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This game used TikTok to get 120m views, 60k Steam wishlists!
And its Kickstarter hasn't even launched yet, folks...
[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 back, folks, to a brand new week navigating the architectural follies of the game discovery biz. Check out the surprising trends constructed just for you. And look, over there’s a garden hermit whom we pay to look weird. (Oh no, wait, that’s me.)
As we ease into the end of summer - lots of you away at Gamescom this week, we bet - we have a new Plus paid subscription offer - 30% off for the first year, if you sign up for an annual sub. (That’s $8.75 per month, apparently!)
(Reminder: our ‘About’ page has full details on what you get. Lots of useful stuff - particularly our Steam data back end & Discord/extra newsletter. Your patronage is much appreciated!)
TikTok: lessons from Mortal Rite’s social success
So, we got contacted by Alex Estevan from Round Toast Studios, “an indie studio with 5 people working full time (4 developers and 1 marketing person, me).” The team is working on in-development 3D action RPG Mortal Rite, and Alex explained to us:
“We’ve already organically gotten over 120 million TikTok views, 640k TikTok followers, and over 60,000 Steam wishlists - even though we are still at least 6 months away from an Early Access release. We’ve done all this without spending a single dollar on paid advertising or marketing agencies.”
So of course we wanted to know more about that. And ahead of the game’s Kickstarter launch on Tuesday - alongside the first full gameplay trailer - he gave us a whole bunch of best practices. So - take it away, Alex:
“Firstly, here’s some stats on our TikTok account: Followers: 647,800; Total Views: 126,115,388; Total Likes: 14,376,435; Total Comments: 134,402; Total Shares: 123,877; Average views per day: 256,852; Total videos: 253; Average views per video: 498,480; Average Posting Consistency: 1 new post every 1.96 days; Total Steam Wishlists: 61,749.”
Alex also passed along a chart of Mortal Rite’s ‘daily TikTok Views to daily Steam wishlists’. As you can see, the game’s TikTok views are largely directly linked to their number of new wishlists:
Alex mentioned that the ‘sweet spot’ for him was TikTok videos with high ‘Average Watch Time’, high ‘Watch Full Video %’, and high engagement rate. And as you’ll see, videos with both a) a dev’s face in them and b) subtitles are also best practices that are key to Mortal Rite’s success.
These are the particular types of videos that Alex thought worked particularly well with TikTok’s algorithms and viewers:
Progression videos: “People love seeing your personal progress and success when working on something. Showing: ‘hey our first concept looked like this, and then we added color, and then we added this functionality, and now the final product looks like this’. These types of videos typically really encourage the viewer to stick with the video and watch until the end.” Example: this Mortal Rite ‘great wall’ progression TikTok has 8.5m views and 1.3m likes! (And this full progression vid did better!)
Videos of things that are ‘half done’, and then asking the community for feedback: “Pretty much every video on our page falls under this category a little bit. The main challenge is becoming okay with posting things that aren’t fully done or that don’t look quite how you want them to look… if someone sees you work start-to-finish on something and then the final product turns out really good, they are already a lot more invested - and will care more about your game!”
Take something complicated about game dev, and make it easy to understand: “If you are able to do this in an interesting way, people will feel like they’ve learned something new! It also helps the average player get invested in the intricate details of your game that they probably wouldn’t have normally paid attention to.” This Mortal Rite TikTok on creating a ‘secret area’ under the map for enemies to spawn is one example.
Video replying to people’s suggestions or questions: “Obviously these videos usually require a lot of development, and can’t be made very easily. But if you see a comment of something you like and you know that you’ll eventually implement, take a screenshot of it, so you can reference it later.” Here’s an example.
Videos that play along with trends. “Most videos probably take me about 3-8 hours to complete. However, a lot of videos that are trend-followers are typically much easier to make, usually requiring about an hour of work max. If you just search in the TikTok app for brand-relevant terms, like ‘game dev’ for example. TikTok will provide you with a list of videos.” Here’s two cute examples.
Intriguingly, the Mortal Rite folks also sometimes make general-interest TikToks about game news unrelated to their game - here’s two examples - to get people to pay attention and follow their page. That goes beyond what many of you would do, right?
But how do you get people off TikTok, and onto your Steam page or other media? Alex says: “This can be very difficult to do (only about 1 in every 2,000+ people who view a video of ours will go and wishlist it.) But here are some tactics that we’ve found help improve these odds.
Have a quick ‘call to action’ at the end of your video. We have a little animation of someone adding Mortal Rite to their wishlist at the end of a lot of our videos.
Talk directly about wishlisting, and say very openly: ‘Hey, this is a great free way to support me’.
Have a link to your Steam page in your TikTok bio.
If you want to boost another one of your socials, let’s say a Discord server, making a video about someone in that community that did something cool is a great way to do that. Example: this TikTok got us about 750 new Discord members.”
So there you have it. Obviously, Mortal Rite will need to be a great game - in addition to expertly marketed on TikTok - to break through. But Alex and team are certainly going about it the right way so far! Much good luck to them…
PlayStation vs. Xbox: ‘blocking rights’ - a thing?
We wanted to do a follow-up to the ‘PlayStation vs. Xbox antitrust in Brazil’ newsletter, because there was plenty of interest in the subject - and we got some interesting extra comments & requests for detail.
