Where are Steam, Xbox and PlayStation's players located?
We crunch a lot of data for the answers. Also: the state of Switch & more.
[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… to the week that Microsoft & Activision finally gets some closure? The UK will rule on the MS x ATVI acquisition on Wednesday & the UK Financial Times is casually suggesting that it may be approved. (It’s big news for game platforms, either way. Though there’s still that FTC suit to deal with in the U.S…)
And while we’re intro-ing this newsletter, time to intro our best deal of 2023 so far on GameDiscoverCo Plus. Get 30% off access to our extra weekly newsletter, Steam pre-release data back end, Plus-exclusive Discord to chat with your peers, and more…
PlayStation, Xbox, Steam’s players: where they at?
Although we instinctively think that we understand the shape of the PC and console market’s regional sprawl, how detailed can we get, and what implied information can we uncover?
This was the goal that we (accidentally?) accomplished recently. Through looking at public player profiles (such as seen on PSN Profiles) & game reviews / ratings, we developed some comprehensive charts showing where PlayStation, Xbox and PC players are located. So let’s check it out:
Firstly, here’s PlayStation’s top countries - lifetime results for players, across PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. A couple of particular details here:
The U.S. dominates - but per-capita, European countries aren’t far behind: you might think the United States is way ahead here, but it does have 4-5x the population of the UK, France, and Germany. So on a ‘PlayStation accounts per 1,000 people’ level, it’s closer to similar.
Saudi Arabia is a surprising stand-out: it’s interesting that Saudi Arabia and the UAE (‘the affluent Middle East’ in general, since consoles may move around) account for almost 6% of all PSN players. Also: Arabic translations for AAA games can really boost sales, with Resident Evil 4 doing particularly well there.
‘Hong Kong’ - which also means China - is on the rise: we know there’s gray-market exporting of PlayStation 5s to mainland China. And although Hong Kong is only 2.5% of the lifetime profiles, we’re seeing it appear in the Top 3 ‘most played’ countries for bigger new titles like The Callisto Protocol. One to watch.
Here’s the country breakdown of the Xbox ecosystem - as estimated by lifetime review/rating counts on the store. Notes:
The U.S. and UK are nearly half of the sample: if you live in the United States or the United Kingdom, it feels like Xbox vs. PlayStation are closer to even. And these figures help explain, with 48.5% of all Xbox ratings from these two locations.
Brazil and Mexico are notable standouts vs. PlayStation: with 6.9% on Xbox vs. 4.3% on PlayStation, seems like Microsoft has good penetration in Brazil. Similar with Mexico (4.8% on Xbox, 2.3% on PS.) This doesn’t mean that Xbox leads the market - just that they do better there in relative percentages.
Japan? Not necessarily the best showing for Xbox: no great surprises here, but Japan is ranked #18 in terms of our Xbox country estimate, compared to PlayStation’s #6 overall for Japan on its rankings.
Finally, we come to a country breakdown of Steam by player accounts, looking at profiles from the entire history of the platform. Here’s what we got:
Steam: it’s just more international, folks: not really a shock that PCs allow for a wider set of international players who didn’t buy dedicated hardware. But the shape of the curve compared to Xbox and PlayStation is way less U.S. (13.7% of all profiles) centric.
China (and Russia) are notably up there too: we talk a lot about the amount of ‘unofficial’ Chinese players on Steam International - here’s the proof (12.3%). And Russians too (9.7%), although players are mainly blocked from buying new games after Russia’s heinous invasion of the Ukraine.
Keep an eye on South-East Asia for the future: the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand together are 4.7% of all accounts registered on Steam. And those countries - though perhaps not buying $60 games - are increasingly big consumers of PC game content.
So that’s what we’re seeing, folks. It may not be 100% reflective of emerging trends or real countries - like Argentina (& Turkey) being a bit over-represented on Steam. But it’s a good way to understand which countries are playing on various platforms. That’s important for localization, marketing, and general biz intelligence reasons…
GDC 2023’s best free talks? We pick some out…
Did you know that there are over 250 free talk videos from Game Developers Conference 2023 available for you to watch, including all of the Independent Games Summit from this year’s event? (And that Kirby talk from Nintendo!)
Well, now you do - these talks appear in the free section on GDC Vault, with a full roster available to paid conference attendees or for a separate fee. Most will eventually appear - as Nintendo’s already has - on the GDC YouTube channel, too. (And all talks get made free after a couple of years.)
So let’s highlight some great talks from this year, with special attention to discovery and platform topics:
Very much bucking the ‘GaaS studios don’t talk’ trend, Deep Rock Galactic’s Mikhail Akopyan presented ‘Developing a Live Game That Never Truly Left Early Access’, discussing the game’s dev cycle, utilizing player feedback, and more.
