Every so often in the games industry, something comes along that gives us all a wake up call. It happened with the Nintendo Wii, Pokemon Go, Dance Mats and most recently, Fortnite. Good or bad, Fortnite has made us all realise, yet again, what is possible if we can obtain ‘mass market’ appeal.
However, it feels like the Fortnite effect has not been well received by some global publishers, with the ‘fortnite phenomenon’ being cited as the common reason behind some of the mediocre sales performance of this peak season’s new releases. Our belief, meanwhile, is that initial launch performance indicators appear well in advance of release day and by delving a little into the Fallout 76 campaign, we can give some unbiased insight into how our data can be an early guide.
Firstly look at the top topics covered by PR for the launch period of Fallout 76. The pie chart below demonstrates that the current months coverage for Fallout 76 includes a wealth of ‘Beta’ coverage. This is followed by the reasonably high amount of ‘Guides/How to’ articles and then in third, the controversial ‘Day-one patch’ coverage. However, upon probing into the other top subjects, it becomes apparent that additional controversial subjects are also featuring. This somewhat negative coverage is starting to dominate other more favourable subjects, if we combine the ‘day-one patch’ and the ‘opposed’ coverage.
Although, it’s not only Fallout 76 that’s seen a patch on day one and therefore until we know the full story of other products, highlighting this could be deemed inappropriate, so, we looked for a comparison. Taking another recent release, RDR2, and comparing its coverage over the same period of time surrounding its launch, shows a very different story:-
Perhaps some territories just react differently to perceived bugs and so could it be only one or two countries that suffer vicious press? Is culture so different across the global games industry? When ranking the top countries for Patch and Opposed coverage it seems the top 10 are almost identical. With 15% of articles on average being of less than positive content, with Belgium being the country that clearly stands out. This is an area that needs further investigation, as there may be several reasons for this. For instance, it could be that the relationships with press are not so strong in Belgium, or, by running a word cloud on this territory, it might be revealed that what is a major bugbear in Belgium is not seen in other countries. It is also of note that when running the same query for Battlefield V, the average opposed/Patch/Bug article type was 7% of the overall coverage. (to date and not shown)
Timing is also crucial in understanding the impact of a campaign. It seems that the ‘day one patch’ and the ‘crashing servers’ subjects of Fallout 76 coincide with each other and surround the launch of the title.
At this point in the research it is worth pointing out that it would be quite common practice to now overlay this understanding onto all communication platforms and generalise overall. However, the following summary for Twitter Reweets certainly suggests why this shouldn’t be done.
With the ‘patch’ topic being placed 5th and ‘opposed’ not even registering in the top 10, Twitter is surprisingly showing a very different story to traditional press. Normally a platform where bad news travels fast, more investigation is clearly required here. With a little more time we could find out who posted the bugs & opposed activities, along with the day and time of posts, to investigate if there was a sweet spot in which to exploit going forward. (or for competitors to exploit of course!)
However, Facebook shows a slightly different story again, with the ‘Day-One Patch’ being the 2nd highest post shared.
Due to pre-orders no longer being as important in understanding the initial release day sales, as suggested above, our data can with interpretation, take the sting out of a lackluster day one. To demonstrate this further the following table highlights that 1-month before launch Fallout 76 was suffering a little with poor consumer reaction. Again it is one that would only be revealed if competitive comparisons were made for the same time frame around their own launch periods.
Whilst 8 – 5 weeks prior to launch Fallout 76 was leading the views against other major peak season releases, by 1 month prior to launch the growth was very weak. Growing month on month by 232% could have shown that the game was growing in views if looked at in isolation. However, when seeing the view growth for the other titles in their 2-month prior against their launch month, it clearly shows that Fallout 76 had something adrift. This is also highlighted by the % of dislikes of it’s videos on YouTube, with over 8% reacting with a thumbs down, 4% above Black Ops 4 and the highest one overall.
Facebook reactions showed a similar story, with Sad or Angry reactions being 2% higher than the other selected titles. Although the %’s are relatively small, this highlights how delicate the analysis needs to be in order to interpret the responses. 4% of angry or sad responses surely would not be enough in general to suggest that there might be a problem, however, when looking at the impact against other key releases (or indeed if we did this analysis on its predecessor) there are clear differences to be seen.
We have not focused on… the ‘post launch’ plans announced for Fallout 76 since the coverage has only just started appearing and this may over the coming days show dominance. While small, snapshot analysis like the above certainly has a purpose, it is only the ongoing monitoring of social and traditional press coverage that will give a more complete understanding of the long range ability to predict outcomes. It is also true that other KPI’s are additionally needed to provide a total 360 degree understanding, such as front-page positions, gap analysis to highlight missing authors or media partners, knowledge of whether your articles are exclusive or merely a mention within other coverage, etc. We supply all this plus a lot more to support publishers and developers small and large, so that day one surprises become anything but.