New analysis of the media's coverage of games in 2015 has indicated that CD Projekt Red's sprawling RPG The Witcher 3 was the most written about game of the year, just beating out Fallout 4 and GTA V. According to the figures, Geralt's adventures collected just over 51,000 features last year, about a thousand more than Fallout and 2000 more than GTA V.
The research, conducted by ICO Partners, also puts PlayStation at the top of the brand exposure pile, indicating that it had 50 per cent more coverage from media outlets than its nearest rival in Xbox. Sony's gaming arm was the focus of 562,198 pieces in the media, whereas Xbox clocked 396,488 mentions. Oculus Rift, which featured on the cover of Time Magazine as VR caught the public imagination, registered just 26,522 media mentions in ICO Partner's broad monitoring.
"Fallout 4 had a dream start at E3, getting record breaking coverage during the event," writes analyst Thomas Bidaux. "But the coverage it received on release, 16,000 articles in the month of November, is way, way more than the highest number of articles for a single game in a month. In 2014, the game with the most articles in a given month was Watch Dogs with close to 11,000 articles when it was released in May, with the close second GTA 5 with 9,600 articles in November, both of those performances being quite unique during the year. Here we have Fallout 4 with close to 50 per cent more articles than the best of those performance in November. Truly a phenomenon."
As well as the standout performances of new releases, plenty of games exhibited a long tail of media coverage. GTA V was buoyed by a PC release, but the perennial popularity of the Rockstar release still saw it generate plenty of media inches on console too. Minecraft also continued to permeate the public consciousness, never dropping below 2,000 articles in any month of last year. Whilst some exceptional games manage to consistently receive great coverage, much of the media cycle is heavily reliant on events to boost the signal, particularly where platforms are concerned. Unsurprisingly, E3 is still the biggest splash in the pond.
"We have seen in the past that it is the event in the year that has the biggest media impact," says Bidaux. "Interestingly, March is next for both platforms. That month sees a lot of game releases, and I suspect a harder push on the media side because of the fiscal year ending. Events such as GDC and PAX East, while having some effect, are not covered enough to be the reason behind the March spike. September is the third biggest month for PlayStation; it sees the double effect of the first wave of the year-end releases and the Tokyo Game Show.
"Of course, we can see the outcome of Microsoft being the only platform holder with a media conference at gamescom. It is the one month in the year where they clearly close the gap with Sony's console, even if they don't necessarily reach the same level.
"Finally, the steady performance of the PlayStation over the last quarter is quite remarkable. A steady release of AAA games helps, but the positive effect of the PlayStation Experience on the media coverage is tremendous and the one reason that December, an otherwise slow month for the other platforms, is one of the strongest for Son - right in time for Christmas.
"I think the competitors should take a page from Sony's playbook on this."