There was one intriguing part of the document that we didn’t get to - the concept of ‘blocking rights’. Specifically, Xbox’s lawyers claimed: “Microsoft’s capacity to further the expansion of Game Pass has been obstructed by Sony’s desire to inhibit this growth. Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to impede developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.”
Where did this concept come from, and is it a) true and b) widespread? There’s been much confusion, stemming from a Capcom leak related to Resident Evil Village. (The same one that resulted in this weird lawsuit about textures from the original Resident Evil.)
Anyhow, there’s a Sony x Capcom exclusivity/co-marketing document for Resident Evil Village floating around online, including a section on sub services, as seen here being wielded by an Xbox fan account on Twitter (sigh). Here’s what we’d say:
We think Sony signs these type of exclusivity/co-marketing deals with only a small amount of higher-profile games. It is in no way standard. But it does happen.
There is also definitely a ‘while we have this agreement in place, you can’t be in Stadia Pro or Game Pass’ clause in here. This seems to be in exchange for paid $, marketing help or great Sony dashboard inclusion, pre-release. (But it’s not a permanent block.)
As can be seen, PlayStation does ask for ‘right of first negotiation and last match’ to put the game in PS+ for the first year, post-release. And some other slightly onerous terms. But you can still appear on Game Pass if you jump through a bunch of hoops. (Though you have to tell Sony how much Xbox offered you.)
So yes, it seems like it happens a bit. But not a lot. And due to paranoia, we’re getting rumors like Cult Of The Lamb being blocked from by Sony from being on Game Pass happening. (This is definitely not the case, and Devolver has confirmed it - there are other reasons to not be on Game Pass at launch.)
It’s also worth noting that these Sony deals, as much as they exist, appear to be - ‘we’ll do a bunch of stuff for you, and in exchange, keep feature parity and don’t be on Game Pass straight away’. Rather than ‘take this money not to be on Game Pass’. Still, given that Sony isn’t prioritizing new games in PS+, it does feel a tiny bit ‘block’-y, right?
[Side note: Game Pass can be pretty chill about exclusivity. Was fascinated to note that Sam Barlow’s upcoming Immortality is both Game Pass Day 1 & Netflix iOS/Android on Day 1!]
The game discovery news round-up..
So, finishing up, it’s time to examine a great deal of game discovery and platform news, and attempt to make a round-up fit in ‘almost no space at all’. Let’s go for it:
Game devs on Twitch: there is now ‘a game developer global chat badge’ which “provides game developers and game publishers a unique way to be more visible and verifiable in chat”. It’s optional and you can disable it, but seems like a great idea overall.
A ‘Wolfire vs. Valve’ U.S. antitrust lawsuit update, following our May reporting about it - it looks like it’s going ahead full force (with Dark Catt folded in!) There’s a possible discovery/trial schedule, including subpoenas to Valve and partners for LOTS of data/emails. But it may be early 2024 until much happens? (Schedule still being wrangled, though.)
Last Friday, GameDiscoverCo made a Tweet repeating our estimate that MultiVersus had 19-20 million LTD players. Today? Warner Bros. officially confirmed that the game has 20 million players. Feels good, man. (We’ll have lots more on our PlayStation and Xbox player estimation tech soon.)
Due to some changes made by Valve, third-party tracking site SteamDB is looking for Steam keys for your games. As they explain: “ownership of a game allows our bot to… automatically generate patch notes for each update” based on file lists, and “detect technologies and engines in use by games.” Help ‘em out!
Ah, there's a Teardown sales number in Embracer’s gigantic financial results report, after it bought the game’s dev Tuxedo Labs: “Teardown has sold 1.1m units and has been released only on PC, and only on one store (Steam).” With 44,000 Steam reviews LTD, it’s a relatively low-ratio (for a big game!) 1 review per 23 sales.
There’s still a lot of ‘piracy lite’ happening in the (old!) Argentina and (new!) Turkey territories on Steam, due to recent currency devaluations. (Steam prices there are 10% of USD.) Dead Cells is the latest game to increase their pricing there: “Unfortunately a significant portion of sales in the last year came from these two countries, without a corresponding increase in players there.”
Some more PC Game Pass news, as Microsoft builds out the service further: Hideo Kojima’s PlayStation-first title Death Stranding is semi-surprisingly coming out on PCGP, thanks to a deal with its PC publisher 505 Games; the Bethesda deal has allowed some classics to appear on Game Pass, including Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the OG Wolfenstein 3D and two earlier PC-only Elder Scrolls games.
While we’re talking about ratios - the ‘roguelite x Overcooked’ title PlateUp! did $1 million gross in the first 12 days on Steam, which is very impressive going. It had just 830 Steam reviews in that time, so it looks like its ‘review to sales’ ratio could be as high as 75-100 to make this all possible. (Presuming that it sold 60-75k copies. But casual co-op games often have v. high ratios…)
NPD’s Mat Piscatella has our July 2022 U.S. game hardware/select software results, and it’s all a little meh: “Year to date spending has reached $30.5 billion, a 10% decline when compared to the same period in 2021.” Though it’s worth noting: “MultiVersus was July's best-[grossing premium] video game, driven by sales of MultiVersus Founder's Packs.”
Microlinks: more Spider-Man PC file poking suggests that Sony may be considering a PlayStation PC launcher app; what does game biz consolidation mean for workers, players, and the medium itself?; are indie games too cheap? (featuring the great graph above!)
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]