Indie Games: Everything You Need to Know

This is Gameopedia’s Game Terminology and Taxonomy series, where we talk about the different kinds of game categories and aim to give our audience in-depth knowledge about them. This blog covers everything we know about Indie games.

Like we mentioned in our previous blog about AAA games, the classification of games is done based on their budget, scope, and other factors. While these classifications aren’t formalized, they are still useful for game developers and publishers for marketing and e-retailers for categorizing game pages. Customers also gain invaluable information about the potential of a particular game. An important subclass of games are indie games, which have gained huge popularity over the past few decades.

 

What is an Indie Game?

Indie game stands for independent video game. The phrase ‘indie game’ is based on similar ones like independent films or indie music. It is a video game that’s usually made by smaller development teams or even individuals on their own without financial or technical support from large game publishers. This is a direct contrast to AAA games. The indie term is also applicable to games which have creative freedom even if they’re funded by publishers.

Indie games are often very innovative, experimentative, and explore games as art. They can afford to take risks which aren’t taken by AAA games and are unique. They are usually sold through digital distribution channels as a result of lacking publisher support. Indie games have become even more popular over the last two years, going by the increased number of indie releases and the higher price they demand on Steam, arguably the biggest marketplace for indie titles.

Indie Releases in 2021

Here are the stats for indie games released per month for the year 2021.

Those being released over the course of 2020 saw a pretty significant increase of about 25 percent from the previous years, mostly as a result of the pandemic. In 2021, the increase continued, at a YoY rate of about 11 percent compared to 2020’s releases. 

The overall ratings for indie games were also higher this year. In a massive industry like gaming which generated about $180 billion in 2020, while indie games might not have the biggest slice of the pie, they’re still important to the industry.

A key reason for this is that indie game developers are often free of a lot of constraints and pressure for the game to follow popular trends or genres. Indie games tend to be innovative and explore video games as a work of art.

What Makes a Game Indie?

While there is no standard definition for games to be classified as indie, they usually share certain characteristics. These are:

Independence: Indie games are either financially or creatively independent. They are funded themselves or from sources like crowdfunding, and even if they have a publisher, their game has been made without too much influence from them.

Team size: Indie games are often developed by individuals, small teams, or small independent companies which are formed to develop the game. A great example of this is Undertale, which was made by one developer: Toby Fox, who wrote the story, programmed it, and even created music for it.

 

Undertale: A masterpiece programmed by just one person: Toby Fox.

Budgets: Indie games are made off of smaller budgets which are usually from the pockets of their makers or from crowdfunding. 

Creativity: Indie games are usually noted for their innovation, experimentation, and creativity. Limited graphics are often compensated for by gameplay innovation or unique narrative styles. 

Some notable examples of indie games are Transistor, Minecraft, Subnautica, and Celeste.

 

The History of Indie Games

The phrase Indie Game started being used commonly around the early 2000’s. Before that, they were termed as amateur, enthusiast, or hobbyist games. One of the first known examples of an indie game is Spacewar! which was released in 1963 but there is still some debate as to which is the first indie game. 


As personal computers became increasingly prevalent, their availability, as well as easily available BASIC source codes for games, encouraged several people to start making their own games. Around the 1980s, playing a new game could be as simple as coding it yourself using magazines. One of the most popular games during this period was Football Manager, where the designer,
Kevin Toms used his knowledge about football management and board games along with the new technology to make a game– right from his bedroom! However, with this onslaught of games being made, it was harder and harder for them to sell them. An indie developer would either have to publish their game by establishing their own publishing company which was expensive or find a distributor willing to publish it, both of which were difficult. They started giving away pieces of their game in magazines and the like, where if gamers enjoyed the game, they could pay for the full version.

Doom's shareware text was rather provocative, and certainly did the job of selling it.
Search and Destroy's more traditional shareware text entreating players to purchase the full version.

With shareware proving to be a good way to sell and distribute games, especially with Doom proving its massive success, it became a platform for mainstream devs as well. Eventually, with the internet becoming commonplace, digital distribution took off. Game engine developers started offering their software at low or even no cost for indie programmers, and open source libraries also helped them get started. Indie games also began being seen as artsy and innovative. Social and political movements started using indie games to send messages. With Steam taking off and their Greenlight program (which despite being a bit opaque and awkward, still helped indie games), as well as Xbox, PlayStation, and the iOS store making game development on them easier, indie developers had a place to sell their games as well to the rest of the world. With Steam Direct replacing the Greenlight program, Steam became a haven for indie games.

However, around 2015, the perception of indie games began to change. More and more people in the game industry began worrying about an oversaturation of lackluster indie games as a result of how easy it was to make and distribute them. Digital platforms were overcrowded and it was hard for games to gain visibility even if well made. This is still a worry for some but indie games are nevertheless adored by the gaming community for the unique games they bring to the table.

Finally, indie games constantly raise the bar when it comes to innovation. An important result of this is that a lot of the ideas of these games, if successful, are adopted by AAA and AA studios and eventually become mainstream. For example, Frictional Games made Amnesia: The Dark Descent, then Penumbra: Black Plague. Released in 2008, the latter was one of the first survival horror games that focused minimally on combat, ensuring the player felt a real sense of fright when they couldn’t fight their adversaries in game. This game, while revolutionary and successful, did not have the polish of a AAA game. Alien: Isolation, published in 2014 by Sega had a similar concept where a key focus was to get through the horror game without resorting to combat.

 

Penumbra: Black Plague's eerie gameplay contributed to a whole new generation of horror games.

Another game we can take as an example is Player Unknown’s: Battlegrounds (PUBG). Upon this indie release’s stupendous success, several AAA games with similar concepts started coming out like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone. Indie games like Undertale which focused on the player’s choices and characters had a similar ripple effect on RPGs and how player choices can affect in-game relationships and even endings.

Factors Involved In Developing an Indie Game


When it comes to developing indie games, many areas of game development are similar to other types of games. The main difference is how a game being developed doesn’t require a publisher.

Size of teams: Indie development teams can range from a small team of developers of up to a few dozen to just a single person. Several famous indie games like Axiom Verge, Undertale, and Papers, Please were all made by a single person.  Indie games come from many directions. Student projects can turn into future commercial projects for students to work on, or experienced developers can feel creatively burned out and leave to pursue their ideas. Sometimes, indie developers can also be amateur with little experience in the gaming industry and they often have more new ideas and freedom. Usually, indie studios comprise of programmers and developers- game art and music are often outsourced.

Building an indie game: Indie games usually use existing game engines and development kits to build their games. Commonly used engines include Unity and Unreal Engine. Indie developers also tend to use open source software which is free to use but not as advanced technically as their commercial counterparts. When it comes to indie game development for consoles, before 2010, it was extremely difficult. This was a result of software development kits (SDKs) for the consoles costing several thousands of dollars and also having lots of restrictions. Indie developers were usually unable to acquire them. As indie games became more popular though, console manufacturers and mobile device OS providers started releasing special SDKs to build and test games. These were still expensive for larger developers but reduced rates were provided for those who self-published their games on the console or mobile device’s storefront, such as the iOS SDK.

Involvement of publishers: Most indie games lack a dedicated publisher. However, several publishers focusing on indie games have arisen, and they’re called boutique game publishers. Examples of these are Adult Swim Games, Annapurna Interactive, and Raw Fury. These publishers who are themselves experienced in developing indie titles usually provide the necessary monetary support and marketing but don’t interfere in the creative direction of the game.

Finances: When it comes to funding, indie developers don’t usually have a publisher to help them out. New developers especially need to bootstrap, take out loans, or use crowdfunding campaigns to get the funds they need. Another method used is the early access model where interested parties can purchase a beta version early, and get access to the full game later for free, as well as other perks. In recent times, there have been funds established like the Indie Fund where developers can submit grant applications and get seed investment funding. Finally, publishers like Epic Games sign exclusivity deals with developers for certain durations, and the game developers get funding to finish making the game as well as higher cuts of sales revenues. 

Distribution: Before digital distribution platforms gained traction, programmers gave copies of their game to local computer stores to sell. They also placed advertisements in magazines and fulfilled mail orders based on that. Later, the shareware model came out and became popular with releases like Wolfenstein 3D and ZZT. As the internet became the major means of distribution, the mail order method started dying out. Valve originally made Steam to help players update patches for their games and keep them in the loop about updates. It eventually evolved into a digital store for games. Steam began curating indie titles among others, eventually adding Steam Direct where any developer could add their game to the platform for a small charge. 

Recognition: Indie games have a fraction of the marketing budget of AAA games and thus, it is harder for them to be widely known. However, indie games targeted towards niche markets tend to do well. As for industry recognition, several events and awards have been established in the past two decades such as the Independent Games Festival. Indie games have also been nominated alongside AAA games frequently, with games like Hades and Outer Wilds walking away with major Game of the Year awards at BAFTA 2020 and GDC 2021 respectively. 

Hades won awards from almost every major game-related publication or organization, and even those not focused on gaming!

Indie game jams are also a thing, with annual competitions where game developers are asked to design a game prototype based on a concept and preset requirements.

Hades is also the first video game to win a Hugo award, an annual literary award for the best science fiction or fantasy works of the year.

Genre Trends of Indie Games: 2016-2020 Detailed Analysis

This graph showcases the major variations in genre trends across the last five years related to Indie games.

Indie games feature the most amount of releases for the Puzzle genre, where it consistently features in the top 3 or top 5. Puzzle games don’t need to be as graphics-intensive or have a complex setting. They’re more about gameplay and engaging their audience, and thus, easier for smaller studios to make. 

The Platform genre is one of the oldest genres in the industry. However, of late, the genre is fast disappearing from AA/AAA titles, and has found a new home among the indie scene. This genre always features in the top 5, with the total percent of releases falling between 9 – 12% each year. Some popular platform games released recently include Super Meat Boy Forever (Platform, Action), New Super Lucky’s Tale (Platform, Adventure, Action) and Celeste (Action, Platform). This is an interesting trend: if you look at these games, they’re intuitive, easy to understand while challenging to master, and have very unique art styles. While they aren’t always as technically groundbreaking as releases from bigger publishers tend to be, they nevertheless satisfy the most important rule of game-making: they’re fun!

