-in-2015

The giants hiding a growing problem – Video games on Kickstarter on the first half of 2015

I used to check Kickstarter numbers every month. But as things were getting busy on other fronts, I settled to check on the numbers every quarter, or when I have a conference coming up where I am talking about the topic, whichever happened first. I keep an eye on projects though, but that doesn’t allow me to get a proper grasp of the trend… This 2nd Quarter of 2015 has been particularly active, with lots of big projects doing really really well (and remember, that’s even before Shenmue 3), so I was going into the spreadsheets with that in mind, and expecting a strong rebound for video games on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.

 

A few reminders on the data collected and how it is presented:

  • Kickstarter changed the way creators can categorize their projects in April 2014 and added new subcategories to the Games section.
  • The data presented only includes projects that ended before the 1st of July 2015. So yes, it is already much bigger purely with the Shenmue 3 campaign.
  • All amounts are converted to USD. However, I used a fixed exchange rates and the data is spread across many years, with wide variations in the real exchange rates.
  • I have changed the definition of money raised. I used to take all the money “pledged”, but this wasn’t very accurate. I now only look at the money pledged by projects that met their goal.
  • The data is collected automatically (thanks to our friends at Potion of Wit), sometimes some projects are missed or not properly parsed. If you run similar scripts, you may have different results.

 

The hidden, slow decline

While we are only half way through 2015, looking at the year so far is a good way to get an impression of the current trend.

totalUSDpledge_successfulprojects_peryear_videogames

At the beginning of July, video games projects had already raised more money than the whole of 2014. And this is without two of this year’s heavy hitters, Shenmue 3 and Bard’s Tale 4, (who have raised more than $7.8m between them). However, this is not something to be celebrated. While it is nice to see that Kickstarter is still a platform where a project can gather a lot of support (2014 was a very scarce year as far as big projects were concerned), the truth is, 2015 so far is the worst year yet for “regular” projects:

 

USDpledged_peryear_tiered_videogames

The majority of the money raised by video games was through very large projects. If the current trend continues, projects that raised less than $500,000 are on track to garner less money than in 2014.

In 2013, there was a significant correlation between large projects hitting the platform and smaller projects getting more support. The big projects were bringing more visibility to the smaller ones. This behaviour has now gone apparently.  The below graphs better illustrate the situation:

USDpledged_peryear_tiered_videogames_sans500ktier

This is the same graph as previously, without the $500k+ projects. While projects under $10k might be on track to raise an equivalent total as in 2014 (or a bit more even), projects between $10k-$50k, $50k-$100k and$100k-$500k are underperforming compared to last year.

We are not talking about a few projects that should have been in that $10k-$500k bracket over performing as big hits. Looking at the raw numbers of projects involved, it is clear there is a drop in those tiers (and I doubt the rest of 2015 will be massively different):

fundedprojects_pertier_peryear_videogames

If anything, I don’t expect as many big projects for the second half of 2015.

But, wait! This isn’t the only way to look at it? Maybe there has been fewer projects overall?

Not really:

totalprojects_peryear_brokendown_videogames

If we can imagine more projects than last year to get funded (or in the same range), it will be thanks to the steady growth of the  small projects (the ones below $10k; for those, Kickstarter is getting stronger with time I suppose). But overall, the total volume of projects submitted to the platform is growing, meaning the proportion of projects getting funded is going down.

So the “success rate” is going down? How bad is it?

To be fair, this is more a symptom of Kickstarter just getting crowded, sometimes with very low quality projects.

One way to quickly measure those low quality projects is to look at those projects that got $0 pledged to them:

successratio_vs_0usdratio_videogames

In 2015, we are getting a smaller proportion of projects getting funded, while the proportion of projects that got $0 pledged to it is increasing. $0! It means even their mums didn’t support their project… That’s almost 150 projects at $0 pledged in the first half of 2015, against 189 for the whole of 2014.

This emphasises the burden on project creators to promote their projects as the discoverability on the platform is not helped by those low quality projects.

But, Thomas, you are not accounting for the mobile games you said? Maybe it is changing the trends?

Let’s look at mobile games then. It was introduced as a new subcategory in April 2014, so please remember the numbers for that year are only partial numbers. So, how big are mobile games on Kickstarter?

totalprojects_peryear_mobileb

So, for every mobile game project, you have 3 video games projects. That’s actually a lot!

