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Key coverage trends in October 2023
This report looks at video game-related stories for a range of key topics. Sourced from mainstream media and industry publications, the report covers the period of 1st-31st October, totalling over 32,000 stories.
- AI again took the number one spot, with stories about dead voice actors and uncanny valley faces (controversy is never far off when it comes to the subject)
- The surprise development of the month was the lack of stories and editorial pieces covering the closure of the Microsoft-Activision deal – perhaps a consequence of exhaustion by all involved.
- A boost to diversity coverage thanks to the new Assassins Creed game, set in the Middle East
- A report, “Playing for the Planet” discussed how the industry and gamers can lower their carbon footprint
- Another report, “The Power of Play” showed the positive benefits of gaming
- Layoff stories became an almost daily occurrence in October
- According to Unity’s annual report on toxicity in gaming, things are getting worse
- Shell managed to launch a disastrous marketing campaign in Roblox
Change in coverage volumes by topic compared to September 2023
In October, five coverage categories were down, but ten were up, including some very large increases related to diversity, monetisation and a graph-breaking 617% for preservation.
Articles covering industry layoffs were still regular, but there were fewer than recorded in September – possibly because none of the announcements were as significant.
Unity’s latest annual report into online toxicity once again made for depressing reading.
There were few M&A deals announced in the month.
Coverage trends by topic
Once again, the topic of AI was the strongest trending topic, down a little on September, but still showing up in over 9000 widely varying pieces. Rather than having a few “big” stories, there were many different ones. Notable highlights included CD Projekt Red using AI to replace a dead voice actor, and criticism of hit shooter “The Finals” using AI voice acting. Kotaku also wrote an enjoyable article showing that gamers remain unimpressed with AI-filtered graphics, residing squarely in the middle of the Uncanny Valley.
As the industry matures, it is starting to generate more powerful value propositions, including the possibility of Zack Snyder directing the upcoming Gears of War film, and the creator of Stardew Valley film thinking big for a movie version of his game. IGN also noted that this was the year Nintendo became a full-blown entertainment brand.
Whilst remaining a key topic, October saw a 43% drop in stories compared to the previous month. Notable stories included a gaming demo day featuring many key players, an eerily realistic podcast featuring Mark Zuckerberg, and signs of a bounceback for gaming cryptocurrencies.
A strong month for this topic, up 88% on September. Key stories included a new Assassins Creed game set in Baghdad featuring native Arabic voice acting and a STEM initiative featuring the Harlem Globetrotters. The continuing success of Baldurs Gate 3 featured in many stories, often focussing on the diverse character creation options.
The biggest story in October on this topic was a new report called The Power of Play, which highlighted the positive benefits of gaming. A dozen industry bodies contributed to the report, including UKIE and the ESA. Other interesting stories include how video games are helping the mental health of army veterans, and incorrect coding on an ad platform leading to children being exposed to graphic imagery from the Israel/Hamas war.
There was a small increase in coverage of this topic during the month. Online casinos continuously generate headlines, such as this story from Canada, and this one from Australia. The long-standing topic of video game addiction ticks on, with a steady flow of articles on the theme, such as this one from Colorado.
Mergers & Acquisitions
It was surprising to see that the end of the Microsoft/Activision merger generated a fair amount of coverage, but less than anticipated – perhaps there was very little to say after such a long saga, especially as the outcome was largely known towards the end. The other key story concerned the overall drop in M&A, although there was some activity, including multiple deals by Xsolla, which made three acquisitions.
With a near-doubling of stories, the topic remains highly relevant. The disastrous Epic policy change rumbled on, with the company looking outside the game industry for increased revenue. Diablo 4’s live-service model received plenty of scrutiny, and a new report from Technavio on the growing size of the industry also drove interest in the topic.
A quiet month for this topic, partly down to layoffs taking most of the employment-related headlines. Companies are keen to stress their positive working practices, such as this general look at the topic, or this article focussing on CD Projekt Red. However, the occasional negative story continued to appear.
Sadly, having seen a 600% jump in coverage during the previous month, October saw a further doubling of figures on the subject. A slew of bad news included coverage of layoffs by Twitch, Paradox, Team 17, Keywords Studios, Bungie, Naughty Dog and many more.
Amidst a quiet month for the topic, one story stood out head and shoulders from the rest – Shell’s disastrous attempt at “Gameswashing” in Roblox. This will be taught to students for years to come. Elsewhere, a new report by The Carbon Trust, with the support of trade body UKIE, set out challenges
Another topic seeing an unwelcome jump in October, up 83%. A report from Unity showed that a majority of devs said that toxicity is getting worse, made for ugly reading. Another story saw former Ubisoft execs arrested after a sexual harassment investigation, which was a positive development. AI is playing a role in combatting online toxicity, but it was interesting to note the nuance in play as some outlets reported the same story as a sign of censorship.
The topic saw a graph-ruining 600% jump in October. A few stories made up much of the news – key sector publication Gamesindustry.biz claimed “the industry is torching its own legacy”, and retro gaming took centre stage at Paris Game Week,. Team shooter “Gigantic” returned for a “limited time throwback event” five years after it was shut down, and Xbox CEO Phil Spencer spoke in an interview of his desire to bring back old IPs.
Another busy month for esports, with some big stories making the headlines. Highlights included the IOC announcing plans to create an esports Olympic games, and Saudi Arabia launching the esports World Cup. Blizzard axed the Overwatch League, and a row developed as British esports partnered with Saudi Arabia’s esports federation.
This data was collected from an online search of news stories published between October 1st and October 30th, 2023.
The data is restricted to news stories, in English only, from all globally available sources classed primarily as news sites covering the games industry. It does not include social media posts or blog content.
Efforts have been made to use the most accurate search terms, with filters to remove commonly occurring false positives but with over 32,000 pieces of data gathered, 100% accuracy cannot be guaranteed.