Category Archives: SuperData Research

Friday Bullet Points – Comings and Goings

Another Friday and there are some bits of news wandering around the net that I want to mention, but really don’t want to get into a whole post about.  So off we go.

  • Google Stadia

Google’s game streaming subscription service, Google Stadia, got a November launch date.  Just in time for Christmas, as they say.

The Founder’s Edition will run you $129 to get in and $9.99 a month thereafter.  For that you get a controller, a dongle that hooks up to your TV, some “free” games thrown your way regularly, and support for up to 4K video.  A Standard Edition is listed, but won’t be available until next year.  The Standard Edition won’t have a monthly fee, but will only support up video up to 1080p.

There is a list of games that will be available at launch, though some items on the list are TBD.  You, of course, have to buy the games and those purchases are locked to Google’s platform.  But you can play them on your Google Pixel phone as well.

I have zero interest in this, so this might be the only time I mention it unless something goes horribly wrong or Google shuts it down.  But what are the odds of that?

  • Google Play Tightens Up

Meanwhile, in another department at Google, those in charge of the Google Play store have decided that maybe the whole “anything goes” strategy there isn’t working out. (Steam, are you listening?)  The Google Play Store policies are being revised and targets include hate speech and sexual content.  They are also requiring that titles with loot boxes disclose the odds of obtaining any particular item and they are instituting a minimum functionality metric for apps.  While sexuality and hate speech are squishy topics, not easily defined, posting odds and requiring that stuff works sound good to me.

  • Esports is a Money Pit

Kotaku has an article up reviewing esports and the companies that drive them.  For all the talk of audience numbers (which turn out to be wildly inflated, that headline about League of Legends out performing the SuperBowl was largely because Twitch had the stream on the front page and counted everybody who landed there for any amount of time as a viewer), it seems that esports, even for the biggest names like Riot and League of Legends, is a money losing proposition.  Expect more leagues to close down.

  • Millennials Buy More Games

SuperData Research released a free report which you can download at their site about consumer spending patterns on video games.  Or you can read a summary of it over at Venture Beat.   The big headline carrying the report is that millennials, who are now young adults with jobs and careers and such, spend more money on them than older generations.  Who would have guessed?  Millennials spend more and prefer mobile as a platform.

  • Baldur’s Gate III

There was some excitement as it was announced that a Baldur’s Gate III was in development. That got people a lot more worked up than I expect they ought to be.  The original Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II were classics developed by BioWare, but that was back at the turn of the century.  Remasters of both titles have been released on Steam, and somebody even did an additional expansion for the Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition remaster.

But all of that is more than a few steps away from some new team taking a crack at the franchise 20 years later.  This new game is likely to be very different… it might not have the isometric point of view… and maybe it should be.  But part of the reason it is getting announced now is because it will be on Google Stadia, which means it will have to support console controls, and I have not had a lot of good experiences with PC games that have their UI constrained by the need to be used solely with a controller.  I have the remasters.  If I want to relive the late 90s, I can do that just fine already.

  • Whatever That Blizzard Game Was

It slipped out that Blizzard cancelled an in-development FPS based on the StarCraft franchise in order to focus more on Diablo IV and Overwatch 2.

But rather than headlines about Overwatch 2 or Diablo IV confirmed, there was a bunch of wailing and gnashing of teeth about Blizzard and mindless pining for a game that never was.  Cancelling development on something in progress before it launches is a pretty normal thing in mature companies with multiple product lines.  Hell, it should be seen as a normal thing for Blizzard.  Remember Titan?  How far back was StarCraft: Ghost?

I think that this stems from companies in the gaming industry, small studio start-ups that have everything invested in a single title, being our mental image of how video games are made.  There are plenty of “ship or die” stories out there.  But that doesn’t apply to companies like Blizzard.  Meanwhile, if Blizzard doesn’t think the game is worth pursuing, pinning all your game play fantasies on it just because you like the idea of it sounds like a futile effort.  So if you’re doing that you should probably start a blog.

SuperData Says that Hearthstone is Up and WoW is Down

It is time for the monthly digital sales chart for April 2019 from SuperData Research, and it does have more than the usual amount of changes.

SuperData Research Top 10 – April 2019

On the PC end of the chart the top six remained the same, though League of Legends swapped places with Dungeon Fighter Online, retaking its long held first position.