The Future of Indie Games

There is an evolving trend where some AAA publishers have been acquiring indie studios around the world. Between 2016 and 2020, at least 76 indie studios were purchased and the number of them being bought per year is increasing, going from 7 in 2016 to 31 in 2018.  In 2019, THQ Nordic announced they raised $225 million to acquire more studios. Even Netflix has gotten on the bandwagon with their acquisition of Night School Studio in September 2021.

But why are they buying them? Acquiring pre-existing studios is cheaper than building one from nothing. You also get experienced employees along with their intellectual property. An example of this would be EA buying Respawn Entertainment and getting Titanfall. They also buy studios making games they think might be huge, such as Sega’s acquisition of Two Point Studios right after they released Two Point Hospital. Several AAA companies have indie initiatives like EA Originals and Take-Two’s Private Division which let them find nascent creators before they become popular and by extension, expensive. True, they also provide opportunities to indie developers but it isn’t purely out of the goodness of their hearts. AAA studios acquiring indie ones is a win-win: the former get a studio of experienced professionals and the latter get financial security and stability. However, this may come at the cost of what makes indie games indie: their independence.

AAA publishers have been proven to be highly averse to taking risks, and it’s likely that they might use these studios to push out content they think will make money, rather than what they originally wanted to make. Another restriction would be games made by these studios being exclusive to a particular platform. For instance, Microsoft allows The Outer Worlds on the PS4 right now as a result of prior commitments from the platform, but future games will likely be released only for the Xbox and PC. The culture of these companies also changes. The way AAA publishers might treat their new employees is an issue as well. A case of this is Disney closing down LucasArts after getting the Star Wars license because they didn’t want to make games, then farming the license for future games over to EA.

The issue is that when independent studios who’ve made famous games get acquired, they carry heavy expectations about their future games. While they have bigger budgets and access to better technology, they also have to sell massively and perform well. This reduces the likelihood of risk-taking and innovation. These studios are also put to work on projects of their acquirers and their own creative ideas are often put on hold, such as Firewatch’s creator  Campo Santo, who was acquired by Valve, having to put their next game, In The Valley of the Gods, on ice because they were working on Dota Underlords and Half-Life: Alyx.

In the Valley of the Gods has been delayed majorly with no release date in sight as a result of their creators being busy on other projects after being acquired.

It’s safe to say however that indie games aren’t going anywhere. The chief reason for the increase in the number of games released in 2020 despite several famous games like Deathloop and Kerbal Space Program 2 being delayed were the number of indie releases. The working from home situation which came about as a result of the pandemic has not only let developers spend more time on their projects but also let more people who are hobbyist game developers work on their pet projects.

This increase in releases hasn’t just come from low quality projects made by amateurs though. Looking at the prices of the games released in 2020, the average price has gone from $6.3 in 2018 to $7.7 by the second half of 2020. The average reviews for these games are also higher than those released in the previous year, with 78% positive ratings. January 2021 continued this trend, with 756 new games being released, a 17% YoY increase.

Indie games have always been important because of how they push the envelope. This spirit is only growing, and indie games will always have a key role to play in driving the industry forward.

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Using Sentiment Analysis For Video Games

In today’s markets, the customer is at the top of the food chain. There are plenty of products which are your competitors as well as new ones being made. User opinions and reviews make or break a product and one of the industries where this is most apparent is gaming. A badly rated game has a direct correlation with the number of units of it sold. In comparing estimates of sales on Steam to aggregate review score averages, ArsTechnica found that better reviews do generally translate to more sales for games.


Sentiment analysis can be applied to all games, whether they’re successful or not, to improve them. It is a tool that can not only help you possibly fix your game, but by implementing it throughout your products’ lifecycles, you can improve the likelihood of success and overall quality. 

Let’s say that you’re coming out with a new game. You’ve been working hard on it to ensure it’s what you imagined, and will be a hit with your audience. However, once it launches, it fails or just somehow, falls flat. You can think about why your game is failing but you might not be sure where the issues are. Sentiment analysis can help you with these problems.

What exactly is sentiment analysis, and why is it so important?

What is Sentiment Analysis?

Sentiment analysis is a powerful marketing tool that enables you to understand customer emotions. It detects positive or negative sentiments in text and is used to gauge brand reputation, gain insights on your customers’ needs, and see how your product is being received.

Sentiment analysis for video games involves tracking and analyzing real-time audience sentiments right from when a game is announced up till the present day. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Text Analysis techniques to highlight subjective information from text from your target audiences. It even anticipates your users’ actions. Sentiment analysis also monitors opinions for each individual aspect of the game ranging from the gameplay and graphics to the story, and more. Understanding what your users think can help you evolve your roadmap as needed to maximise success.

Gameopedia has created a detailed framework which takes the sentiments of not just customers, but also those of critics and influencers to provide a comprehensive view of the industry’s opinion of your game. This framework helps us track sentiments across various individual aspects of a game such as mechanics, audio design, and narrative.

How Sentiment Analysis Can Help Your Game:

Sentiment analysis can not only help you understand what people think about your product but brings way more to the table. When the insights from sentiment analysis are applied to your product roadmap, the benefits are myriad:

  • Useful for understanding what people feel about your product during the ideation and development stages as well as post-release through surveys, competitor analysis, and the like.
  • Helpful for analysing sentiments about your competition.
  • Boosts sales and product reputation by implementing insights from analysis.
  • Helpful for tracking sentiments across various individual aspects of a game like combat, characters, and the like.
  • Helps improve product and brand recognition with your audience.
  • Track the level of advertising success.– Measures customer loyalty and satisfaction.
  • Aids in increasing customer retention.

Sentiment Analysis Throughout a Game’s Lifecycle

Sentiment analysis is a valuable tool because it can tell you what your audience thinks of your game right from when you announce it till date. This enables you to constantly improve and enhance it based on feedback which can drive up engagement and sales. Factors such as the quality of gameplay and narrative, how efficiently the game performs, the standard of graphics, the value for money it provides, and more are considered across the game’s lifecycle. Opinions for the aforementioned factors are derived from a variety of places such as critic and influencer reviews, user reviews, posts on social media and forums, and more. All of these taken into account can make your game significantly better. Let’s take a look at the game lifecycle and how sentiment analysis comes into play.

Planning and Pre-Production:
Using sentiment analysis during this stage can help you understand what game to make, what features to include, and ideate better. Competitor analysis is also something which you can do with sentiment analysis to see where your competitors are both winning and lacking and create content on that basis.

Announcement:
This can tell you whether the general idea of your game as well as the genres/ideas you have for it are received well or not. It can help improve the direction your game goes in.

First Reveal Stage and Trailer Launch:
Sentiment analysis here lets you track the buzz about your game on social media and lets you know whether it’s positive. You can also track separate sentiments about your company as well. For instance, response around your game might be mixed but feedback about your company might be positive.

Gameplay Footage Launch: Once you release footage of your game, look for sentiments about your gameplay breakdown. You can find out what your audience is hyped about or hates, be it world and audio design, character abilities, game mechanics, and more.

Game Launch: You would want to look for sentiments, positive or negative, about the game’s narrative, length, performance, gameplay, graphics, replay value, as well as any bugs or issues which might crop up so you can hot-fix or deal with them. 

Post Game Launch: Once you’ve launched your game, you want to know whether your audience feels like it’s good value for money, as well as the overall opinion regarding it.

Updates/DLC Launches: Here you consider user and critic reviews and ratings apart from sentiments on social media and forums. You want to find out whether your new releases provide your customers with value for money, as well as what they feel about the quality of the releases.

Who Sentiment Analysis can Benefit

  1. Game Developers and Publishers: Apart from letting you know the overall sentiment about the game, negative feedback can help you identify specific problems that need to be solved while knowing your entire game isn’t negatively received. Positive sentiment about certain characters or mechanics can also be noted to create more content around them like DLCs.
  2. E-commerce Portals and Retailers: You will get an idea before a game’s launch about how it’s being received. When pre-order time is coming up, if the hype and sentiment surrounding a particular game is good, you can highlight or promote it to ensure more sales. On the contrary, if a game’s sentiments are negative, you can remove them from your list of recommendations and replace them with better performers.
  3. Advertisers/Marketers: Sentiment analysis is an excellent tool for knowing which games to market and promote, as well as help in identifying those with high click rates to focus on more. It can also help with monitoring brands and look at the volume of brand mentions, as well as the quality of those mentions.
  4. Game researchers and analysts: Sentiment analysis can help you understand games better, how they work, and learn more about them by looking at what your audience likes or dislikes about them.

The Challenges Associated with Sentiment Analysis

The biggest challenge for a sentiment analysis tool is to find technology that can understand nuance. Things which machine learning and NLP might have trouble with are:

  1. Polarity and Context: if you ask a question where you ask for likes and dislikes, even if a user likes your product, they might give sentiments based on whether your question is positive or negative.
  2. Irony and Sarcasm: People can express their negative sentiments using words which are detected as positive by machines. For instance, if someone asks if you like a game you don’t, you can be like “Yeah, sure, it was really fantastic <puke smiley>” which technology can have trouble interpreting.
  3. Emojis: When it comes to social media, especially tweets, a lot of them incorporate emojis which can be hard to read and interpret.
  4. Comparisons: Sometimes it can be hard for ML tools to understand whether comparisons being made are positive, negative, or neutral. A statement like “This is better than having nothing, I guess.” can be hard to classify.
  5. Individual Aspect Sentiment Identification: It can be hard to capture the sentiments for individual aspects of a game such as the gameplay mechanics, story, music, and the like.

    We fact check our results manually to ensure we capture these nuances perfectly and to train our tool better.

Our Technology

Gameopedia’s vision for sentiment analysis is a hybrid of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology and human insights. The first two will help pick up on positive and negative keywords in text as our tool analyzes content from social media, forums, reviews, and the like, while the latter can help with nuance and things like sarcasm to make sure our analysis is accurate.

Sentiment-Analysis-for-video-games
Sentiment analysis can be useful across a game's entire lifecycle.

