Report: ‘Star Wars’ Video Games Most Popular Nationwide

While the video game industry continues to see sequential monthly sales declines, a new study contends that “Star Wars”-based video games are the most popular in America, with seven states recording major increases in online searches for the franchise.

The study, conducted by online gaming platform Yahtzee Craze, analyzed Google Trends to discover the top trending titles that appear alongside searches for “video games” to discover which ones gamers have been Googling more than any other in each state.

“Star Wars” games trended the most in Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota and West Virginia, as well as Colorado, where the top search was for the series “Star Wars: Jedi” and in Massachusetts, where the most-searched title included “Lego Star Wars.”

The second most-popular game franchise is Nintendo’s “Super Mario Bros.,” ranking tops in Alabama, Delaware, Nevada, Texas and Wyoming. Specifically, the “Mario Bros.” brand trended high in Alabama and Texas, while “Super Mario Bros.” was tops in Nevada and Wyoming. The Japanese franchise made its debut in 1983 with Mario Bros. (a spinoff of 1981’s Donkey Kong), and is still one of the most-played video games in the world.

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“Pokémon” trended highly in four states, including Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Rhode Island, while Marvel’s “Spider-Man” trended tops in Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

Further down the list: “Resident Evil” trended tops in three states, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Washington, while the venerable shooter franchise, “Call of Duty,” topped search in New York, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

“Video games have never been more popular, and this data reveals that there is an impressively broad range of titles that Americans are keen to play,” Yahtzee said in a statement. “Overall, it’s very encouraging for the video game industry, and great for fans who have such a wide range of popular titles to choose from.

Trending video games franchises in each state by game

Game franchises Number of states
Star Wars 7
Mario 5
Pokémon, Spider Man 4
Resident Evil, Call of Duty 3
Warhammer 40,000, The Last of Us, Halo, Madden NFL, FIFA 2
Red Dead, Among Us, The Elder Scrolls, New World, GTA, Sonic the Hedgehog, Uncharted, Battlefield, The Witcher, Far Cry, Batman, LEGO, Assassin’s Creed 1

Sony Launches New PlayStation Plus Game Subscription Service

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) on June 13 announced the launch of a new PlayStation Plus video game subscription service in North and South America. The newly enhanced PlayStation Plus absorbs the current Playstation Now platform and claims to offer a bigger game catalog, in addition to enhanced social media functions — for the higher-priced subscription plans.

Today’s launch in the Americas will be followed by Europe and Australia in late June, completing the global roll-out that started in Asia in late May.

As a result, current subs will migrate over to PlayStation Plus Premium with cloud streaming access until their current subscription expires — with no increase to their current subscription fees at launch. Additionally, 11 markets in Eastern Europe will launch with cloud streaming access this month, for a total of 30 markets with cloud streaming access.

“The high caliber of content is what sets PlayStation Plus apart, and the service will continue to grow with new monthly game offerings that include some of the most celebrated titles on PlayStation platforms,” Jim Ryan, CEO of SIE, said in a statement.

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For the basic $9.99 PlayStation Plus Essential plan, the subscription service provides the same benefits that PlayStation Plus members are getting today, such as PS4 and PS5 monthly games, online multiplayer access, exclusive discounts, cloud storage and more. There are no changes for existing PlayStation Plus members in this plan and pricing remains the same.

For PlayStation Plus Extra subs, the $14.99 monthly tier adds a catalog of up to 400 PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games, including titles from the PlayStation Studios catalog and third-party partners. Games in the Extra plan are downloadable for play.

For $17.99 monthly PlayStation Plus Premium subs, the new service adds 340 additional games, including PlayStation3 games available via cloud streaming, a catalog of classic games from the original PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable generation.

The new PlayStation Plus game catalog will include titles from dozens of studios across the globe, including PlayStation Studios developers such as Insomniac Games, Naughty Dog, and Sucker Punch, and third-party partners such as Rockstar Games, Square Enix, WB Games and more. At launch, the PlayStation Plus game catalog will include titles such as Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut, Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, NBA 2K22, and Red Dead Redemption 2. The hundreds of games available in the PlayStation Plus games catalog will continue to refresh and evolve over time, so there is always something new for gamers to play.

