While poking around the internet today, I read a rather poorly written article about the excess of sequels in the gaming industry today. The article reports that Electronic Arts released 26 games in 2005, 25 of which were sequels. The article continues on to state this is due to the increase of online communities, piggybacking successful features of original titles, and the comfortable mechanics of a familiar title.
However, where I really think this article misses the mark is the role of intellectual properties in the gaming industries today. In 1987, you’re average hit game was developed by a team of 15 people or so and sold around 500,000 copies. In 2007, you’re average hit game is developed by hundreds of people and sells 5 million copies. And since the gaming industry has grown to such a massive business, multi-medium tie-in’s and cross promotion has now plays an integral role – just like it does in all other businesses. Observe the graphic below:
Obviously, you’d buy the more familiar and tasty looking T.G.I. Friday’s Buffalo Wings, rather than the buffalo wings you don’t know anything about. Odds are, the Friday’s Wings probably aren’t even remotely like the one’s you’d get at the restaurant, yet because of a strength of the Friday’s name, they seem much more appealing.
The same holds true in the gaming industry. People latch on to an idea they are famliar with, usually referred to as an Intellectual Property (IP). And strong IP’s are the driving force behind the majority of sales in the gaming industry: Mario, Star Wars, Solid Snake, Judge Dredd, etc. So let’s examine the top 8 sellers for the entire video game industry for the month of August.
Top Software for August (by Units)
1. PS2 Madden NFL 07 – 1,012,000
2. 360 Madden NFL 07 – 569,000
3. 360 Dead Rising – 337,000
4. XBX Madden NFL 07 – 253,000
5. PS2 Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus – 200,000
6. NDS New Super Mario Bros. – 179,000
7. PS2 NCAA Football 07 – 160,000
8. PS2 Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories – 102,000
As you can see, all but one of these games is either a sequel or based upon an existing franchise. The one exception is Dead Rising on the Xbox 360, which Microsoft has been heavily advertising over the past few months to drive up it’s otherwise slow software lineup for the summer.
Another great example of the stregnth of IP is the Cars game, which shot to the top of the charts upon it’s release in late June. Even though gamers had never played a cars game before, the stregnth of the name and simultaneous release with the film generated far greater sales than any original game with unique gameplay.
In the end, the masses will buy what they like – which usually turns out to be the same thing over and over again. But this isn’t a new development, original games have always taken a back seat to more widely-appealing commercial titles. So go ahead, buy Final Fantasy XIII-2: Dirge of Bahamut, just keep an eye out for new original games as well.