Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
25 October 2006
Media consolidation...or not
Update: Revised data is now available in a newer post.

I was doing some number crunching recently on system launches and Next-Gen.biz offered to put some of them up on their site. That post will run over there tomorrow [it is now up, click here], and I'll be posting some auxiliary results that complement that post here. In the meantime, I want to show a related graph that shows how many more voices have joined the videogame media in the past decade. (In case you're coming here from the nod we got in this week's Next-Gen.biz podcast, this is the data that the editor, Colin Campbell, mentioned.)

The basic questions: How many outlets (magazines, websites) does GameRankings list which contributed reviews to each PSOne launch game, on average? How many for each launch game on Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and Xbox 360?

The answers are here (click for full-sized version):
As you can see from this graph, the coverage of these launch games has increased every generation. Since GameRankings probably wasn't around in 1995, that of course limits their data from the early launches. Even if we just look at the PlayStation 2 and newer, there is a clear increase in sites providing reviews of games. When we get to the Xbox 360 an average of almost 65 sites are reviewing each game.

A few points:
  • A little of this growth is probably coming from magazines. Since 1995 and 2001 respectively, the Sony and Microsoft systems have added a few dedicated magazines each. Nintendo has always had their own. GameStop has its own publication. I'm sure there are more.
  • Most growth, however, is coming from websites. Look at all the coverage of Halo: Combat Evolved. There are dozens of sites that I bet you've never heard of. Who was Into Liquid Sky and did they really run for seven years before quitting? Good gravy.
  • All of this growth means that it is more difficult for a big name site to dominate the conventional wisdom. It's one thing for IGN to have one of only two reviews for Battle Arena Toshinden on the PSOne, but quite another for it to have one of 58 reviews of Tekken Tag Tournament on the PlayStation 2.
  • The big sites will probably always have a jump on the little ones because they get advance copies, get to play previews, and so forth. However, after a week or a month you'll see more sites add to the average score.
  • Even with all the extra coverage, it's still the case that big sites can dominate a game's reviews, especially smaller games. Look at It's Mr. Pants for the Game Boy Advance. There are 20 reviews, and at least 11 of them are from big-name sites or magazines. The smaller sites have fewer resources and no doubt have to focus on the big name games to stay relevant.
  • I was particularly struck by the Xbox and GameCube numbers. Those systems launched at almost the same time, but the Xbox games were clearly more covered than the GameCube games. Perhaps just because the Xbox was the big story, being Microsoft's first console? Or some other factor?
That's it for tonight. I'll have more stuff tomorrow when the other piece goes up on Next-Gen.biz.

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--Matt Matthews at 22:58
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