Discover more from The GameDiscoverCo newsletter
Introducing: new eBooks & major forecasting features!
Our Plus subscription gets majorly built out. Also: news galore.
[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.]
Welcome to the free mid-week update from GameDiscoverCo, folks. We’re still reeling from the ‘Unity affair’, and there’s all this new Xbox insight from the latest FTC lawsuit leak? (We’ll cover it more next week.) What a crazy time…
So, we’re headlining this newsletter with announcements for our GameDiscoverCo Plus offering, which is, of course, ‘what you get if you pay us’. (For new subs, it’s $19/month, $190/year, or $1k/year for company-wide subscriptions.)
We don’t tend to plug this paid tier super-hard. We’re much like Casey Newton, who just posted at tech newsletter Platformer that his pub “was designed so that most people never have to pay us in order to benefit from our journalism.” Hard agree. However, as he notes for Platformer: “around 95 percent of our audience falls into this [non-payer] category.”
Transparent data: we’re pretty similar. We now have nearly 20,000 subscribers to this fine newsletter (!), and just under 10% of you have access to Plus. But many are due to our generous group subscriptions… so direct payees are closer to 5%.
Casey’s solution? He’s going to start running ads in Platformer. (And we’ll consider ads - but not now.) Instead, we wanted to ratchet up the value for Plus, so more of you sign up. And this newsletter marks the ‘Early Access’ launch of those new features. Let’s check it out:
New on GameDiscoverCo Plus: a host of eBooks!
One thing that people often tell us is ‘GameDiscoverCo, you have too much content, dammit. Where’s all of the essential advice and takeaways for PC and console game discovery, all in one place?’ And it’s true - some of our content is ephemeral, and some evergreen.
So we did a lot of heavy lifting*, revised our original ‘Complete Game Discovery Toolkit’ PC & console game discovery eBook, and added not one, but two more eBooks. Vol. 2 is ‘top takeaways from 2021-2023’, and ‘Deep Dives’ looks at detailed real-life data on every case study we’ve done here! (*Thanks to Jordan Taylor for article compilation & John Harris for editing.)
This means that even if you’ve come later to this newsletter, you can sit down and scroll through all our key ‘how games get bought and played’ takeaways in one place, easily formatted. And that’s not all! We’ve added some other eBooks too:
That’s right, thanks to Michael Futter & the folks at Bithell Games, we’ve added eBooks of the GameDev Business Handbook (& the related GameDev Budgeting Handbook) to Plus. These are super-useful looks at ‘foundational business stuff’ for indies. (We also have Derek Yu’s superlative eBook about the making of Spelunky.) Sign up and get this veritable library!
New on GameDiscoverCo Plus: prediction features
In addition to the traditional perks (weekly ‘trends’ newsletter, Discord access), our Plus-exclusive data suite - which deals chiefly, but not exclusively with Steam - just got a big upgrade.
We know there are a lot of other Steam datasets out there (many free!), so we decided to differentiate on tools. The first is the Steam release heatmap (above) - thanks to our clients Cyrille & Arnaud from Dotemu for pioneering this feature with us, btw.
Basically, this feature answers the question - ‘am I going to release my Steam game in a quiet or busy period?’ Our data suite already ranks all 18,000+ unreleased Steam games based on ‘Hype’ - followers, wishlist ranking, etc.
So we flowed this into an interactive data set - which shows the previous 12 months & the next 12 months on Steam. You can check the total ‘Hype’ score for the Top 10 titles that released - or will release - on any given week. (Third week of Feb in 2023? Busy as heck - see above! And it already has Nightingale locked in for 2024.)
Obviously, we know that release dates aren’t always announced until a couple of months beforehand. That’s why our data is updated multiple times daily, and we’re planning to add a ‘ticker’ so you can see major release date changes…
The second big feature we’ve rolled out is our Steam pre-release revenue predictor (above). You can look at any unreleased game on Steam in our Plus data suite, click ‘Revenue Predictor’, and we’ll tell you how much net revenue we think it’ll make in the first month (and first 5 years!)
What is this alchemy, you might ask? How it works: first, we predict current Steam wishlist balance based on it being 12x followers. Then we use the game’s recent follower/Hype trends to extend those numbers through launch. Finally, we apply a median conversion rate. (You can change most of these factors, if you want.)
For example, we have Cities: Skylines II (above) doing 550,000 units, $22.2 million gross and $13.9 million net in its first month on Steam alone, just looking at its $50 base SKU & median conversion. You can manually add console and other PC platform data as a % of the Steam revenue, and see granular monthly and Year 1-5 possibilities.
We already know that conversion can vary significantly based on launch momentum, streamer pickup, etc - and various scenarios are depicted. But this view is ultimately ‘indicative data’, which is a super important sense check. (What makes less sense is why we’re giving it away for just $19/month, but hey.)
