James Cullinane returns to present his second article in the series.
It’s hard to think of a holiday line-up that’s stronger than 2017. Wherever and however you choose to play, you’re spoiled for great choices.
In its 21-year history, GameSpot has only ever scored 15 games 10 out of 10. Two of those, Super Mario Odyssey and Divinity: Original Sin II, were added in the last two months. These are accompanied by a nine “superb” nines, including Call of Duty: World War II, Madden NFL 18, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Total War: Warhammer II, and F1 2017.
I wrote the first instalment in this column in the weeks after E3. In it, I reviewed our audience survey data to get a sense of which titles really performed best at the show, and to augur which games were positioned for success with GameSpot readers this holiday season.
With those releases now out in the wild, we’ll take a look at who is taking the early lead among GameSpot’s audience in 2018.
GameSpot Australia surveyed 540 local readers in the weeks bridging October and November. The survey covered 74 recent and future releases. As always, our Australian subjects were solicited randomly on-site and through our social media channels. Respondents were on average 29 years-old, and reported they play games for an average of 18 hours a week. Our audience’s platform preferences were as follows: PC: 34%, PlayStation 4 family: 33%, Xbox One family: 13%, Nintendo Switch: 5%, other systems: 15%.
As we did after E3, we’ll focus on two key metrics. First is awareness, second is purchase intent. As always, purchase intent is a tertiary question to awareness, meaning only users who are aware of a game are asked whether they intend to buy it.
Here are our readers’ top 10 unreleased games by awareness.
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar Games
- Far Cry 5 – Ubisoft
- The Last of Us Part II – Sony Interactive Entertainment
- God of War – Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Final Fantasy VII Remake – Square Enix
- Spider-Man – Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Dead Island 2 – Deep Silver
- Kingdom Hearts III – Bandai Namco
- Darksiders III – THQ Nordic
- Beyond Good & Evil 2 – Ubisoft
As Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 are the only two titles on the list with a release window and a release date respectively, it’s good to see them at the top. PlayStation’s decision to get some clear air for its 2018 line-up at Paris Games Week has also clearly paid dividends.
It’s curious to see Dead Island 2 on this list. GameSpot conducted an identical survey globally (yielding a largely analogous demographic), so we’re able to compare our results, and Deep Silver’s erstwhile open world zombie adventure simply doesn’t pop internationally as it does here. Compounding the mystery is that hasn’t there been any coverage of Dead Island 2 on GameSpot since January, where it’s aptly checked off in the video feature, “7 Huge Games That Have Gone Missing”.
Comparing our local data with international markets in this fashion also means we’re able to call out titles that are performing more strongly in Australia. This can help to identify local market preferences – as in the case of Dead Island 2 – as well as highlight where local marketing and PR efforts have been more effective than their international counterparts.
Before looking at unreleased titles there’s one highlight from recent releases worth singling out. GameSpot Australia devoted considerable coverage to Microsoft’s Cuphead, headlined by the video feature How Cuphead’s Art Perfectly Compliments Its Gameplay. This content contributed to Australians being 64% more likely to be aware of the game than overseas readers.
The Microsoft Australia team is poised to continue to outperform its international counterparts in 2018.
AU Awareness Over Worldwide – Top 10, Unreleased
Figure – aware above WW
- State of Decay 2 – Microsoft, +37.6%
- Spider-Man – Sony Interactive Entertainment, +29.0%
- Far Cry 5 – Ubisoft, +26.6%
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar Games, +22.9%
- Death Stranding – Sony Interactive Entertainment, +20.9%
- Anthem – EA, +20.8%
- Sea of Theives – Microsoft, +15.3%
- Metro Exodus – Deep Silver, +15.0%
- Darksiders III – THQ Nordic, +15.)%
- Days Gone – Sony Interactive Entertainment, +14.9%
State of Decay 2 enjoyed a huge signal boost from Microsoft’s decision to bring Xbox Studios general manager Shannon Loftis to Australia for PAX Aus. Content associated with Loftis’s Australian interviews are responsible for most of the traffic State of Decay 2 has enjoyed on GameSpot recently.
