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PlayStation's new (web) store, genre viability & more
A grand old round-up to finish things out.
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Welcome to the final GameDiscoverCo newsletter of the week, since we’ve stored ‘like a billion’ interesting links in our newsletter template. And now we have to disgorge them, like a squirrel unhiding its nuts from a tree trunk. (Totally like that.)
Before we get started, just wanted to point out this video interview with me on game discoverability as part of a mini-series by Rocket Jump Events over on the Etch Play YouTube channel. I talk about how people find your games! Some of you care about that! Go check it out…
The new PlayStation (web) store gets.. mixed reviews
Ahead of the PlayStation 5’s launch, Sony has rolled out a brand new web version of the PlayStation Store, which definitely needed an upgrade. (Though the removal of digital support for older Sony platforms is not always popular.)
There’s a very long ResetEra forum thread (which started before the store was available to all) including a lot of good/interesting player feedback in it. Thus far, it seems like the design is way cleaner and mobile friendly.
But there’s a number of obvious usability & discovery issues with the new version of the store, which is ‘bare bones’ in a variety of ways. I thought Toumari’s ResetEra comments (scroll down to post #200) were fair and helpful. Some of the suggestion headings - which he goes into more detail on - are as follows:
"Add titles below the thumbnails on the category view... Make it obvious what is DLC and what is a game... Show DLC of a game on their respective pages... Add filters on the category/search pages... Show details about the different game editions."
In addition, he noted some of the features that are missing in the new store that were included in the old store: "No screenshots/gameplay videos on the game pages, No download file-size listed on the game pages, No wishlist support, Can no longer add games/products to the cart from the list views."
I’m sure the store will be a work in progress. And it’s unclear how closely its usability or layout mirrors that of the PlayStation 5 UI itself, since the UI demos so far haven’t looked closely at the PlayStation Store. But there’s clearly some work to be done here that will help more people buy games, if correctly addressed.
New perspectives on genre viability
The subject of Steam/game genre tags and viability has come up a lot recently. So kudos to Chris Zukowski for his latest article/newsletter, which includes this gem of a graph:
Basically, select genres with a higher median earning on Steam are towards the left, and lower towards the right. And then each genre also has a bar chart listing the number of games categorized within it (often by players).
There’s definitely some nuance here - particularly because a) your game can have multiple tags/genres and b) some large-tagged categories can refer to game elements - e.g. everything classified as puzzle is probably not a traditional puzzler. And this is Steam-specific - the PlayStation 4 might see different styles of game being popular.
But the point stands. It’s not solely about mechanically picking the right genres, but some game styles have less competition than others. Danny Weinbaum’s Steam tag data Google Doc (original blog post) clearly shows this. I recommend that everyone keeps considering it.
The game discovery news round-up..
And here’s the final final for the week, with a whole bunch of cloud gaming updates, as that space continues to hot up, plus updates on yesterday’s newsletter and more besides:
There’s a new interview with Xbox’s Phil Spencer (originally at Stratechery, excerpted at The Verge) where he notes: “I think you’re going to see lower priced hardware as part of our ecosystem when you think about streaming sticks and other things that somebody might want to just go plug into their TV and go play via xCloud.” So all kinds of possibilities for Game Pass playing in the future, eh?
Couple of interesting Stadia things - the company revealed Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle, a 64-person Pac-Man melee, with a cloud-streamable demo linked from the YouTube page. It’s part of an attempt to make ‘instant demos’ a better onramp to the service. (Tunnel Battle itself will be $20 when released in November on Stadia.)
So, a lot of stuff went down on Twitch this week, since the company “informed streamers across its platform on Tuesday that it has deleted content violating music copyright laws after receiving “a sudden influx of DMCA takedown requests” back in June.” This was probably (mainly?) commercial music, not game OSTs, but definitely make sure your game’s music licenses don’t screw your streamers. (They don’t like it!)
A couple of follow-ups from my Steam x China article that ran yesterday. Firstly, this EGM article talks about government licensing woes from a Chinese indie dev perspective. Secondly, I did want to reference this profanity-laced quote Tweet stream about the article (lol), since the author makes a good ethical point: “that requirement for text filtering? you're engaging in the erasure of Uighurs, Taiwan and Hong Kong.” I don’t think we know that yet, since this is all hypotheticals. But I also don’t think we should ignore the concept.
Amazon is now rolling out early access to its Amazon Luna streaming game service in the US, after “hundreds of thousands of requests”. The Luna+ and Ubisoft game channels are hyped, and it’s also noted: “We will continue to add great games, channels, and features to ensure there is something for everyone to play.” Looking forward to see who else steps up with a ‘channel’.
A fan published a (slightly veiled) app that made Stadia streaming on iOS possible using a modified browser app. (“You can basically trick Stadia's website into thinking you're a Chrome browser. Thus, Stadia streaming then works.”) Then they went to update it, Apple noticed and it’s been pulled. It’s fun times in the cloud streaming wars when the fans get involved!
Microlinks: there’s a LOT of investment activity in games right now, here’s a great summary for 2020 so far; on the way smaller side of things, here’s a Reddit post about a Steam game with 1200 pre-launch wishlists and 35 sales in Week 1, showing it can be tricky out there.
And finally for this week, throwing in a bonus video about game… shows? John Teti’s piece on the contrasting host entrances for famed U.S. game show The Price Is Right’ is a tremendous example of ‘design in detail’, and thought provoking for all creatives:
[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We’ll be launching a ‘Plus’ paid newsletter tier with lots of extra info/data - watch out for it soon.]