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Which showcase should you announce your game at?
We rank 'em, subjectively. Also: Sony results & lots of 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.]
Hi, Mr. New Week, where did you even come from? We were just sitting here enjoying the weekend and… you showed up. Oh well, i guess we have to pander to you and ‘actually do some work’ now, right? Like, say, write a newsletter?
Side note: it’s fascinating to see Overwatch 2 roll out its new Battle Pass season with a high-profile, Fortnite-ish character collab - this one with manga/anime standout One Punch Man. The variety of new features/modes make it clear that the bar continues to get raised on the biggest GaaS PC/console titles, as they strain for high retention.
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Announcing your game at a showcase: which one?
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a
single man game dev in possession of a good fortune trailer, must be in want of a wife showcase reveal.” - Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice.
Look, folks, I 100% trust Jane Austen when it comes to PC & console game discovery issues, and I think she’s got it right. When you reveal your game for the first time, you (likely!) won’t have a playable version. So that makes streamers tricky to target.*
*Though Derek Lieu has some good advice on making special trailer footage that streamers can talk over it. You really might want to consider this, esp. if working on a bigger title.
So without your influencer buddies front & center, how to actually announce your delicious new video game? Let’s see:
You can do that with a trailer and PR, sure. Might go viral, in fact. But maybe your own YouTube channel doesn’t have amazing reach? And there’s a lot of announces out there, and less games media with reach than there used to be.
So another option: you can partner with a media site (IGN, PC Gamer, etc) to exclusively debut it. This works, for sure. But it sometimes has the side effect that some other major press outlets might be less interested in covering the game.
If you’re a certain size, companies can try to do their own publisher showcase - that’s another option. (Though how you get a lot of people watching it without co-streaming deals? Hmm.. not always as easy as you would hope, if you’re not EA.)
So maybe you need something semi-agnostic, something a lot of people will be watching already for ‘reveals’, huh? Something that already has a reputation and ‘heft’. Which is where platform-specific & independent streaming game showcases come in. Some are part physical, some are all digital. Many have reach.
Nowadays, there’s a LOT of streaming showcases in the space, of both the publisher & ‘aggregator’ types. Heck, check out this IGN round-up of the ‘E3 2022’-aligned events - we count at least 35 (!) - to get an idea of the volume.
Recently, some of my regular clients asked me to rank each of the PC/console game showcases that are available to anyone, if selected. And I did so, very subjectively. And it went like this:
Platinum Tier: The Game Awards
Gold+ Tier: major E3-timed platform showcases (Xbox/Bethesda, PlayStation), Summer Game Fest
Gold Tier: Nintendo Direct, State Of Play (Sony) direct, Xbox Developer_Direct, Gamescom Opening Night Live, PC Gaming Show (the E3 one)
Silver+ Tier: Future Games Show (E3 one), Day Of The Devs, The MIX (E3 one), PC Gaming Show (the other ones), Nintendo Indie World Showcase, ID@Xbox showcase.
Silver Tier: The MIX (the other ones), Wholesome Direct, Future Games Show (the other ones).
So if you’re a dev or publisher of any size, you have some choices to make. All of the above are good - though I would particularly favor shorter showcases that try to favor ‘reveals’. (Too many ‘filler’ videos are diluting a lot of the excitement for fans.)
And yes, you can be featured in many of the non-platform showcases editorially - without $ changing hands, if you’re smaller, innovative, and very lucky. But most of these ‘aggregator’ folks have to make a little cash back.
It ain’t always cheap. You’re looking at paying anything from $500 (one very nice showcase!) to $50,000+ (woo!) for each 30 seconds of trailer you show in them. And you might want to calculate how many Steam wishlists you need to generate to get ROI? Though since you can’t A/B test for reveals, we will never really know, *sigh*.
Sony’s results: kinda, kinda, kinda excellent, right?
Now that its COVID-related hardware bottlenecks are behind it, is Sony perhaps humming ‘we’ve only just begun’ when it looks at the above graph of PlayStation 5 hardware shipments? Sony’s impressive financial results suggest as much.
So, we know that the new PlayStation hardware is finally getting great distribution, with 7.1 million units sold in 2022’s holiday shopping quarter - up over 3 million YoY - & 32 million PS5s now on the market. But what else do we now know? This:
Due to the post-COVID usage drop and delayed PS5 rollout, some of the basic stats still look a bit meh. For example: “There are 112 million monthly active users on PlayStation Network as of December 31, 2022, which is up one million from the 111 million active users during the same period the previous fiscal year.”
Still, those big first-party game launches like God Of War Ragnarok clearly helped $ a lot: “First party sales were up from 11.3 million units for the same quarter in 2021 to 20.8 million units in 2022.” But.. “when looking at [total software sales], the numbers are actually slightly down, with 92.7 million units sold in 2021, versus 86.5 million in Q3 FY22.”