Gameopedia’s vision for sentiment analysis is a hybrid of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology and human insights. The first two will help pick up on positive and negative keywords in text as our tool analyzes content from social media, forums, reviews, and the like, while the latter can help with nuance and things like sarcasm to make sure our analysis is accurate.

If you require sentiment analysis for your needs, Gameopedia can help you out. We combine the latest in AI, NLP, and human expertise to accurately measure consumer and critic sentiment across user reviews, social media, discussion boards, editorials, web stores, and more. Talk to our game data experts or email us at services@gameopedia.com.

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Game controlling

AAA Games: A Comprehensive Guide

This is Gameopedia’s Game Terminology and Taxonomy series, where we talk about the different kinds of game categories and aim to give our audience in-depth knowledge about them. This blog covers everything you need to know about AAA games.

 

In the gaming industry, the classification of games into categories based predominantly on the games’ budget, scope, and the like can be done into AAA, AA, and Indie games. These classifications are informal and used mostly by game developers and publishers for marketing purposes as well as e-retail portals to categorize game pages. They also provide information to customers about the games’ potential.

The video games industry generated almost $180 billion in 2020. While exact figures for all AAA game-related revenue is hard, Free-to-play (F2P) Triple-A games make up for a major chunk of income, with Fortnite: Battle Royale alone contributing a massive $5.1 billion revenue in 2020.

AAA title games have always been an eagerly anticipated bunch of releases by gamers around the world. What makes them so significant to the gaming industry though? Let’s dive in.

How do we define AAA Games?

We need to start with defining what exactly a AAA game is. Triple-A games are generally classified as those which have a significant budget for production as well as marketing, and which are conventionally developed by major studios and publishers. As a result of this, these high profile games are expected to be of excellent technical and graphical quality with top notch mechanics, minimal bugs, and high production values. The term came into existence in the 90s.

Below are some examples of AAA title games, where we also go into what makes them so. The characteristics we’ve noticed are:

 

  1.  Development budget: These games have a massive budget, usually ranging upward of $50 million. For example, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had a development budget of $81 million. It is estimated that GTA V cost over $137 million just to develop.  
  2. Team size: The production teams for AAA title video games are huge, with at least 50 to 100 employees working on it. For instance, at Ubisoft, AAA game development involved 400 to 600 staff for open world games, split across multiple locations and countries 
  3. Game scope: These games usually have several features and modes and are narrative based. 
  4. Genres: Action, Adventure, Shooter, RPGs, and Sports are the most commonly seen genres.
  5. Graphics quality: They are expected to be high quality and have the latest in graphics technology such as real-time ray tracing, particle effects, and detailed textures.
  6. Technology usage: They tend to use the latest technologies like game engines, custom development tools, and more. These studios often develop their own proprietary game engines, such as Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and use expensive technologies like motion capture to render gorgeous cinematics and smooth character movement. These games are made for newer generations of consoles and a higher calibre of PCs.
  7. Marketing push: Marketing budgets can also be similar to or even higher than the development cost. An example would be Final Fantasy VII, which cost around $45 million to make, and had a U.S. marketing budget of around $100 million, back when it was released in 1997. Marketing often focuses on generating hype for the game through a large number of campaigns, sponsorships, collaborations, and the like. An example would be Madden NFL 2002 buying Super Bowl ads. Beautiful cinematic trailers and bonuses on pre-orders are other ways these games have improved marketing.
  8. Level of game polish/number of bugs: Triple-A games should ideally be well polished and have a small number of glitches or bugs due to the large number of people working on it and budget. Hiring famous and established voice actors and character models is a well-established process for these games.
  9. Franchise release: These games are usually intended to become a franchise post-success. For example, Skyrim, Dragon Age Inquisition, and FIFA.
  10. Studio size and whether they’ve made AAA titles before: These games are usually made by large, established studios or talent experienced in making them.
  11. Higher threshold for success: Ideally these games sell upward of 2~ million copies to break even if not be profitable, though this depends on their total budget. When The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launched in 2015, it sold nine million units that year. In May 2020, the developing studio CD Projekt Red announced it had sold 50 million units in a tweet.

Let’s look at an example.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2: A AAA game
Destiny 2: One of the most popular AAA releases.
  1. Development budget and marketing push: According to Activision Blizzard’s CEO, it costs $500 million to develop and market Destiny games.
  2. Team size: For Destiny, according to Butcher, the game’s lead engineer, “If you count all of the test and development and support staff then we’re over 400 people.” Destiny 2 has at least that many if not more, considering the new content they keep releasing.
  3. Game scope: The game features a multiplayer “shared-world” environment with elements of role-playing games. Like the original, activities in Destiny 2 are divided among player versus environment (PvE) and player versus player (PvP) game types. There have been several massive expansions as well, with the latest being new Halo guns being released as a reward as Bungie celebrates their 30th anniversary.
  4. Genres:  It is a free-to-play online-only multiplayer first-person shooter video game released in 2017. It was originally a pay-to-play release but in 2019, was made F2P.
  5. Critical reception: Destiny 2 received “generally favorable” reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic. Its gameplay and story were both highly praised by several reviewers and publications. It was nominated for and won Best PC Game of 2017 at the Game Critics Award.
  6. Graphics quality: The game’s graphics and gameplay were both highly praised by publishers. 
  7. Technology usage: It was released for the latest generation of consoles available then (the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) as well as Windows, though you would need a mid to high range PC to properly play the game. Later, when Google Stadia was released, Destiny 2 was re-released as an F2P game by Activision across all platforms. It has recently been upgraded for the new generation of consoles (the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S) as well.
  8. Level of game polish/number of bugs: Destiny 2 was relatively free of game-breaking bugs and came well-polished. The game’s frequent patches and updates tend to ensure this is consistent.
  9. Franchise release: This game is a part of the Destiny franchise, with similar gameplay elements and lore. 
  10. Studio size and whether they’ve made AAA games before: Bungie, the studio behind Destiny 2, is also responsible for creating the famous Halo franchise.
  11. Threshold for success: In 2017, post-release, Bungie shared that millions of people had played Destiny 2, with as many as 1.3 million doing so at the same time. It was also the second highest-grossing console game of 2017 in North America, and was Activision’s biggest PC release based on units sold. Activision also said that Destiny 2 set a day-one sales record on the PlayStation Store.

Why are AAA Titles Important?

AAA games are vital as they historically have driven the industry and pioneered innovation.  An example of this are the Triple-A titles produced during the late 1990s and early 2000s. They brought a shift towards more narrative-driven games that mixed storytelling elements with gameplay. With larger budgets, developers found new innovative ways to present narrative as a direct part of gameplay rather than as pre-rendered cutscenes. Half-Life was one of the first of these new narrative games to nearly eliminate cutscenes in favor of interactive storytelling mechanisms.

Half-Life: The game that turned cutscenes into narratives with gameplay.
Half-Life: The game that turned cutscenes into narratives with gameplay.

AAA title games are likely to continue in this manner. They offer recognition to their production and development teams which aids in getting talented personnel, epic entertainment experiences which attract large audiences, and access to new technology which fosters major innovations. Games and gamers will continue to evolve, but the scale and scope of Triple-A will continue to be vital to provide amazing opportunities.

AAA games can provide the resources, stability, and talent to make the games all of us aspire to play someday.

History of the AAA Game Industry

The term “AAA” started to be heard frequently in the late 1990s, when a few development companies started using the expression at gaming conventions in the US. The term was borrowed from the credit industry’s bond ratings, where “AAA” bonds represented the safest opportunity most likely to meet their financial goals.

One of the first video games that was developed at an Triple-A scale was Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy VII in 1997, which cost an estimated $40–45 million (post adjustment for inflation, $64–73 million) to develop, making it the most expensive video game ever produced up until then. It had unprecedented cinematic CGI production values, movie-like presentation, orchestral music, and innovative blend of gameplay with dynamic cinematic camerawork. Its expensive advertisement campaign was also a novel venture for a video game.

One of the first AAA games ever made
Final Fantasy VII: One of the first AAA games made.

This spurred on future AAA title releases to have a strong emphasis on innovation and narrative-driven gameplay set amidst state-of-the art graphics.

 

The Most Famous AAA Studios

Now that we’ve examined what exactly makes a AAA game, below are some of the most beloved and prominent Triple-A studios with their popular releases. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means- it is just meant to provide you with an idea of what kind of studios develop and publish these games.

  1. Square Enix (Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider)
  2. Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry)
  3. Riot Games (League of Legends, VALORANT)
  4. Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto)
  5. Nintendo (Mario, Pokemon)
  6. Activision (Overwatch, Call of Duty)
  7. EA (FIFA, Battlefield)
  8. Bethesda (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout)
  9. Capcom (Resident Evil, Street Fighter)
  10. Sony Interactive Entertainment (God of War, Gran Turismo)

Prominent Genres and Trends of AAA Games

In one of our prior articles, we explored genre trends in the console market across the past five years for AAA, AA, and Indie releases. This graph below showcases the major variations in genre trends across the last five years related to Triple-A games.

AAA Genre Trends

You can see that two genres feature consistently at the top every year – Action and Adventure. Some of the popular games belonging to these two genres over the past five years include Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Action, Adventure), Red Dead Redemption 2 (Adventure), and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Action, Shooter). 

Some of the most well-received Role-Playing Games of the past five years are all AAA titles. These include Final Fantasy VII Remake (Role-Playing) and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Role-Playing, Adventure).

Sports games have been consistently popular with AAA publishers as well. There’s a reason for this: licensing costs for these sports leagues go into hundreds of millions of dollars and only AAA studios can really foot this hefty bill. 

FIFA: One of the most prominent AAA games
The licensing fee for FIFA and other franchises can skyrocket into the millions.

There are a few annual sports franchises – FIFA, NBA 2K, Madden NFL, and NHL – which make up for the bulk of sales and media attention each year.

Franchises

Quite often, AAA title games are intended to be a series of games under a similar title or set in the same universe. Popular characters come back and/or are referred to, and the storyline may continue. The technical definition of a video game franchise would be an iterative series of game products developed around a demand for the services/value of the intellectual property. Once a new single and unique game is released and copyrighted, the brand is established with the first iteration consisting as the IP’s basis of design and definition.

