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Which PC genres convert pre-launch interest the best?
Also: more Activision shenanigans & lots more discovery news.
[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 a fresh week of CDC (chillin’, doing discovery analysis, and calculatin’ metrics?!) at your home for the game discovery hits, KCDC 94.7FM. (It would be KCDC 100FM, but there were some refunds…)
I’ll be your DJ for the week. And before we inevitably play the video game discovery version of the Pina Colada Song (the Activision/Microsoft deal), let’s start with a look at the ‘magic numbers’ of Steam genre conversion. W-w-what does it all mean?
[A word from this station’s sponsors before we do: three days left for 30% off access to our GameDiscoverCo Plus subscription. Loads of Steam pre & post-release data, an extra weekly newsletter, an exclusive Discord, what’s not to like? Just 12 easy installments.. make up a year?]
Which PC genres convert pre-launch interest well?
It has often been said: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’. Which is why we’re excited to bombard you with some
lies statistics today, around select PC game genres that seem to have good conversion rates.
Firstly, some data context: our GameDiscoverCo Plus back-end tracks things like pre-release ‘Hype’ (interest in a game, based on # of Steam followers, forum posts, etc), and then post-release results in terms of number of Steam reviews.
We generate conversion rates for tens of thousands of games, similar to ‘wishlist to sales’ conversion rates. (Not the same, but probably close enough that you can pretend the above graph is showing ‘% of week 1 sales based on launch Steam wishlist balance’.)
We’ve already cherrypicked massively to pick out a handful of interesting tags - especially above-average converting, ‘clear’ ones. And we excluded games with <300 Hype (<10k launch wishlists?), because small games have outlying conversion rates.
The first thing we want to say is - don’t run out and make the genres atop this chart. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the best type of game to make - it simply means that this genre of titles converted better than expected. So let’s examine the top one:
So, you’ll see that Escape Room is by far the best-converting Steam genre tag. The titles that make up that ranking are above. But what does this even mean? Thoughts:
Not many people choose to make ‘escape room’-adjacent titles: so there’s a barrier to entry in developer interest alone, excluding a dilutive mass of games.
These games can be difficult to make: a lot of them involve online co-op, which is not easy to construct. So again, another barrier to creator entry.
Elements of ‘escape room’ titles appeal to today’s Steam audiences: certainly, online co-op - in many of the games - is a major booster of interest. As is mystery/horror. So this alone might have boosted conversion.
A number of these games are ‘under the radar’: it’s not a major genre like survival games or roguelike deckbuilder. If building wishlists & followers is difficult, it leads to better conversion from ‘significant’ ones that do exist. (See: psychological horror, which often becomes virally popular at release, not before.)
Personally, I’m not sure I would recommend people make more pure ‘escape room’ games for Steam. Turns out that Escape Simulator has done an amazing job with UGC & is dominating the market. (More games like We Were Here Forever? Absolutely..)
Alongsider this, there’s an adjacent story for Sports, another genre that converts well. It’s an undersupplied one overall, due to complexity. But that’s not necessarily your ticket to greatness - make a niche game, get good conversion, yet niche $ results?
For additional context, we have a different ranking - median Steam ‘Hype’ across all unreleased games. (We’ve showcased it before.) Here’s how the above tags rank there:
So as you can see, if you’re just going by what Steam players are excited about, you’re back to the traditional PC-centric tags like survival & roguelike deckbuilder. (Escape Room actually has somewhat below average interest, overall..)
But what scale is used here? It’s the median Hype Score across all games for tags GameDiscoverCo defines as genre-related. This equates (for median performers) to something like three Steam reviews and <100 sales in Week 1. Tiny, tiny numbers.
This neatly takes us back to ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’. This is definitely info you can use. But there are so many possible data views - and caveats - that a pure ‘data your way to success’ approach looks messy, beyond ‘pick genres that PC gamers want’.
Microsoft x ATVI clears EU competition - wot next?
If you’re like us, you’ll mainly be looking, semi-obsessed, at the weirdly positioned controller buttons & Mario-style clip art on the European Union’s announcement that it has “cleared [the] acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, subject to conditions.”
Those conditions? This ‘remedy’, with a 10-year duration: “A free license to consumers in the EEA that would allow them to stream, via any cloud game streaming services of their choice, all current and future Activision Blizzard PC and console games for which they have a license… a corresponding free license to cloud game streaming service providers.”
Oh, and Microsoft’s president Brad Smith has popped up to say: “This will apply globally and will empower millions of consumers worldwide to play these games on any device they choose.” Meanwhile, the UK’s CMA are not happy bunnies, saying the deal: “would replace a free, open and competitive market with one subject to ongoing regulation of the games Microsoft sells, the platforms to which it sells them, and the conditions of sale.”
