Breaking Down the Noise
When the pandemic started three years ago, the gaming industry went through a major shift. Public events were canceled, titles became delayed, and remote work became the norm for a time. The reverberations from these changes forced us to reconsider how to market titles to consumers and media, with one result appearing in the form of digital events. Without having the need to book travel or physical space on a showfloor, digital showcases provided many opportunities for developers to present their upcoming projects at a lower cost.
Three years later, digital events have now become a mainstay of the news cycle. The end result has been a cacophony of information, and with 2023’s summer events just around the corner, we aim to provide some guidance on how to navigate through the noise.
Our goal with this study is to identify which showcases led to the most media coverage during the summer 2022 showcase season (JUN – AUG). Looking at collected media coverage by title and by event, we broke down top performers into two categories: the top 10 showcases by media coverage and the top 20 titles among all events combined by media coverage.
With this breakdown, we aim to identify several approaches to how a game should be positioned during the 2023 summer showcases and beyond. We also look if it makes sense to chase potential high-yield events with smaller titles when the goal is to secure media coverage.
|Our methodology for coverage collection relied on searches using Boolean operators within Meltwater along with a one-week search window for each title starting from the showcase date in which they participated. The search parameters included both the event and game name (ie. INGRESS:”Street Fighter 6″ AND “State of Play”). This was to avoid any simultaneous PR efforts, such as interviews or preview pushes, beyond the specific results from showcases. Given that we were also using raw data for this analysis, keeping a standard Boolean phrasing structure also guaranteed consistency across all titles.|
As we specifically focused on press coverage and the overall amount of hits per title and showcase, we did not include social media or content creator data for the purposes of this study. It also remains that other benefits outside of press coverage can be attained through event participation, such as overall visibility, consumer base awareness, and audience feedback. These are, however, less easily measurable with publicly available tools and data. As such, we present this research as only one part of the overall puzzle to consider for marketing campaign purposes.
Showcases and Games
This section will provide an overview of top showcases and titles. We’ll also indicate the number of games involved to provide an idea of how crowded these events were during the summer 2022 season.
Of the 31 showcases covered for this study, 19 occurred within the same 8-day window as the main Summer Game Fest 2022 presentation, either as part of SGF 2022 or separate from it. Another six (including Opening Night Live) occurred during gamescom week, while the rest were spread throughout the summer in-between both major shows, with the exception of the June 2nd State of Play. Of the 31 showcases, 10 were held by publishers and first-party platforms, with several placing among the top 10 for produced media coverage. We’ll break down the numbers in the metrics section below on top performers and their coverage spread.
Between all 31 showcases, a whopping total of 759 games were showcased, with some making several appearances across multiple shows. Ranging from high-profile AAA titles to one-person indie studios, the coverage spread throughout the period was far from being equally distributed, with 24% of games receiving no coverage whatsoever and 30% receiving 10 or fewer articles for their showing.
Of the 31 showcases featured throughout the summer, 10 secured over 1,000 pieces of coverage. Only three were able to go beyond the 5,000-hit threshold.
The total number of games shown by each showcase ran the gamut, with Devolver on the lowest end of the scale with only five titles and Wholesome Direct on the high end with 92 different games.
Of the 10 showcases that broke the 1k-hit threshold, four were publisher or first-party specific showcases: Sony’s State of Play; the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase; the Capcom Showcase; and Nacon Connect.
Even with such big gaps between total media coverage numbers, smaller showcases still performed quite well. While the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase had an impressive total media coverage number, the average coverage per game was not as high as Devolver Direct, which showcased only five games.
Using the same logic for the top 10 June showcases, the Capcom Showcase had less than half of Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase’s total media coverage, but the average per game showed to be higher.
This is a reminder that while being in the most dominant showcase might be positive, a high number of titles within it might result in less coverage by game due to the shared limelight. It’s also reasonable to presume that some of the bigger showcases will feature higher-profile games, so a smaller title might be overshadowed by heavy competition.
Showcases between Summer Game Fest and gamescom fared well, with Nacon Connect breaking the 1k ceiling during this window.
Unlike Summer Game Fest, there were a limited number of digital showcases during gamescom. This led to more breathing room for titles showcased in these events and led to a better overall average for media coverage per game. While Opening Night Live remains the top showcase for gamescom, we saw half of overall media coverage come from outside of the ONL beat during the event.
With the exception of both Future Games Shows, other showcases within the top 10 for media coverage also provided better average media coverage numbers per title.
Ultimately, factors such as title hype, developer and publisher status, and timing will always be elements to consider for these showcases. From what we see here, though, there are standouts that provide high numbers consistently when it comes to press hits, such as State of Play, gamescom Opening Night Live, and Summer Game Fest. Publisher and first-party showcases can also be quite beneficial, as they generally feature a smaller amount of titles to share the spotlight with. Of course, presence in those showcases requires that a game be affiliated with that company—unless you’re being published by Devolver, you aren’t likely to be in their showcase!
While the coverage numbers for individual showcases are an important consideration, competing titles will always be a factor. There will always be a swathe of games shown during these events, including several standout titles.
Of the 759 games shown throughout the summer, here are the top 20 in terms of media coverage pertaining to the summer 2022 events. The numbers on top of the bars highlight the number of events that particular game was included in.