After World of Tanks though, there were some changes.  Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 made the cut a month late, likely due to an end of the month release. (It topped the console chart last month.)  And Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice stayed on the chart, which is pretty good for a single player game.  Hearthstone West made the cut as well, riding the wave of yet another new expansion into ninth place, and CS:GO popped back up into tenth place yet again.

Missing from the list completely though was long staple World of Warcraft, which does not bode well for the sagging title.  Then again, SuperData put up a chart showing that the WoW Classic Beta was drawing a lot of people to watch it on Twitch.

So it may be nostalgia that revives its fortunes… if we can wait until August.

Also not on the PC chart: Any battle royale games besides Fortnite.  Neither its early rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds nor the hot release earlier this year, Apex Legends, are there.

The chart is only ten deep, so we don’t know what 11-20 looks like, but still it is a blow to not make the cut.

On the console section Mortal Kombat 11 topped the list, followed by Fortnite and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.  Last months top finisher, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, was down in 10th place.  And, gone missing after a long, long run on the list was Grand Theft Auto V.

And on the mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings regained the top spot from Perfect World, which fell to second place, while Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go fell to fourth and sixth places respectively.

EEDAR has their top ten list for April out as well.

  1. Mortal Kombat 11
  2. Days Gone
  3. MLB 19: The Show
  4. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2**
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Grand Theft Auto V
  7. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice**
  8. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII**
  9. NBA 2K19
  10. Yoshi’s Crafted World*

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

As is the case, this is US only data, combines PC and console sales, and does not include digital sales where indicated.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions Fortnite remained on top, followed by usual suspects of League of Legends, Grand Theft Auto V, and CS:GO, with Hearthstone slipping into the fifth spot, supplanting DOTA 2.  Again, this is likely due to a new expansion released for Blizzard’s collectable card game.  Apex Legends, which topped the chart in February, remains out of the top five, corresponding with its drop from the SuperData charts.

Other items from the SuperData Research report:

  • Growth in digital console spend makes up for sluggish PC sales. Consumers spent $8.86 billion digitally on games across console, PC and mobile worldwide in April, up 7% from the same month last year. Premium console, up 17%, was the fastest-growing segment due to the continued mix shift towards digital channels for full game units. PC overall declined 4% year-over-year despite modest growth within the free-to-play segment.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 has the best digital launch in franchise history. MK 11 sold 1.8 million digital units across console and PC in May, up from 400,000 units for Mortal Kombat X in 2015, largely due to rising digital download rates on console.
  • NBA2K growth accelerates as the NBA post-season heats up. We estimate NBA2K in-game spending grew 101% year-over-year in April, marking the largest single-month growth rate the franchise has seen since 2016.
  • Apex Legends falls out of the top rankings on console and PC. Apex Legends generated $24 million in April, down significantly for the second month in a row. Monthly revenue now sits at just over one-quarter of the launch-month sales from February.
  • Overwatch and Hearthstone still face declines despite new content updates. Both titles saw a sequential bump in total digital revenue following new content releases, but still declined 15% and 37% year-over-year, respectively. On a combined basis, Overwatch and Hearthstone digital revenue across all platforms is down 39% year-to-date compared to the same time period in 2018.

SuperData Shows Fortnite Still Popular and WoW Hanging On

It is time for the monthly digital sales chart for March 2019 from SuperData Research.

SuperData Research Top 10 – March 2019

On the PC end of the chart the usual suspects continue to occupy the top four spots.  League of Legends seems to be relegated to second place at this point, while Crossfire and Fantasy Westward Journey Online II swapped spots from last month.

Fifth spot remains the domain of Fortnite.  Battle royale remains solid there, though the big new free to play competitor, Apex Legends, that was off to such a strong start in February, fell from sixth to ninth place.  Instead, World of Tanks finds itself up in sixth position.

SuperData even tweeted a supplementary chart comparing the Twitch viewership of the two titles.

Twitch Viewership, Fortnite vs. Apex Legends

Fortnite remains popular, though Epic is running their staff hard to keep up it seems.

A new entrant, the well reviewed Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, showed up in seventh spot, reflecting strong sales for its late March launch.  It is also the rare single player title on the list.

DOTA 2 remained in either place while World of Warcraft, again flagged as “West,” maintains a spot on the list in tenth place.