Classic games coming to PlayStation Plus include beloved hits such as Ape Escape, Syphon Filter and Tekken 2. Some of these classic games will show improved frame rates and higher quality resolution than its original launch versions. Additionally, select games from the original PlayStation and PSP generation will include a new user experience with menus that allow players to save their game at any time, or even rewind the game to replay a specific section.

PlayStation Plus initially launched in 2010 and was the first console membership service to provide a regular library of monthly games. PlayStation Now launched in 2014 and was the first game console subscription streaming service.

NPD: First-Quarter 2022 U.S. Consumer Spending on Video Games Decreased 8% to $13.9 Billion

Total consumer spending on video games in the U.S. reached $13.9 billion in the first quarter, ended March 31, a decline of 8% when compared to $15.1 billion in the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm said losses were seen across console and portable content, PC, cloud and non-console VR content, mobile content, hardware, and accessories. Mobile contributed most to the decline. Data from Sensor Tower shows U.S. consumer spending in mobile games during the first quarter fell 10% from Q1 2021.

“We witnessed an uncharacteristic quarter-over-quarter decline in mobile game spending by U.S. players coming out of 2021,” Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at Sensor Tower, said in a statement.

Nelson cautioned that while the downturn in mobile game revenue shouldn’t be confused with a loss in consumer interest.

“Usage of the most popular titles continues to grow, with their combined active users up from the first quarter of last year as well from the first quarter of 2019,” Nelson said. “Players are clearly still engaging with favorite games on mobile but have a broader array of alternative entertainment options open to them compared to a year ago as life in the U.S. normalizes.”

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NPD said overall content spending in Q1 reached $12.13 billion, a 7% decrease over Q1 2021. Subscription content was the only segment to post positive gains. Hardware and accessories declined 15% and 16%, respectively.

Among the best-selling and most played games across all platforms in the first quarter were Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Call of Duty: Vanguard, Call of Duty: Warzone, Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Coin Master, Elden Ring, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto V, Horizon: Forbidden West, Madden NFL 22, Mario Kart 8, Mario Party Superstars, Minecraft, NBA 2K22, Pokémon GO, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Roblox, The Sims 4 and WWE 2K22.

“Despite declines when compared to the first quarter of 2021, industry spending and engagement remained significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels,” said Mat Piscatella, games industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Several factors influenced the changes in spending on video games seen so far this year. These included continued supply constraints on new console hardware, a comparable quarter from last year that included government COVID-19 stimulus checks for individuals, and the return of experiential spending opportunities that had been depressed last year, among others.”

Video game hardware unit sales were led by Nintendo Switch, while Xbox hardware generated the highest dollar sales in the first quarter, a 92% increase when compared Q1 2021.

Streaming Facing Headwinds, Say Speakers at DEG’s EnTech Fest

The boom in streaming is hitting some headwinds, according to speakers at a May 4 research presentation during DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s EnTech Fest 2022 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

“SVOD was really the winner of the pandemic period,” said the NPD’s Elizabeth Lafontaine. In-home entertainment “drove the entertainment industry over the past few years,” she noted.

“As we’ve gotten into 2022 many of these industries have started to soften, as experiences come back online,” she said.

Consumers are getting out and going to theme parks, traveling, seeing live shows, etc. — spending more on experiential entertainment. Experiential spending has returned to about 95% of what it was during the pre-pandemic period, she said.

“Experiential offerings are typically much more expensive, so it is going to eat into some of the other entertainment demand,” she noted.

As they get out, consumers are not engaging as much with SVOD, but “we’re still seeing engagement levels higher than the pre-pandemic period,” she said.

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Consumers reported spending on about four SVOD services (3.9 on average) in October 2021, which is down about one service from that time in 2020 (5.2). “But we’re still above that pre-pandemic period,” she said.

For streaming companies, the question is how to be one of those four services consumers choose.

In the past year, services increasingly turned to original programming, especially with licensed content being clawed back by studios’ direct-to-consumer services. In 2021, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu saw lower inventory throughout the year as this licensed content was pulled. But in response Netflix, for instance, by the end of 2021 grew original movie offerings by 22% and original series by 24%.