Sadly, they haven’t read my blog and they don’t know that Kickstarter is not a good platform to fund a mobile titles:

totalprojects_peryear_brokendown_mobile

For every mobile game project that managed to get funded, 8 video games projects reach their goal. Less impressive…

And then, there is how much they raised:

totalUSDpledge_successfulprojects_peryear_mobile

In 2015, video games raised 70 times more money than mobile games.

This is how the mobile game projects are doing per tier:

USDpledged_peryear_tiered_mobile

And yes, mobile projects also tend to have a much higher ratio of projects stuck at $0 pledged:

successratio_vs_0usdratio_mobile

 

More than a third of the mobile game projects don’t get a single dollar pledged to them…

In conclusion, Mobile games are not where the secret success of video games is hiding.

Where is it going?

I wish I knew. I don’t like the trend. While Kickstarter is growing (more projects gets funded; more money is pledged) this growth is at the extremes: very small projects and very large projects. Here I was hoping that the wave of big projects would benefit projects across the board.

So, based on all of the above there are a number of thoughts I currently have:

  • The Kickstarter fatigue is real and the large projects didn’t make it disappear, and it might be affecting mid-size projects the most. If anything, the big projects are hiding the issues.
  • Mid-sized projects are in that odd budget range where it might either feel too expensive for what the game is, or too cheap for its ambitions. If you compare industry budgets to make PC and Console games (the platforms that are relevant to crowdfunding), those mid-tier budgets are actually very low. Most PC games these are probably above $500k than below. The audience might be wising up to this and prefer to go for the project closer to their full budget cost (which is arguable as I believe the Kickstarter “hits” are as under budgeted as the other ones).
  • There might be a lot happening outside of Kickstarter. The last time I properly checked the other platform and their relative weight for video games on the crowdfunding space, they were representing an incredibly small proportion of the projects (both for number of projects and the $ amounts raised). it might be time for me to do another pass on Indiegogo and see if it has increased its market share.

Overall, I think this is a maturity issue. Big projects go for low hanging fruit, using their brand power, and small projects are struggling to build a proposition where they can make the audience care about them. This is a shame, there is still so much potential for crowdfunding to grow, but there is a need for better best practice to be implemented across the board. That’s also true for large projects: I can’t believe Shenmue 3 was so successful when the campaign was poorly put together and terribly mismanaged (if you want examples then feel free to seek me out at the next conference I am attending). Crowdfunding sceptics have another great case study of fans being mishandled; potential projects creators will have  wrong expectations based on that performance. The ecosystem needs a “growing up” moment, probably starting with more transparency.

I recommend reading this Polygon article on the topic too: ‘Big indie’ Kickstarters are killing actual indies

 

Appendix – List of projects that raised more than $500,000 in the first half of 2015

E3 2015 Media Coverage Analysis – aka “Who won the E3 media battle?”

A year ago, I did a pretty extensive analysis of the media coverage around E3. Well, I have done it again, and it now benefits from the added experience of data tracking for the past 12 months.

As usual, if you are not familiar with the way the data is collected, I invite you to read the blog post on the topic. For the purpose of this article, I have only looked at the data from articles published during the week of E3 (from Sunday to Saturday).

Last disclaimer: of all the games that were featured in the main press conference, we have one that is problematic to track with our current tools and which has been excluded from all the data below: Just Cause 3. Just keep this in mind, we haven’t ignored it, it is just a slightly problematic game for us at the moment.

 

Platforms

To get started, I wanted to get advantage of some information I didn’t have last year: the data from the previous year.

Comparing the coverage year-on-year is an important indicator, one I wanted to check first. It is important to note that the number of media we properly track is constantly evolving – some websites die, some news ones emerge, and sometimes the websites break the way we track them, so the system for tracking articles is consistently improved upon. Overall, I think the pure volume of media we track is increasing overtime, but it is a rather slow increase.

E3 - Platforms in the media - number of articles

In terms of number of articles, we can see a decline for both Sony and Nintendo, while Microsoft has a significant increase in the media coverage. This might come from a stronger line up on Microsoft’s part or weaker showing from their competitors. We shall see later, but it might also come from a more clever selection of the multiformat titles featured for the respective conferences (well, between Sony and Microsoft as Nintendo is not invited to play that game).

* 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 9, MondesPersistants.com has a reach of 2. So what you see below, is a chart of the total reach of all the articles showed above. We refresh the reach values constantly.