 

AAA titles are unique amidst other game types because they are developed often with the intention of being a franchise. The massive investment these games require means that they become franchises if the initial game is successful. An example of this not occurring would be Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. This was an action RPG game released in 2012 with a sequel planned, developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games. The studio secured a $75 million loan guarantee from the economic development board of Rhode Island for establishing 38 Studios within the state and promoting job growth. The initial sales within the first three months post-release were around 1.3 million. Though impressive, Rhode Island recognized that the title was expected to have hit 3 million units by this point for 38 Studios to pay back the loan. 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was a game that deserved but didn't get its sequel (yet.)

38 Studios defaulted on one of the loan repayments, leading to a publisher to pull out of a US$35 million investment in a sequel. The studio managed to make the next payment, but could not make payroll or other expenses, and shortly later declared bankruptcy by May 2012. On the contrary, games like Call of Duty, FIFA, and the like, once successful initially, have continued being a great source of revenue for their developers and publishers. 

Publishers like going for franchises because they already have a dedicated fanbase who would be interested in the game beforehand and this increases copies sold. It is also easier to build upon a pre-existing universe and lore. The most successful video game franchises have been made by AAA developers and publishers and remain popular till date because they have developed a large audience over time while maintaining a reasonable quality to their products to keep their players happy.

The Future of AAA Games

When AAA games started out, the focus was on pushing out innovative single-payment games with great narratives, gameplay, and state-of-the-art graphics. However, with budgets being so high for these games, they had to think out of the box to beat their competition and make a profit. One of the major ways they did this was after the release of the 7th generation consoles. Along with the internet capabilities of that time, these studios were now capable of releasing optional post launch content for games. Games received bonus content in the form of DLCs, which added new areas, quests, and storylines for the player to enjoy. 

A lot of AAA games these days follow the GaaS- games as a service. GaaS is a business strategy while F2P is a revenue model. The most successful AAA titles which use this model ensure that they are transparent about what players get by buying a subscription or season pass, and that this is more than the cost of entry. Another thing to note when it comes to GaaS games is how they manage tie-ups and sponsorships. Whether it is Valorant’s Zedd x Valorant series of gun skins or Fortnite’s various collaborations with movies, shows, and musicians, they capitalize on several fanbases to sell add-ons to their players that make them happy.

Fortnite
Fortnite makes a LOT of money off its skins from other famous franchises like Marvel, DC, and even anime like Naruto.

However, microtransactions, loot boxes, and the like which necessitate additional payment from players for uncertain rewards, especially when it’s hard to grind these rewards which are almost compulsory for game progression for free, have proven unpopular. These questionable business tactics have led several gamers to boycott such games. It is however heartwarming to see games like Borderlands 3- a game where loot boxes and microtransactions can thrive- outright stating that there would be none of those. And they kept their promise. Studios which manage to successfully make and sell games without resorting to microtransactions and loot boxes continue to be well received.

Another trend to notice: in the last decade, free-to-play GaaS AAA games have more than proved their mettle as revenue generators, with games like League of Legends, Apex Legends, and Fortnite generating billions of dollars in profit for their developers and publishers, while also driving a related industry up significantly- esports, which in turn improves their popularity and brings in more players. 

AAA giant Ubisoft said that they would be “focusing less on AAA games” and more publishers seem to be heading down a similar route as mobile games prove to be the area of largest profit. More and more Triple-A studios are looking towards GaaS and F2P games to bolster their profits. This however doesn’t mean that Triple-A games are dying. AAA titles will always be a dependable bastion for gamers to return to for their preferred franchise, such as the latest FIFA or newest Assassin’s Creed release.

It seems likely that the future of AAA games will proceed in three major directions: 

  1. An increase in adoption of the Games as a Service (GaaS) model for games which are extremely rewarding for their players and generate a good deal of revenue.
  2. The usual franchises remaining as popular as they always have been thanks to their dependable fanbases, as well as established AAA studios trying to make high-quality games for the new generation of consoles and computers.
  3. New developments in technology such as VR and AR leading to games that are the first of their kind.
Half Life: Alex
Half-Life Alyx: A stunning tribute to what VR gaming can be.

According to Harold Ryan, ex-president/CEO of Bungie, the studio that developed Halo and Destiny, “At their best, Triple-A games can be a generation-defining experience with an oversized cultural impact. They have the power to inspire and influence gamers to become developers.” While games at the end of the day derive their value from the enjoyment they provide to their players, AAA titles show no sign of losing their relevance now, or in the future.

We at Gameopedia have specialized in collecting and curating game information for the last 12 years and have been working with companies across the gaming ecosystem. From release dates, genres, and descriptions to in-depth game breakdowns, we strive towards providing the best to our clients. Reach out to us at services@gameopedia.com to learn more about our offerings.

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[Use Case] Using Localised Game Metadata For eCommerce Platforms

The video game industry was valued at $173.70 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $314.40 billion by 2026. E-commerce portals net a significant percent of this through video games sales revenue. When it comes to these e-retailers making video games discoverable to their consumers, it is vital that the game related information, media, and the like are accurate and up to date. The most important of these is video game metadata. We’ve already gone into detail about what video game metadata is as well as some best practices for game metadata management

To quickly recap, gaming metadata is any sort of information that gives the reader insight into the game, be it titles, character names, setting, and the like. Anyone who is a part of the gaming ecosystem, from retailers to your consumers, use game metadata at some level. In this article, we will endeavor to examine a particular use case of gaming metadata- localized metadata.

There is a need for reliable and detailed metadata at every level of the industry, starting from game development, all the way to sales. A major pain point is when monolingual metadata is used across multiple regions. This reduces ease of access for customers who might not be well-versed with the language and can negatively impact sales. Another issue is when e-retailers tend to cut corners and simply run video game metadata and information through a translator for different languages. Not only can this prove inaccurate, it can also be wrong as often, game data such as names, characters, and the like tend to vary across regions.

Gameopedia’s localized metadata can solve these issues. We provide rich video game metadata from over 180,000 games with millions of facts and insights, across four continents. Our repository is one of the most comprehensive, curated collections of video game metadata, facts, and information.

Who Can Benefit From It?

E-commerce businesses, content distribution platforms, cloud gaming platforms, video game developers and publishers, and whoever else might require high quality video game metadata for their use.

What Localized Video Game Metadata Entails

Quite often, video game information in various regions can be different from one another. This could be the game’s title, protagonist names, publishers, release dates, descriptions/burbs or other details. Making sure your metadata is localized and is updated for consumers from these regions is an important task. 

US e-commerce portal's page for Cyberpunk 2077 Collector's Edition
Japan e-commerce portal's page for Cyberpunk 2077 Collector's Edition

The Need for High Quality Localization of Video Game Metadata

There is a necessity for high quality localized metadata to solve a lot of issues for your e-commerce page. Here are the important ones:

1. Accurate and Nuanced Translations: Finding accurate information can be a challenge. For instance, in Final Fantasy VI, the Japanese name of one of the villains was Orutorosu, a reference to Orthrus/Orthros, a character from Greek Mythology. However, the English translator didn’t make this connection and the enemy ended up being called Ultros. Later, translators realized their error and changed it back to Orthos, though in different Final Fantasy games, he is known as either Orthros or Ultros. Other times it isn’t as simple as word-to-word translations. Quite often, game content gets altered over geographies and cultures. A case would be in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, where for the North American releases, developers changed the names of the sports teams referenced in the dialog to be more relevant to US audiences. The likes of Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants became the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

 

2. Regional changes to visuals: On occasion, a game can look different across regions. You need to ensure that the video game information, trailers, and images you provide are accurate and tailored for that region. For instance, in the German version of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and Call of Duty: World at War, the Nazi imagery prominent throughout the game in other regions is absent or altered.

Nazi imagery changed for the German release of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. (Source: The Gamer's YouTube.)


3. Regional Game Titles:
Games can be titled differently across regions for a variety of reasons ranging from cultural to publishers’ choices. A significant example of this is the popular Yakuza franchise. The first game was released in Japan originally as Ryū ga Gotoku (Translation: Like a Dragon). The game was released in North America as Yakuza (The Yakuza are members of an organized crime syndicate originating in Japan).

 

4. Regional Publishers: Games often have different publishers for different regions. For example, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was published in the US by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Inc. and in the UK by CD Projekt S.A.

5. Age Ratings: There is no global standard for video game age ratings. Often disagreement arises about areas such as graphic violence, virtual sex, violent and gory scenes, partial or full nudity, drug use, and the portrayal of criminal behaviour, and more. There are approximately 21 rating bodies across the globe. For example, in the US, Saints Row The Third- Remastered, comes with Age Rating descriptors of Mature, Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Users Interact, but in Japan, its simply Z, Crime, Violence.

6. Release Dates: Games are released on different days globally quite often for a variety of reasons. For example, in the US, games usually release on Tuesdays while in the UK, they come out on Friday. Games can also take longer to release in a particular region due to delays with ratings, translations, and the like. Having accurate release dates is essential when it comes to your games’ metadata. For instance, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released in the US and UK on the same day (19-05-2015) but the Japanese version was released on 25-05-2015.

7. Blurbs and Descriptions: Blurbs and descriptions can vary regionally based on cultural nuance and translation differences. Ensuring the correct version is posted on your e-retail portal is vital for good sales and conversions.

English version of the description of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Japanese version of the description of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.


8. Box Art
: Box art differs globally, especially between Western and Japanese editions of games. Making sure the correct regional box art is on your e-commerce page is important information for your customers.

US Box art for Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
US Box art for Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Japanese Box art for Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Japanese box art for Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword


9. Price of the Game:
Game prices can differ across regions. Accurate pricing of games on your ecommerce site is a must to make sure your customers aren’t misled. For example, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt costs USD$66.79 in Australia from the official GOG portal rather than USD$50.99.

 

10. Region-specific Editions: Games across different regions might have differing content despite the editions having the same name. These editions may vary in content, extras, and the like. For instance, in the collector’s edition of Resident Evil 3, the US edition only comes with a digital copy of the game’s soundtrack, whereas the EU version has an actual physical copy of it along with the other collectibles. Making sure your list of regional editions and details related to them are accurate is essential for your e-commerce site to thrive. 