[Thanks to the wonderful folks at Fellow Traveller for the original version of this post-release model, which is geared around ‘release once’ titles. We’re looking at doing a GaaS version of the revenue model where you can stipulate time between major updates, too.]
Finally, we also have a lot of other new data in the Plus data suite, including but not limited to:
Radically faster Steam game monitoring that includes CCUs: want to see the biggest new releases of the week/month, their Hype conversion vs. median, and how their current CCU compares to each other? That’s now updated hourly.
Better filtering of unreleased Steam games: sure, you can check all 18,915 unreleased Steam games, ranked by our Hype score. But how about ranking just those that have Farming Sim tagged in the Top 8 Steam tags? Easy.
A host of other new features, now & coming soon: we just added more accurate Steam revenue/player data & game favoriting (alongside personalized logons.) And we will continue to update, with a giant publisher/developer ‘explorer’ section and full tag browsing & size estimation on ‘all released games’, soon.
To end, wanted to give kudos to GameDiscoverCo colleagues Thomas (backbone of our code), Avi (front-end UI goodness), and Alejandro (manual data collecting & testing), plus Tomasz from GamingAnalytics (super-cool GameDiscoverCo consulting client-specific data), Ashley from Impress.games & Coverage Bot (original UI/design), and Strahinja from Gamalytic (providing revenue & player estimates) for making all of this possible.
The game discovery news round-up..
After all that, let’s finish off the week with a look at the notable game discovery and platform news, shall we? Here’s what we’ve got:
Even without Game Pass units, Starfield is the 5th best-selling game debut of the year in Europe, according to GSD/GI: “Its launch sales are ahead of Final Fantasy 16 and Resident Evil 4, but behind Hogwarts Legacy, Diablo IV, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.” (Though it was available a few days earlier in a Premium Edition, which made its launch ‘week’ quite a bit longer.)
Here’s a good piece by the Metaverse Marcom folks on the fact that “the average Roblox player spends 2.3 hours on the platform in a single day.” Why? As RDC stats show, stickiness is in large part about the in-game social ties, with 3 billion in-game messages sent daily (46 for each DAU), and 2 million voice DAUs worldwide (That’s up 30% YoY, despite being only available to users aged 13 and up.)
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission put up a website for $245m of refunds for those unfairly charged (or overcharged) by Fortnite’s alleged ‘dark patterns’. Criteria? “You were charged in-game currency for items you didn’t want; your child made charges to your credit card without your knowledge; your account was locked… after you complained to your credit card company about wrongful charges.”
Those Unity engine changes aren’t good - at all - for PC/console devs. But an anonymous mobile biz owner tells GDCo: “the actual long term impact of this is harshest for small and mid-sized mobile devs, because of the low overall margin/high ‘marginal cost per install’ business models.” Also: we wanted to re-stress - it’s not just the complexity of Unity’s new license, it’s the lack of trust the change engenders.
Transparent publisher/service contracts? We like ‘em, and ‘self-publishing helper’ (think: lite publisher services!) agency Raccoon Business just posted a copy of theirs. Bonus for this clause: “the Service Provider may terminate the Agreement… in the event that the Studio or its officers use, in connection with their business, NFTs (i.e. Non-Fungible Tokens).”
In a ‘classic PlayStation move’, according to game trailer maestro Derek Lieu, “The PS5 logo now uses the ® registered trademark symbol, NOT the ™ symbol! Make sure your [trailer] end slates have the ® so they pass submission!” Presumably also the case for other advertising, etc…
Overkill did an interesting interview with Ayaneo CEO Arthur Zhang, as the Chinese handheld game device company pushes a big (big!) range of Android and Windows Steam Deck-ish devices that play cloud (or non-cloud) games. They also have a clamshell ‘flip to open’ handheld PC with a keyboard coming soon?
Bonus Unity-related things: Terraria devs Re-Logic - who don’t even use the engine - are donating $100k each to Godot and FNA to “get behind some of the… up-and-coming open source game engines”; ICO’s Thomas Bidaux notes that Unity’s engine changes, as a B2B story, would have been at least 6th (and maybe higher!) in Footprints.gg’s B2C media coverage chart for the week (above).
Once again, if you’re interested in how mobile game paid UA (user acquisition) works, read Matej Lancaric’s latest ‘tips for killer UA’ listicle. Sure, he’s pretty quirky - and there’s AI image advocacy in the first paragraph. But I feel like I understand the mobile game market so much better, after reading these.
Microlinks: Xbox has nabbed a bunch of this week’s top new releases for Game Pass Day 1, including Payday 3 and Party Animals; did you know that the median Steam Early Access game goes 1.0 after 260 days?; ‘party venue in search of party’ platform Horizon Worlds is starting to roll out on mobile and the web.
Finally, was hanging out at the Video Game History Foundation’s library the other day, and found these gems - “A lesser-known early '80s game magazine from the creators of rock mag Creem, Vidiot sports headlines such as 'Arcade Injury Report’”:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]