[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Welcome, fellow data travelers, to another fine week in video game discovery news and analysis. It’s a frighteningly busy once again - and this is the first email from our new newsletter URL - http://newsletter.gamediscover.co. So check your spam folders, etc and whitelist the heck out of us.
(BTW, if you’re not a GameDiscoverCo Plus paid subscriber, you missed this exclusive newsletter on Steam bundling strategies on Friday, as well as some excellent Plus-only Discord chat! Just reminding you that signing up for a Plus subscription, with all its benefits, allows us to allocate more time in our week to send everyone great info.)
The state of Switch - and the eShop in particular!
Perhaps I’ve mentioned Chris Brandrick’s Switch Weekly newsletter before. It’s more of a consumer-level newsletter on Nintendo’s wondrous little game console. But I find it handy because it also lists upcoming Switch games with mini-descriptions, and gives you some idea of what outlets think of specific games.
Anyhow, Chris just released his 2021 State of Switch survey, which asks over 11,000 Switch players a whole load of very useful questions on hardware, most-played games, spending habits, and much more - and makes the results available for free! (Please Patreon or Ko-Fi something to Chris if you appreciate this.)
Those filling out the survey are skewing a bit more ‘core’ Switch player, since it gets a lot of interest in places like Switch subReddits. (The respondents’ median monthly Switch spend on games is $67!) But you still get an excellent cross-section of views, and I wanted to highlight the eShop section in particular and point out takeaways for all of us:
Some good, if obvious data on why your text/video needs to be on point for the eShop: “When viewing a game’s eShop listing, some 86% of respondents will read the game’s text description. Of that 86%, 31% read the text description in full, 55% scan/read at least some of it… [and] over 70% of respondents said they will watch a trailer if available.”
Here’s an interesting one: “Nearly 60% of Switch owners make use of the Wish List feature available on the eShop.”As you know, Switch wishlisting gets talked about way less than Steam wishlisting - partly because there’s no easy method for you as a dev/publisher to poke or incent wishlisters on Switch. But it’s still happening…
Elsewhere, only 35% of players said they would be likely to download a game demo from the eShop. Not sure of exact question context here, but it implies demos are useful, yet not overwhelmingly so. (We think they’re worth doing on Switch, but are just slightly incremental to interest/sales.)
And for Gold Points/Coins (5% of purchases convert to eShop credit!), “55% indicated that they use them whenever, whereas 45% said they like to save them up.” So this is partly why $2-$3 games sell well on Switch. Some people just want to use their ‘free money’ from buying the new Mario game sooner, rather than later.
Finally, Chris asked about suggestions around improving the eShop. It’s good to see the fans come through with a lot of the things we - the devs/publishers - have also noticed. In particular, “a desire for a review system of some variety remains the top request” - heck, I’d settle for just star ratings, if Nintendo is nervous about written text, after an abortive attempt to add reviews in 2018.
The survey “also saw a notable increase in the number of folks asking for 'quality control' or 'less shovelware' on the store”, which a review system would help with. Overall, “search and filtering improvements, along with more sort/category options” was also asked for multiple times.
Chris himself notes in concluding the section: “It was clear last year that the eShop requires a radical rethink, so it's a shame to see so little improvement over the past 12 months to change anything here.” It’s clear that players are feeling the pain here too, so hopefully you can consider shifting things up here, Nintendo? There’s plenty to learn from both Steam’s comprehensive feature set and the recent Xbox store UI redesign…
Newsletter follow-ups: crabs & cyberpunks
There’s been a lot of GameDiscoverCo missives recently. So just wanted to follow up a couple of them, adding some intelligent comments that got reflected back to us:
King of CC-Crab-Us?
The article on King Of Crabs’ Steam stats prompted some very useful responses. In fact, we have another Steam F2P game we’ll be doing a data dump on soon, because of it! However, people did ask why we didn’t discuss CCU much - since concurrent userbase is very important to multiplayer game success. (It’s very easy to get your game review-bombed on Steam if you get it wrong.)
