In War might be a dark, violent word to use regarding video games sales, but we’ve had a lot of blood loss over the past four or five months that it does make sense.
Between low sales of AAA releases to lower than expected hardware sales, the video game industry has hit a moment in time where not everything is as black and white as everyone expected. Case in point, two reports suggest a massive downgrade for PlayStation VR results, whilst Pokemon Sun and Moon are breaking Nintendo records.
Let’s start with Sony’s attempt at VR. Ahead of its release, expectations were high for the new add-on hardware, verging on an estimated 2.6 million units sold by the end of 2016 according to a report earlier this year by research group SuperData. That estimation has since been downgraded in a massive way, with a new report this week suggesting sales to reach 750,000 instead. The lower projections are based on mixed messaging and a lack of marketing for the PSVR, with Sony’s PS4 Pro partly to blame.
[Sony has] also pointed out that VR looks even better on a PS4 Pro than a standard or slim PS4, so the message to most gamers is: Get the Pro now, then the PSVR later. As a result, we won’t see them break 1M shipments until well into the new year.
– Stephanie Llamas, SuperData (courtesy GI.biz)
In stark comparison, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company’s newest addition to their long running catch ’em all franchise has broken new ground, thanks in many ways to a resurgence in brand popularity thanks to Pokemon Go. Both Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon were the most preordered games in the history of the series, and now Nintendo has confirmed they are the fastest selling games in its history too, with 3.7 million units sold in the US during its first two weeks. That’s an 85% increase when compared to previous record holder, Pokemon X & Y.
Both of these contrasting pieces of news come on the back of lower than expected sales of Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2 and Watch Dogs 2, and a major decline in numbers for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare compared to its past iterations despite still being a top seller. Meanwhile, Battlefield 1 has led the charge with some big sales accomplishments since its earlier launch, thanks partly to a higher critical acclaim.
So why are some games selling like hot cakes whilst others aren’t? The obvious answer is in the massive growth of releases year on year, leading to many wallets feeling like they’ve been flung into the fire more than once. With one massive release after another across September and October, a handful of games have been caught in the crossfire as fans simply can’t keep up with the schedule. Hence why, unfortunately, Titanfall 2 has been left behind following its release right in the middle of Battlefield 1 and Infinite Warfare.
Case in point, according to a recent report by SteamSpy, nearly 40% of all of the games available on Steam were released in 2016 alone, nearly 3,500 games more than compared to 2013.
Considering many of those games are barely played by the majority is a sign of overexposure, but also how easy it’s become to release a new game (and how harder it is to find an audience). Quantity has overblown, but over quality hasn’t really dipped despite that. Most of the games mentioned above have rated well despite their sales differences, the exception being Infinity Ward’s latest COD which has slipped when compared to Black Ops 3.
Ultimately, it’s down to dollar value. Pokemon will sell big numbers because, by and large, it’s a cheaper title on the shelf in most outlets compared to its bigger competition on PS4 and XB1, and cheaper prices will always entice players (if the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals of the past week have anything to go by). We’re inundated with new games each week, and with financials at a difficult state in most places you visit, fans just can’t afford it all. We have to pick and choose what we want to play, leaving the likes of Steam to clean up with solid numbers and cheaper prices, whilst other titles like Titanfall 2 simply miss out.
It won’t get any easier next year either. Within the first three months of 2017, we will have a new Resident Evil, an expected top seller in Horizon: Zero Dawn, the next Ghost Recon and a brand new console in the Nintendo Switch. We make the joke that we can make a holiday out of everything, but we might want to consider a Video Game Holiday soon. By that, I mean a holiday away from video games…