On the console list The Division 2, a mid-March release, takes the top spot, pushing down last month’s first and second place titles, FIFA 19 and Fortnite, a notch each.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice grabbed the fourth spot on the console list.  Apex Legends dropped from fourth to sixth position while the troubled Anthem disappeared from the list completely for March.  Bell weather Grand Theft Auto V remained on the list, but dropped to ninth position.

On the console end of the chart the mobile version of the popular Asian MMORPG Perfect World launched in early March and jumped to the top of the chart.  That pushed Honour of Kings and Candy Crush Saga down into second and third place, followed by Pokemon Go, which held on to its fourth place spot from last month.

So there we go.

For comparison, EEDAR also has their list out for March, which mostly combines digital and retail, combines both PC and console (and excludes mobile), and which is US only, making it the ongoing orange to SuperData’s apple.  Their top ten looks like this:

  1. The Division 2
  2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice**
  3. MLB 19
  4. Devil May Cry 5
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Red Dead Redemption II
  7. NBA 2K19
  8. Grand Theft Auto V
  9. Yoshi’s Crafted World*
  10. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII**

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

For EEDAR’s social media impressions Apex Legends, which topped their list last month, disappeared in March, reinforcing what SuperData tweeted.  The list was topped by Fortnite, followed by League of Legends, Grand Theft Auto V, CS:GO, and DOTA 2.

Take that comparison for whatever you feel it is worth.

Other items from the March SuperData report:

  • Worldwide digital game spending ends the quarter on a soft note. Consumers spent $8.7 billion digitally across console, PC and mobile in March, down 3% from the prior year. Premium PC continues to lead the declines with a 23% drop, while Mobile, which made up 56% of total revenue, also fell by 2%. Console revenue was the only source of growth in March, up 10% on the back of a strong premium release slate as well as continued traction for Fortnite and Apex Legends.
  • Fortnite continues to hold steady despite increased competition. Fortnite revenue grew 7% year-over-year in March, which is the first year-ago comparison that includes console, PC and Mobile (Fortnite began its iOS beta in March 2018). We expect that Fortnite will face tough comparisons going forward as it’s unlikely to replicate last year’s meteoric rise during Spring and Summer 2018.
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege declines again despite “Year Four” spike. Rainbow Six in-game spending increased 43% across console and PC in March compared to February on the back of a new “Year Four” content release. However, revenue was still down roughly 20% year-over-year.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice outsells Dark Souls III. Activision’s new release sold roughly 1.4 million digital units across console and PC, compared to 1.2 million units for Dark Souls III during its own launch in April 2016. Growth in digital units came primarily from console, where the download rate is significantly higher than it was three years ago.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate finds success with its Fighter Pass. We estimate that Super Smash Bros. generated $67 million from in-game spending during 1Q19, primarily from its $25 Fighter Pass which unlocks several DLC characters throughout the year.

SuperData Sees Apex Legends Jump in Behind Fortnite

SuperData Research released their chart for February digital sales this week, so we have new data to gaze upon.

SuperData Research Top 10 – February 2019

On the PC end of the chart, the top four remained in the same positions we saw them in January, with League of Legends still in second place.

The interesting bit comes with fifth and sixth place, the race between Fortnite and the newly launched Apex Legends.

Apex Legends was on fire from the moment it launched, heading to a huge number of players very quickly.  SuperData posted a supplementary chart on Twitter about the quick growth of Apex Legends.

SuperData Research time to 50 million downloads

For all that speed and hype however, Fortnite managed to stay ahead of the bright new star of Apex Legends, grabbing fifth place while the new kid ended up in sixth.  Missing completely from the chart is last month’s sixth place finisher, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.  So maybe we know who took the hit on that front.

The rest of the chart is rounded out by World of Tanks, which climbed up a spot to seventh, DOTA 2, which went from tenth last month to eighth, Word of Warcraft, still flagged as “West,” which is down in ninth, and FIFA 19 Online, making its first appearance on the chart in tenth.

Also missing from the PC chart is BioWare’s Anthem, another big February launch.  However, unlike Apex Legends, a lot of what is being said about Anthem is negative.

In the middle on the console chart FIFA 19 and Fortnite held on to first and second place.  Then we have the two big February launches, Anthem and Apex Legends in third and fourth.  Then there is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, holding on to fifth, keeping it on the upper half of the chart for three months running.  Down the list, Grand Theft Auto V stayed alive another month, clocking in at eighth.

On the mobile chart, the top five stayed the same, with Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go swapping positions compared to last month.  Of note is sixth place entry PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds Mobile, the first time one of the mobile ports of a battle royale title has made the cut.

