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What are the most important games on PlayStation?
And how about PlayStation/Xbox loyalty? Lots of lovely data here...
[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.]
We’re back, it’s the middle of the week, and, uh, we are lobbing reams of helpful data and .PPT slides down your gob, in today’s latest installment of the ‘lawsuits bring us exciting source documents’ bonanza.
Oh, and before we get going - have you seen Noclip.website? It summons a “digital museum of video game levels” directly in your web browser, from Katamari Damacy to Mario Kart, and it’s pretty darn cool. (And no relation to the other cool Noclip!)
[It’s summer, sure, but: our GameDiscoverCo Plus paid subscription includes our Friday ‘exclusive’ research on specific PC/console game trends, Plus Discord access, our Steam ‘Hype’ & post-release game performance chart back-end, multiple eBooks & more. Sign up now!]
What are the most important PlayStation games?
So we’re almost - but not quite - done excavating the document dump around the U.S. FTC’s lawsuit again Xbox buying Call Of Duty creators Activision Blizzard. Those paying attention might know that Xbox commissioned a survey to push back on the UK CMA and PlayStation’s claims that Call Of Duty was vital to Sony’s success.
Well, as part of the FTC proceedings, a .PDF of the entire survey (Google Drive link) - not just the edited highlights - was made available, since it was entered in evidence. And it has some great data in it - so we’re analyzing it, here and now.
Firstly, the background: pollers YouGov surveyed 7,640 adult console gamers in five different countries in the EU (Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland) in January 2023, asking them questions on which games were vital to owning a particular console.
These countries are OK - but not particularly strong - for Xbox. (The U.S. and U.K. seem the best for Microsoft’s console.) So, you get the following overlap of single and multi-console households. It’s notable that only 6% own solely an Xbox:
The main point of this survey was to push back on other survey data around ‘diversion’ - whether players would have bought (‘past diversion’) or would buy (‘future diversion’) different console hardware, if ‘X game’ was unavailable on it.
And, as the internal presentation says: “Gamers of other games (FIFA, Fortnite, etc.) all report they would divert in greater/similar numbers than CoD gamers if their game was withheld. CoD is not a driver for console adoption any more than other titles are.”
The full ‘past diversion’ stats, also available above in graph form: “FIFA: 6.4%, Call Of Duty: 3.1%, Fortnite: 3.1%, Assassin’s Creed: 2.9%, Gran Turismo: 2.9%: Minecraft: 2.8%; Grand Theft Auto: 2.7%, F1: 2.5%, Battlefield: 2.2%, God Of War: 2.0%, Rocket League: 2.0%.” You can also see how this ‘past diversion’ varies on a country by country basis:
So if you were wondering what the most important game franchises are to PlayStation players, beyond CoD? This Xbox survey just answered that question! Fascinating. (And BTW - all these percentages are small, sure - but they’re still meaningful.)
And when it comes to ‘future diversion’, the survey notes: “Gamers generally predicted higher diversion rates when reporting future purchase intentions.” Here’s the top ‘would buy different console in future if this game wasn’t available’ percentages for PlayStation users:
So this doesn’t show that Call Of Duty isn’t important. But it does show that it’s not overwhelmingly important? Check out the full 48-page survey for more detail on this YouGov survey - even including self-reported spending data on some of these games.
How about PlayStation vs. Xbox console loyalty?
An addendum: as part of the same survey, there was clearly interest in showing that Xbox - as a console - is a bit of an underdog. (This helps push through the Activision deal, which was being protested on anti-competitive grounds.)
And the YouGov data does just that: “Diversion ratios for the most successful games in the survey are generally higher among Xbox gamers than on PlayStation gamers.” For example (above), ‘I’d skip this console in the future if it didn’t have this game’ for Call Of Duty is 7.4% on Xbox, vs. 3.1% on PlayStation.
But beyond even that, the report suggests: “Generation over generation, Sony built a level of brand loyalty that Xbox cannot replicate.” It’s definitely weird seeing this come out in court proceedings from the Xbox side, but that’s indeed what the data says:
And as the survey notes: “74% of PlayStation gamers plan on purchasing a PlayStation next, as opposed to only 44% of Xbox owners who plan on purchasing an Xbox next.”
This certainly explains why Microsoft continues to diversify its approach to games - into multi-platform and PC game subscription services, into game franchises like Minecraft, and now into mobile games (and even more PC & console game franchises!) with the Activision Blizzard acquisition.
And frankly, it doesn’t make much sense for anyone - except Nintendo, apparently - to put all its eggs in one basket on an integrated ‘game hardware and software’ platform in today’s market. Hence the MS x ATVI deal, which now seems to be going through…
Follow-up: more on Steam’s ‘New & Trending’
Following our post on Steam’s New & Trending charts and how (we think!) they work last week, we got a bunch of very useful feedback. It didn’t cause us to change our mind on the overall method (it’s chronological, there’s a ‘New & Trending or not’ flag!). But we did get some extra nuance and data that we wanted to pass along:
There’s evidence that smaller games can drop out later after ‘interest checks’: we previously said that you ‘almost never’ drop out of the N&T chart before ‘X’ other New & Trending games pop up ahead of you chronologically. But some smaller games do eventually fail a periodic ‘interest check’ and disappear earlier.
