Console game wishlists - what's the deal?
We get into it. Also: some interesting 'core' Steam player stats & more.
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
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Detailed: how console wishlists & followers work!
Yep, we’ve all read a billion stories on how to get lots of Steam wishlists. But we’ve never seen a story on what’s up with console wishlists (or related mechanisms!) and how they work nowadays.
On Steam, you’re often playing the game on the same device that you a) receive emails and b) watch YouTube videos on. That’s why wishlists are a big part of metrics. On consoles, similar metrics are a bit more abstracted from purchases, for >1 reason.
Nonetheless, we compiled all we knew - with some big help from Hooded Horse’s James Gardiner, who has worked in ‘console/strategic partnerships’ at both Paradox and 505 Games. (And if we got anything wrong or more detail is needed, ping us):
PlayStation - it’s all about the followers?
Sony’s decision to make a brand-new OS for the PlayStation 5 has ended up meaning a lot of their innovations in this space are coming only on PS5, and not PS4. (A little unfortunate!) Nonetheless, here’s what is up:
There’s ‘wishlist’ functionality across both PS4, PS5 and web - after a messy PS5 launch period where wishlists got removed from the PlayStation website for a little while. (The PS5/Web store rolled out at the same time, not 100% finished.)
Changes (like sales) on wishlisted games appear in a notification list in a submenu after you press the PS button on PS5. Players can enable push notifications to PS5 & the PlayStation app, tho they get mixed in with a lot of other sale infos. No emails, btw. Devs can see your wishlist numbers in the PlayStation back end.
Followers are what Sony is now pushing to devs/publishers as the best promotional tool. When you "follow" a game, you're actually following the game hub on PS5, surfacing all news published in the Official News section, which can be seen as soon as you click the PS button (see above).
Official news posts can essentially be about anything: announcements, pre-orders, releases, DLC releases, etc. And there’s a prominent button to manage your followed games. So this seems to be the higher-profile console feature.
Switch - email notifications the handiest?
Nintendo’s eShop on Switch perhaps doesn’t have the best reputation for discovery features. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the company hasn’t done a great job with wishlist functionality. But they have rolled out a few useful things:
Players can wishlist games on the eShop. Then, if the title releases or goes on sale, starting in 2019, you get an email (if your mail preferences are set to receive them!) So that’s, uh, good! As of recently, devs can see your Switch wishlist numbers in the relevant Nintendo dev back-end too. Which is nice. There’s a few wrinkles, though….
Specifically: for players, the discount email you get only lists 3-4 games, and it’s not clear which order they are listed in and why. When you click through, it just goes to ‘all discounted’ games, not your wishlisted items. (Sigh!) Oh, and when players buy games, it doesn’t remove them from your wishlist. (Yes, really.)
Oh, and the Switch News Channel is a thing, yes, and can be followed per game without buying it. But every time you buy a game, you get auto-opted in to its News Channel. So it gets cacophonous pretty fast, for the average player who buys a lot of discounted titles…
On the eShop itself, there’s really not any complex extra visibility for wishlisted games, besides being able to view your wishlisted games in a list on your eShop menu. It’s not surprising that wishlist/sale sites like DekuDeals - which also does Xbox and PlayStation games now - are flourishing as a more nimble alternative.
Xbox - Game Pass makes wishlists only semi-relevant?
This is a pretty obvious point, but - the current Xbox OS, the best-executed console one, is set up to particularly favor Game Pass, which gets you access to hundreds of games. At which point, wishlisting is not a core feature. Nonetheless:
As you can see (above), you can see your wishlists in the ‘Lists’ subsection of the current Xbox dashboard, alongside ‘Recently Viewed’, and Microsoft has a FAQ which explains how to do a range of things with your wishlists.
After the player wishlists, notifications appear when the product launches or goes on sale. As of a recent update: “You’ll also get notifications when items on your wish list go on sale. The new wish list notification will show up in the guide and as a pop-up to let you know when your wish list games go on sale and what the discount is.”
And there’s been features added here recently. Via that same update: “When you share your Xbox wish list from your console or xbox.com with family and friends, they’ll receive a notification to check it out… They can choose to Buy as gift and have it sent to you, and they’ll receive a notification once you’ve received it.” Smart!
Devs can’t see your game’s wishlist totals in the Xbox back end, as far as we know - although you can ask Microsoft about it. But again, it’s not really a core feature, due to Game Pass getting you access to a lot of games as default.
Conclusion: wishlists are what you make ‘em!
So… what can we learn? Email ‘calls to action’ and overall wishlist-related UX are more direct on Steam, vs. console, especially for building pre-release interest, given Steam is often a lead platform for small & medium games nowadays, in terms of sales.
Thus, it makes sense to prioritize PC wishlists/follows over consoles. And we’d see console wishlists more as a symptom of how popular your game is/is going to be, not as a very ‘movable’ stat. Which is also partly how Steam stats work, honestly.
Data: how ‘core’ Steam players played in 2022…
We mentioned last week that popular PC game YouTuber Wanderbot - who rotates playing brand new and older indie games and has 446k (engaged!) YouTuber subscribers, is blogging more about games recently.