So we added this note to the original article: “It is a very important stat, and you can see King Of Crabs’ Steam CCUs here on SteamCharts - 200 average in the last 30 days. But since the game has Android and iOS versions with many times the players, and the player-base blends, the Steam-only CCU is less relevant. The multiplatform player-base is large enough to ward off ‘this game is dead’ complaints...”
Cyberpunk 2077 and the ‘hype’ problem…
Our column on Cyberpunk 2077 and expectation vs. reality in hyping your game brought up some great comments. On our GameDiscoverCo Plus-exclusive Discord, Elliot Colp said: “I wonder how much of CDPR's problem with Cyberpunk was that they themselves weren't sure what their game was offering (due to initial over-scoping and subsequent scope cutting). It's hard to manage expectations with your fans when your own expectations are unclear or unrealistic.”
There’s truth in this. And perhaps it’s games which offer CG trailers that can be interpreted as gameplay that run into the most issues - as Cyberpunk kinda did over 8 years (!). This can be either 100% pre-rendered 'target gameplay', or actually in-engine but non-interactive footage. (No Man’s Sky is now getting closer to what its 2014 E3 ‘gameplay’ trailer looked like, but wasn’t anywhere near that at launch.)
And with just a gameplay ‘target’ trailer in the absence of more information, as Andy Schatz said on Twitter, you get into “people’s imaginations running wild” territory, and that can be dangerous. So perhaps this is a different problem to ‘people thought your game was X subgenre, but it’s really Y subgenre’ problem we discussed with Yes, Your Grace - a smaller and more common issue for the average PC/console game.
The game discovery news round-up..
And time to wrap it up for this newsletter, with a whole chunk of miscellaneous game discovery news. It goes a little something like this:
Video game sales: post-apoc survival city builder Endzone: A World Apart is being transparent about its excellent launch out of Steam Early Access: “We've sold 75K units [since March 18th] (250K total)... New 120K #Steam #wishlist, (450K+ total).. 6K players playing during the weekend”; action-adventure sandbox game Terraria “has now passed 35 million units sold globally to date. PC: 17.2M Console: 8.5M Mobile: 9.3M… up from 30 million last year.”
Epic Games Store is significantly expanding its social aspects, announcing “a new party system that enables players to group together and communicate via voice, text, and more”, as well as player cards/profiles with friendship management, mutual friends, and more. The platform’s been light on social features and infrastructure for some significant time, so… makes sense?
If you read one Kickstarter article this year (lol!), make it Philomena Schwab’s piece on The Wandering Village’s success - $185,000 raised from 6,500 backers, and without a playable demo! Lots and lots of good detail, and also good hints on how Facebook ads can actually work in the ‘Kickstarter backer’ space - since there’s really good niche audience targeting possible.
Cloud gaming news! Nvidia’s GeForce NOW - for cloud streaming PC games easily - now has a $9.99/month Priority membership. But early members can keep their $4.99 monthly deal, and you can still play for up to an hour per session for free. Nearly 10 million people have used GeForce NOW so far. While it’s more of a meta-service - it works with EGS and Steam store titles - it’s a smart way for Nvidia to prove the utility of its chipsets and services offering.
Valve sent me this news tidbit, so I’m sending to you: “Steam Remote Play now allows all Steam players to invite anyone (on Steam or not) to join their local multiplayer game with just a URL. To celebrate the full launch of this new functionality, the Remote Play Together Sale & Streaming Event, featuring a livestreaming marathon where you can witness Remote Play Together in action - and even join our games in progress - is scheduled to begin March 25th at 10 am Pacific.” Some of you may be in this sale!
Microlinks: how to pitch your game to Sony for marketing/other ‘partnership’ support on PS4/PS5; the Game Devs Of Color Expo is back later this year and you should support it any way you can; some of Sony’s crossplatform updates and save porting solutions are no bueno (Xbox Smart Delivery got this right).
Finally, I know we’ve been talking about how to pick the perfect game concept for a while here. But the good news is that the problem has been solved - by AI! Check out ‘Ludo, the AI game ideator’, if you don’t believe me*:
(*I haven’t tried it this product and am not suggesting it actually works, the whole idea of it just amuses me. Sorry not sorry.)
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? You can subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus to get access to exclusive newsletters, interactive daily rankings of every unreleased Steam game, and lots more besides.]