For comparison, EEDAR also has their list out for February, which mostly combines digital and retail, and which is US only, making it the orange to SuperData’s apple I suppose.

  1. Anthem
  2. Jump Force
  3. Kingdom Hearts III
  4. Far Cry New Dawn
  5. Red Dead Redemption II
  6. Resident Evil 2 2019
  7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  8. Metro: Exodus**
  9. NBA 2K19
  10. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII**

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

EEDAR’s report also shows Apex Legends topping the social media impressions, followed by Fortnite, League of Legends, CD:GO and DOTA 2.

Back to SuperData’s report for February, it contained the following supplementary notes on the digital video games market for February 2019.

  • Worldwide digital game spending returns to growth. Consumers spent $8.2 billion on digital games across console, PC and mobile in February, up 2% compared to February last year. Growth came primarily from mobile, which was up 9%. This more than made up for the 6% decline in premium PC, where the market continues to face a tough comparison against sales of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds last year.
  • Apex Legends has the best launch month of any free-to-play game in history. Apex Legends generated an estimated $92 million from in-game spending across all platforms, with the majority coming from console. Despite this, Fortnite still came in above Apex Legends in the top grossing rankings.
  • Anthem makes over $100 million in digital revenue at launch. Anthem was the top-selling title by units on console in February, with an above-average digital download rate. In-game spending came in at $3.5 million across both platforms.
  • Hearthstone takes a sharper downward turn. Hearthstone revenue had its largest year-over-year decline ever this month, dropping 52% across PC and mobile, partly due to heightened competition within the genre and likely franchise fatigue.
  • NBA2K continues its exceptional run. Life-to-date through February, NBA2K19 in-game spending is up an estimated 42% compared to NBA2K18, showing some of the highest growth seen from any mature AAA franchise in recent years.

 

SuperData says Digital Sales Were Down in January

As we roll into the end of February, SuperData Research has their digital sales numbers for January, and the headline was that sales were down year over year, with the PC platform down 29% when compared to 2018.

I guess we got everything we wanted for Christmas this year.

Anyway, the chart is available.

SuperData Research Top 10 – January 2019

On the PC side, Fortnite fell from fourth to fifth spot, allowing the long standing top four to reunite.  League of Legends fell out of first place, something that started to happen last year, replaced in the top spot by Dungeon Fighter Online.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds remained behind rival Fortnite, though they are adjacent on this list now.

World of Warcraft, again tagged as “West,” remained in seventh position, one step ahead of World of Tanks, which regained the eighth slot from Sims 4, which fell to ninth.  And in tenth position, DOTA 2 returned to the list, replacing Hearthstone West.

On the console side, FIFA 19 jumped ahead of last month’s top duo, Fortnite and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, while the venerable Grand Theft Auto V hauled itself up into forth position yet again.

And on the mobile end of the chart the top five remained unchanged from last month, shaking out as Honour of Kings, Pokemon Go, Fate/Grand Order, Candy Crush Saga, and Clash of Clans.

Nothing too exciting on any of the lists.  But next month’s charts should show the impact of two EA titles, Anthem and Apex Legends.  That pair ought to shake things up a bit.

Other items from the SuperData post:

  • Worldwide digital game spending declined on Console, PC and Mobile in January. Consumers spent $8.4 billion on digital games across all platforms in January, down 6% year-over-year. Premium PC had the biggest drop off of any platform with a 29% decline. Meanwhile, console revenue also decreased by 3% even including a favorable comparison from Fortnite due to tepid performance from top Premium Console franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, FIFA and Overwatch.
  • Fortnite dips month-over-month after a strong end to the year. Fortnite revenue on all platforms combined declined 48% month-over-month in January, although sales are still up significantly year-over-year. This comes after a peak month in December and points to an increasingly lumpy revenue profile heading into 2019.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 Online (beta) fails to pick up momentum. RDR2 Online (beta) revenue fell by 14% month-over-month in January due in part to declining MAU levels. Combined sales from both RDR2 Online (beta) and GTA V Online, which makes about 5x more than RDR2 Online (beta) from in-game spending, were flat year-over-year versus GTA V Online alone last January. (Note that Red Dead Redemption 2 Online (beta) is still not fully launched, which may create an unfair comparison against full-fledged live service offerings such as Grand Theft Auto V Online.)
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate unit sales decline sharply. We estimate that Super Smash Bros. digital units were down 83% from December, indicating that sales were more front-loaded than usual, as well as closely linked to Switch hardware purchases during the holiday season. In-game spending increased month-over-month as more players purchased the Fighter Pass.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘s high engagement levels aren’t translating into revenue gains. CS:GO MAU grew 8% year-over-year in January after benefiting from the switch to a free-to-play model in November. However, digital revenue fell considerably compared to last January as new users showed lower conversion for in-game spending.