Of the 20 games above, only three were from independent studios without publisher backing at the time of this study: Goat Simulator 3; Everywhere; and High on Life. This isn’t particularly surprising given the pedigree of other publishers on this list, but it does indicate that indies can pierce through the AAA barrier in terms of attention. Some titles in this list also had their initial reveals during these events, such as Street Fighter 6, Everywhere, High on Life, and Dune: Awakening, which most likely contributed to their success in these showcases. Announcing a game as part of a major event or showcase is a great way to generate coverage and kick off your campaign
As for event presence, barring some exceptions, most repeated appearances diminished in the amount of media coverage produced each time. For example, Street Fighter 6 gathered a strong 1,237 press hits during State of Play, but then received 751 at Summer Game Fest, and 81 during Capcom’s own showcase. We saw this with Goat Simulator 3 and several others, as well. While these titles did secure large amounts of media coverage, there were diminishing returns with each further appearance.
Beat types and asset drops revealed during the showcases also mattered. Street Fighter 6 had its initial reveal at State of Play, a world premiere trailer at Summer Game Fest, and a short spotlight segment at the Capcom showcase. While the two first beats garnered strong attention, press coverage for the spotlight at the Capcom showcase paled in comparison.
Keeping all of these factors in mind is essential when considering participating in these showcases. Securing strong placement won’t make a huge difference in terms of producing media coverage if the included asset or beat isn’t fresh or impressive. That isn’t to say the additional attention isn’t worthwhile; not everyone will have seen the previous showcases, and with so much noise in the industry, it’s helpful to maintain consistent visibility and reach as many people as you can. We’re aware that most of what’s written here is obvious for many who’ve been in the industry for a while, but it still bears repeating.
Analysis and Takeaways
Making Sense of Things
It’s fair to say at this point that not all boats rise with the tide when it comes to showcase placement. As can be seen, merely being part of any showcase during the summer period will not guarantee press coverage. As we pointed out, 54% of covered titles received 10 articles or less. Press, influencers, and gamers can only retain so much information at once, and learning about 759 games in such a short window stretches that attention beyond its limit.
Additionally, having 31 different showcases, with 19 alone within an 8-day period, also splits the attention required to create proper traction. Our analysis here has focused on the top 10 events by media coverage, but some of those not highlighted here generated almost no coverage, making their attendance questionable if one’s goal is to generate press articles.
So, what then is the best approach when it comes to these events?
Does Attending A Showcase Make Sense?
If you’re able to secure placement among a publisher or first-party showcase, odds of collecting strong media coverage will be in your favor. However, even if you land a spot in a top-performing showcase, you’ll need to have a really good asset or substantial announcement to break through the noise.
Financial considerations also need to be taken into account as many of the top events are either invite only (ie. publisher and first-party) or have hefty costs. There are great opportunities to get organic/free placement in these showcases with the right pitch or product, but paid placement can also cost $100-250k+ for some of the major events. From a financial standpoint, we would not suggest paying for placement unless a very strong asset is used, particularly for an existing title that has had a prior reveal.
And again, the considerations listed above focus specifically on press coverage. In terms of social metrics and wishlists, attending events both within and outside of our listed top 10 could still be viable. While we did not have wishlist data for the vast majority of the games which were showcased, some of the titles we worked on made significant gains in wishlists despite light press coverage, with one title making a 2,586% gain in one week.
One of the core challenges for developers is to break through the noise, which involves not only developing a good product but generating constant visibility (and a dose of luck). Each event is an opportunity to get your game in front of potential customers, and if nobody ever sees or knows about your game, you really can’t expect to have a successful launch.
What About Skipping All The Shows?
It absolutely is something that can be considered. While the events provide platforms with thousands (or tens of thousands) of viewers, it does the same for the multitude of other titles which you’ll be competing against. Being able to carve a more opportune window after the noise from the events can provide better reach when well executed, particularly if following up with a key activity, such as an open beta. July generally tends to have more available windows for attention, so pushing any activities to this period can make sense depending on the planned beat and the game’s current state during its campaign.
Other options can include joining thematic Steam sales or other digital events, such as Steam Next Fest, LudoNarraCon, and many other selections which might appear throughout the summer. While this may not always result in significant media coverage, these events do present direct-to-consumer opportunities that can help create a grassroots push that can then lead to press attention.
Only One Path Among the Many
759 games among a total of 31 showcases makes for an extremely competitive environment. If you can land a spot in one of the more attention-grabbing shows with a reveal or a strong new asset for interesting content, there are few better opportunities to generate widespread awareness of your game. But we have to stress: you need to show up with something that will get people talking!
That being said, it’s most likely best to keep something smaller scale (ie. content drop for an Early Access title) to a separate beat, preferably in one of Steam’s digital events or in a quieter period in July. We’ve seen a lot of devs and publishers squander fantastic opportunities in major events with so-so announcements or weak assets; when you’re stacked up against some of the biggest AAA titles around, your announcement or asset needs to shine.
We must reiterate that developing a strong press strategy is only one of the paths to success. Social media presence, influencer marketing, and direct-to-consumer strategies are other key components of a successful campaign. What we aimed to do here was to simply show one facet of an overall picture. While showcases are certainly worthwhile in the right situation, they are not the only solution to creating a thriving campaign for a future release.
And hey, if you don’t want to think about any of this, consider hiring a gaming-focused PR agency to help. We might know one?
If you’re a qualified industry professional who’d like to dig into the full range of data not included in this public version of the study, please email us at [email protected].
We’d also like to give a special thanks to Katie/Firestar1323 for creating the list of titles which showed up at all of the events. It was a huge time saver which allowed us to actually go forward with this study.