Report: 2K leads video game engagement in Q3 2019 [Spiketrap]

Spiketrap co-founder Adam Sessler breaks down this quarter's discourse and how the company gathers statistics to measure sentiment about a game.

In its third-quarter report on video game engagement, industry analyst group Spiketrap found that Borderlands 3 led the way in terms of discussion across Twitter, forum thread posts, and video comments during July, August, and September. NBA 2K20, another 2K Games property, was not far behind, contributing to an impressive amount of buzz for the publisher. Other highly-discussed games for the quarter include FIFA 20, Gears 5, Untitled Goose Game, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

The way consumers and critics engage with new games can set the bar for its success. Garnering positive sentiment across social media ahead of release is an important marketing strategy that can foretell how well a title will perform financially. But discussion of a game can also be a difficult quality to measure. Spiketrap is looking to address how publishers and developers gauge the buzz surrounding a launch by making sentiment a statistical measurement, something concrete and tangible that can help marketers better understand the discourse encircling their game.

According to Spiketrap co-founder Adam Sessler, this is a difficult prospect, but something the team has worked hard on. Through the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, Spiketrap has been able to monitor the language used online about specific games.

Adam Sessler, Spiketrap
Adam Sessler, Spiketrap

“The trick is two-fold,” Sessler told GameDaily. “We take an AI and ML approach to sentiment so we can handle evolutions and transmutations in language and not tie ourselves to a one-to-one value with particular words. The second half is that we currently focus the AI on the language of the audience who consumes games, comic books, popular film, and TV.”

Sessler explained that providing enough details for consumers to latch onto ahead of launch is a key method to generating positive sentiment. However, offering up too many details has the potential to skew perception of a product yet to be released to the public. Careful use of pre-launch streams and meticulously-edited announcement trailers are some of the most important elements of positive conversation.

“Rockstar Games are masters at this,” he said. “I'd also consider Capcom's Resident Evil 2 remake announcement to be a great example. The best launch-window marketing in terms of engagement and sentiment I've seen recently is Mortal Kombat 11. The regularly scheduled streams introducing characters maintained a constant level of engagement and enthusiasm, [and] contextualized everything in more personal terms. As a result, MK11--in its lead-up to launch--was performing in Spiketrap’s top 10 alongside Minecraft, Fortnite and League of Legends in terms of sheer volume of conversation and [positive] sentiment.”

One of the most surprising inclusions in Spiketrap’s Q3 report is Untitled Goose Game. Sessler said that it’s fairly uncommon for an indie-developed game to rub elbows with the likes of annual triple-A juggernauts like Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K. He was also quick to note that Spiketrap’s engagement reports are a fairly new concept, so there aren’t a lot of records to go off of. Still, he seemed impressed that Goose Game figured so prominently into the report.

“I knew the game was becoming a social media sensation but I was not prepared for the quantitative extent of it,” Sessler said. “We all love an underdog but it's so much better when you can share that enthusiasm so widely. Its quirky nature definitely helped. Also, the streaming data on Goose Game is remarkable for a game of that type and might also account for a portion of its success.”

Spiketrap measures sentiment across three main sectors: Twitter, forum posts, and comments on videos (including streams). We asked Sessler if there exists any discrepancies between positive and negative sentiment depending on the platform, and he said that Twitter tends to be the most positive while longer format posting sites like Reddit and official forums skew to the negative end of the spectrum. The revelation was surprising to Sessler.

“We learned, much to my surprise from personal experience, that Twitter is our most positive non-streaming platform. YouTube is typically a little more negative, but gaming news sites and forums are almost across the board more negative by a significant degree.” The short format of Twitter, Sessler said, may affect the overall direction of a game’s discourse. “I like to say that the more complete the sentence, the higher the likelihood it's bitter.”

Social media--and the internet in general--has given consumers the ability to be more vocal than ever before about what kind of content they want. Spiketrap’s analysis of audience sentiment feels like an important and inevitable part of this age of direct feedback. There’s no understating just how important it is for publishers and PR groups to preemptively gauge their market’s potential for accepting or rejecting a project.

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Sam has been freelancing since 2016, and has bylines at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, and Unwinnable. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at sdesatoff@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter.

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