GameSpot Australia’s preview coverage of Far Cry 5 (“Five Cool Things You Can Do In Far Cry 5”) and Ubisoft’s recent co-op gameplay trailer also resonated with local readers.
It’s interesting that Death Stranding and Days Gone show up here as these titles were conspicuously absent from PlayStation’s Paris Games Week line-up. These are games that have clearly captured the imagination of GameSpot’s Australian readership to a greater degree than in other territories. It’s also possible they’ve enjoyed a kind of recall halo effect as the PlayStation brand commanded the gaming world’s attention in Paris.
Here’s the top 10 unreleased games by purchase intent.
Figure – Purchase Intent
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar Games – 67.99%
- Anthem – EA – 59.2%
- The Last of Us Part 2 – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 56.2%
- Death Stranding – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 55.4%
- Final Fantasy VII Remake – Square Enix – 48.5%
- Detroit: Become Human – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 48.2%
- Days Gone – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 46.8%
- Far Cry 5 – Ubisoft – 46.2%
- Metro Exodus – Deep Silver – 44.0%
- Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Bandai Namco – 43.8%
This list is particularly helpful in understanding where niche titles have connected with their particular audiences, as well as pointing to potential marketing and communications opportunities. For example, only 29% of GameSpot’s Australian respondents were aware of Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human, however, nearly half of those who were have plans to purchase the title. The same is true for Bandai’s cult J-RPG Ni no Kuni II, a game that a quarter of our local readers are aware of. Both are well positioned to harness that core of enthusiasm and share it with wider audiences.
Finally, weighing purchase intent against awareness showcases which blockbusters are presently tipped to dominate 2018.
AU Awareness-Weighted Purchase Intent
Figure – Purchase Intent
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar Games – 50.0%
- The Last of Us Part 2 – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 34.7%
- Far Cry 5 – Ubisoft – 31.2%
- Final Fantasy VII Remake – Square Enix – 26.1%
- Spider-Man – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 23.1%
- God of War – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 20.6%
- Kingdom Hearts III – Square Enix – 18.3%
- Death Stranding – Sony Interactive Entertainment – 17.8%
- Anthem – EA – 15.9%
- Beyond Good & Evil 2 – Ubisoft – 15.6%
It’s immediately clear that some of these titles are perennially favoured by our local readership. Final Fantasy VII Remake hasn’t been in the news since May, when its development underwent an internal restructuring. Our audience’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned. Similarly, Death Stranding has been tagged in a mere handful of articles in the last six months, and most of those are about the game’s auteur developer Hideo Kojima.
Death Stranding is one of four PlayStation exclusives in the top 10, and while these numbers necessarily reflect the mood of our audience at the time we solicited their opinions – a window that covered PAX Aus and Paris Games Week – it’s a remarkable result for the platform and a shot across the bow for 2018.
Whenever Rockstar has talked about Grand Theft Auto the wider entertainment world has given the company its undivided attention, and other publishers have given the franchise a wide berth.
Grand Theft Auto’s cultural clout is derived from its ability to win over audiences far beyond the kind of core gaming demographic which frequents GameSpot and other sites and platforms like it. Even so, for a game to become a broader cultural phenomenon, unbridled enthusiasm must necessarily radiate out from that core, and by every metric we’re following, enthusiasm for Red Dead Redemption 2 is already nearing fever temperatures.
Rockstar has achieved this with just two trailers and a handful of screenshots, but all of these have been pored over and repurposed in granularly detailed analyses, panel discussions, and hypotheticals so that Rockstar’s return on its marketing and communications investment far outstrips that of the typical video game asset drop.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is on a footing to dominate the conversation in 2018.
A little over five weeks out, these are the titles GameSpot’s Australian audience has in its sights for next year. However, it could go without saying that much can change in the months ahead as publishers shift their focus from the current holiday season, and marketing and communications come back online for a large number of games that have been in hibernation. We’ll be watching closely to see whether these early successes can maintain their momentum when we review a new round of results early next year.
In the meantime, I invite any publisher, distributor, or interested party to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more detailed information.