Oct 8, 2013
It seems with each generation of gaming, console audiences have grown. Although the PlayStation 2 sales were approximately double the amount of the PlayStation 3, the competition in the last console generation felt vastly different . Not only is the growing audience of gaming in general great for the hardware developers, but it is also invaluable for game developers. To put it simply, the more hardware sold means there a larger audience for the developer’s software.
With reports that retailers might be unable to promise launch day delivery for all pre-orders (made before a certain date), for either the Playstation 4 or Xbox One, it goes to show that next gen consoles are in exceptionally high demand. For the industry, it is great that the demand is so high; but for gamers, it would be greatly upsetting to not receive your next gen console at launch. It is hard to anticipate how many Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles will sell during the holiday period, but the audience for console gaming has developed in the 7-8 years since the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were released.
To contextualise this with figures, the Xbox 360 sold 1.1 million units in the 2006 holiday season, whereas the Playstation 3 sold 1.25 million units when it launched a year later, (all the while competing with Xbox 360 sales). With all the hype surrounding the next gen console launches, it would feel anti-climactic if the sales did not break the numbers set by their predecessors. The difference with this generation, however, is that the consoles release within the seven days of each other, and will be in direct competition during the same holiday season. It’ll be interesting to see how this reflects on the sales figures, as some gamers may have been able to purchase both consoles at launch at the start of the last generation as they had an entire year to save up for the Playstation 3 after previously buying the Xbox 360.
The hardware sales figures are of equal importance to software developers. Software developers will be wanting the hardware sales to be huge, which will in turn lead to a larger audience available to purchase their own titles. However, many next gen games, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts will be available on both current and next gen consoles. If a buyer purchases the title on a current gen console, however, they will be able to upgrade it to next gen for a small fee. The same Call of Duty title will launch on four different consoles within a week of each other, and it’s unclear how this will impact sales. Some gamers may purchase the game for the next gen titles, others may purchase the current gen title and upgrade, while others may purchase it on their current gen console, but hold out on the upgrade until they purchase a next gen console should the prices (presumably) fall next year. When compared to Call of Duty’s previous titles, Modern Warfare and Black Ops II, it’s uncertain how the sales will measure up. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold a combined 12.8 million units across Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in its first week, whereas Call of Duty: Black Ops II sold 10.8 million copies across both platforms.
Gamers who wish to invest in next gen hardware will be more out of pocket than those who haven’t, and this may lead them to be more picky with regards to the games they wish to buy. Unless the hardware sells a monstrous amount of units, most of the sales from launch titles, (available on either generation of console), will presumably come from current gen consoles, as more people already own them and it is cheaper to play the games on. Fairly comparing sales figures for Call of Duty: Ghosts to its predecessors will be difficult, as the circumstances are vastly different.
Similarly, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag launches on current and next gen consoles. Whilst Assassin’s Creed III managed 8.5 million units in its first 10 weeks, it sits alongside Call of Duty: Ghosts in that the extra money spent on new consoles means gamers may potentially buy fewer games than in previous years, due to budget constraints. This may influence overall sales in the holiday period. Grand Theft Auto 5 didn’t have this issue, however. It is purely a current gen title, and with 79.53 million Playstation 3 and 78.62 million Xbox 360 consoles sold, the marketplace for Grand Theft Auto 5 was already there.
Although next gen consoles are hugely anticipated, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are still vital to software sales over the holidays. Many gamers will be content in playing next gen titles on current gen consoles, as it is cheaper and the games will still look fantastic. This is also of particular importance to new IPs, because having the backing of 7-8 years worth of sales from the current gen hardware will be a much easier market to sell to because people already own the consoles. Furthermore, as there is no backwards compatibility for either the Xbox One or Playstation 4, games that have been recently released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 help to make the consoles still feel relevant.
It’s difficult to judge if software sales will be breaking any records this holiday season, as the new hardware hasn’t had years to make its way into peoples’ homes. In addition to this, the extra money spent on new consoles might make gamers more picky with their game choices for the next few months. However, if the initial sales of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are substantially higher in comparison to when the current generation launched, we should expect numerous new sales records to be achieved in the coming years.