WoW West Returns to SuperData while EEDAR has a Different List

Two SuperData Research related posts in one week?  Well, we got the 2018 in review report before they showed up with the December numbers.  But do the December numbers fill in any gaps left in the annual report?

SuperData Research Top 10 – December 2018

On the PC side of the chart League of Legends and Dungeon Fighter Online remain in the top two positions.  However, Fortnite managed to bounce its way up one spot, into third position, passing Crossfire by, which dropped to fourth.

Battlefield V disappeared off the chart, but as a title that series tends to be one that spike quickly and then fades.  But speaking of things that disappeared, Fantasy Westward Journey Online II, long a staple of the list, went missing on the November chart but returned for December, taking that fifth spot.  As I said last month, it had been rolling around between fourth and sixth for quite a stretch, so for it to go away for November and then reappear in that range in December raises questions.  Did somebody just forget to send in the numbers?

Likewise, World of Warcraft, another resident of the chart since it took on its current form, also went missing in November only to reappear in December.  And, even more odd, we’re back to the “West” designation for it, something that .  Does that mean that the game is strong here but tanking in Asia?  Or are we seeing the results of Blizzard being cagey about what they report?

The East/West thing first showed up in the report for January 2017.  It was a surprise at the time.  Then for the February 2017 report it was combined again, though the report was revised after it was initially published.  The split returned again for the April 2017 report, then was dropped until this month’s report.

Again, having dealt with this sort of thing in another industry, I suspect that SuperData has to deal with the data that Blizzard, probably via Activision, gives them.  But why they should want to split the data is unclear.  Maybe the “East” data wasn’t ready yet and they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss another month on the chart?  Who knows.  I certainly don’t.  And, as I have said before, I wouldn’t bet money on any single chart’s data.  It is the trend over time that interests me more.  If WoW sticks on the chart in 2019 it might be okay to discount the disappearance in November.

Anyway, lacking a crystal ball I will just carry on.

In between Fantasy Westward Journey Online II and World of Warcraft sits PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, holding its six place spot for another month.  At eight position is The Sims 4, down a spot from last month, but still very strong for the title.  Holiday sales must have been nice for it.

World of Tanks hung in there at ninth position, down one.  And then, in tenth place, there was a surprise appearance by Hearthstone, also wearing the “West” designation.  Are we seeing accounting issues or other problems with the Chinese government in that?  Strange times.

On the Console column Fortnite grabbed the top spot, followed by Nintendo’s release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Switch.  Red Dead Redemption 2 fell from first to fifth, but that still seems like a strong performance for the title.  And then the granddaddy of the list, Grand Theft Auto V, climbed up from ninth to six for December.  It just keeps on going.

Then at the Mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings grabbed back the top spot from Pokemon Go, which fell to second, while the six year old Candy Crush Saga proved its staying power once again by holding onto the third spot.

And so it goes.

As a comparison, EEDAR, part of NPD, has started sending me a monthly ranking for titles as well.  You can find the current list here.  Of course, it has PC and console combined, counts physical sales (which favors consoles more), doesn’t include mobile, and doesn’t include any digital sales for most titles, but it is another list, so I’ll put it in here as well. (Their chart isn’t as handy to take as a graphic so I’ll just write it out.)

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  2. Red Dead Redemption II**
  3. Battlefield V**
  4. NBA 2K19
  5. Mario Kart 8*
  6. Madden NFL 19**
  7. Super Mario Party*
  8. Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu*
  9. Marvel’s Spider-Man

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

That is definitely a different list.  Without digital League of Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, anything from Blizzard, and anything from China just disappears.  I don’t think either list is “wrong” per se.  This is just what you get what you measure different things.  SuperData is only interested in digital sales while NPD is the old school “What’s selling at GameStop” measurement for the most part. (They also have point of sales based number for books and videos.)  As NPD puts it:

NPD’s U.S. top 10 games list, ranked by dollar sales, includes full-game digital sales (from participating publishers) as well as sales for physical formats sold at retail and online across console, PC and portable platforms.

