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Q&A: Chris George on IGN GamerMetrics Fall Retail Buyers Guide

In this Q&A with Chris George, Fox Interactive Media's vice president of client solutions we talk about IGN Entertainment's latest GamerMetrics Retail Buyer's Guide, to learn more about its methods, findings, and unique 'mindshare' quotient.
The IGN GamerMetrics Retail Buyer's Guide: Ranking Publisher's ‘Most Wanted’ Fall Releases from IGN Entertainment's GamerMetrics research division is the latest in a series of reports produced by the company since 2004, intended to aid retailers in their purchasing decisions by analysing the product awareness of “more than 30 million gamers”. This latest iteration introduces a new tiered ranking system, designed to ease readability of the report by awarding each title a ranking, and each publisher a score from F to A+. The report’s findings are based on product “mindshare”, which takes into account awareness and purchase intent of IGN users over the previous 90 days. Gamasutra contacted Chris George, vice president of client solutions for Fox Interactive Media to ask about the report’s findings and methodology. What is the aim of the GamerMetrics report? Since October 2004, the IGN GamerMetrics team has been providing video game retailers with targeted monthly reports designed to assist their merchandise, range and assortment planning as well as their open-to-buy decisions. The aim of the IGN GamerMetrics Retail Fall 2006 Buyer’s Guide is to continue to assist the video game retail community with these all important decisions, focusing specifically on all titles launching during Fall 2006. The report leverages IGN GamerMetrics’ massive video game database and the real-time data tracking of over 12 million monthly visitors (ComScore Worldwide July 2006), yielding unparalleled insight into gamers purchase plans. Our 2006 Fall Retail Buyer’s Guide includes brand new features that make it easier than ever for retailers to quickly grasp which titles and publishers are strongly resonating with the gamer community. What is the methodology of the findings? First and foremost, the data presented in GamerMetrics is based solely on the activity and interest of the users who visit and interact with the IGN properties. To create the Fall Retailer Buyer’s Guide, the we analyzed the activity of 440 titles on between May 19th and August 16th, 2006, each of which are scheduled to release between September 1st, 2006 and the end of 2006. We ranked all titles by our proprietary mindshare metric, and assigned a tier based on how well the title performed compared to the average. Tiers 1 and 2 are above average, tier 3 is average, and tier 4 and 5 are below average. In addition to the tiers, we also assigned grades to the three first party publishers as well as the top 15 ranked third party publishers. Publisher grades are based on the combined mindshare of each publisher’s lineup. The higher the publisher’s lineup ranks compared to the average of the Top 50 Publishers, the better the grade. Why do you refer to the 18-34 male market as "hard-to-reach"? Is that in terms of purchasing intent? The 18-34 demographic is one of the most tech-savvy and aware audiences. The rapid rise in media outlets and alternative formats these past years allows users to view content such as 24 on their TV, Prison Break over the internet while staying connected with their friends via mobile telephony, instant messaging and social networking sites such as MySpace – quite often simultaneously. Combine this with the short attention span encouraged by the users’ ability to “change the channel” and we get a very difficult market to reach and impress. The options for media consumption are far greater than they were 20 years ago which makes finding a high concentration of this target audience a valuable channel for advertisers. What is the "mindshare" system, and how does this increase the effectiveness of the report? “Mindshare” is a blended metric that looks at a title’s share of Awareness and Purchase Intent metrics across during a specific time period. Awareness data is taken from the traffic patterns of millions of visitors to, while Purchase Intent data is generated by the 500,000 gamers on our Gamer Panel who provide us information about the titles they have on their Wishlists, Email Alerts lists, and Collection lists. For example, if a title has 2% share of awareness data and 4% share of purchase intent data their average mindshare is 3%. In the Fall Retail Buyer’s Guide, “Mindshare” is based on a three-month block of data between May and August, for all titles releasing during the Fall months. Comparable to a pre-launch market-share metric, mindshare increases the effectiveness of the report because it allows readers to instantly understand the relative strength or weakness of a specific title. How does the "tier" system make it easier for retailers to predict successful titles? The “tier” system is a natural extension of ranking titles by mindshare because it allows retail buyers to easily identify which titles are “safe bets” to sell a significant number of units. In addition, color coding the display of the tiers within each chart provides a simple, but effective way for retailers to quickly and easily discern the level of pre-launch buzz for a title. This system allows us to more appropriately demonstrate which titles are more likely to be successful as determined by the 13 million IGN users (ComScore Worldwide July 2006). How effective as a general judge of consumer intent is IGN? Great question. By making this data available to the industry we take great responsibility in making sure the data is