Franchises hold strong during summer slowdown. Established top franchises like Call of Duty, FIFA, and Grand Theft Auto managed to keep their top spots in console rankings. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and DOOM saw their rankings drop precipitously as expected due to the relatively short lifespan of single-player titles. June was a particularly significant month for Grand Theft Auto on both console and PC. A popular update for GTA Online lured thousands of players back to the title. Free-to-play titles ousted Overwatch from the top spot on PC, showing the difficulty of sustaining revenues for full-priced games.
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Evolve goes free-to-play following poor initial success
Asymmetric online first person shooter game Evolve had a decent start when it launched in February 2015. However, mediocre reviews and criticism of its aggressive monetization prevented it from reaching break-thru success. 2K Games, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO), re-launched the game as Evolve Stage 2, a free-to-play PC title with updated visuals and gameplay. Gamers have so far responded positively to the change, propelling it into Steam’s top 20 rankings, measured by concurrent players. However, the publisher has yet to profit from its gamble as revamped micro-transactions have not yet been added. The game’s trajectory raises questions about the place of niche titles in a saturated FPS market dominated by Call of Duty and the Battlefield franchise. As the console cycle reaches its maturity stage, we expect to see other smaller titles go free-to-play to avoid getting crowded out by their bigger competitors. One title that is well-positioned to follow Evolve’s example is Take-Two’s other recent shooter Battleborn, which has been struggling in the presence of Activision Blizzard’s breakout hit Overwatch. We anticipate the publisher to announce a free-to-play makeover for Battleborn in the coming months.
GTA Online continues to dominate with $53.2M in June revenue
Perennial favorite GTAV earned a spot among this month’s top 10 titles for both PC and console again. Full game downloads have been decaying steadily in previous months, falling 16% from March to April and 20% from April to May, but were propped up by over 200K downloads during Steam’s summer sale. More importantly, Rockstar’s commitment to delivering new content for GTA Online paid off again. The Further Adventures in Finance and Felony expansion helped grow the monthly user base 21% month-over-month. Combined with high average spending and conversion rates, June consequently resulted in GTA Online’s second-best month on record for additional content sales. The regularity and consistency of the game’s updates continues to impress and shows the hit-title’s ability to generate recurrent revenue. However, we anticipate a softening its current growth as it enters its third year on market. With the wait between substantial expansions lengthening, players will inevitably migrate to other games.
Shutting down third-party gambling sites may prove beneficial for CS:GO
Counter Strike: Global Offensive fell into scandal when it became clear that several well-known YouTubers posted deceptive videos of themselves “winning” risky wagers on a gambling site that they themselves owned. The resulting controversy triggered a re-assessment of Valve’s responsibility for regulating third-party betting platforms. CS:GO continues to be a major revenue driver for Valve: in addition to regular game sales, the company also takes a cut of skins trading via Steam. Valve has come under scrutiny before, in a well-publicized lawsuit filed this June alleging tacit support of illegal betting. But July’s PR backlash against dishonest CS:GO bloggers spurred the company to action. Valve has taken the unprecedented step of issuing cease and desist requests to 23 gambling sites, alleging that third-party use of Steam’s API for gambling is a violation of its user-agreement. While many believe Valve tolerated a flourishing gambling scene for years to boost user-engagement, an alternate possibility is Valve did not want to antagonize the the game’s community by cracking down on small, popular websites. Now that public opinion has shifted, Valve may see an opportunity to shut down competing platforms and limit skins-trading to Steam, which could boost the title’s additional content spending past its 2016 peak of $22.60.
China’s new mobile regulations are a stumbling block for developers
Generating $679M in revenues in June, China’s mobile games market critical to the success of many publishers. But the barriers around the world’s largest mobile market have just gotten higher. After several months of preparatory actions that included shutting down foreign-operated servers, China’s State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) announced a slew of new regulations this July. Significant uncertainty still exists as to how the new laws will be implemented, but key requirements for developers include submitting all mobile games (including existing ones) to the SAPPRFT for approval, removing any content that subverts China’s government or “Chinese morals” and collecting user-data that can verify gamers’ real identities. The approval process alone can take up to five months for complex games, with an expedited process available for simple genres. These requirements present a significant burden for both foreign and domestic mobile developers, and indicate that China’s government is prioritizing greater information control over the local games industry. We expect stagnant mobile revenues until Chinese publishers and developers figure out exactly how the new laws will be implemented.
Top Grossing Mobile Games by Revenue, June 2016
|2||Mobile Strike||Machine Zone|
|3||Game of War: Fire Age||Machine Zone|
|4||Clash of Clans||Supercell|
Top Grossing PC DLC Games by Revenue, June 2016
|2||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive||Valve|
|3||Grand Theft Auto V||Take-Two|
Top Grossing Free-to-play MMO Games by Revenue, June 2016
|1||League of Legends||Tencent|
|3||Dungeon Fighter Online||Nexon|
|4||World of Tanks||Wargaming|
Top Grossing Pay-to-play MMO Games by Revenue, June 2016
|1||World of Warcraft||Activision Blizzard|
|2||Fantasy Westward Journey Online II||NetEase|
|4||Star Wars: The Old Republic||Electronic Arts|
|5||Tera Online||En Masse|
Top Grossing Social Games by Revenue, June 2016
|3||Candy Crush Saga||Activision Blizzard|
|5||Jackpot Party Casino —SlotsS||Slotomania|
Top Grossing Console Games by Revenue, June 2016
|1||Call of Duty: Black Ops III||Activision|
|2||FIFA 16||Electronic Arts|
|3||Grand Theft Auto V||Take-Two|
|5||Tom Clancy’s The Division||Ubisoft|