“Netflix has committed to spending about $17 billion annually on original content,” she said.

Also, with increased competition in the space for consumers’ time and money, “bundling and ad-supported is giving subscribers who may not have subscribed before a new point of entry to these services,” she said.

Another way consumers are economizing on subscriptions is through churn, noted Deloitte’s Kevin Downs. A recent Deloitte survey found the U.S. paid streaming service churn rate averaged 37%. “It’s high,” he said.

The churn rate was even higher among Gen Z and Millennials, with more than half of those respondents either canceling or canceling and adding paid services in the past six months. While access to original content (39%) and a broad range of content (38%) were the top two reasons U.S. consumers said they were subscribing to paid SVOD services, U.S. subscribers said they’re canceling paid SVOD services due to cost (41%), price increases (30%) and lack of new content (30%).

A majority (60%) of consumers would prefer to have reduced cost, ad-supported options, Downs noted.

Significant majorities of consumers also said they were frustrated with finding content and having to subscribe to so many services to find it.

In addition to cost and content concerns, services also have to compete with time spent on video games — a pursuit younger generations in particular may find more appealing than watching TV or movie content, he said.

Whip Media’s Vince Muscarella and Kortney Kesses noted that, aware of the appeal of games, streaming services are targeting gaming fans by creating content from game franchise IP.

They pointed out that “The Last of Us,” a series based on the game scheduled for HBO Max sometime in 2023, is already gaining some traction among fans, reaching 16,000 interested followers on their tracking service well ahead of other big titles this far ahead of release.

“It’s probably going to be HBO Max’s biggest release to date,” said Muscarella, who admitted he is one of those eager fans.

“Other companies are going to start paying attention to video game IP for content,” he said.

Rogie Snail Bows First Video Game on Netflix

Video game publisher Rogue Snail has released its first-ever video game on Netflix, titled Relic Hunters: Rebels. The role-playing game (RPG) is also the publisher’s first mobile game.

Players assume the franchise’s hunter characters (Jimmy, Ace, Pinkyy, and Raff), utilizing upwards of 44 different weapons, each with unique qualities, affinities, and elemental effects required to fight off space ducks and turtles in an attempt to defeat the evil Ducan Empire.

Netflix is aggressively trying to carve out a niche in the mobile game market, acquiring two publishers, Boss Fight and Next Games, in March to expand its gaming base to three companies following last September’s acquisition of publisher Night School.

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In a blog post, Rogue Snail CEO Mark Venturelli discusses with Netflix the creative inspirations behind Relic Hunters: Rebels, the importance of inclusion in gaming and working with the SVOD pioneer for the first time.

Mobile users can download Relic Hunters: Rebels from the Netflix mobile app or directly from the Apple or Google app stores.

Netflix: Why did you want to bring Relic Hunters: Rebels to Netflix?

Venturelli: Besides being huge fans of Netflix, we were thrilled to be one of the early pioneer developers for Netflix Games and to be part of this story from the beginning. The idea that we could make games without worrying about monetization was also very compelling, as it allows us to focus on just making a fun game without having to worry about how to pay our bills. This keeps the game fun and fair for everyone. Netflix also backed our vision and provided us with the creative freedom to develop Relic Hunters: Rebels just like we wanted.

Netflix: Was there anything particularly special about the creation of this game knowing that this is the first mobile game in the Relic Hunters franchise?

Venturelli: We tried to make a game that would run easily on older phones, so we could reach a wider audience in places where people can’t afford a new device every year. It’s a great opportunity to bring even more people into the Relic Hunters universe. Our fans have also been asking for mobile Relic Hunters for a while, and we felt like this was the perfect opportunity to deliver.

Netflix: Rebels has a non-binary character (Baru). How does inclusion and diversity influence Rogue Snail as a studio and in the games you make?

Venturelli: We have a very diverse team at Rogue that includes African, European, and Asian cultural influences. That diversity allows us to make better games by enabling new voices and ideas, and by providing our talent with an enjoyable workplace that is welcoming to everyone. The inclusion of Baru was absolutely natural considering that the character was written by a non-binary person, drawn by a trans woman, and voiced by a non-binary talent in Jan Aponte.

