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Analysis: Xbox Demo Fest blasts off 2

So the Xbox One’s pre-release demo event is currently running, and hopefully some of you have checked it out - here's a run-down and analysis (alongside other game discovery news.)

Simon Carless, Blogger

July 23, 2020

6 Min Read

[Hi, I’m ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, which you can subscribe to now, a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

Welcome to the latest ‘GameDiscoverabilityLand’ round-up, where-in I have a few hundred words to recap everything that happened this week. And I inevitably fail, at least on the brevity side of things.

Before we get started, thanks for the amazing response on the Steam reviews/sales ratio survey. You’ve still got ‘til Friday if you want to submit. But we have 220 (!!) responses so far, so it’s going to be a really robust data set. Anyhow… onward!

Xbox Summer Demo Fest - in full effect!

So the Xbox One’s pre-release demo event is currently running, and hopefully some of you have checked it out. There’s around 60 demos available right now (almost all from indie devs or smaller publishers, with exceptions like Destroy All Humans!)

Thought I’d document where it’s being showcased on the console, starting with the Store tab on the Xbox dashboard (even before you open the Store!)

When you go into the Store app itself, you’ll see it has an entire category to itself, which is decent billing:

Finally, here’s what the Game Fest ‘show all page’ looks like - it actually runs alphabetically, with about 12 leftover ‘second set of alphabetical’ games at the bottom of the page, haha:

Since you can look at how many reviews (in the U.S. Xbox store) each game has, I thought I’d briefly document and link to the Top 5 demos:

1. 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin (is alphabetically first, so that may help downloads.)
2. Skatebird
3. Destroy All Humans!
4. Cris Tales (this game is visually gorgeous!)
5. Haven

If you go by reviews, it looks like the most-played demos have around 10x the plays of the least-played ones so far. So plenty of range in there, for sure. There’s also this chart across all game demos on the Microsoft Store, which has different results, so YMMV.

Anyhow, Xbox Summerfest is a really nice way to dip into games you might otherwise not have heard of. I played (and enjoyed) Dandy Ace, for example, which I didn’t know existed before.

So I can’t believe it’s anything but positive - albeit mildly positive, perhaps - for both players and devs. If you’re in it, tell me what you think of the results. And let’s have it happen once a year for all consoles! *snaps fingers*

Steam Summer Festival - the full results!

So, big shout-out to Chris Zukowski for doing the ultimate write-up of Steam Summer Festival’s results, following my slightly more anecdotal comments on the demo showcase a few roundups ago.

Definitely click through for the full thing, but the topline appears to be, for those demos that participated: “Average number of wishlists [added]: 3218; Median number of wishlists [added]: 500; Most wishlists earned by a single game: 41096 (The Riftbreaker); Fewest wishlists earned by a single game: 40.”

One graph I thought particularly relevant - even beyond the Summer Festival - was Chris’ calculation of median wishlists additions per genre for surveyed games:

This data maps fairly well to the kind of VERY broad game facets that I would recommend people make for Steam - to be commercially successful as a small/medium sized game.

(It’s way more complex than this, of course. And getting deeper into tag comparisons would surface a lot more detail. But it’s a super-useful snapshot of where perceived interest and depth is.)

Other Goodness…

Lawks-a-lordy, we’re most of the way through the newsletter already, and there’s still a hefty chunk of content to talk about. Here’s the best of the rest, in no particular order:

  • Would be remiss not to point out the big Xbox/Series X showcase that happened today . Here’s the text round-up, here’s all the trailers, and ID@Xbox also announced some ‘first to console on Xbox’ indie games which I thought notable for you all. These included titles from Annapurna, Raw Fury, Finji, Curve & more. In general, content & outlook ‘as expected’, though I’ll note Microsoft is pushing Xbox Game Pass hard. (Game Pass Ultimate folks get xCloud cloud gaming bundled in, too, which Stadia may be concerned about.)

  • Got an note from Erik Johnson that he’s been tracking the number of free games in Steam’s New & Trending - that’s the graph, linked - and it still seems to be on the upswing. I did get him to clarify from his data, and of the 777 games in those slots in the past few months, 85 of them were free (either just free, or more likely F2P), and 25 of them were ‘prologues’, i.e. demos. Interesting!

  • Good to see European Union regulations introduced for app stores (but not PC/console game stores, sadly!) around ranking transparency, justification for removal of apps, and more. Not convinced this one is a major game-changer, but government regulation & ‘walled gardens’ are a thing game devs need to pay attention to.

  • Thought it was funny that I was just talking about how good paid DLC is, and then rhythm RPG Cadence Of Hyrule debuted a really robust set of 3 DLC (and ‘season pass’) on Switch. Hey, if even Nintendo (and Brace Yourself Games) can get with the program, maybe we should all be paying some attention?

  • The second Summer Game Fest-themed Day Of The Devs showcase - with musical & Keighley prefaces - took place this week (here’s the video). Once again, I thought iam8bit and crew did an amazing job audio-visually and stylistically. But perhaps the announcements were a bit light this time. Petition to have Guerrilla Collective levels of content, but with Day Of The Devs-style curation & presentation for ‘online E3’ next year, please?

  • An anecdote from the very top end of the ‘games are platforms too’ camp, My former colleague Piers Harding-Rolls notes on Twitter that ‘third party created in Roblox’ game Adopt Me [pictured] “is now at 50m MAUs up from 30m in March. Around a 3rd of total Roblox MAUs are playing Adopt Me… Adopt Me studio aiming for 80-100 staff by year end.” Gosh.

Finally, let’s end out with this excellent data-filled sales blog about “modest indie hit game Curious Expedition”. The folks at Maschinen-Mensch have gone above and beyond on the transparency side of things.

Something I wanted to highlight was the game’s gross revenue curve, year on year, since its 2014 (!) off-Steam launch:

If you go deep into their postmortem, you’ll see all numbers of reasons for this impressive maintenance of revenue. These include a Chinese translation, being more aggressive with discounts in sales, and intelligent additions to the core game.

So - great work, devs, and a reminder that extending the tail on your game is one of the best ways to fund your next game.

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About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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