an accurate representation of consumer intent. Additionally, our data analytics group has found strong correlations between the data generated by our users and the actual sell-through data as reported by NPD. We continue to find positive relationships. It is also important to point out that most video game consumer research is based on surveys of a few thousand people that are intended to reflect the entire gaming population. In the quickly evolving video game industry, however, this type of research has a limited shelf life and rarely has the breadth to account for the long tail in video game software. In contrast, IGN GamerMetrics collects more valuable data on more gamers each day than the majority of surveys that you will come across in the industry. This data is bolstered by an incredible editorial team who provide all the necessary content as well as an exhaustive database of over 42,000 titles. What can publishers learn from the report? While the IGN GamerMetrics Retail Fall Buyer’s Guide is aimed at retailers, the data included in the report will be useful to just about anyone touching on the video game industry, particularly publishers. Publishers can find out which of their titles are resonating with the gaming community, as well how their lineup ranks compared to the competition. If a publisher believes that a title is under-performing, the IGN GamerMetrics team can help publishers better understand the key drivers to change consumer perception and awareness of their game, and potentially sell more units in the process. Which title had the greatest mindshare, and what do you think this is attributable to? With almost five percent of audience mindshare over the last three months, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the number one ranked title included in the Fall Retail Buyer’s Guide. There are multiple factors that are attributing to this title’s strong level of buzz: The Strong Appeal of the Nintendo Wii: Since E3 in May, the gamer reaction to the Wii has skyrocketed thanks to its innovative technology and relatively affordable price point. Purchase intent behavior for Wii titles, particularly Nintendo’s first party offerings, reflects this overall market trend. Gamers have been waiting a while for the Zelda sequel: Ever since gamers got a sneak peek of Twilight Princess for the GameCube back at E3 2004, it has fared extremely well in our mindshare rankings. With the announcement of a Wii version, Nintendo has reactivated this core Zelda fan-base and also reached out to new Wii loyalists. Which publishers had the greatest mindshare, and what is that attributable to? Electronic Arts and Nintendo both received an A+ in our new publisher grading system thanks to the combined mindshare on for their respective Fall 2006 lineups. Of EA’s 21 titles scheduled for launch in the Fall, six of them are Tier 1 titles, more than any other publisher in the Fall Retail Buyer’s Guide. NBA Live 07 and Need for Speed Carbon are both looking particularly strong heading into the holiday season. As for Nintendo, its first party titles have historically been crucial to the success of its hardware, and the Wii looks to continue this trend. Nintendo is expected to publish eight Wii titles before the end of the year as well as a handful of titles for the DS. What do you think affects the mindshare of a title - is it attributable to the marketing of a title? The primary factor affecting the mindshare is the fact that there are millions of gamers who use to evaluate which titles are worth their hard earned cash, and mindshare is largely based on how these gamers are reacting to the content they are consuming. In other words, visitors to look to the editorial staff as advisers as to which titles they should buy. This is the key driver of the mindshare metric. Strong Marketing that focuses on messaging the right game aspects to the right audience will pique the interest of the gamer and in turn the gamer will investigate the title across IGN’s gaming properties. If they like what they see, it will absolutely affect the mindshare metric. Does the level of coverage for a title on IGN affect or are there titles in the list that have received attention, but fail to capture the interest of your audience? Yes, the level of coverage for a title on IGN does affect mindshare. If our editorial team does not think our audience will be particularly interested in a title, it will receive less coverage. That said, we have an editorial staff of over 50 people who have seen just about every game since the release of Pong. This team has developed an amazing ability to judge which titles will be of interest to our audience. It should also be noted that editorial coverage on isn’t a one-way process. Editors choose what to cover based on a variety of factors: what titles look promising from a quality standpoint, what games users actively request updates on via forums or emails, and – completing the circle – what titles perform well in GamerMetrics. Are there surprises for you, as someone who worked on the report? One surprise that we call out in the report was the under-performance of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC). Ranked 29th, The Burning Crusade is a Tier 2 title but we fully expect it to be one of the best selling PC titles of the holidays. There are currently about 7 million worldwide subscribers to World of Warcraft, so if only 10% purchase The Burning Crusade, that is still 700,000 units. One explanation as to why this title is not ranked higher is that expansion packs generally do not receive the same amount of pre-launch buzz as stand-alone titles.

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