Google Says Gamers Are Searching For Their Favorite Titles More, And Earlier, Than Ever

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Google just released a research paper with the grandiose title “Understanding the Modern Gamer,” which looks at search and purchase activity around blockbuster video game titles. The conclusion: Gamers are doing more searching than ever related to their favorite games, and they’re doing it over the space of a full year year.

The subtext: Hey video game publishers, maybe you should buy some ads from Google, especially in the months before a game launches.

Google says the data is based on “the hundreds of millions of video game searches” (both desktop and mobile) that occurred around the top 20 selling games of 2010 and 2011. The company found that desktop searches increased 20 percent year-over-year, while mobile searches increased 168 percent.

There’s a lifecycle to a gaming launch, and Google looked at search volume over that period. For 2011 titles, on average, 40 percent of searches took place in the six months before the launch, 28 percent took place in the month before, and 32 percent took place in the three months afterwards.

“Users are planning, researching, and considering their video game purchases a lot earlier (6 months), and continuing to engage with the game – by downloading reviews, discussing game strategies and purchasing extra game features online, for about 4 months after their initial purchase,” the company says in a blog post summarizing the research.

google video game chart 1

Regarding those first six months, Google writes, “For marketers, this longer, more engaged research phase is a key moment to influence users’ purchase decisions.” It points approvingly to EA for taking out ads alongside search results and in YouTube to promote its game trailers during this period.

As you can tell from the growth numbers, mobile is an increasingly important part of the equation, now accounting for one in five “purchase-related searches” and one in four “tips-related searches.” That last part makes sense if you imagine someone playing a game on their TV, then looking for hints and walkthroughs on their phones when they get stuck.

And yes, those ads seem to be related to actual sales (which isn’t quite the same as establishing that the ads caused the sales). Google says that 84 percent of game sales were predicted by ad clicks during the 10 months surrounding the launch. For example, if a game’s ads get 250,000 clicks during that period, it will probably sell between 2 and 4 million copies in the first four months.

Update: Apparently Google’s blog post with the research paper isn’t live yet. Once it is, I’ll update this post with a link. Here’s the Google post.