There are several more cases where names of games, characters, places, and more are altered based on the region they’re released into. Having accurate and localized metadata is essential for your e-commerce enterprise to succeed and for audiences to know about, understand, and buy the game. Apart from solving these challenges, localized metadata also provides you a host of benefits.

How Localized Metadata Benefits your Customers and You

Once your metadata is localized for your consumers, you can see a variety of benefits such as:

– Localized game metadata improves game discoverability as customers in a particular  region will be able to search for it with greater ease.

It can help boost sales on one’s e-commerce portal significantly. ASOS operates a 100% ecommerce business where 60% of their sales come from abroad. This is a result of a multilingual localization strategy.

It helps retailers foray into new international markets. Accurate localization helps customers understand what they are buying and helps build trust. For example, in Spain, a majority of people prefer to consume content in Spanish as opposed to English. Almost 75% of online search queries are in Spanish, and only 28% of Spanish people speak English as a second language, with varying degrees of proficiency. Localizing your portal for multiple languages is vital if you want to succeed in that market.

It offers a personalized experience to your customers and this can help significantly with retention. 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

– It helps your portal appear higher on search engine page results and can thus improve ad revenue and visibility of your e-commerce site.

Why Choose Gameopedia

Gameopedia has you covered with extensive localized video game metadata coverage across four continents. Our expertly-curated video game metadata is constantly updated to provide you with the latest game information. We serve every sector of the industry with SEO-friendly game descriptions, facts, detailed game breakdowns, screenshots, videos, and trailers. 

Reach out to us for accurate localized metadata and video game information for over 180,000 games, spanning across 200 platforms.

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The Problem with Video Game Recommendations and How the E-Commerce Industry can Improve Them

Have you ever browsed through what seemed like Steam’s entire catalog trying to find a game you might like? Have you spent more time on Netflix trying to decide what you want to watch as opposed to watching something? These are problems most of us have faced or are facing, and are a result of several factors, especially lack of personalization.

Personalizing your products for your customers is critical in today’s world. One can see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences. Companies want their customers to be aware of how they are catering specifically to user needs. For example, if you’ve played a shooter game, you might be recommended to play another just because other people who liked the first game you played also enjoyed this. Your reasons for playing the former might differ from the others and thus, the latter might not be a good fit for you. The lack of good video game recommendations reduces trust in these companies to provide a good service experience. 

From the companies’ end, good customer experiences help in generating income, as well as differentiating themselves from the competition. An e-commerce company needs to focus on three things to thrive:

  • Increase the acquisition rate of new users
  • Increasing conversion rates of your users
  • Ensure that users don’t leave (reduce churn)

The Importance of Recommendations

Personalization has become a major factor in the success of e-retail companies. Whether it is addressing customers by name in communications or providing them with special offers based on their interests, online stores are increasingly focused on improving this.

Recommendations are the deepest level of personalization and are a necessary feature to be added to their portal. They are integral for both customers and the companies which cater to them for a multitude of reasons we will look at. For a customer, they provide the following benefits:

  • A significantly better user experience
  • A sense of being understood and seen
  • More personalized benefits and deals

For companies, the benefits are just as tangible if not more so:

  • Improved customer engagement
  • Significantly increased customer retention
  • Larger levels of web traffic
  • Better sales and revenue

Below are some examples of companies that thrive based on their recommendation systems.

 

Case Studies

Let’s take a look at one of the world’s most successful companies, Netflix. While Netflix started as a movie rental service, today, they stream movies and have over 200 million paying customers across the globe. A key part of this evolution is their personalized recommendation system. 

Understanding Video Game Recommendations: Netflix's Recommendations
Netflix's recommendation system suggests a variety of content you might enjoy.

Netflix’s recommendation systems have been developed over years by hundreds of engineers after analyzing millions of users. When a new subscriber joins, Netflix asks them to pick shows/movies they like, and as they watch more over time, the suggestions are powered by these as well as some additional factors like:

  • Viewer history
  • Viewer ratings for prior shows
  • Information like title, genre, category, and more
  • Other viewers with similar preferences and taste
  • Time an episode/movie lasts vs time duration of a viewer watching a show
  • The time of the day you’re watching
  • The device on which you’re logged in

Closer to home, we have Steam, which is a digital game distribution system, with more than 120 million monthly active users and a catalog of over 50,000 games. It is also home to a powerful video game recommendation system that helps gamers find games they will love.

They recommend games based on your played games, purchase history, store browsing history, and games that other players with tastes similar to yours love.

 

Understanding Video Game Recommendations: Netflix's Recommendations:Steam's Recommendations
Steam's recommendations are based on a variety of factors like games you've previously played, browsing history, and the like.

However, neither of these do a perfect job. Let’s look at why.

The Problems with Recommendations Today

We’ve looked at the importance of personalization and the role recommendations play in this. However, despite online stores realizing how vital a good quality recommendation is, they still haven’t perfected the art of suggesting the right products. Here are some of the common problems faced by customers while trying to find what they need.

Wrong recommendations: Thanks to imperfect algorithms or lack of high quality data, sites can often suggest irrelevant or incorrect recommendations. These reduce customer trust, engagement, and overall, is a waste of a good opportunity.

Impersonal communication: We all buy products and services for a variety of reasons. However, distributors still use generic and non-engaging messages most of the time while communicating with users. Messages such as “You might like Item X” without mentioning why you might like it can turn your customers off.

Choice overload: Too much choice can be a detriment to your customers. A recent consumer report discovered that more than half (54%) of consumers have stopped purchasing products from a brand or e-retailer website because choosing was too difficult, with 42% admitting to abandoning a planned purchase altogether because there was too much choice. These problems are a result of sub-optimal recommendation systems on websites.

 

Behavior Vs Motivation

The reason for inadequate online recommendations is that these mechanisms are primarily driven by behavior as opposed to motivation.

If several people play the same game, they might do so for different reasons. Let us take one of the most popular games which came out in June 2020, Valorant, as an example. Valorant is a 5v5 tactical first person shooter (FPS) where the characters you play as (agents) all have unique abilities. It has a monthly player base of at least 12 million throughout 2021, making it one of the most popular current FPS titles. Let’s analyze the different possible motivations that drive people to play Valorant:

Satisfying the urge to compete, dominate, and win: A large number of people play video games to compete against other skilled players and dominate the leaderboards for a sense of achievement. Valorant has this in spades with its highly competitive online multiplayer nature and detailed rank progression.

 

Strategizing for the win: Gamers enjoy certain games because they involve a great deal of planning and strategizing to be victorious. With its deeply tactical nature, Valorant satisfies this motivation.

To play with friends or meet people: A significant portion of players like games for their socialisation aspect. Whether it is being able to play with your buddies, meeting new like-minded strangers you can have fun with, or working as a team, Valorant fills these socialization shoes very well.

Current state of product recommendations
Nothing hits the mark like playing games with your squad.

For an adrenaline rush: Gamers often get motivated by the rush of adrenaline or dopamine they get as they play games that excite their senses, and this is what keeps them coming back to the game as well. Valorant certainly fits this criterion.

Aggression: Some people like playing video games for the violence and ferocity that come as a part of the game, especially shooters and hack & slash games. Valorant satisfies this urge.

The behaviour here in common is people playing Valorant. However, as you can see, their motivations may be completely different. For instance, in terms of story and lore, Valorant is found lacking compared to Overwatch, another popular competitive multiplayer title. Thus, people who play Overwatch because they like its lore and narrative aspects might not be as interested in Valorant.

How can you Improve Video Game Recommendations?

Gamer motivations are a culmination of their emotional and psychological makeup while also covering traits like values, personality, and life situations. To revolutionize video game recommendations, you will need to start by understanding the games you’re recommending, and why people play them. Next, look at your user base and try to understand each individual at a fundamental level. Finally, once you have an understanding of the games as well as your user, see why people play what they do, and use that to provide a video game recommendation. As a result of this, you will:

  • Provide fewer recommendations: This will keep you from overloading your customers with choice.
  • Give better recommendations: When you understand your users’ motivations, you can suggest games that are aligned with their motivations every time.
  • Personalized recommendations: Each of your recommendations will effectively communicate why a particular game is right for your user, as well as address their needs.

Apart from the above, you can improve e-retail personalization in general by:

  • Refine your search pages. You can use metadata to improve product descriptions and make it easier for your algorithms to match products to customer preferences and needs.
  • You can use referral bonuses to improve signups and good email marketing that conveys personalized deals and offers to your customers to increase retention.
  • Ensure your home page, product pages, and promotional offers are tailored to your customers’ needs based on data you’ve collected and their preferences. 
  • Intelligent machine learning algorithms combined with high quality data are your best friends. The next section will go into detail about recommendation models you can use in conjunction with them.

Recommendation Models

Below are the models most commonly used by e-commerce companies:

Popularity-based: These are products that are best-selling currently. For example, Among Us blew up in 2020 and was a game that popped up on Steam’s bestseller list. These also include games that have been popular for a long time, such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It is meant primarily for new users on the website.

Quality based: The games which have a high number of positive reviews and ratings show up here based on this model and are recommended to users. However, this might not be the best method as peoples’ tastes can drastically differ, and a game might have ‘boosted’ reviews. Also, newer games might not have enough reviews to show up, despite possibly being something your user might love.

Content-based: This model recommends products based on their similarities with other products. It leverages the description and content of items and an understanding of the user’s consumption history. For example, Valorant is recommended to players who love Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, since it has similar characteristics to both these games.

Collaborative Filtering: In the newer, focused sense, collaborative filtering is a method of making automatic predictions (filtering) about the interests of a user by collecting preferences or taste information from many users (collaborating).The system generates recommendations using only information about rating profiles for different users or items.

Of course, hybrid recommendation systems which use a mix of these models are your best bet to provide personalized recommendations to your customers. Going back to Netflix, they make recommendations by comparing the watching and searching habits of similar users (i.e., collaborative filtering) as well as by offering recommendations that share characteristics with content that a user has rated highly (content-based filtering). 

Metadata is crucial to fuel understanding of your products. This will help you organize your product database, as well as categorize it better. High quality and comprehensive metadata gives personalization algorithms more data to train on. If you want to know more about the importance of video game metadata and managing it, this blog might help you.

