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[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter, which you can subscribe to now, is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Firstly, thanks to everyone who submitted their (anonymized) Steam revenue to the latest GameDiscoverCo survey. Looks like we’ve got over 50 responses so far, and hoping for at least 100 - so keep submitting that data! And in the meantime, there’s lots more news to cover, as follows:
It’s been interesting to see Facebook’s Jason Rubin (yes, father of Crash Bandicoot) launch its cloud gaming initiatives - free to play, ad-supported, mobile centric, cloud-playable game ads - in a slightly contrarian fashion this week.
When the headline message on your launch announce features Asphalt 9: Legends by Gameloft and is “We’re not going to overpromise and under-deliver… We’re not trying to replace your favorite gaming hardware”, you can see there’s a definite ‘we’re going to zig when everyone else is going to zag’ message.
Rubin expanded upon this in a new Protocol interview, noting: “We're not promising 4K or 60 frames a second. We don't have any premium titles at all. Many of our titles will be mobile. I just don't think the same developer is getting courted.”
It’s an interesting approach, and one that appears gratifyingly low-stakes to start with? And also a little less relevant to most readers of this newsletter - who make premium PC/console games, or so I’ve been led to suppose. But still worth keeping an eye on.
You can read the whole thread on Twitter. But I thought these musings from former Gizmodo founder and current Betaworks Ventures (Rec Room/Dots) investor Peter Rojas - on why social gaming has exploded as people have been stuck at home due to the pandemic - were particularly good.
So here’s some highlights from his notes: “The numbers for social gaming have been staggering. Roblox did 150M MAUs in July, Minecraft hit 131M in Oct. Nintendo has sold over 22M copies of Animal Crossing. Fortnite crossed 350M reg users. Among Us has seen more than 100M downloads & nearly 4M peak concurrent players.
Why have social games proven to be so good at maintaining friendships during this time? Because the prospect of doing something fun together draws us in, while the structured play of the game organizes and facilitates our social interactions.
This is because all games, whether they're video games, board games, or sporting games, are by definition constructed situations with conventions for how to interact that sit apart from regular life.
What social games are able to do (and which virtual worlds that aren't games largely fail at) is to replace the anxiety of unstructured and unbounded social interactions with a highly structured scenario in which we literally have something to do and rules for how we do it.”
The thread continues in some detail, but I like this point: “Social games work because they provide a space for what are often considered to be the four key elements needed for friendships to develop: Proximity, Frequency, Duration, and Intensity.”
Some of these intensely social multiplayer games - like Phasmophobia - are still building out their actual game design, but provide incredibly compelling social experiences in the meantime. Something to think about when fretting about getting your design mechanics perfect before launching?
One of the key writers from RockPaperShotgun’s much-loved history, John Walker, now operates a site called Buried Treasure in which he sifts through games, searching for overlooked works of video game genius. (He has a Patreon if you like that type of thing, folks.)
Anyhow, I thought John’s recent editorial/advice column Getting Your Game Noticed (Is Very, Very Hard) was particularly good - and not just because it mentions this newsletter in it, haha.
When contacting press (or streamers, in fact!), there are all kinds of do-s and don’t-s that even veterans can mess up. As a recipient of tens of thousands (most likely!) of these emails, John knows what he is talking about, and his section headings are simple: “Get into people’s heads… Include the game code in the first email… Don’t ask if you can send an email!… Don’t try to make the writer [or streamer!] feel guilty…”
I also wanted to highlight John’s ‘perfect press/streamer email’ because I think it’s very helpful, so here it is (yes, the included game is not real):
“My game, Lovely Trousers, is coming out on October 52rd. It’s a combination of first-person shooter and match-3, with a story about a pair of trousers that learns the true meaning of happiness, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Here’s a pre-release Steam code: 53V3N-4NGRY-L10N5. Let me know if you’d prefer it on Switch or PS4.
And here’s the website with all the details and a trailer: www.lovely-trousers.con. I’ve attached the press kit. Please let me know if there’s anything else you need!”
Finishing up for this newsletter, there’s a whole bunch more neatness out there on the game discovery/platform side of things. And before we get to the bullet points, just wanted to embed Microsoft’s full UI/platform walkthrough for Xbox Series X|S:
Yes, the store - which you can see starting at 10.55 - is pretty much identical to the Xbox 360 store app which already rolled out, and which we looked at a few weeks back. So that’s good to know!
Anyhow, more news from the space this week:
Ubisoft confirmed that UPLAY+ on Luna and Stadia is now Ubisoft+, and “subscribers on PC will still get unlimited access to… more than 100 games for $14.99 per month, including premium editions* and upcoming releases like Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Immortals: Fenyx Rising.” And a single subscription works across both services “by the end of the year”, which is surprising and cool.
Superdata’s latest digital games market report for September is a good micro-snapshot into guesstimates on the very high end of video game revenue/reach. For example: “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 from Activision Blizzard sold 2.8M digital units, a significantly higher launch figure than the publisher’s previous remakes of Crash Bandicoot or Spyro games.”
Really enjoyed this PC Gamer editorial: ‘PC gaming is really unpredictable right now and it's fun as hell’ from Evan Lahti. As he says: “Each week we have to keep our eyes peeled for something unknown out of left field—an unexpected genre, a developer you've never heard of. We're not gaming in a time where the biggest and most obvious franchises perpetually dominate the charts.” Love it!
The latest weekly Steam top-sellers are headed by Phasmophobia again. But elsewhere, Amnesia: Rebirth also sneaked into the Top 10 and The Outer Worlds finally debuted on Steam (after its Epic Games Store exclusivity) and charting high - at number 4. Such a diverse and interesting set of games.
Over at Polygon, they’ve rolled out a giant cloud gaming overview section, with all kinds of features, including the history of cloud gaming, ‘What if cloud gaming doesn’t catch on?’, ‘How to set up your home for cloud gaming’, and overviews of some of the best games on each cloud platform. Useful.
Microlinks: Steam recently added 'EARLY ACCESS RELEASE DATE' as a public data point (though only to newer games); Microsoft’s game revenues looked pretty darn good (up 22%), thanks to Xbox Game Pass and ‘everything except hardware’; the Unity For Humanity grant program is for those “creating experiences that inspire meaningful change”, and you can get “a chance to be awarded funding, mentorship, and technical and marketing assistance from Unity.”
Finally for this newsletter, I was very amused by this stealth viral marketing for excellent Peggle/roguelike mashup Roundguard (apparently done by a fan!):
[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We’ll be launching a ‘Plus’ paid newsletter tier with lots of extra info/data - watch out for it soon.]