Whilst magazine circulation and sales decline (though Game Informer seems to be doing well) and tales of hidden agendas appear, online video gaming journalism has continued its strong rise. How? By producing high quality reviews and news in a medium that fits the industry better. Content like trailers, video interviews and breaking news work much better on blogs and news sites, in much in the same way many other print magazines and news papers are struggling to keep up with the online offering.
Online gaming publications have another big advantage; multiplayer games and achievements mean that offline gaming no longer holds the same attraction, so the audience of video games are already online and ‘social’.
This probably makes it all the more important, as a gaming developer or publisher, to keep tabs on the online conversation that takes place around released or pending titles. Three of my favourite series are all hitting the final journey of their trilogy in the later half of this year, so I though it would be interesting to try and gauge the buzz around the titles and the online marketing efforts of the teams behind them.
Cue some real and some possible fake covers for Gears of War 3 (release date September 2011), Mass Effect 3 (Q4 release) and Modern Warfare 3 (which might not actually be a trilogy and may also be a prequel, and will be released November 2011).
All set to be fantastic games if they live up to their predecessors, all with slightly different audiences and very different expected sales figures (Gears of War 2 sold 7 million copies, Mass Effect 2 sold over 2 million and Modern Warfare 2 pulled in over 22 million). So I was interested to see how they compared after running through a few free online monitoring tools…
It probably makes sense to go through these in order of sales, as that way the result should increase as we go along. And I like nice escalations. So that puts the order as ME3, GOW3 and MW3.
Social mention is the first site I looked at, which aims to give an overview of the reach and number of mentions of the search terms, as well as a stab at sentiment (eek). The tool isn’t perfect by any stretch, so the results probably aren’t hugely accurate, but I guess if all the terms used the same tool then they can at least be compared against each other, even if the numbers aren’t quite right.
So the left is ME3, middle is GOW3 and right is MW3.
The strength of the conversation is defined by Social Mention as being the likelihood your brand is being discussed. The sentiment is the positive:negative mentions. The passion is the likelihood that individuals will discuss your brand again. Reach is a measure of the range of influence; how far the message traveled. It’s also worth noting that this all applies to a 24 hour snapshot. I did it a few times and the results varied a little. So these are all from the same snap shot of about 10:30pm (GMT), which is annoyingly about the time I usually get an idea for a blog post.
As expected, most of the conversation was around MW3, with a mention every minute. MW3 also had the most strength, passion and reach; i.e. more likely to be discussed, discussed repeatedly and for the discussion to be seen by a higher number of people. However, the sentiment is lower than the other two titles. Perhaps because the game appeals to a bigger audience, it also draws more criticism. The issues between Activision and Infinity Ward (and the resulting lay-offs) probably haven’t helped.
I was a little surprised at the low sentiment score for ME3. Though the sales are lower, the sci-fi game has a fairly loyal audience of fans, who often post in forums and upload videos of their characters to YouTube. However, a quick scan through the results reveals the answer and it is the same problem that all sentiment analysis programs; they can’t truly tell the good from the bad. Results such as ‘Mass Effect 3 is the shit!’ or ‘Can’t fucking wait for Mass Effect 3!’ are noted as being negative in sentiment. Much of the content noted as neutral is also positive; some are articles showing screenshots, other are excited Facebook statuses.
As for GOW3, the game being released soonest; the invite-only beta opened at the end of last month, so if sentiment is anything to go by, people are responding favourably towards it, though with fewer authors and less mentions (perhaps because only a limited number of people currently have access).