2019 Year-in-Review: Top 5 Most Impressive Gaming Companies

Every year, companies across the games industry compete for audience’s time and hard-earned dollars. Within this piece, I’ll highlight those bigger publishers and developers that I believe consistently provided the best value for gamers.

2019 marked a number of international successes in particular. Major Japanese companies featured prominently in mind-share, from hardware manufacturing to software hits, while the world’s largest gaming company broke through a difficult regulatory environment. At the same time, publishers of varying sizes from other regions produced impressive titles (some of which I’ll cover in my next post on the Independent Studios of the Year.)

Here are my picks for the five most impressive gaming companies throughout the year, in alphabetical order.

Annapurna Interactive (United States)

Annapurna Interactive has become a premier publisher for independent video games, and I’ll play almost anything it puts out these days. This subsidiary of film producer Annapurna Pictures backs a number of exceptional, unique projects. And more importantly, has enough funding behind it to smartly market its games through a combination of grassroots campaigns and word-of-mouth.

After an amazing 2018 with the likes of Florence and Donut County, Annapurna’s output this year solidified its standing as the type of deft publisher that knows how to pick ’em.

Its standout 2019 title is Outer Wilds from Mobius Digital, a new kind of space exploration game that’s one of the highest rated and widely praised projects of the entire year. Within my review, I praised the sense of wonder I felt navigating the cosmos and discovering the story of its alien solar system and the intelligent life that inhabits it. Even if I had a tough time with its controls, reflecting back I absolutely believe it deserves its recognition.

Other Annapurna joints this year include Telling Lies from Sam Barlow, a drama presented via full-motion video, then “interactive album” Sayonara Wild Hearts by Simigo. The latter of which is a one-of-a-kind production, blending pop music with traditional endless runner mechanics for a tight, memorable experience. Most recently, Annapurna published the wacky Wattam from Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Funomena. I haven’t played it, though critics note its creativity; how it piques imagination through its visuals and interactions.

Finally, it also brought a classic to PC for the first time: thatgamecompany’s Journey, originally out in 2012 for PlayStation 3. Annapurna shared arguably the best independent game ever made to a wider audience. It’s a must-play. For everyone.

This line-up is representative of the types of projects Annapurna hand selects. Those that are sometimes experimental, often unique, frequently emotional and always worth a look.

Capcom (Japan)

The resurgence of one of Japan’s most storied gaming companies accelerated in 2019, due to both the quality of its output and sheer quantity of support especially for the Nintendo Switch.

Capcom produced two of the year’s most well-regarded new third person games in Resident Evil 2 Remake and Devil May Cry 5 then produced an expansion to its best-selling game of all time in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne.

Starting strong of the gate in January, its re-imagining of 1998 survival horror game Resident Evil 2 is a Game of the Year contender with its enhanced visuals and modernized mechanics. I posed a question in the beginning of 2019, wondering if this version could outsell its predecessors in the long-running series. Within a week on market, Capcom shipped 3 million units. A month later, over four million. Then earlier this month, it passed the original’s lifetime total by eclipsing the 5 million unit mark.

Essentially, it took under a year for the remake to outsell the original. Between its critical and commercial success, Resident Evil 2 illustrates Capcom’s renewed focus on incubating legacy IP.

Both Devil May Cry 5 in March and September’s Monster Hunter World: Iceborne continued this streak of critical and financial accomplishment. The former hit 2 million copies sold within a couple weeks, already two thirds of what Devil May Cry 4 sold lifetime and “reinvigorating” the franchise according to Capcom execs, while the latter vaulted to 2.5 million in sales within a week.

Separate of these new projects, Capcom pumped out a number of legacy games on a variety of platforms. Onimusha: Warlords, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy plus a set of Resident Evil and Devil May Cry ports for Nintendo Switch.

Between creating successful newer releases and rounding out 2019’s portfolio with catalog titles, Capcom is back in the good graces of fans while also appealing to a broader audience especially with its Monster Hunter series. All it needs now is a great new fighting game! Perhaps in 2020.

Nintendo (Japan)

It should come as no surprise that Nintendo is here. In fact, if I was ranking the list, it would likely capture the top spot.

Even if it wasn’t Nintendo’s strongest first party software year in the Switch generation, which I’d argue was its first year in 2017, its consistency of output is best in business right now. Not only that, Nintendo Switch is the place for third parties to release both new projects and older ports, and especially fruitful for independent teams.

The Kyoto-based company also released a new more compact, handheld-only version of its hybrid console in September. Dubbed the Nintendo Switch Lite, its release contributed to Switch hardware sales jumping to 41.67 million consoles this year plus the company experiencing its best week of Switch sales ever during the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s impossible to comment on all of its 2019 output, so let’s list them to prove the point.

There’s the internal or “second party” partnership stuff. Tetris 99. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Yoshi’s Crafted World. Super Mario Maker 2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Luigi’s Mansion 3. And its most significant 2019 release, Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Then the third party exclusives. Cadence of Hyrule. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. Astral Chain. Daemon X Machina. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Plus the multi-platforms or ports of older games. There are a ton of these. I promise. Titles like Dragon Quest Builders 2, Mortal Kombat 11, Cuphead, Ori and the Blind Forest and even The Witcher 3 are all now playable on Switch.

Not to mention mobile. Mario Kart Tour. Dr. Mario World. And the experimental. Labo Toy-Con VR Kit. Ring Fit Adventure.

Even a, gasp, pretty good video game movie in Detective Pikachu!

It’s cliche to say that Nintendo literally makes something for everyone. Shoot, in many cases there’s a LOT for everyone. But it’s true. And it’s playable at home or on the go, sometimes even on a phone. We expect Nintendo’s internal teams and close partnerships to produce amazing content. It’s the third parties and indies that are really starting to bolster the Switch experience.

Sure, there’s room for improvement. Its online service is nowhere near its competitors. It should offer individual legacy titles rather than only as a library. Its mobile app is laughable. Its operating system lacks basic functionality. We still have to use friend codes.

These aside, Nintendo’s at its best when it both offers great exclusive titles from its talented studios that appeal to all kinds of gamers plus experiments with use cases for its technology. Its leadership like President Shuntaro Furukawa, Director and legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto and more locally Nintendo of America lead Doug Bowser (since the retirement of Reggie Fils-Ame) aren’t afraid to get weird and have fun. This and its sheer consistency on the software development side are the defining characteristics of 2019’s most impressive gaming company.

Respawn Entertainment [Electronic Arts] (United States)

I’m going to cheat a bit here because I want to shout out a particular team within a broader parent firm for its excellent work. Respawn Entertainment, which was purchased by Electronic Arts a couple years back, is responsible for two of the year’s blockbuster titles. One of which came out of nowhere, the other a foray into a new genre for the studio.

First, there was Apex Legends. Most industry commenters claimed that the battle royale fad had passed. That there was no room for real competition to the likes of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), both of which still have large, dedicated audiences. Then Respawn stealthily released Apex Legends as a free digital download on a random Monday in early February and proved everyone wrong.

A first-person game set in the Titanfall universe where teams fight for dominance, Apex Legends player counts skyrocketed within days as it enraptured gamers with smart accessibility options, a balanced hero system and top-notch mechanics. One million within 8 hours. 2.5 million in a day. 10 million in 72 hours! It made $92 million in sales within its first month. And it’s free! That means players weren’t merely downloading it, they liked it so much that they wanted to spend money on its cosmetics.

Since then, it’s boasted over 50 million players. A success story for the industry in showing that new concepts can be rewarded even in a market flooded with participants.

Respawn’s second massive project this year was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. To say Electronic Arts has been inconsistent in publishing Star Wars games is an understatement. That is, until now.