Conclusion

Personalizing recommendations is the best way for e-commerce companies to improve revenue as well as stand out among their competitors. When it comes to video games, understanding the motivations as to why people play the games they play is integral to making good suggestions. Gameopedia’s quality-checked and extensive metadata as well as our intelligent sentiment analysis tool can help with optimizing your content and website for better personalization and improving video game recommendations. Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you and your business.

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Digitisation: How it’s Changing the Landscape of Video Games

Until recently, the most common method to get a video game you wanted to play was to buy a physical copy of it. However, things have been changing- digital sales of games have overtaken retail games sales. Now, as well as in the future, the digitisation of video games is both the meta as well as the future of gaming. Analysts have estimated that video game revenue will come from almost entirely digital sources as early as 2022.

This can be mainly attributed to digital distribution platforms such as Steam for PC games, or online stores for consoles. Let’s take Steam for instance. It hosts thousands of games from publishers ranging from giants like Bethesda and BioWare, to small indie developers. Not only does it have a variety of digital games though, it also offers regular sales and special events where any game publisher can be sure of selling a large number of copies of a game. 

Digitisation of video games
Steam sales are an excellent time to grab those games you covet at insane prices. Source: Donklelephant

Any good e-retail stores do the below things excellently:
– It provides customers with a great deal of choice, and lets them buy and play these games almost instantly.

– It personalizes the product recommendations to its users based on their preferences and prior purchases.
– It incentivizes them with amazing discounts as well as in-platform rewards.
– It promotes engagement with features like game badges and achievements, friend lists, chat, and more.

 

Apart from benefits for customers, retailers also see the advantages of going digital. They save a significant amount on overhead costs, as well as worrying about unsold or damaged merchandise. Games reaching their target audience has improved significantly as a result of digitisation. The increased access people have to fast internet speeds has widened audiences across new demographics around the globe.

Finally, in the last year and half as a result of the pandemic, gaming as an industry has surged to unprecedented heights. For example, Sony’s fiscal quarter for 2020 began in April as the lockdowns were being implemented globally. Their customers, suddenly house-bound, caused digital sales to make up an astounding 74% of total sales for that quarter, a huge rise from the 59 percent of the previous year. 

Statistic: Digital download ratio of Sony PlayStation gaming software unit sales worldwide from fiscal 1st quarter 2019 to 1st quarter 2021 | Statista
Source: Statista

Advantages of Digitisation

Digitisation comes with a lot of advantages, which we go into below:

– Convenience and ease of access: If you wanted a game ten to fifteen years ago, you would have to visit a physical store, find a copy of the game, and buy it. There were several possible problems, ranging from damaged discs to the game simply being out of stock, as well as the time taken to track down and buy the game. It is also less convenient to store and transport these discs- this is an added cost to the retailer. In today’s digital era, digital games can be bought online by customers with just a few clicks. These platforms also hold a huge variety of games, far more than most physical stores can stock. Further, customers can download and install these games across multiple setups and devices, since they’re tied to an account.

– Personalization: Keeping track of what your customers are buying and playing from your online store is made considerably easier by digitisation. By understanding their preferences and interests, e-retailers can recommend games which are personalized to their customers’ interests.

– A continuously improving game experience: Developers and publishers can gain analytical data about how players engage and interact with their games and also use data tools like sentiment analysis. This helps them to continuously improve and fine-tune their products, ensuring their customers keep getting a better experience going forward.

– Lower costs for customers and retailers alike: E-retailers save a great deal of money by not having to invest in physical stores, cutting out the middlemen, and not having to worry about damaged merchandise, and these cost savings are transferred to the end user. As a result, customers often get great discounts and offers on platforms like Steam during holiday sales and promotions, and even free games on platforms like GoG and Epic Games.

Disadvantages of Digitisation:

It isn’t all positive however- like any industrial transition, digitisation has its costs. Let’s take a look at them:

– Games disappearing forever: If a game is very old, it might not have a digital version of it available. Once taken down from stores, it might disappear forever. An example of this is SimsRefinery- it was lost for decades until someone ran across a floppy disk of the game and made a digital copy of it. Only the existence of a physical copy made its rediscovery possible. This risk also applies to indie games- most of them exist only digitally and if these are removed from e-retail stores, it can lead to them disappearing.

– Data security and protection: As a result of digitisation, a customers’ personal and financial details are often if not always linked with their store accounts, which leaves them vulnerable to data breaches. Whether it is a company accidentally publishing customer details or malicious attacks by hackers, one’s details stored online are always vulnerable to theft or exposure. Companies need to continuously update and upgrade their data security measures to ensure their customer data is safe.

– Closed Platform monopolies: Something to be wary about is the rise of e-shop monopolies on closed platforms. Less competition results in increased prices and stagnant online shopping experiences. Digitisation increases the likelihood of consumers shopping at a platform’s exclusive online store, resulting in higher costs for consumers and publishers alike.

– Licensing concerns, accessibility, and ownership: Traditionally, when an individual buys a physical game, they assume they own that copy and have access to it forever. This works well if you go and purchase a physical disc for example, and gives you a sense of control and ownership. However, when you grab a digital version, you’re really only buying the licence to play it, and this could lead to you losing access to it if the game is removed from the store for some reason. In fact, several major publishers state in their terms of service that if a game isn’t available on their digital platform anymore, you won’t be able to download it again, even if you’d already paid for it.

– The demise of the preowned games market: Games can be expensive, whether they are physical or digital. Buying new copies of them can be hard for quite a few gamers. A way they circumvent this entry barrier to gaming is by buying used physical copies. Several industries such as cars, furniture, electronics, and the like have a thriving pre-owned market and video games are no different. Stores like GameStop have made an industry of reselling used games. However, as a result of digitisation, the preowned games market is heading for its demise as most digital distribution platforms prevent reselling. GameStop closed more than a thousand stores by the end of their fiscal year of 2020, thanks to reduced business and debt. Video games are harder to buy now for a large demographic, which creates a barrier to accessibility.

Trends that Push the Digitisation of Games:

Despite the disadvantages, the gaming industry has been steadily moving towards digitisation for several years now, across multiple gaming platforms. This is a result of certain factors of which we go into detail below:

Shifting game revenue business models: While in the past, the key focus for game retailers and publishers was the number of copies sold, revenue models are evolving across gaming platforms. The free-to-play model lets players play games for no initial charge, introducing monetization at later stages in a variety of ways. These include paying for an ad-free version, buying in-game upgrades and cosmetics, unlocking new areas and characters, and several more. Another model gaining popularity is gaming as a service (GaaS). Similar to how companies provide software as a service (SaaS), GaaS is a subscription-based on-demand service which enables gamers to play titles on hosting servers of video game publishers. Combined with monetizing options like the aforementioned ones, GaaS can help extend the longevity of a video game’s popularity. GaaS also pushes digitisation greatly because the games using it as a revenue model are predominantly digital.

Digital-only console variants: Sony has two variants of their flagship console line, the PlayStation 5. One of these comes with an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive and the second runs purely digital games. Their major competitor, the Xbox consoles from Microsoft, also released an All-Digital Edition for the Xbox One S and is expected to launch a similar model for their new Xbox Series X. These variants are a way to ease their customers into a digital future and also improve sales for their game subscription services (PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass.)

PS5 digital version
Are digital-only consoles the future of console gaming? Source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Cloud gaming: Gamers can now directly stream games from the cloud, saving them from having to invest in high end hardware or download huge files. People who don’t have a console or a decent gaming PC can find it difficult to game for entertainment. However, with a rise in access to fast internet, streaming games from the cloud can become a reality in the next few years and already is a major area of focus for several tech giants like Facebook’s Facebook Gaming, Google’s Stadia, and Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming.

The rise of esports: Esports is estimated to have an annual growth rate of about 10.4% by 2023. Several hundreds of millions of people watch it both casually and hardcore. It had a YoY growth rate of 11.7 percent by February 2020. As a result of the Covid 19 lockdowns, 889 billion minutes of gaming tournaments have been viewed on Twitch, a massive 35% increase from 2019’s 660 billion minutes. Similar popularity which sports leagues and franchises like the NBA and EPL enjoy is seen amidst esports enthusiasts now. Good examples of this are fans buying their favorite team’s merchandise, as well as huge companies sponsoring and collaborating with esport teams and game studios during tournaments. On older platforms like television, as a result of the pandemic, the time slots reserved for cancelled sports events were filled with esports tournaments instead. The games these tournaments are hosted for are predominantly digital releases and have led to the e-sports industry being valued as a multi-billion dollar industry, further promoting digitisation.

Communities plus streaming and creation tools: On YouTube, after music, game videos account for the most videos as well as views on the platform. 

Playing digital games
Being a streamer is an increasingly lucrative proposition. Source: Shutterstock

The time spent by people watching game video content has increased exponentially, especially with streaming services like YouTube Gaming and Twitch. A lot of these games are primarily digital releases. The popularity of this content causes digitisation to shoot up. Reaching people is also easier as a result of tools enabling single-click live streaming, social platforms integrating live video content, and features like Instagram reels which let creators interact with their audiences anytime, anywhere. 

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the future of video games is entering a digital era. The convenience, cost savings, and reach of digital games far outweighs the cons for game makers and consumers alike, plus there are several things publishers can do to improve digital game ownership such as timed refunds, trading, and publishing retro releases on their e-stores, to name a few. With the two major consoles- Xbox and Playstation- both releasing digital-only variants of their consoles which are cheaper, console gamers will be able to push digitisation even further. Developers and publishers are looking to cut down on middlemen and overheads to increase their profits by not depending on retailers to sell their products. For example, Capcom reported how digital sales significantly improved their company’s profits by removing retailers from the sales journey.

It appears to be only a matter of time until CDs and cartridges join the obsolescence of floppy disks and the like. As the gaming industry enters a new age, game companies must face questions regarding preserving past games, digital exclusives, and more, as well as come up with a long-term plan to deal with the shift to digital sales. Promoting cross-platform play and saves will also be essential as it enables users to jump between different devices. CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great example of this. They offered the game for free on PC if it was owned on a console and made cloud save transfers possible between platforms. 

