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PS4, Overwatch absolutely dominated games media coverage in 2016

Blizzard and Sony crushed opposition for column inches, says ICO Partners study

Blizzard's Overwatch was the overwhelming champion of 2016 in the press coverage stakes, a study by ICO Partners has shown, with the FPS recording twice as many articles in the media as its nearest rival Pokemon Go.

According to ICO's numbers, which the company releases annually, Overwatch recorded around 75,000 articles, whilst Pokemon managed just 35,000, with FFXV, Battlefield 1 and Doom following just behind. Battlefield 1 was covered in 40% more articles than rival Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which secured about 12% less coverage than last year's CoD.

However, it should be noted that the monitoring of press was largely restricted to specialist game-specific publications, presumably ignoring a considerable amount of coverage for Pokemon by mainstream sites, papers and magazines. In addition, Pokemon's short lead in meant that it wasn't covered much before its June 2016 release. (Details on ICO's methodology can be found here)

Overwatch's extreme lead remains impressive, however. Not only was it such a big winner last year, it also received 50% more coverage than any game in ICO Partner's 2015 figures. CEO Thomas Bidaux says there are a number of factors involved.

"Overwatch is striking in the sense that it is one of the only two new IPs in this ranking (The Division being part of the Tom Clancy's franchise), alongside No Man's Sky. Many industry commenters pointed to No Man's Sky's hype as being the main reason for its fall from grace, but you have to give them credit here, when you see the game is in the top 15 most covered by media game of the year, while coming from a small independent studio. Even the Sony PR machine can't be the only thing at play here, as many very large productions didn't manage to make it in these rankings. The game's hype took on a life of its own, and got big."

As ICO is also a PR agency, Bidaux has some advice about when to communicate about a game, unsurprisingly suggesting that points when huge attention vacuums aren't drawing most attention is the best bet. However, his figures show that the percentage of the media taken up by the 20 most popular games (minus Pokemon Go, because of its summer-skewing spike) remains fairly consistent throughout the year.

Bidaux explains:

"You probably want to communicate when the ratio of articles for AAA is lower. It means the coverage is more varied and more likely to be covering your game. From that perspective, November is often deemed a tough month for communications, and both graphs illustrate this well.

"When there is a lot of coverage, you also have more chances to be covered, however, the communication will also stand out less as higher volume of articles means more noise overall. In that sense, communicating during the E3 period (June) can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.

"While media coverage does drop during the Christmas period, it is the only time in the year where there is a visible drop in the volume of coverage across all media. It means that any other time, there will always be a minimum number of articles that need to be written, and it can pay off to aim for the periods outside of the AAA games releases, like January or July."

In terms of platform, Sony were the clear winners, with PS4 outshining the Xbox One by around 25%, thanks to the Slim, Pro and PSVR, and benefiting hugely from the exposure afforded by the PlayStation Experience in December. However, the One also saw an uptick of 18% in coverage on 2015, showing encouraging growth for Microsoft ahead of the Scorpio's release next year. The Wii U's coverage continued to decline and was almost caught by the rising Oculus Rift.

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Dan Pearson