E3 - Platforms in the media - Total Reach

The graph shows an interesting pattern. It shows that the media coverage might have reduced in volume, but the media covering the event have grown. It could be the websites have a better penetration than last year, or it could be more general interest media (that tend to have a much better reach) are taking a bigger interest in the video games news.

It also shows this year wasn’t a Nintendo year, hardly maintaining its reach from last year when both Microsoft and Sony expanded.

Looking more at the specific platforms more specifically:

E3 2015 - Platforms - number of articles

Leading the pack, the Playstation 4 has roughly the same volume of articles as last year. Xbox One saw a 25% increase in the number of articles mentioning it. The Wii U, the PS3 and the Xbox 360 are all seeing a decline. That’s understandable for the two “old gen” machines, but more concerning for Nintendo.

On the front of the new technology, Oculus Rift (which had its own media conference the week before), Morpheus and Hololens are all holding up nicely in the same range.

I added StarVR, newcomer to the VR scene, as they had just announced their existence and had a presence at E3. With 264 articles, and considering their lower profile, I think this is a good performance.

Games

I have kept things a bit simpler this year and avoided looking at the games as mentioned during the console makers’ conferences. They tend to bleed over the conference of the publishers and not provide much insight. I am going to experiment with the publishers conferences instead – especially as this year two new companies are trying themselves at this perilous exercise with Bethesda and Square Enix joining EA and Ubisoft.

But, first, just looking at all the games we track, here are the top 15 games the most mentioned during E3:

E3 2015 - Top 15 Games

First thing to mention, all the games making the top 15 were featured during one or more of the media conference.

Second thing to mention, FALLOUT 4!!! I have meant to write an article on the media coverage the announcement for the game had but couldn’t make it happen pre-E3. From the current research I made for that article, Fallout 4 announcement is the most covered game announcement since we track these data. By a large margin. But even with such a strong sign of the franchise power, I didn’t expect Fallout 4 to dominate by that much, especially after the storm of coverage that FF7 and Shenmue created.

Bethesda had a brilliant timing and this helps a lot for their presence in that chart (Fallout 4; DOOM; Dishonored 2). By going first on the Sunday, with journalists all already present in LA and with nothing to do for a whole news cycle but write about their games, Bethesda snatched a great spot. Fallout also got double featured, at the Bethesda event as well as the Microsoft briefing.

Sony, despite losing ground to Microsoft year-on-year, still has the knack to bring topics that make the buzz going: Final Fantasy 7; Shenmue on Kickstarter; The Last Guardian. They certainly won’t be able to use a similar trick for next year – unless they can convince Ubisoft to announce Beyond Good and Evil 2 at their press conference that is…

Comparing the publishers’ conferences

E3 2015 - Publishers compared

[click to enlarge]

Looking at publishers one by one, Electronic Arts looks a bit underwhelming. Arguably, Battlefront did very well, considering how loved the franchise is (the movies and the games), it is a bit surprising it didn’t perform even better. It didn’t pass on the coverage Battlefield Hardline received the previous year, a surprising fact. Mirror’s Edge coming as the 2nd game of the publisher is more surprising. While critically acclaimed, Mirror’s Edge wasn’t a big hit. Few details were available ahead of the show (and seemingly not in a controlled fashion that might have compromised the potential) possibly making it a hot topic for journalists on site last week. Interestingly, FIFA 16 has about 20% fewer articles this E3 than what FIFA 15 had last year. Pelé didn’t make up for it.

Bethesda is the clear “winner” this year. They didn’t have many games at the show, but they got the interest of the media. While Fallout and DOOM are strong and well established franchises that haven’t been seen in a while, Dishonored 2 has done very well for itself. For the second title of a new IP, it received 50% more coverage than this year’s Assassin’s Creed. Quite the performance. The other surprise is Fallout Shelter. While Fallout is obviously a strong brand, mobile games are generally not as well covered as PC/Console titles by a very significant margin. Fallout Shelter is not only the 4th Bethesda most talked about game (coming before The Elder Scrolls titles as well as Battlecry), but it received coverage comparable to Ubisoft’s key titles. My theory is that it benefitted from a number of things: the Fallout brand; the 1st game on mobile for Bethesda; being available “right now”; the excellent Bethesda timing mentioned earlier. If you are a journalist in LA on the Sunday before E3, waiting for the big event to start the following day, why not download this now to give it a spin?