At this juncture, it isn’t a question of whether digitisation of video games is happening, it’s how it impacts the gaming industry as a whole. To be able to stand out amidst the rising competition, e-retailers must ensure their product pages are accurate and well-optimised, both of which require high quality game metadata. They need to be able to boost their discoverability and keep their customers loyal. Reach out to us for data covering over 180,000 games, spanning 200 platforms across four continents.

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Managing Video Game Information on E-commerce Websites

The video games industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in today’s world. Those who play video games tend to be some of the most enthusiastic and loyal customers when it comes to the games they love, as well as the most discerning. This sort of audience requires e-commerce stores who are looking to sell video games and associated merchandise to give them three things:

1. They need to provide a fantastic customer experience.
2. They need to provide the products their customers are looking for.
3. They should provide the customer with the ability to discover new gaming products that are right for them.

The gaming sector has been consistently growing over the last two decades, and is one of the few industries that has thrived during the pandemic. People stuck at home found video games a wonderful escape into a virtual, fun reality, leading to a 20% YoY growth from 2019. The market reached over $179 billion in global revenue, and it’s not slowing down. Another result of the pandemic is that bigger and bigger slices of this pie are moving online. Gaming marketplaces like Steam, GOG, and Epic Games, to name a few, are experiencing meteoric growth, demonstrating the increased comfort gamers have with e-commerce services.

Challenges That E-commerce Businesses Contend With

Video game e-commerce retailers deal with quite a few obstacles when it comes to increasing sales. Some of these are:

  • Maintaining customer loyalty and engagement:

Acquiring new customers costs three to five times more than keeping your existing ones. If your checkout processes aren’t easy and your website format is unattractive and hard to navigate, it’s unlikely that your customers will return or even stay on your site long enough to buy something.

  • Standing out amidst competition:

There are so many video game e-commerce portals out there right now, ranging from giants like Steam and Epic Games Store to smaller entities, as well as game developers and publishers directly selling their game. You need to figure out how to set yourself apart from your competitors who offer similar services or products. 

  • Obsolete and outdated technology:

If your technology is outdated or hard to use, it will limit your ability to sell. Whether it is your website or app, your billing solution, or any other feature, it has to be simple to use. Secondly, you need to be able to manage data security to ensure your customers’ confidential data is safe, as well as make sure your website’s functioning isn’t affected. If your data gets hacked, it will lead to a loss of trust.

  • Sourcing accurate data:

To ensure that your products are easily discoverable by your customers, it’s important that their specifications, related media, tags, and the like displayed are accurate and contain relevant information. This data should be periodically updated as needed.

When it comes to ensuring that your customers discover your products and services though, one of the most important factors is video game information/metadata.

Why Is Video Game Information Important In E-commerce

In our blog about video game metadata, we took a deep dive into what exactly metadata for video games is, as well as the different parties which need it. To quickly recap, gaming metadata is any information that gives the reader insight into the game. Everybody that is a part of the gaming ecosystem, from the retailer to the consumer, uses game metadata at some level.

With an exhaustive game metadata repository, you get access to descriptive tags and information, facts, and media that provide an in-depth understanding of the gaming product or service you are offering. This allows you to improve customer retention, engagement, and sales.

Vital Video Game Information

The format in which video game information is presented for a particular gaming product and how it is used can vary depending on the requirement, though there are some fields which most retailers/consumers need. These include:

Title

The title is the official game name in a particular region.

Alternate Title

Alternate Title covers unofficial or common titles associated with a game such as abbreviations.

Game Developers

Developers are the studio, organization, or people that are responsible for creating the video game.

Publishers

Publishers are the entity that is responsible for publishing the video game in a particular region.

Description

This is the official description or blurb of the game released by the developer/publisher.

Age Ratings

The official age ratings and descriptors for a game released by the competent authority in a particular region on a particular platform.

Reviews

Reviews from major editorials about the game.

Platforms the game has released on

Platform information tells consumers what platforms the game is playable on.

Video Game Release Date

The game’s release date in a particular region.

Barcodes

Official Barcodes of the game in a particular region.

SKU Number (From the store)

A SKU number is assigned to a product in order to identify specific information. It  stands for “Stock Keeping Unit” and is a code used to differentiate products typically by an alphanumeric combination of 8-or-so characters.

Screenshots

Screenshot captures from within the game which can showcase its setting, characters, and gameplay for consumers to see.

Trailers

Various gameplay and cinematic trailers released officially for the game.

Gameplay Videos

Gameplay videos are captures of the actual gameplay featuring its mechanics, artwork, graphics, music, and the like to show players in detail what they can expect.

Box Art

This is the cover a hardcopy of a game can come in.

Genres

This category describes the defining Genre of a game, which is a term that summarizes the core gameplay concepts and elements present within. A video game genre is assigned to a video game based solely on its gameplay, and not the story, narrative, or lore. 

Single-player/Multiplayer Info

This covers whether the game can be played in single player or multiplayer, as well as the type of multiplayer (if a multiplayer mode is available.)

Perspective

A video game perspective defines the orientation, position, and angle of the player’s viewpoint of the game. The Main Perspective refers to the perspective that is used most frequently through the game and most if not all of the game is presented to the player in this perspective. 

Gameplay Engine

This mentions the gameplay engine used to build the game.

Theme

The Theme of a video game broadly covers what the game is about. This section details the central theme of the game. A game may have more than one applicable theme.

Cross-play compatibility

Cross play compatibility refers to if users from different platforms such as PC, console, and mobile can play together in a session, as well as gives details about this.

Community Data

Community data covers things such as how many hours a gamer spent playing a particular game, the number of achievements they unlocked, the amount of progress, and other such factors.

In-game achievements

These are achievements which a user can garner within the video game, such as high scores and completionist trophies.

Relations 

These are relations the game might have to other games or gaming products such as prequels, sequels, DLCs, and expansion packs, to name a few.

Metadata for video games - Cyberpunk-2077
Metadata for video games Cyberpunk-2077

Best Practices For Video Game Metadata Management

We’ve established the importance of metadata for video games with respect to maximizing how your customers engage with your products and services. Here are some best practices which can help ensure that you’re utilizing the metadata you have optimally:

1. Have a well-defined strategy:

It helps to have a plan before you start out on incorporating metadata into your future projects. An important question you can ask yourself as you start is what your use cases are for metadata. If your main interest is selling video game console/PC games online, ensure you plan to maximize their visibility and reach with well-defined metadata.

This will help you align your metadata strategy to your business goals and identify important activities.

2. Figure out the scope for your metadata:

In order to focus your resources effectively, you need to analyze both current and future use cases for your gaming metadata. Based on this, you will know the requirements for your web pages and when you’re articulating a solution, you need to specify exactly how you will be doing so: how you will be capturing metadata, integrating it with your page, publishing it, and so on. This will drastically improve product discoverability on your video game e-commerce website or application.

3. Get your metadata from a reliable source and avoid crowdsourcing:

When it comes to obtaining your game-related metadata, the most commonly utilized method, crowdsourcing, often results in poor quality information. It’s easier for details to be incorrect or missed out on without expert curation and strict quality control. With a company like Gameopedia though, any metadata we provide you is run through multiple checks for quality and accuracy, ensuring the final data we give you is error-free.

4. Localize Metadata for the regions you’re selling in:

Quite often, video game information in various regions tend to differ from one another. This could be the game’s title, protagonist names, publishers, release date or other details. Ensuring your metadata is localized and updated for consumers is integral to a game’s discoverability. It can also boost sales on your gaming e-commerce website or portal drastically. Gameopedia has you covered here with extensive localized video game metadata coverage across four continents.

5. Optimize your E-commerce Portal to leverage metadata for Discoverability:

While this isn’t directly related to metadata, it ties in with management and can be used to ensure that as a video game retailer, your customers can find and buy the games they want. Some tips which can help make your website or portal optimal for your consumers are:

-Your customers should ideally be able to navigate to any page on your website in 3 clicks. Include genre categories as a side bar and a clearly visible navigation bar.
-Incorporating detailed video game information through metadata for every one of your available products is essential for delivering effective and relevant search results. Account for typos and misspellings while doing this.
-Implement cross-selling and upselling as much as you can in your website pages. If you see a customer interested in one particular game of a franchise, ensure that your website suggests deals related to not just that game but other ones from the series. Add games or products that are in-demand and trending to your home page.

Metadata management is a continuous activity which needs to be scaled with your organization. The sooner you can incorporate a process to go about it, the easier it will be for your team in the future. Make sure you conduct regular audits to help identify both problems and areas where improvements can be made.

Conclusion

Comprehensive and high quality video game metadata can massively improve discoverability, user engagement, and conversions, helping you capture a larger share of the consumer market. Reach out to us for industry leading video game information for over 180,000 games, spanning across 200 platforms for four continents.

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Video Game Genre Trends Among Console Games In The Last Five Years

In 2020, the video game industry clocked global revenues of nearly $180 billion, up from almost $150 billion in 2019. It’s one of the fastest growing ecosystems in the world, especially considering the effect the pandemic has had on people, with more and more of them looking to video games for entertainment. The console market has a solid fifth of this pie, making it an essential segment to focus on. We at Gameopedia want to understand why gamers love what they play.

People with different tastes go for various types of games. For example, some people like games that test their reflexes, others like to solve puzzles, while some of them just want to unwind and build their fantasy world. These types of games are commonly categorized into genres. We have already published a detailed guide to learn more about the different kinds of Video Game Genres if you’re interested. 

In this article, we will explore genre trends in the console market across the past five years, i.e. 2016-2020. 