We want our players to feel embraced for who they are. We also believe that the gaming community is growing up and learning that making more people feel welcomed and accepted does not make the space any less so for dudes like me, aka a nerdy white guy. As long as we all respect each other, we can have a lot more fun together.

Netflix: Relic Hunters represents one of Netflix’s first mobile games out of Brazil. What makes gamers in Brazil and South America unique and how does that translate to your games?

Venturelli: As kids, the Brazilian members of our team were exposed to many different styles from different parts of the globe, like anime, American cartoons, superheroes, Super Sentai, and tokusatsu. These influences, combined with contributions from our diverse team,  help us create games that appeal to multicultural audiences around the world.

Netflix: Are there any easter eggs fans should be on the lookout for? If so, why were those important to include?

Venturelli: Yes, especially for those familiar with the Relic Hunters franchise. We like to highlight our Hunters’ journeys, so you may find some easter eggs related to Relic Hunters Zero and the upcoming Relic Hunters Legend in Relic Hunters: Rebels. But you’ll have to play to find out. We don’t want to give away any spoilers.

NPD: Video Game Sales Decline for Fifth Consecutive Month

Sales of physical and digital video games, hardware and accessories declined in March for the fifth consecutive month, according to new data from The NPD Group. The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm said total sales dropped 15% to $4.85 billion

Overall sales slid 15% to $4.853 billion, from $5.7 billion in the previous-year period. The decline is more than double February’s 6% drop, preceded by a 2% dip in January.

Hardware revenue plummeted 24% to $515 million, from $677 million last year. For the first quarter, ended March 31, total hardware revenue declined 15%, $1.2 billion from $1.4 billion. Microsoft’s Xbox Series was the best-selling platform, while the Nintendo Switch again topped all devices in unit sales.

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Accessory sales dropped 23% to $227 million from almost $295 million. In Q1, accessories tallied $592 million, down 16% from almost $705 million. The best-selling accessory remained the Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller.

Game sales fell 13% to $4.11 billion, from $4.72 billion. For the first three months, revenue dropped 7% to $13.9 billion, from $14.94 billion. The top-selling title was Bandai’s Elden Ring, which is now the No. 2 best-selling title over the past 12 months behind Activision’s Call of Duty: Vanguard.

Merchandising: Walmart Offers Poster With ‘Scream’

There weren’t many retailer exclusives among the new releases April 5.

One notable one was touted by Walmart, which offered the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack of the new Scream with a movie poster. The bundle was listed online at $29.96.

The fifth “Scream” movie and first in 10 years finds a mix of new characters and returning favorites joining forces to battle the latest copycat of the Ghostface killer.

Target put its entertainment promotional energy during the week into a video game sale, with a buy-two-get-one-free offer on select video games.

In addition, Target offered a free $10 gift card with purchase of the new Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga video game for any platform.

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Deloitte Digital Media Survey: Paid Streaming Service Churn Rate High, Especially Among Younger Generations

Paid streaming services are facing challenges. Churn is high, especially among younger people, and younger generations, especially Gen Z, actually prefer playing video games to watching video and spend a lot of time watching user-generated content rather than TV shows and movies.

That’s according to Deloitte’s 16th annual digital media trends survey. The U.S. survey was fielded by an independent research firm in December 2021 and employed an online methodology among 2,000 U.S. consumers. All data was weighted back to the most recent census data to give a representative view of consumer sentiment and behaviors. The survey was also fielded in the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil and Japan in December 2021 and January 2022. All data from the global markets was weighted to be nationally representative.

The U.S. paid streaming service churn rate averaged 37%, with 33% of respondents both adding and canceling a service and 4% canceling a service in the past six months. The churn rate was even higher among Gen Z and Millennials, with more than half of those respondents either canceling or canceling and adding paid services in the past six months. The trend also held true globally, with average churn in the international territories surveyed at 30% and younger generations more likely to move in and out of services.

While access to original content (39%) and a broad range of content (38%) were the top two reasons U.S. consumers said they were subscribing to paid SVOD services, U.S. subscribers said they’re canceling paid SVOD services due to cost (41%), price increases (30%) and lack of new content (30%).

