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Game Discoverabilityland: The Season Of Discovery 2

The newest roundup on game discovery includes news on Xbox Summer Games Fest, PlayStation Indies, Apple Arcade/iOS news, and lots more.

[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.]

So, time for the next weekly ‘Game Discoverabilityland’ newsletter. As per normal, this round-up is going to be flitting around a whole bunch of relevant ‘summer season’ topics in a swift fashion.

I hope you’re hanging in there OK, by the way. I know there’s a lot going on in the real world. So I appreciate you taking time to read my thoughts about doing what we all love: making video games that elicit goofy, beautiful, and dumb emotions in people. Sometimes all at once. Aaand, onward to the info….

Xbox gets Summer Games Fest demos too!

As anyone who has an upcoming Xbox One game probably knows, Microsoft has teamed up with Geoff Keighley to offer an Xbox version of the Summer Game Fest demo showcase that already took place on Steam.

Sounds like there will be at least 60, and maybe 75-100 game demos available in the July 21st-27th showcase. Here’s a couple of notable points from the Microsoft write-up:

“Many of these demos are early, and some are for games that won’t be out for quite some time. We’ve never done this before… In other words, think of these as akin to “show floor demos” and not necessarily indicative of the final product.”

“These demos will only be up on the Xbox Dashboard for a week. Some might be re-published to the Demo channel later, but many will simply evaporate at the end of the week, so make sure to check them out while you can.”

One issue/quirk for console versions of this demo showcase is that it does put a bunch of extra strain on the game submission process (which you still need to clear for TRCs, etc.) So it’s actually quite a lot more work for Xbox. But I think it’s pretty darn cool, and looking forward to hearing - off the record, perhaps - how it goes.

iOS things - China blockers, Apple Arcade?

We haven’t been covering premium mobile games much, partly because the business doesn’t generally scale to Steam/console revenues. (F2P mobile game revenue scales WAY beyond Steam/console, of course, but that’s a whole different animal.)

Anyhow, there are a couple of notable updates around iOS games that it’s worth pointing out:

- Apple now requires you to get a Chinese ISBN to publish your paid (or IAP-including) game in the China App Store, starting July 1st, 2020. So you will now need a Chinese partner and to submit the game to the authorities - likely with a long approval delay. (I’ve heard that select premium mobile games, even indies, did very well in China. So this isn’t great, and a likely blocker to revenue success. Let’s hope we never get there with Steam, eh?)

- The subscription-based Apple Arcade service has scrapped a number of deals for Apple Arcade exclusives, as it reframes and looks for titles with stronger engagement/hook. The service has been giving carte blanche - and great $ deals - to independent and medium-sized devs. So it’s a shame for those affected.

Am guessing the choice of boutique-style games for Apple Arcade - high quality, critically acclaimed, ‘slightly artsy’, more than hook-heavy - has not been a subscription hit for them so far. Some say this is another bad sign for short, sweet titles. Perhaps so.

Alternatively, it may be more of a portfolio rebalancing, since Apple still has plenty of other intriguing-looking games with active deals. So we’ll see. Personally, I’d love to see a better balance of games, since the titles I played the most on Apple Arcade (What The Golf?, Cricket Through The Ages) are definitely on the shorter-play but hookier side.

Hype to sales: a logical ratio?

Following up from my recent data-crunching on your first-week Steam sales compared to launch wishlists, I did end up making an additional graph out of the data, as follows (Y axis is logarithmic, line of fit is polynomial, nerds):

The results may seem obvious - the better pre-launch interest, the better sales on average, albeit with major outliers. But it’s interesting because some of these games rated 1 or 2 on pre-launch hype definitely had a lot (>10,000) of wishlists, but still sold poorly.

So this suggests that developers should pay attention to how much interest their game is getting, and not (solely) your wishlists. Wishlists can be highly misleading in isolation. Bottom line: you can’t sit back and relax after a bunch of wishlists, if you don’t know how convertible they are.

[And I know there’s an inherent bias in this pre-launch hype data, since devs were asked to provide it _after_ they knew how well the game had done. I’ll look for other, better metrics.]

Other things….

Look, I’m going to start this roundup by simply linking an embed of Ryan Clark’s latest Clark Tank game success/metrics stream (the archived YouTube version, since it has skippable chapters in it. But you can go to the Brace Yourself Games Twitch page to catch it live & ask questions.)

Why? Ryan’s streams are the video version of what I do here (empirical but non-moneygrabby careful analysis of the market). And his studio’s games (Crypt Of The Necrodancer, Industries Of Titan, Cadence Of Hyrule, Phantom Brigade) are proof that his well-planned business strategy actually works, and he wants to tell others about it.

Moving on, here’s the rest of the goodness:

  • Sony has a new PlayStation Indies initiative which is looking to highlight (and I presume give marketing/store support to!) great-looking PS4 and PS5 indies. Since publicity is oxygen to indies, this is much appreciated - full list of initially showcased games at bottom of the linked post. Also notable: “a new indie title will join the PlayStation Now [streaming] service every month.”

  • Kitfox’s Victoria Tran has written a great post about using TikTok to promote her studio’s games (and generally be light-hearted). So far she thinks: “Amazing platform to engage with a new audience, maybe good for mobile games, but do not rely on it for any sort of conversion for your PC/console game.” But read the whole thing!

  • There were 142 games released digitally on Nintendo Switch in June 2020, according to Thomas Bidaux. That’s the biggest ever release month for Switch with the exception of October 2019, and up nearly 40% year on year (though most of last year was floating between 100 and 120 games per month.) Interesting.

  • Trailer king(TM) Derek Lieu is adding to his YouTube channel on how to make great game trailers. I dug this piece on why establishing shots are not the best way to start your trailer - even if they make you feel like an Oscar-winner.

  • Did you know that Nintendo Switch games that cost 1 cent are excluded from the Switch charts in North America, but ones that cost 3 cents are not? Now you do. (Yes, I’m spending too much time staring at the Switch charts recently.)

  • Micro-links: it’s not games, but here’s how you get discovered on Spotify; check out the state of game streaming platforms in the wake of Mixer’s closing announce; this deeply personal story about an indie and 10 years of game development shows a decade is a LONG time in games.

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