Consoles Covered

  • PlayStation 4 – Launched in late 2013, the PlayStation 4 went on to sell more than 100 million units in its lifecycle, and served as the home for several bestselling games such as God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and The Last of Us Part II.
  • PlayStation 5 – Launched in late 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, the PlayStation 5 provides a significant hardware upgrade over its predecessor.
  • Xbox One – Launched in late 2013, the Xbox One started off weak against its rival, the PlayStation 4, and continued to lag behind in sales. It made up for this by providing support to older games through its backward compatibility feature, and later became known for its well-received Xbox Game Pass subscription.
  • Xbox Series X|S – Launched in late 2020 alongside the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X is touted to be the “World’s Most Powerful Console”. The other member in the family – the Xbox Series S – carries the tag of being the “smallest Xbox ever made”.
  • Nintendo 3DS – Launched in 2011, the 3DS was a popular handheld console whose USP was to display stereoscopic 3D effects without requiring the use of 3D glasses. The model had a long lifespan, getting discontinued in 2020.
  • New Nintendo 3DS – Launched in 2014, this is a prominent revision to the original 3DS, bringing along with it several hardware enhancements. Curiously, it got discontinued a year earlier than the original 3DS.
  • Nintendo Switch – Launched in 2017, the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console that can switch between handheld and TV modes. This unique model quickly appealed to gamers worldwide, as the Switch shipped more than 14 million units in its first year.

As seen above, there are primarily three console brands, each with multiple devices available in the market during the study period. The newest entrants to the market – the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S – arrived in November 2020, marking a new generation of consoles.

Put together, the games released for the above consoles represent a diverse mix, ranging from titles developed by a studio with hundreds of employees to a solo developer working tirelessly on their dream. They also represent a large mix of genres, catering to the varying tastes of the gaming market. When you want to analyze this data, Gameopedia’s expertise with game metadata and taxonomy come in handy.

Our Analysis of Video Game Genre Trends among Console Games

We utilized Gameopedia’s extensive database to build the dataset to be used for the study.

Since the focus of this study is on genre trends among console games, we built a list of games that were released on at least one of the above-mentioned platforms. Each game in our database is classified into one or more Genres. Further, we also took note of the game type, whose definitions are given below:

  • AAA Games – These are games developed by large teams, backed by a huge budget, ensuring the production values are high. The scope of these games is similar to that of a blockbuster film. Only a handful of established studios across the world currently work on producing AAA games, and they are usually accompanied by a sizable marketing budget as well. Some examples of this type include Resident Evil Village, Returnal, and Ghost of Tsushima.
  • AA Games – These games are developed by smaller teams as compared to AAA games, and have relatively smaller budgets and scale. Mid-sized and Major publishers are both known to develop AA games on occasion. Some examples of this type include A Plague Tale: Innocence, The Outer Worlds, and It Takes Two.
  • Indie Games – While the word “Indie” stands for Independent, “indie game” is a term often used to describe games that have been built by extremely small teams (sometimes even consisting of a solo developer), with a minuscule budget compared to the other two game types. A smaller scale does not mean a smaller game however, and indie games are well-known to be creative and innovative. Some popular indie games include Gone Home, Untitled Goose Game, and Stardew Valley.

After building our dataset, we analyzed the number of releases across genres observed over the past five years. We also took note of the number of releases across each game type and looked for patterns.

Since the goal of this study is to examine trends among primary genres, we have excluded sub-genres from our dataset. Before going further into the study, it is important to explain how we define a ‘genre’ and ‘sub-genre’. 

Simply put, any genre that isn’t a defining characteristic of the game is treated as a sub-genre. For example, an adventure game might contain a few levels where the player is required to solve simple puzzles to progress. However, solving puzzles isn’t the defining characteristic of the game. Players do not buy that specific game with the intent to solve puzzles. In this case, Puzzle becomes the game’s sub-genre, indicating that the game has a few puzzles, but they aren’t the main focus of the game. A game can have multiple genres and sub-genres.

Our Game Insights

Overall Genre Distribution from 2016-2020

AA Genre Trends

This graph showcases the major variations in genre trends across the last five years related to AA games.

AAA Genre Trends

This graph showcases the major variations in genre trends across the last five years related to AAA games.

Indie Genre Trends

This graph showcases the major variations in genre trends across the last five years related to Indie games.

It is immediately apparent from the study that two genres feature consistently at the top every year – Action and Adventure. This is true for each game type and each year. Some of the popular games belonging to these two genres over the past five years include Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Action, Adventure), Red Dead Redemption 2 (Adventure), Super Mario Odyssey (Action, Adventure, Platform), Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Action, Shooter), and Battlefield 1 (Action, Shooter).

Action and adventure games have been and will always be extremely popular amidst gamers because they bring to the table the two best things about gaming: escapism and involvement. As the protagonist of these games, you usually have a great deal of power as well as choose how to use it to change the world(s) you’re in. With the advancement of technology, the setting of the game as well as the abilities your character has are only getting more and more awesome, so these genres will always be popular.

Super Mario Odyssey: 5 things that could make it epic

Action games aren’t necessarily violent all the time. Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo.

Following the top two are a few genres that jostle for third place with varying results across the game types and over the years. One genre that keeps cropping up here is the Shooter genre.

Shooter games are arguably one of the most popular kinds of game, no matter how you define popularity. Are we talking sales? The annual Call of Duty games consistently feature among the bestselling games each year. Are we talking about actual playtime? Some of the most played games in the world are shooters – Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, and PUBG: Battlegrounds, to name just a few. And yes, even in our own study, we noticed that across all game types, the Shooter genre did feature in the top 3 in every year except one. Nothing quite gets one’s adrenaline pumping like a high intensity firefight. As newer shooter games come out, the social aspect related to these games is under constant enhancement as well with an increased focus on tactics, team coordination, and communication. This keeps the genre ever-beloved, be it single-player or multiplayer titles.

Next up is the puzzle genre, which is among the most beloved genres in the market, although this is not immediately visible. Games like The Witness (Adventure, Puzzle) and Tetris Effect (Action, Puzzle) may not receive as much publicity as a highly-marketed AAA game like Cyberpunk 2077 (Adventure, Role-Playing). However, they are well-received by the market and have a dedicated audience.

Puzzle games are a good way to unwind at the end of the day. Tetris Effect, Enhance Games.

It is no wonder then, that indie games feature the most amount of releases for the Puzzle genre, where it consistently features in the top 3 or top 5 at worst. It features among the top 10 for AA games, while it is entirely absent from the top 10 list for AAA games. This makes a lot of sense because compared to action, adventure, or even shooter games, puzzle games don’t need to be as graphics-intensive or have a complex setting. They’re more about gameplay and engaging their audience, and thus, easier for smaller studios to make.

Another genre that has proven to be consistently, quietly popular are Role-Playing games. This is a genre that never quite reached the top in terms of number of releases, but makes its presence felt nonetheless. Among AAA games, Role-playing games featured among the top 3 most-released genres for every year, while it did so for four straight years for AA games, losing out the third place in 2020.

Nothing beats exploring an alien world on a Saturday night. The Outer Worlds, Take-Two.

Curiously, a lot of indie publishers seemed to avoid releasing Role-Playing games, as the genre always made up less than 5% of all indie game releases in any year. This explains why some of the most well-received Role-Playing Games of the past five years are all AA/AAA titles. Some of these include Final Fantasy VII Remake (Role-Playing), The Outer Worlds (Role-Playing, Adventure), and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Role-Playing, Adventure). It makes sense if you think about it: the most popular RPGs are those with beautiful, rich, detailed worlds and elegant gameplay mechanics, which might be hard for indie gamemakers to create when compared to AA/AAA studios.

Similar to Role-Playing games, indie publishers didn’t release a lot of games in the Sports genre in the past five years. These games however have been consistently popular with AA/AAA publishers. It is easy to point out that there are a few annual sport franchises – FIFA, NBA 2K, Madden NFL, NHL – which make up for the bulk of sales and media attention each year. However, this study takes into account the number of game releases each year, and the above-mentioned franchises are but a tiny percent of the overall pie. 

What comes to mind is how most of these games facilitate online gameplay with players around the world. Competition is a key feature of these games; whether you’re playing against your buddies for fun or taking part in a high-stakes tournament, you’ll end up enjoying yourself. The real-world element that a lot of sports games provide as well, with references to actual athletes and teams help it to stand out and have a dedicated group of consumers. This genre provides a very unique experience which accounts for its consistent popularity.

Riding down dangerous curves. MotoGP 20, Milestone.

Among AA games, the genre features among the top 10 consistently, with 2020 being its best year, where it broke into the top 3. This year saw the release of such games as Rugby 20 (Sports), MotoGP 20 (Sports, Racing, Simulation) and Football Manager 2021 (Sports, Simulation, Strategy). Now let us turn our attention to a genre that is popular with indie game publishers, and not so much with the AA/AAA publishers.

Looks simple, but isn’t. Celeste, Matt Makes Games.

The Platform genre is one of the oldest genres in the industry. Classic games such as Donkey Kong (Action, Platform) and Super Mario Bros (Action, Platform) were pioneers of the Platform genre, and it was popular with AAA publishers for a long time. Franchises such as Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider and Uncharted made their name by being excellent platforming games. However, of late, the genre is fast disappearing from AA/AAA titles, and has found a new home among the indie scene.

The numbers indicate that the genre either features at the very bottom of the list or doesn’t make the top 10 list at all for AA/AAA released in the past five years. For indie games however, it always features in the top 5, with the total percent of releases falling between 9 – 12% each year. Some popular platform games released recently include Super Meat Boy Forever (Platform, Action), New Super Lucky’s Tale, (Platform, Adventure, Action) and Celeste (Action, Platform). This is an interesting trend: if you look at these games, they’re intuitive, easy to understand while challenging to master, and have very unique art styles. While they aren’t always as technically groundbreaking as releases from bigger publishers tend to be, they nevertheless satisfy the most important rule of game-making: they’re fun!

Conclusion

Just like any other market, the stakeholders in the video game industry are constantly aware of changing trends and try to appeal to their consumers. While it’s safe to say that games featuring a combination of the Action, Adventure, and Shooter genres will continue being a safe bet for now, the market is wide open for a broad mixture of genres to be explored.

The fact that the same genres do not appear among the most released games every single year is a strong indicator of a market that is eager to try something new, while still having something familiar to return to at the end of the day.

No matter what combination of genres game publishers come up with over the next five years, you can be assured that we at Gameopedia will always be here. We’re ready to guide you through the exciting world of video games with our game comparison and sentiment analysis tools, as well as other interesting projects we have in the works. Drop us a line if we can help you with anything!

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