As part of this, he surveyed his (fairly engaged!) YouTube audience and members of his Discord separately about their year on Steam, and gave me permission to reprint result highlights. Here’s what we found most interesting:
Old games beat new for the average Steam player: we’ve talked about this trend recently. And data in Valve’s Steam Replay showed that the average Steam player last year spent 17% of their time playing games released in 2022, 64% on games that were 1-7 years old, and 19% on games 8 years old or longer.
Wanderbot’s audience also plays older games a lot: it looks like about four fifths of his (committed!) players are spending less than 25% of their time on new Steam games. And what’s more, anywhere between two thirds and three quarters of his players are spending >50% of their time on 1-7 year old games.
Even engaged Steam players don’t play that many demos: 79% of Wanderbot’s audience played 10 or less Steam demos during 2022. (Although 5% did play 50 or more, wow!) This isn’t completely surprising - but might remind us that it is fairly difficult to get masses of people playing your demo during Next Fest.
A lot of players are used to discounts on Steam: when asked when players are most likely to buy games, ‘50% off’ and ‘75% off’ sales ranked pretty high. (I was just chatting to someone whose kids bought Doom Eternal in the Xmas sale, for example, when it was $10 instead of $40.) ‘Catalog sales’ are great and extra profit on that game, but… also competition for your new title?
Separately, I also wanted to include this question on how Wanderbot’s audience finds games, since the results are pretty interesting (you could tick multiple options, btw):
You can argue that these results reflect a more content creator-centric demographic. (Which would make sense!) But what I’m seeing nowadays for small and medium-level PC and console games is that influencer interest is often key. So… it makes sense!
The game discovery news round-up..
OK, this has been a lotta stuff, and we’ve still got another ten bullet-points of info to produce before it’s done. So… let’s go for it:
The crew at Ampere Analysis did an interesting UK consumer survey (see above graph!) revealing that “PlayStation 5 (disc version) owners in the UK are significantly more likely to treat it as their primary console compared to all other console owners.” Piers Harding-Rolls adds: “In a market where most console gamers play across multiple consoles, including across brands, the role of the 'primary console' has big implications for monetisation of users, lifetime value and market share.”
This year’s DICE Awards finalists are officially announced, and: “A total of 61 games released in 2022 are nominated. God of War: Ragnarök leads the pack with 12 nominations, followed by Horizon Forbidden West earning 8 and Elden Ring with 7.” Neat! (Also quite a few indies in there.)
A follow-up from Ghost Ship Games’ CEO Søren Lundgaard about Deep Rock Galactic’s median Steam player time, which I was intrigued by in my recent write-up: “We didnt mention our median (which is 8hrs 48min) [in the infographic] since it hadn't changed much since last we reported it (2 years ago).” Good number!
An interesting rumor here on the PlayStation 5’s upcoming 7.00 OS update: “In addition to the Discord integration [finally rolling out], sources have revealed that PlayStation 5 games will also be streamable on the PlayStation 5 via cloud streaming… included in the PlayStation Plus Premium Tier.” Highest PS+ tier only would make sense, but might also be controversial, right? We’ll see if true…
New Microsoft x Activision deal wrinkles: Microsoft is “likely to receive an EU antitrust warning about its $69 billion bid for Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard”; and Google and Nvidia have ‘expressed concerns’ to the U.S. FTC about the deal, though Nvidia “didn’t directly oppose the acquisition.” (It’s all a bit cloak & dagger.)
Game Conference Guide did its ‘2022 in review for B2B game events’ post, noting, among other things: “Total number of events in 2022: 291 (decreased by 5% from 307)… 66% of all of them were physical, compared to nearly 75% virtual [in 2021].” Oh, and top-viewed events on their site: “GDC; PG Connects London ; London Games Festival; Reboot Develop Blue ; HG Conf.”
As Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service shuts down in style, it’s doing some cute stuff: it rolled out Worm Game, “a humble title we used to test many of Stadia’s features, starting well before our 2019 public launch, right through 2022.” And “it's planning to release a tool that will enable Bluetooth support on the Stadia controller.”
That whole ‘YouTube demonetizing game influencer videos for violence/swearing’ thing has got more complex, with a longform Polygon article looking at the issues, although The Verge has a follow-up quote from a YouTube spokesperson that “we are in the process of making some adjustments to this policy to address their concerns.” So we’ll see - but violent/gory games may have this issue longer-term?
Jan. 2023’s PlayStation+ Game Catalog additions got rolled out, sticking to older ‘catalog’ titles, but some interesting ones: Back 4 Blood, Life Is Strange & Dragon Ball FighterZ on the higher end, and Jett, Omno & Erica on the more ‘indie’ trip. Also, Star Wars Demolition on PS1 for PS+ Premium subscribers? A deep cut!
Microlinks: Apple promises to disclose more details about (largely country-ordered) app removals, though not on an individual level; Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT supremos Yuga Labs are doing a skill-based mint (play a game, get rewards…) using a game called, uhh, ‘Dookey Dash’; Sony’s hiring Ben King, a former Apple services executive to oversee the PlayStation Store and DTC (direct to consumer, not down to clown, I believe?) businesses.
Finally, we really enjoyed this - from Stephen Maurice Graham, who sells some neat ‘game hardware history’ prints. Ah, those schoolyard rumors:
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