Game lawyer Kellen Voyer presented a super-helpful talk on ‘How Publishing Agreements Go Wrong (and How to Fix Them)’, concentrating on aspects like sequel exclusivity, recoupable expenses, audit rights, and all that good stuff.
A niche subject we’re happy to see covered at GDC, Afterburn’s Luke Spierewka did a full talk, ‘Don't Phone It In: Self-Publishing Premium Games on Mobile’, dealing with subjects like getting featured, Google Play Pass, localization and more…
Much of lovely isometric adventure game Tunic’s hook was around its surprising secrets - and word-of-mouth around them. And as a result, Andrew Shouldice’s talk, ‘TUNIC: This Was Here the Whole Time’ is well worth checking out.
Social media and discovery talks from friends of GameDiscoverCo? Yep, we found Thomas Reisenegger of Future Friends’ ‘The Golden Rule of Game Promotion: No One Cares About Your Game’, and Jared J Tan of Devolver’s ‘Growing an Internet Cult: 'Cult of the Lamb's' Social Strategy’, both excellent.
As a former GDC organizer - one that pushed internally to make more recorded content free and pay more speaker stipends, with some success - I appreciate this type of content going up for free so soon after the show. More of this in the future, please.
The game discovery news round-up..
Let’s finish things off in style with some game discovery and platform news, as we chant messianically & time goes backwards to an ominous Philip Glass soundtrack:
The US Ninth Circuit of Appeals has ruled on the Epic vs. Apple appeal, and… Apple still basically won*? The only change from the Appeals court was that “the district court erred when it ruled that Apple was not entitled to attorney fees” - Epic is on the hook for $$$ Apple lawyers? (*See our previous analysis of the 2021 ruling.)
Supplemental to the Circana/NPD results last week, worth re-iterating that U.S. PlayStation 5 sales are now tracking ahead of PS4’s on a time-aligned basis, “after 29 months on the market for both consoles”. And that’s after some serious PS5 hardware shortages. Future bright shades wear Sony?
Fast Company has a big-picture Roblox profile, in which it notes the platform is, yes, growing up: “The fastest-growing age group is 17-to-24-year-olds, a demographic that grew by 33% year over year and now accounts for 22% of all users. A full 55% of its users are older than 13.” But 45% are younger, and that’s… still a lot, right?
China’s gov game approval is kicking into high gear, as it “approves 86 more games, including Honor of Kings rival Mobile Legends: Bang Bang”. And notably, “there are new titles from large tech companies like ByteDance, Baidu, and Alibaba.” The drought is somewhat over domestically - we’ll see if big Western titles get approved, tho.
Since it’s come up a couple of times recently, a reminder: Valve is fine with you sharing Steam back-end sales data and graphs, since this 2018 announcement: “We're updating the confidentiality provisions to make it clear that the partner can share sales data about their game as they see fit.” (Console platforms less so, hrmph.)
Deal-wise in Q1 2023, there were 43 game biz acquisitions, down from 76 in Q4 2022, according to the latest Drake Star stats, though they did note: “the majority of the deal values were undisclosed”, and Q2 started off big with Savvy x Scopely.
In ‘big console platform bulking up in live service games’ news, Sony has bought Firewalk Studios from Probably Monsters. The WA-headquartered 150 person dev already had an exclusive publishing partnership with PlayStation. And whatever they’re making must be sweet enough for Sony to pre-emptively grab ‘em.
This Reddit r/steam thread has the OP saying that on Steam store pages, he “skips the videos and jumps straight to the screenshots.” Others chime in: “If ‘gameplay trailers’ were actually gameplay most of the time, I might look at them instead.” (Put gameplay early in your darn trailers!)
Illumination and Nintendo’s continued box office performance for The Super Mario Bros Movie is spectacular, grossing $59.9 million in the U.S. at the weekend (“the highest third weekend ever for an animated movie”). It’s >$400m in the U.S. and close to $900m worldwide. (And not even out in Japan yet.) More Nintendo movies doubtless coming soon…
Microlinks: Komodo announced that they're expanding the retail presence of the Steam Deck into Japan, with South Korea to follow; turns out South Africa is fine with the Microsoft x Activision acqusition; how AMD’s chips are powering a bunch of the upcoming Steam Deck competitors / alternatives.
Finally, Enhance and tha.jp’s Humanity is a beguiling-looking ‘action puzzle’ game starring a glowing Shiba Inu (!) It’s available on PS+ Game Catalog on Day 1 too, and we adore the special trailer they made for it*, goofing on classic JP game commercials:
*Even if it does take a bit long to get to the gameplay. But c’mon, glowing Shiba Inu!
[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.]