While I cannot find it written out anywhere, I suspect that it the numbers may be US and Canada only as well.

EEDAR also has a full 2018 chart, which looks like this:

  1. Red Dead Redemption II
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII**
  3. NBA 2K19
  4. Madden NFL 19**
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  7. Far Cry 5
  8. God of War 2018
  9. Monster Hunter: World
  10. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

Again, if you compare it against SuperData’s 2018 list, which I posted on Tuesday, that is… different.  And the list formats are even similar, as EEDAR’s list seems to line up with SuperData’s Premium Games list, which included both PC and console.

A few items overlap, but EEDAR again misses completely on things like PUBG and GTA V because of digital sales.

Amusingly, further down in EEDAR’s report they talk about social media impression data, and that is dominated by games missing from their chart, specifically Fortnite, League of Legends, CS:GO, DOTA 2, and PUBG.  Go figure!

Other items from the SuperData report:

  • Worldwide digital spending declines 2% to $9.0 billion. December’s weakness came primarily from Premium PC, which fell 21% due to an unfavorable comparison against PUBG and CS:GO last year, as well as another single-digit drop off in mobile. This more than offset a 12% rise in console, where Fortnite drove a 209% increase in the free-to-play segment.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite end the year on a high note. Fortnite had its highest grossing month to date, while PUBG sold 2.75 million units across console and PC.
  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate is December’s best selling console game. We estimate that Smash Bros Ultimate sold 2.49 million digital console units, making it far and away the best digital console launch on the Switch so far.
  • Sims 4 benefits from end-of-year promotions. A significant price cut led to a surge in new unit sales on both console and PC. However, DLC revenue on PC declined year-over-year by 10%.
  • Battlefield V falls short during the holidays. EA’s shooter missed out on the top 10 console list this month after selling significantly less than competing shooter titles.
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive finds early success as a free-to-play title. CS:GO hit a new MAU high point for the franchise in its second month as a F2P title. We estimate the free version generated roughly $49 million between November and December.

I generally do not comment on the other items from SuperData’s notes, but EEDAR has a different look at December.

  • Led by the record-breaking performance of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Nintendo Switch, tracked December sales reached $3.4B with growth of 2% when compared to a year ago.  Nintendo Switch also finishes the year as the best-selling hardware platform, while Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best-selling game of the year.

So SuperData, measuring digital only, says December was down while EEDAR, measuring mostly physical sales, says December was up, though the EEDAR number, $3.4 billion, was overall much smaller that SuperData’s $9 billion number.

Anyway, I’ll include EEDAR data as a comparison going forward if I can, though they are not as regular as SuperData, which is pretty consistent about dropping around the last week of the month.

SuperData and the Free and Mobile Future

SuperData Research put out their 2018 Year in Review report last week. (It is erroneously titled as 2019 as of my writing this.)  You can’t just look at it on their web site.  Instead, it is available in .pdf format and, while it is free, you do have to go through all the motions of “buying” it, save for providing a credit card.  They did the same thing last year.  The effort isn’t huge if you want to see some data.

One of the things they want you to know right away in the report is that they were acquired by Nielsen back in September.  So there is that, though I am not sure that has meant any changes in the short term.

Last year’s report was interesting for a few reasons, but what topped my list was the fact that World of Warcraft was missing from the report entirely.  Logic seemed to dictate that games that made their year in review charts, yet were consistently below WoW in revenue… and I speak specifically of World of Tanks… seemed to at least bring into question either the validity of the annual summary or the monthly charts… though there is no reason that both cannot be suspect.

So I was keen to see the report for 2018 to see if there was a repeat performance on that front.  And there is… sort of.

The problem is that SuperData chose a different way to slice and dice the game market, dividing the market into free to play and premium across all platforms.  That isn’t necessarily bad, but it does leave out any sort of “apples to apples” comparison with 2017. Still, numbers are number and lists are lists and I have long expressed a love of both, so here they are.

SuperData 2018 Year in Review – Free to Play digital revenue

The footnotes indicate that this chart was made with preliminary data for December and that Honour of Kings is known as Arena of Valor in the west.

The first thing to note, and the report goes into detail on this, is how much Fortnite dominated.  That number is across all platforms, but is huge all the same.  It is no wonder that Epic Games felt they could step up and challenge Steam.  They have a big enough world-wide audience, and no doubt enough money in the bank, to make it a pretty viable alternative.