I have already mentioned Ubisoft twice in this section, not in a very positive manner. What happened? To be honest, I like Ubisoft’s conferences. But maybe the formula is a bit too established? The Division‘s very decent performance is the saving grace, and a surprising one to me: this is not the first time the game is presented at E3. But it managed to garner more coverage than last year (about 10% more). Possibly, the fact it got featured during 2 of the conferences helped significantly? I imagine the game was playable on the show floor and that, along with a release date, was a contributing factor. Rainbow 6 Siege was also present at last year E3, and it also received more coverage this time around. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the disappointing element of the Ubisoft line up. Assassin’s Creed Unity had about 2,300 articles during last year show – compared to this, Syndicate doesn’t even reach the 1,000 articles threshold. I found the trailer quite compelling, I suspect something different happening in the strategy for the game this time around: looking at the daily data for the two games, it is obvious there was significantly more coverage on the days after the conference for Unity than for Syndicate. Overall, a weak media presence, especially considering that last year, Ubisoft had Assassin’s Creed Unity as the most covered game of E3 and Far Cry 4 as the 3rd most covered game of E3.

To conclude this section, Square Enix returned as a publisher hosting a conference. It wasn’t an easy ride for them – they had to postpone their conference after realizing they would collide with Nintendo’s; and the conference itself was… let’s say there is a huge margin for them to improve for next year. But beyond those considerations, the numbers are showing up. Even if you are ready to consider the Final Fantasy VII as a unique anomaly (how often will you be able to reboot one of the most well-loved games in the world?), the Hitman announcement has been very well received (arguably, I think the Deus Ex announcement in April was a better announcement, but that will be for its own case study). Deus Ex Mankind Divided did very well. It was supported massively by the 20 minutes demo on the show floor – a video of which was shared later in the week, leading to a lot of additional coverage for the game. Tomb Raider is getting a very decent amount of coverage, but maybe not to the extent I would have expected for the franchise. Overall, Square Enix did incredibly well (and that’s without being able to properly track Just Cause 3). Not sure how much more coverage they got through this though – a lot of their coverage was supported by console makers conferences (FF7 with Sony and Tomb Raider with Microsoft).

 

It is fascinating to see the two publishers that aren’t traditionally seen hosting an E3 conference performing so well in comparison to EA and Ubisoft. I am pretty sure the devil is in the details, and the fact they elected to have a conference this year of all years was also driven by the strength of their announcements. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have predicted such an outcome.

 

Mobile titles

This segment is a bit of a stretch as they aren’t many mobile titles that are part of the E3 line-ups, but it is the opportunity for me to make a point that I already discussing on the Goat Simulator case study.

E3 2015 - Mobile titles - number of articles

A quick overview of the games, from the publicly available information:

Fallout Shelter (Bethesda) – a management game, set in the Fallout universe, revealed at the conference and available to all at the same time.

The Elder Scrolls Legends (Bethesda) – a CCG set in Tamriel, the universe of The Elder Scrolls series. Revealed at the conference, it will be available on iPad and PC but no release date for now.

Lara Croft Go (Square Enix) – a turn-based puzzle adventure game, based on the Tomb Raider franchise. Announced at the conference, nothing specific on devices required and no release date announced yet.

Minions Paradise (EA) – a management game, set in the Despicable Me universe. I am a bit confused on the whole announcement, trying to do some quick fact checks, it seems the app is already on the different stores, since end of April, but the conference presented it as an upcoming game, the host even stating “later this year”. So, go figure. Not sure it would have made a massive difference for the media present.

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (EA) – a CCG set in the Star Wars universe. Announced at the EA conference, no release dates and no devices specified.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key (Square Enix) – an adventure game (I think) set in the Kingdom Hearts universe (now, that’s the easy way out for me to avoid explaining that setting). Announced at the Square Enix press conference, with no release date.

 

Here are my takeaways (based on a very small sample, so it might not be worth much):

  • I don’t understand how the Elder Scrolls CCG got so well covered. It might be the brand; it might be the fact it was announced as coming to PC; it might be because Sunday was a pretty boring day in LA.
  • Minions Paradise had a whole part of the EA conference presentation dedicated to itself. With a trailer followed by a gameplay demo. Nobody cared. Planning your communication for your mobile title like a console or a PC game seems like a bad idea.
  • But not as bad an idea as just announcing “a Star Wars CCG with all the characters of the franchise you love”. I don’t think you can make it sound more generic and bland. At least, the Elder Scrolls CCG had a trailer of sort.
  • Lara Croft Go was very well covered all things considered. I suspect Hitman Go and the relatively good feedback it received helped, along with a peek at the art direction and the game style.
  • Nobody cared about Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key, despite providing a (cryptic, I admit) gameplay video.
  • Announcing your mobile game as it becomes available seems like a good idea. The brand is a multiplier if you have one.