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While older generations said they prefer watching TV and movies at home, Gen Z respondents preferred video games as their favorite form of digital entertainment. About four in 10 (41%) U.S. consumers said they spend more time watching user-generated video content than they do TV shows and movies on video streaming services — a sentiment that increased to around 60% for Gen Zs and Millennials.

In the United States, 81% of social media users said they use social media services at least daily and 59% said they use these services several times a day, with younger generations (including Gen Z, Millennial, and Gen X) leading the pack on social media usage.

In the United States, 80% of both men and women said they play video games, and half of smartphone owners said they play on a smartphone daily. Gen Z and Millennials said they play video games an average of 11 and 13 hours per week, respectively. Gen X gamers followed closely behind with around 10 hours of game play every week.

“While streaming video on-demand business models look much the same as they did when they were created 15 years ago, social media and gaming companies have quickly evolved their offerings, leveraging technology, and capitalizing on behaviors,” Jana Arbanas, vice chair, Deloitte LLP and U.S. telecom, media and entertainment sector leader, said in a statement. “Social media is free and available anywhere, anytime, offering both passive and interactive experiences with endless streams of personalized content, without the cost of a subscription. And more people are interacting and socializing in game worlds that host millions of users, brands and franchises, and major non-gaming events. SVOD companies aren’t just competing with each other for audiences, they are also competing with different, more social and immersive forms of entertainment.” 

Netflix Acquires Video Game Developer Boss Fight Entertainment

Netflix has expanded its foray into video games and mobile games with the acquisition of Boss Fight Entertainment, a game publisher based in Allen, Texas. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition marks the third for Netflix as the SVOD behemoth seeks to diversify its content portfolio. Earlier this month, Netflix acquired Finland-based publisher Next Games in a cash offer worth about $72 million.

Boss Fight titles include the “Age of Empires,” “Star Wars: The Old Republic” and “Halo Wars” franchises, as well as the free-to-play mega-hits CastleVilleDungeon Boss, myVEGAS Bingo and Kingdom Boss!

“Since we launched mobile games to our members around the world just four months ago, we’ve been expanding our games catalog bit by bit as we build out our in-house creative development team,” Amir Rahimi, VP of Game Studios at Netflix, wrote in a post.

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Boss Fight Entertainment was founded in 2013 by David Rippy (CEO), Bill Jackson (CCO), and Scott Winsett (COO), who collectively said joining Netflix’s push for ad-free games will enable them to focus on content creation rather than the business side.

“Netflix’s commitment to offer ad-free games as part of members’ subscriptions enables game developers like us to focus on creating delightful game play without worrying about monetization,” Rippy, Jackson and Winsett wrote.

Boss Fight Entertainment will continue to operate out of its current studios in Allen (Dallas), Austin, and Seattle.

“Through partnerships with developers around the world, hiring top talent, and acquisitions like this, we hope to build a world-class games studio capable of bringing a wide variety of delightful and deeply engaging original games — with no ads and no in-app purchases — to our hundreds of millions of members around the world,” Rahimi wrote.

Netflix Launches Three More Mobile Games, Including First-Person Shooter

Netflix March 22 announced the availability of three more mobile video games, including the streamer’s inaugural first-person shooter title. The SVOD pioneer has quietly upped its gaming profile in an effort to attract new subscribers in the U.S. — it’s most-saturated market.

Netflix, which last November launched its first mobile games, including Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Shooting Hoops, Card Blast and Teeter Up, recently acquired Finland-based publisher Next Games, which accounts for several games based on “The Walking Dead” zombie series.

Netflix’s new games include sequel Into the Dead 2: Unleashed, which puts the gun in the player’s hand to combat zombies; This Is a True Story, a puzzle about an African woman’s challenge to find water for her family; and Shatter Remastered, a reboot of Shatter, the 2009 title released on the Sony PlayStation 3 platform.

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The titles can be download directly from the Netflix mobile app or directly from the Apple or Google app store. Android mobile users will see a dedicated games row and a games tab where they can select any game to download. Apple iOS mobile users will see a dedicated games row where you can select any game to download.

Tablet users will see a dedicated games link, or they can select games from the categories drop down menu to download and play.