The second is how much of that list is made up of mobile titles.  Pokemon Go is not all that far behind League of Legends, perennial list topper on the PC end of the monthly charts.  And while LoL has been down this year, I keep hearing people say that Pokemon Go was just a fad that peaked back in 2016.  That doesn’t seem to be the case. (Though, if you go look at various reported revenue numbers for Pokemon Go, they seem to be all over the map, so while it is doing well, I don’t know if it is doing as well as this chart indicates.)

Then there is the premium game chart.

SuperData 2018 Year in Review – Premium digital revenue

The footnotes again note that this includes preliminary data from December and that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds revenue does not include anything from mobile versions of the game.  This chart is limited to PC and consoles.

Probably the first thing that pops up when comparing the premium chart versus the free to play is that, save for PUBG, nothing on the premium chart made enough money to make it onto the free chart were they combined.

And then there is the question of where World of Warcraft lays in this mix.  It appeared on the PC charts from January through October (though it fell off in November) and topped League of Legends back when Battle for Azeroth shipped, but it doesn’t make the cut for premium.  But somehow Overwatch, which barely made the charts over the course of 2018, did.

Unlike in 2017, I cannot even use World of Tanks, which WoW scored ahead of for ten months running, as a signpost, since WoT didn’t make the cut either.

Of course, if I were to subscribe to SuperData’s Arcade report, I would likely have access to data that would clear this up.  However, that costs money, much more that I would like to spend, so I am left looking for clues in the incomplete data.

I think there is a hint in another slide.  SuperData breaks out the overall digital market, which raked in an estimated $109.7 billion dollars in 2018, into various groups.

  • Mobile – $61.3 billion (56%)
  • F2P PC – $17 billion (15%)
  • Premium console – $10.7 billion (10%)
  • Social – $7.3 billion (7%)
  • Premium PC – $7.2 billion (7%)
  • Pay to Play PC – $4.2 billion (4%)
  • F2P console – $2 billion (2%)

Mobile runs away with the market here, with 56% of the take.  But it is an all digital environment too.  Nobody is going to GameStop or Target or Amazon for a mobile game in a box.  And almost 70% of that came from Asia.  Of the remainder, the North America spends nearly double the amount that Europe does on mobile games.

According to SuperData, F2P makes up $87.7 billion of the market and, again, Asia consumes most of that, with more than 60% spent there.  Europe spends more than the NA on F2P PC games, but about half as much when it comes to F2P console titles.

As one might expect, premium on PC and consoles is strongest in the west.  Europe and NA spend about the same total, but Europe is split about even between PC and console while in NA about three quarters of premium dollars are spent on console titles.

And hanging about along the way is “Social,” which I assume is some subset of F2P, and “Pay to Play” which sounds a lot like the subscription model, which I think is where they stuck World of Warcraft.  It is in an awkward position now when it comes to categories as the game itself has no up front costs… you can download the client and start playing up to level 20 without a subscription and up to level 110 with one… so isn’t really a premium game, which implies buying a box.  But it also isn’t really F2P… though even if they threw it into the F2P bucket, I doubt it earned enough in 2018 to make that chart.  WoW earning a billion dollars in a year stopped being a thing quite a while back.

The “Pay to Play” category probably also includes things like the Xbox and PlayStation subscription models as well, which probably make up the lion’s share of that category.  So don’t get your hopes up on MMORPGs.  WoW, and maybe FFXIV, are probably the only two games in the genre big enough to even register on that front.

And so it goes.

I read the comments over at Massively OP where every time a mobile MMO comes up the crowd holds their nose like somebody passed gas and cash shops and lock boxes are viewed with opprobrium.  I read those sorts of things and I agree, because I am in that crowd.  But the joke is on us.  Mobile is big enough to dwarf our favored genre and free to play makes up such a big market segment that you can barely see the little corner of pay to play where our favorite games live.

So if you want to know what Blizzard will be showing mobile games at BlizzCon again this year, why even Daybreak is in that strange NantG Mobile deal, there it is.  Mobile is where the money is and free is anything but.

Then there is Fortnite, which made about double what WoW ever made at its peak.

The SuperData’s report has more to offer, including projections for the future of digital, looks into streaming, and some numbers about VR.  If you are interested you can sign up to download it from their site.