Introduction & Inspiration
A major part of my childhood memory was about playing video games on 3DS and PSP with my friends and family. With a sense of nostalgia, I decided to investigate and visualize data about video games for this project.
Over the past few decades, video games have served as an increasingly popular and crucial source of entertainment, and it has eventually evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry today. In the year 2020 alone, the net global revenue of video games was estimated to be over $160 billion dollars. With an eagerness to share a piece of the cake, numerous talented developers join the market to improve and innovate game designs.
However, I was surprised to read a chart online that the global sale of video games started to decline after its peak in the late 2000s. Therefore, I’d like to use this project as an opportunity to take a closer look at the data trends of video game sales, examine the potential factors that may influence game sales, and understand what games, platforms, genres, and publishers dominate the game industry over time.
Process & Methods
Step 1. Finding datasets
To create the dashboard, I found a dataset about Video game sales from Vgchartz and corresponding ratings from Metacritic on Kaggle. The dataset is a CSV file.
The initial fields include the following dimensions:
- Rank – Ranking of overall sales
- Name – The games name
- Platform – Platform of the games release (including 3DS, DS, GBA, GC, PC, PS, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSP, PSV, WiiU, X350, XOne)
- Year – Year of the game’s release, the initial data covers from 1994 to 2016
- Genre – Genre of the game
- Publisher – Publisher of the game
- NA_Sales – Sales in North America (in million dollars)
- EU_Sales – Sales in Europe (in million dollars)
- JP_Sales – Sales in Japan (in million dollars)
- Other_Sales – Sales in the rest of the world (in million dollars)
- Global_Sales – Total worldwide sales.
- Critic_score – Aggregate score compiled by Metacritic staff
- User_score – Score by Metacritic’s subscribers
- Developer – Party responsible for creating the game
- Rating – The ESRB ratings
Step 2. Tidy up data in Excel and OpenRefine
After downloading a copy of the data, I firstly used Excel to clean up entries that miss critic_score, user_score, and year_of_release. It cuts ~16,000 records to ~6900 complete records. Then, as I want to look at video games sales released in the most recent decade in the dataset, I narrowed it down to games released from 2007 to 2016, which reduces the data to 3934 records. Furthermore, I realized that the scoring system is different as the critic score is as high as 100 and the user score is up to 10, so I multiplied 10 for all user scores so that the scoring system is consistent for future transpose.
Moving on, I then used OpenRefine to tidy up the dimensions:
- I transposed cells across columns into rows: put NA_sales, EU_sales, etc. into one column called “market”;
- The word sales in the market value name like “NA_sales” is redundan, so I edited columns by splitting into two columns with the separator of “_” and then deleted the column that all says “sales”;
- I transposed critic_score and user_score to “source” and “score”. I then splitted source values into two columns and deleted the column that says “score” on all cells.
After cleaning up the data, there are 39330 rows in total as shown below.
Step 3. Create graphs and charts using Tableau Public.
Using the video game data from 2007 to 2016, I created six graphs and charts by Tableau to examine the potential factors that may influence game sales, and understand what games, platforms, genres, and publishers dominate the game industry over time. I then organized the graphs and charts to a dashboard as a summary visual.
Step 4. Peer review and refine details
I used a table to document peer feedback from Hao and my refinement by figures
|Graphs & Charts||Feedback from Hao||My Refinement|
|Fig 1. Video Game Sales by Year||It would be better if the order of graphic symbols matches the order of the lines from top to the bottom for easier reading.||Reordered the graphic symbols to match the lines on the graph|
|Fig 2. Video Game Scores vs Global Sales||The word “critic” in the cutline is a bit unclear. Might need some clarification.||Reworded Source to rating source.|
|Fig 3. Video Game by Sales||The message of the graph is pretty clear. Maybe only show the top 10 or 20 games would be enough for readers.||Cropped the graph on the dashboard to only show the top 15 video games by order of highest sales.|
|Fig 4 Video Game Global Sales by Platforms||Would be better if the graphic symbol is reversed to match the visualization.||I was unable to reverse the graphic symbol so the figure remains the same.|
|Fig 5 Game Sales by Genre||Very simple and clear.||No change.|
|Fig 6 Game Sales by Publisher||Maybe show the top 10 would be enough. Global can be placed as the first one. As the graph highlights publisher, maybe every publisher can be differentiated using different colors.||Cropped the graph on the dashboard to only show the top 10 video publishers by order of highest global sales. Reordered the markets to show the global market as the first column. I changed the monochrome color to different colors by market and different shades by publishers for more appealing visual and easier reading, but I was unable to match the market colors with the first graph as I could only adjust the color by changing every single entry one by one.|
|Overall||The color palette is very visually appealing. The graphs and charts are generally easy to understand.||Adjusted spacing in between the graphs for some breathing.|
Results — Visualizations & Interpretations
In this section, I will analyze and discuss the 6 visualizations by their orders on the dashboard.
- Is it true that the video game market is shrinking?
The graph above generated by Tableau shows that the data trends of video game sales are decreasing over time for all markets, which is consistent with the graph I saw in the past. As I’ve read that businesses have been increasing investments in the game industry, I wonder if it is true that the video game market is actually shrinking and what are the potential factors that can lead to the declining trend, so I did some additional secondary research on top of the dataset.
According to the video game statistics 2021 by WePC, the data trend of the value of the video games industry is positive in the last decade, meaning the market is still growing. Moreover, the growth in gamers is a positive trend in the past decade, with 35% gamers from the Asia-Pacific area. However, while the number of gamers has increased significantly in the Asia-Pacific area, the North American region shows a slight decrease.
Comparing the dataset I have and the statistics from secondary research, I drew some possible explanations for the declining trend in global video game sales:
- The markets in the dataset are not comprehensive. For instance, according to Newzoo, the Asia-Pacific market has grown to take over almost 50% of the global value share of video game industry in 2016, but the dataset only includes Japan. Furthermore, China has grown to be the biggest game market in the world since 2016, exceeding the US gaming market and doubled the size of the Japanese market, which again explains the inaccuracy of the graph.
- Platforms included in the dataset are very limited. Mobile is missing but the mobile game market has been growing significantly over the past decade. According to WePC, the mobile game market took over 51% of global gaming revenue in 2020 while PC games and console games evenly splits the rest.
- Within the dataset, the number of game releases might be the highest in the late 2000s. Since the graph shows the sum of game sales, the number of games developed by years can significantly affect the visualization.
2. The correlation between video game rating scores and global sales is non-linear
In the graph above, the green dots represent the aggregate score compiled by Metacritic staff and the yellow dots mean the score by Metacritic’s subscribers. While the trends of the green and yellow dots are very consistent, the correlation between video game rating scores and global sales is surprisingly non-linear, meaning that the game sales do not necessarily increase with the rating score. In fact, global sales reach their peak when games are rated at around score 83. A possible explanation might be that those top sale video games have the highest number of ratings, which can lower the rating slightly relative to the ones that have high rating scores but a small number of ratings.
3. Grand Theft Auto V is the top winner in terms of global sales
By organizing video games in the order of the highest sales, Grand Theft Auto V is the top winner, followed by Mario Kart Wii and Wii Sports Resort.
4. X360 and PS3 are the dominating platforms in sales
The chart above uses color and the area of the squares to show their ranking in sales. With light blue representing the highest sales, it is clear that X360 and PS3 have dominated the market from 2007 to 2016, followed by Wii.
5. Action Games won the sales
The visualization above uses the size of the circles to represent the level of global sales and utilizes colors to differentiate the genres. Ranking the genres by circle sizes, it is pretty clear that the top five genres in global sales are Action, Shooter, Sports, Role-Playing, and Misc. (The text of the Role-Playing genre is not shown on the yellow circle due to its length instead of lower-ranking)
6. Electronic Arts got the highest shares in the global market while Nintendo dominates the Japanese market
The graph above shows the top 10 publishers in global sales. The graph uses colors to differentiate regions and utilizes shading to slightly distinguish publishers for easier reading. Comparing different regions, EA dominates the global video game market except for Japan; while Activision has the second-highest share in North American and other markets, Nintendo wins back second place with its dominance in the Japanese market.
Reflection & Future Direction
The process of investigating and visualizing the video game data is intriguing. As I went through the data and graphs for analysis, many games and platforms brought back my childhood memories.
The process of using OpenRefine and Tableau was fun and relatively easy but not as flexible. While it was very convenient to use OpenRefine to transpose cells and split columns with separators, it wasn’t very easy to delete missing cells and multiply numbers in OpenRefine compared to Excel (maybe partially due to my unfamiliarity with OpenRefine). Tableau was very good for handling an incredible amount of data (in this case 39330 rows in total) and for auto-generating visualizations. However, it required a lot of manual effort in adjusting graphs and charts, especially when creating a dashboard. The lack of automatic refreshing of reports can be annoying sometimes as well.
For future versions, I would like to extend the data visualization up to today if I were to find more recent data about video games. It would be great if the data can include more comprehensive data in markets, especially about the Asia-Pacific market and the role of China. Moreover, as mobile gaming eventually takes over the video game market, it would also be crucial to include mobile game data in future analysis and visualization.
“Console Gaming Statistics 2021.” WePC, 18 Aug. 2021, https://www.wepc.com/statistics/console-gaming/.
“The Global Games Market 2016.” Newzoo, 21 Apr. 2016, https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-99-6-billion-2016-mobile-generating-37/.
GregorySmith. “Video Game Sales.” Kaggle, 26 Oct. 2016, https://www.kaggle.com/gregorut/videogamesales.
Jain, Shashank. “What Are the 8 Amazing Benefits of Using Tableau.” Knowledgehut, 10 July 2019, https://www.knowledgehut.com/blog/business-intelligence-and-visualization/tableau-advantages-disadvantages.
Kirubi, Rush. “Video Game Sales with Ratings.” Kaggle, 30 Dec. 2016, https://www.kaggle.com/rush4ratio/video-game-sales-with-ratings.
Rendall, Chase. “Analysis of Video Game Sales from 1980-2016.” Data Science Blog, 20 Mar. 2020, https://nycdatascience.com/blog/student-works/analysis-of-video-game-sales-from-1980-2016/.
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“Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends and Data in 2021.” WePC, 14 June 2021, https://www.wepc.com/news/video-game-statistics/.