‘Mixed’ reviews may be an impediment to appearing in ‘New & Trending’: we heard from two devs who were in New & Trending until their reviews went ‘Mixed’, at which point they disappeared. Both re-appeared later (further down the page chronologically) after reviews improved. But games like F1 Manager 2023 have appeared in N&T with Mixed reviews, so it’s not an explicit blocker.
Games re-appearing can be tied to post-release interest spikes: for most, you appear on New & Trending ‘just after release when your CCUs are swiftly increasing’. But the Mask Of The Rose devs pointed out that after appearing briefly & dropping off, they re-appeared on the UK version of the N&T chart after a) they’d improved their initial ‘Mixed or worse’ user review score and b) they’d launched this amazing tie-in with musical YouTuber The Stupendium. (You can see that interest spike on the game’s CCU chart, peaking 9 days after launch.)
We also got a question on which regional Steam stores have different ‘New & Trending’ charts. We believe it’s the ones that also have unique topseller charts - you can see these by going to the Steam global topsellers page and accessing the country dropdown.
If you want to check our these country-specific charts? You can certainly use a VPN to see them. Or possibly this URL - for Austria, in this case - will work if you change the two-letter country code appropriately. (DE, UK, US, etcetera.) You’re welcome!
The game discovery news round-up..
Finishing up this week for free subscribers, there seem to have been a plethora of earning reports and announcements since Monday, So let’s check them out:
PlayStation’s Q1 results are here (above), and as DomsPlaying notes: “PlayStation segment revenue rose 28% to $5.6B… [it] includes ~ $300M impact from exchange rate. Even without that, it would still be an all-time Q1 high.” So that’s some good going.
But PlayStation’s profit is 8% off YoY, partly due to costs from the Bungie deal. And the 3.3 million PS5s sold in the quarter was “somewhat less than the expected progress” towards a lofty 25 million for the year. Still, Sony says: “due to promotions begun in July, we are seeing an improvement in the momentum of [PS5 hardware] sales.”
Netflix has released a ‘game controller app’ for the iOS App Store, which “lets you use your phone as a controller after pairing it with your TV in order to play the games available through Netflix’s service.” But no details on which games and when, just yet.
Valve is now selling refurbished Steam Decks, at prices starting at $319 USD for the 64GB model. Even more intriguingly, U.S. retailer GameStop “is making refurbished Steam Decks available in select stores starting today.” Apparently, those units “are refurbished at GameStop facilities and will come with their own warranty”. But hey, ‘Steam Decks at Western retail’ are now (kinda!) a thing.
Esoteric links: why every car in China has a Rockstar Games logo hanging from it; the print-on-demand physical manual for indie title The Banished Vault has a 10% attach rate; this epic review of the soon-closing Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience surfaces the intriguing question - did it have a discovery problem?
Roblox’s Q2 results revealed that “average Daily Active Users were 65.5 million, up 25% year-over-year”, and average monthly unique payers were 13.5 million, up +19% YoY. Formidable - but its shares are down >20%, since the U.S. stock market, normally OK with its $250m+ quarterly losses due to strong growth, expected more.
Coffee Talk publisher Kris Antoni kindly posted both the original internal pitch and the external publisher pitch for the acclaimed 2020 Steam & console game, which is “a coffee brewing and heart-to-heart talking simulator”, lest we forget.
Elsewhere in PlayStation world, July 2023’s top PS5/PS4 downloads show Remnant II making a strong start (#2 in both North America & Europe on PS5), while the PS+ Game Catalog for August includes both Sea of Stars and Moving Out 2 on Day 1, plus Destiny 2: The Witch Queen and Lost Judgment. (Nice!)
Minecraft updated its guidelines for content creators & modders, with clarifications including: “can’t use ‘Minecraft’ as the primary [channel/creator] title” and the inability to build branded in-world sponsorships as a third-party. (There’s also some changes around Minecraft servers - but it’s difficult to get a read on what they really mean, due to ‘enthusiastic’ fan readings of the Terms of Service.)
‘Other media’ discovery links: some interesting stats on social media trends in the UK, via a new OFCOM report; Kwebbelkop is “a [game streaming] star who’s turning himself into a VTuber”; music discovery gets a boost via Apple Music’s launch of a ‘Discovery’ station.
Finally, our buddies at Asia/MENA game market intelligence firm Niko Partners, whom we collaborated with on this ‘China game console’ newsletter recently, are doing a survey on market research needs in the game biz. (Check it out? One randomly picked filler-out gets a free one hour consulting session with ‘em, too.)
[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.]