 

Non-AAA titles

Finally, I wanted to also provide a sample of smaller titles, across the board from the games presented at E3, to provide some benchmark materials beyond the big titles. Here is the selection with some context:

American Truck Simulator (Excalibur Publishing) – announced during the PC games conference. A simulator where you drive trucks in America.

Beyond Eyes (Team17) – announced during the Xbox conference and featured during the PC games conference. A game where you play as a blind girl named Rae in search for her missing cat.

Crossing Souls (Devolver) – featured during the Sony conference. An action-adventure game in pixel art and with a goonies vibe to it.

Cuphead (Studio MDHR) – featured during the Xbox conference (and revealed last year IIRC). A run and gun Platform game drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons. Also, my personal favourite concept (along with SUPERHOT).

Mother Russia Bleeds (Devolver) – featured during the Sony conference. An ultra violent Beat ‘Em Up game set in an alternate 1980s USSR.

No Man’s Sky (Hello games) – featured during the Sony conference and during the PC games conference. A science-fiction game set in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy.

Unravel (EA) – announced during the EA press conference. A physically based platformer with a character made of yarn.

Vampyr (Focus Interactive) – not featured during any of the high profile conference but presented during the show.  An Action RPG set in early 20th Century England.

With the selection I tried to have games with different profiles, that were presented through different medium during the event and with interesting comparison points.

E3 2015 - Non AAA titles - number of articles

 

Crossing Souls and Mother Russia Bleeds are both published by Devolver, they both got the same visibility during the Sony press conference and they were both hands on at the show (from what I could gather). Mother Russia Bleeds also released a trailer later in the week. Ignoring the media that trailer generated, Mother Russia was still getting more media coverage than Crossing Souls. The more immediately understandable gameplay, and the very graphic violence possibly making it an easier story to relay.

Cuphead has received a lot of coverage, thanks to its very unique art direction. Considering that Beyond Eyes was featured at a similar level at the Xbox conference, and was featured again at the PC conference, Cuphead has been resonating better with the media (and makes for very shareable gifs).

No Man’s Sky and Unravel are two games that have been incredibly well covered, while being outside of the AAA norm. No Man’s Sky has been announced in December 2013 and was already featured at E3 2014 (at the Sony conference). Coverage this year has progressed from last year (about 200 more articles). Unravel on the other hand is one of EA’s rare venture into games outside of the AAA formula, and with its reveal garnered almost as much coverage as FIFA 16. What made those two games perform so well? With No Man’s Sky, there is no doubt since its announcement that there is a strong following for the game and media is following suit. The details are quite rare and the E3 demo, while short, illustrated elements of the game never shown before. Unravel on the other hand was an announcement (more case studies on those to come), garnering extra attention thanks to this, and the incredibly emotional designer that presented the character on stage (a real doll made out of yarn) probably resonated well with the audience, while being at odds with the usually dry and corporate image that people have of EA.

Vampyr  finally is very interesting. For not being featured at any of the conference, this game made by Remember Me and Life is Strange developer Don’t Nod, was relatively well covered with its presence at E3, illustrating that the press conference are not necessarily the end all solution for a decent media presence from your E3 show.

 

Closing words

I have tried to keep the size of the article under a manageable size. There are more that could be dug from the data gathered (and I might do some follow ups), but I hope this gives a good view of last week’s E3 and the media outcome from the different announcements.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bethesda is the clear “winner” of this E3. They brilliantly managed the event (from a media presence perspective at least) and I will be very curious to see next year who will try to get the Sunday conference spot. Prior to the event, I was very skeptical about Bethesda decision to do a conference at E3. Those conferences are expensive to set up and a massive burden on your teams to organise properly. I also tend to question the wisdom to share the limelight with your competition during the same week. Sony’s Playstation Experience was a great illustration of how running your own media event could benefit you in a great (better?) way than a shared global event. With Bethesda running Quakecon, I was thinking they would be diluting their effort in an event where it would difficult for them to shine. I was wrong – they did great. Which makes me wonder if the others were not wrong in sharing their audience with them this time around.

 

I will leave you with this comic from @TheMeatly, illustrating nicely those concluding thoughts: