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The Divnich Tapes: March Predictions - How Big Will Smash Hit?

Analyst Jesse Divnich continues his Gamasutra-exclusive study of this month's sales forecasts to predict March's "winners", predicting Super Smash Bros. Brawl's final total, and looking at the close call between EA's Army Of Two and Ubisof
[Throughout this week, simExchange analyst Jesse Divnich is presenting exclusive Gamasutra analysis of February's hardware and software trends, using data from The simExchange, NPD, IGN GamerMetrics and GameTrailers. Previously in this series: hardwale sales compared for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, and why the video game industry is outperforming expectations despite our slowing economy.] Unlike February's predictions, our three forward-looking data sources somewhat disagree on which new releases will dominate this month's sales. But it is safe to assume that Super Smash Bros. Brawl will dominate the software charts. The simExchange is expecting over 2.2 million units sold for the Nintendo release - and Nintendo itself has already confirmed 1.4 million units of those. While that is an astonishing figure, it's far from being the most interesting story among this data, which includes simExchange predictions, and IGN GamerMetrics and GameTrailers stats based on existing interest from consumers viewing pages on their sites:
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Back in August 2007, we witnessed the beginning of a continuous string of cannibalization within the shooter genre. Take-Two’s surprise hit BioShock led the way with 491,000 units sold, but its reign was quickly cannibalized by Halo 3’s 3.3 million units in September, knocking BioShock down to 150,000 units. And, although Halo 3 had a successful follow-up in October with 434,000 units sold, the release of Half-Life 2: Orange Box (238,000 units) likely played a small barrier to Halo 3 sales. This was followed up with the November’s blockbuster hit Call of Duty 4 (1,565,404 units on Xbox 360), which knocked Half-Life 2 off the top ten list and pushed Halo 3 down to #9 with 387,000 units sold. While each new shooter release superseded the previous, of course, it's worth noting that each title enjoyed its spot in the limelight for some period of time. This brings on the question — given the hardware growth through this past holiday season, can two blockbuster shooters debut in the same month without cannibalizing each other's sales? The voice of 8,000 registered users on The simExchange’s prediction market are indicating that both titles can succeed.

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Since January, the prediction market has had high expectations for the Xbox 360 edition of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, and as Army of Two gathered steam, its effect on Vegas 2’s expectations were minor. The charts do indicate that some cannibalization will occur, but to such a small extent that it might surprise the industry. We are simply not used to seeing sales at this capacity during the off-season. Regardless of which titles sells more, Electronic Arts can claim a slightly abstract karmic victory, as not only does it keep all the profits from Army of Two, it also owns 20% of Ubisoft, the developer and publisher behind Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. It should be noted that Army of Two was released two weeks before Vegas 2, and it would be erroneous to assume that Army of Two would perform to these levels if both titles were released simultaneously. EA knew that as well, and even though its shooter missed the holiday season, the early March release date brought it out ahead of the competitive Vegas 2. As we will see tomorrow, this is exactly why Take-Two should embrace their soon-to-be new owners. [Jesse Divnich is the analyst for the simExchange, a prediction market that allows users to buy and sell fake video game stocks in attempts to predict Global Lifetime Sales (GLS), monthly sales based on NPD data (called “future”), and Metacritic scores. Jesse concludes our exclusive series tomorrow with a look at Army of Two's marketing and why Take-Two stands to gain a lot from an EA takeover.]

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