Is Generation Z killing Warframe on YouTube?

Photo by Patrick Buck on Unsplash

Generation Z, those born between “mid-1900s to early-2000s” are arguably the most ethnically diverse and will be more educated than any generation in the U.S.

This generation is typically being born to Generation X parents and are coming of age. As they do the marketing people are trying to figure them out. For instance, globally this generation represents about 22% of gamers versus 35% of gamers for the millennial age set. And groups like Pew Research has just started to take a hard look at them.

In gaming we already know that in the U.S. they are overwhelmingly male by 68%, have a wide variety of gaming platforms from PC to a tablet to smartphone. A study reported that this generation, unlike their older millennial cousins, don’t shop online as much. They prefer to shop in person. They depend upon their parents for income as a teen to college age since they lack a job. Those into gaming also love watching YouTube gamers playing.

So why are so many Warframe YouTuber’s giving up?

The Reaper Hunter on August 23rd, 2019 uploaded a video entitled I Give Up With Warframe citing his reasons for leaving. This is the same YouTuber who had a major, and probably justifiable complaint, concerning Warframe I cited in another article.

Mogamu on August 25th, 2019 posted a video entitled Why Warframe YouTubers Are Quitting. A 16-minute rant on his reasonings for the content drought.

Rahatalis posted on August 28th, 2019 a video entitled Petty Perspective: No content & Warframe Partners leaving (again). In it he bemoans the Warframe content drought but plans not to stop producing Warframe videos.

Meanwhile, Irish Warframe YouTuber Tactical Potato, arguably one of the most subscribed Warframe YouTubers and named for the fact his accent is so thick it sounds like he has potatoes in his mouth, keeps daily producing YouTubes on the game. He’s so popular in the Warframe community he has memes with his likeness. Although he occasionally branches out into other games.

Here’s the thing if you do a Google Trend search for Warframe, you quickly notice a decline over the last year. You also notice the same trend line for a few other games except Dota 2 which shows a slight uptick trend line. Google’s YouTube algorithm is finely tuned to react to viewing trends and will serve up new videos based on viewer habits. If Gen Y is watching other gaming videos this data will reflect that trend.

Search Data from Google Date effective 10–6–19

Is the problem really with Warframe’s lack of content?

The YouTube trend many Warframe YouTubers, like Reaper Hunter, have noticed I think has nothing to do with the game. It’s something that might be happening across a wide range of MMO gaming franchises these days.

In in a video documentary by GameSpot entitled How Warframe Broke The Rules, where Rebecca, Digital Extremes’ Director of Live Ops and Community, noted that the game needs to age because their playership is aging. This is a telling statement from one of the chief staff of Digital Extremes. It tells me that DE strongly knows that they are not attracting younger players into the game like they did with the millennials starting back in 2013.

In a 2018 report by the gaming marketing firm, Limelight, shows that the U.S. was dead on with the global average playing time for first-person shooter games (I know Warframe’s not a first-person shooter, but it’s still a shooter game). This report also showed that casual single player games, like Candy Crush, were dominating the field. It showed shooter games like Call of Duty or even Warframe were male dominated and equally appealed to ages 18 through 45. Yet casual gaming was still larger in appeal to males in these same age brackets.

The key problem might be that games like Warframe are not on smartphones and aren’t appealing to enough young women. These games materially require gaming systems or hardware investments on the parent’s part compared to a smartphone which the kid already has. No U.S. Gen X I know will spring for that kind of toy unless they think it will help them bond with their kid or they are already a gamer. Some Gen Xers still see gaming as a waste of time holding onto those old prejudices.

Now Digital Extreme did do a cinematic trailer that aired over the summer of 2019 in the Spider-Man: Far from Home movie. The ad ran mostly during July and August 2019 for the game and was backed by Sony. While I do not know what the impact was on Playstation usage, I can see what the impact was on Steam. Steam is showing a total average year over year difference loss of 26% of online players. This looks like the Spider-Man ad was a big flop. It could be the Spider-Man ad had just moved Steam players to Playstation. We will never know as DE has never released its real time player stats per platform.

Now when you look at a chart of the data, it’s clear that both years saw a negative trend line with 2019 being lower than 2018. But the interesting thing is the Spider-Man ad may have helped close the negative gap in the difference between the two years by the end of the movie’s run. I can say this because there’s an upward linear trend line in this data showing the ad had some impact. It might not have been the impact Digital Extremes was hoping for.

Data Sourced from https://steamdb.info/

I think Warframe and many shooters MMOs might face a generation problem associated with platform usage that can’t be cured with movie ads. The gaming platform has moved generationally to the smartphone and Digital Extremes hasn’t kept up. What we are seeing with YouTube trends maybe just the reality that younger viewers are no longer on gaming platforms common to games like Warframe.

The Horrible Idea of Suggested Fixes

Many who play Warframe will tell you that the game is fine and needs nothing fixed, but they also get excited about pending new content which is a fix to the game. Any content drop is DE’s way of keeping the game fixed from player boredom resulting in players to stop playing.

If I oversaw things, and wanted to appeal to a younger age set, I would start putting efforts into releasing the Warframe mini-game, Frame Fighter, into a mobile format for free download where two players can play each other via their smartphones.

Then I would have a point system where players can spend to buy new frames to fight their friend, or they could just buy some in game currency and buy the frame fighter outright. This would help to popularize the Warframe franchise on the mobile market and provide some additional revenue. Then a brief cinematic cut sequence could be broadcasted at the start of the game as it loads showing off the main game.

This way these younger and newer players would already have a friend or two they can work with on the main game should they want to try it out.

The other big fix I would do is make Warframe have cross platform play ability. This is one of the few independent gaming franchises that doesn’t offer cross platform ability. This one issue could hold back a lot of younger players because not all younger players might have the same platform despite having general access to a larger array of tech. Their parents might not have minded investing in video games but may have restricted the platform type to curb costs or guide the titles they would like the kid to play. So, little Jonny may not play with his friend Jack because they each have different platforms.

A final game mechanic I would move is Cephalon Simaris’ Simulacrum from an item to be earned to an automatic starting item for the new Tenno. I’ve seen so many messages from new players (myself included) of “Where can I just practice?” The Simulacrum could have some starter NPCs preloaded at an appropriate level or even preloaded attack scenarios. After scans are added the Simulacrum would revert to normal.

The ability to practice before going out on any mission is standard even for real military operations. Why shouldn’t it be any different in a military style game? Having this game feature available earlier in the game play could help players stay in the game longer as they would feel more confident in their abilities.

These are just three of the main fixes I would start with. There are more but this article would get too long.

Final Words

While Warframe YouTube content creators are ditching the game, the reality is those in this market may not be seeing the aging trends happening before them and adapting. This could be because they are hardcore gamers and the new market trends are pulling away from that. So instead of adapting they are closing shop.

Do you know how many YouTubers are making silly meme style videos of them playing Minecraft or Roblox? A ton! Generation Y loves this kind of stupid stuff. I know this one Gen Y who loves to watch GrayStillPlays on YouTube because he breaks the games he plays in funny and hilarious ways (and now I’m addicted to watching his channel as well).

In fact, because of the popularity of Stranger Things the old game of D&D is back to the point there’s YouTubes on hilarious DM experiences with parties about it. Of course, these are meme videos, and when I played long ago these things never happened. Or it could be I’m just old as the game started in 1974.

Now if D&D can keep ongoing since 1974, games like Warframe could easily last a very long time provided it adapts to each generation as technology changes. Imagine millennials in their 80s rebooting classic Warframe to keep up their mental faculties in some skilled nursing facility while the grand kids are playing the latest Axi Generation Warframe on an infopad.

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Seth Underwood

54+ autistic, undiagnosed dyslexic, sufferer of chronic migraines, writer of dark science fiction, player of Genshin Impact and Mike Pondsmith Fan. Race- Human.