Another detail: Ampere’s Piers Harding-Rolls points out a new Sony stat that “almost 30% of current PS5 users never used a PS4”, adding “our consumer research shows that PS5 owners are more likely to be single console owners versus the competition.” 30% seems like a relatively high number, right, given PS5 availability to date?
Overall, as TweakTown notes, you can do a rough comparison of Xbox ($15.56 billion) to PlayStation ($24.4 billion) revenues in 2022, showing that PlayStation is pulling away for now, even being hardware-constrained: “2021 - PlayStation beats Xbox by $8.32 billion; 2022 - PlayStation beats Xbox by $8.85 billion.”
The next big question, of course, is whether PlayStation 5 will continue to sell as well now it’s more widely available. Or can it go even higher over time than that 7.1 million unit quarter? (PlayStation 4 had a 9.7 million unit quarter, three years in.)
It’s a key conundrum: the game-playing market has changed a lot since 2015. Are tens of millions still looking to pick up high-end devices like PlayStation 5s? Or are they happy with Fortnite on their PS4 and increasingly sophisticated mobile games?
In the meantime, these stellar results have led to Microsoft’s communication head Frank X. Shaw being super sassy on Twitter about ‘the situation’: “Sony, the main complainant to the Activision Blizzard deal, announced their financial results. This makes it clear why there needs to be more competition in a market they mainly control.” Oh, Frank.
The game discovery news round-up..
And we finish things off with - as opposed to a triple Axel and quadruple toe loop - a little skating on thicker ice towards this game platform and discovery news:
We love keeping an eye on Fortnite’s big ‘playable musical events’, and the latest team-up with Australian singer The Kid Laroi (video above!) “is a strangely compelling experience that further expands what these kinds of virtual concerts can be. It even has a miniature raid.” Very metaverse-y? Related: some official Netflix animated show-related Junji Ito maps in Fortnite Creative look very, very creepy.
Mobile analysis site GameRefinery has a piece on the top mobile game dev trends of 2022, and it’s interesting, noting IP-based mobile games are on the rise (is IP getting more important for PC/console again, too?), developers are implementing minigames within titles, and competitive elements are getting more common.
Apparently, this is a more common deal for Nintendo Japan and Europe. But Switch’s ‘two game vouchers for $100’ deal is back for the U.S. (It's such weird discount packaging for the digital age - does this type of deal have some kind of history or precedent in Japanese retail?)
Good gravy, have you seen Meta’s AR/VR $ losses recently? “Reality Labs segment (VR/AR) lost over $13.7 billion in Fiscal 2022. Compare that to around $10.2 billion the prior year.” The Lowpass newsletter has more detail, with Meta’s CFO Susan Li saying “we're going to continue to invest meaningfully in this area.”
There’s been a lot of discussion around ‘live service’ games shutting down over the last few days. I agree with GameSpot’s Mark Delaney: “Few can sit atop that mountain, but for Fortnite, Warzone, Rocket League, and a handful of others, it seems comparatively cozy.” And maybe you need to displace the big guys to do well, now?
Apple’s results hit late last week, and weren’t stellar - “a decline of 5% in revenue and 13% in net income, compared to the same quarter one year ago”, and under analyst expectations, partly due to iPhone supply constraints. The ecosystem is massive, though, since Apple revealed “it has 2 billion devices being used by customers, which is up from 1.8 billion last year.”
Ah, the long-awaited PlayStation 5 x Discord OS integration is almost upon us, according to Sony: “we’re rolling out the next PS5 system software beta with a number of fan-requested features, including Discord voice chat and Variable Refresh Rate support for 1440p resolution.” You can also share screens with friends easier, see friends who play specific games, and more easily filter for PS VR2 games.
Sure, you can make compelling game creation tools. But if you can’t get the audience in, you’re sunk? Example in question from the Meta-owned Unit 2 Games, which: “is shutting down its collaborative game creation platform, Crayta, on March 3, 2023. Crayta launched on Google Stadia in 2020, but… the demise of Google's streaming service and a lack of user interest made it hard to justify additional support.”
Apple and Google’s mobile app/game stores continue to look threatened in terms of hegemony by the politics of the day: “The Biden administration on Wednesday urged [U.S.] Congress to open up app stores to increased competition, as part of a sweeping government-wide plan to tackle corporate consolidation across industries.”
Microlinks: Apple Arcade’s February games include Castle Crumble (new) and Riptide GP+ (ported from the vanilla App Store); Microsoft has launched Microsoft Store Ads, “a way for developers to pay to get their apps in front of your eyes when you go to the store to look for something else”; why developers are ready for non-compete agreements to die already.
Finally, in ‘fascinating dev history’ news, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is known for an internal MS presentation where he got, well, very excited about ‘developers’. And recently, the Blue OS Museum unearthed a longer, higher-res version of the 1999/2000 clip in question. (We like developers, too!)
Ballmer commented recently re: the moment: “You’ve got to try to make things simple enough for people to get it in their head…. we’re only going to exist if we can get application support behind our platform.” And yes, he’s still just as excited owning the L.A. Clippers.
[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.]