One thing that none of these three statements say clearly: cloud gaming is not a clearly defined market. It’s the CMA defining it as such - and blocking the merger as a result, a move that is still under appeal - that has led to ‘cloud gaming competitors’ getting their own lovingly crafted cumulonimbi in EU statements.
This approval? Fair enough. The accompanying remedy? Borderline meaningless. Anyone with a legitimately purchased or redeemed copy of a Activision Blizzard game can now play it on other cloud services? Whoop-de-do - it’s the anti-competitive version of ‘security theater’. (It’s how MS weaves ATVI into its other sub & monetization services that is far more interesting.)
But since we’re all forced under the collective hallucination that this is the lens we now have to see the merger - by all means, why not continue? I only wish it had been something more entertaining, like Microsoft having to license Clippy to Sony.
Next up: the UK’s CMA continues its Doc Brown approach to a Microsoft appeal, and the U.S. FTC’s objections - which are based on concerns it will “suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription and cloud-gaming business” - are due to start in August.
And if I feel like I might need a stiff drink after covering this mess, imagine how the involved parties are feeling. It’s like a ‘wedding objection’ situation, but for 16 months and counting. (Don’t forget that, in particularly odious corporate speak, this was going to ‘bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone’. )
The game discovery news round-up..
And before we implode entirely, let’s have a look around the other major game discovery and platform news since last week - of which there is a lot:
A new Steam feature? EA just launched a promotion for Dead Space where you can play a free trial of the full game for 90 minutes (see above screenshot). This isn’t something which is generally available, though things like ‘Free Weekends’ use similar tech. We’ll see if this rolls out more widely!
A sign that Nintendo’s ‘Switch 2’ is likely to have a similar form factor to the original? “Sharp CEO Robert Wu said the Japanese electronics company will launch pilot LCD-panel production lines for [“a new gaming console”] during its current fiscal year ending in March 2024.” Makes sense.
Small/medium devs, want to know who to hit up to publish your game? Seyed from Unifiq Games can help: “Last year I wanted to pitch my game to publishers, but I found it quite frustrating that there was not a single comprehensive list of reputable PC/console publishers.” So they made one (Google Drive link).
‘Not-E3’ related links: Summer Game Fest announced 40+ partners for its June 8th streaming showcase & associated events, including HoYoVerse, Netflix, Second Dinner & Disney; there’s going to be a Devolver Direct in June, thank goodness.
How would Fortnite get more metaverse-y? Maybe by adding new gameplay modes, and to that point: “Fortnite is reportedly getting a new car racing game mode later this year, according to new information from data miners. Codenamed 'DelMar', the new mode” allegedly includes “a Garage with vehicle customization.”
As Zelda launches, shattering UK retail sales records, HowToMarketAGame’s Chris Zukowski had a viral, much-debated Twitter thread explaining why for most games, “it doesn't matter if you launch the same day as a AAA game.” (I said it was difficult to carry the argument when everyone was covered in ‘Zelda juice’.)
Branded games on Roblox with the most visits of recent? It’s My Hello Kitty Cafe at the top, with 26 million visits of 18 minutes each, with Sonic x Roblox in second place, but a surprisingly big new(ish) entry - 15 million visits - from Twice Square, themed around the massively popular K-Pop group.
Asus’ ROG Ally handheld PC is available on June 13th for $699.99, and The Verge has a review saying it’s fast, smooth & quiet, but “Windows still difficult to use handheld despite Microsoft involvement”. Related: why AMD is investing in PC handheld gaming, chipset-wise.
The English-language transcript of Nintendo’s results Q&A [.PDF] is up, with the company noting that due to the Mario movie: “sales are growing for Mario related merchandise, and there is a slight rise in activity for classic Mario titles that can be played through Nintendo Switch Online”, also saying that Zelda’s $70 price tag “does not indicate a general increase in the price of our software.”
And breaking news as we send out this newsletter: Steam will be ending support for Google Analytics rather than upgrading to GA4, because “Google’s tracking solutions don't align well with our approach to customer privacy”, but improving its UTM tracking & store page reporting (adding geographic and referral URLs) to compensate.
Finally, we’re a sucker for weird & interesting ‘games x consumer goods’ crossovers, so winner, winner, Krafton x Tencent: “We have collaborated with KFC to bring the Chicken Dinner to life with a limited edition 'Pochinki Twister Box Meal' to select markets in MENA.”
[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.]