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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[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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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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