Fallen Order released in mid-November to widespread critical acclaim. It’s a third person action game with satisfying lightsaber combat, an intriguing story and diverse environments seemingly pulled right from the movies. Directed by God of War veteran Stig Asmussen, it’s undoubtedly one of the best Star Wars games to date plus a candidate for year-end accolades despite some unfortunate technical problems. It’s also a surprising move for Respawn to shift to third-person action when it’s solely made first-person shooters in the past.

While we don’t have broad sales numbers for Fallen Order, I wrote recently about how it was the second best-selling title domestically in its release month and nearly achieved the best launch ever for a Star Wars game, trailing only 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront. It’s already entered the Top 10 sellers of the year, and I anticipate that rank to improve when we hear December’s data.

By developing a surprise hit in a competitive genre alongside a critical darling in one of the world’s most beloved franchises, Respawn clearly earned its spot as one of the most compelling and accomplished studios of 2019.

Tencent (China)

It’s ironic how quietly Chinese media conglomerate Tencent dominates the global games industry. Because its operations are mostly in the mobile and PC market, especially popular titles within the Asia Pacific region, Tencent is the biggest gaming company in the world by revenue (near a whopping $20 billion during 2018) with less mind-share than most of its competitors.

Think of a big game or publisher, it’s likely that Tencent is involved with it. League of Legends? It owns Riot Games. Clash of Clans? Holds 84% of Supercell. Fortnite? A 40% stake in Epic Games. PUBG? Nearly 12% of Bluehole at last count. Activision? Ubisoft? Small holdings in both.

Even stakes in smaller teams like Path of Exile creator Grinding Gear Games and Frontier Developments, maker of Jurassic World: Evolution and Elite Dangerous, round out Tencent’s plethora of investments.

This isn’t even to mention its own games like mobile racing game QQ Speed or crazy popular multiplayer game on phones Honor of Kings, released in the West as Arena of Valor. If we’re talking the smartphone market, there’s none more impressive than Tencent.

Beyond that, I’m placing it on my 2019 list is for multiple reasons other than its significant holdings: More because of its navigation of China’s difficult regulatory environment, the smash release of Call of Duty: Mobile and its recent partnership with Nintendo.

It’s always a tricky regulatory situation in China, so a quick recap of the most recent events. Back in April 2018, the country instituted a freeze on new releases in the world’s largest gaming market due to addiction concerns,. This obviously impacted Tencent’s performance and market capitalization, losing a unfathomable $250 billion in valuation at one point. After ten long months, the government began approving new titles.

While Tencent earned approvals for smaller new titles, it didn’t for one of its biggest money-makers in PUBG Mobile which has been downloaded over 600 million times. The company shut down the game in May, though simultaneously released a new one in the same genre called Game for Peace (or Peacekeeper Elite in English).

During its first month, Game for Peace generated $70 million in sales. When combined with the $76 million from its PUBG Mobile counterpart, these quickly became the world’s top smartphone games by revenue. Since then, total global sales have passed $1.5 billion from these games, according to Sensor Tower. This is fully representative of Tencent’s savvy in bouncing back from the government freeze.

Similarly, Tencent’s global expansion is underway now with the release of Call of Duty: Mobile back in October. Based on the uber popular first-person military franchise owned by Activision Blizzard, this version was actually developed by Tencent’s internal team Timi Studio. It achieved a record during its first week on market with 100 million downloads and has since passed 170 million while raking in $87 million in sales. Aligning with a Western publisher is the type of decision that allows Tencent to benefit from an audience it otherwise couldn’t reach.

The final move is its recent partnership with Nintendo to sell the Switch in China, a market that’s notoriously difficult for console gaming. Just a few weeks ago, the Switch launched there albeit without much of a library. Only New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is available, with titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey in the more immediate pipeline and others slated for next year. Niko Partners estimates 100,000 in Switch console sales during this month alone, then a growing install base to where Switch could be the local market leader by 2022.

After a tumultuous 2018 under local regulations putting a halt to new titles, Tencent emerged in 2019 to continue its dominance in the smartphone game space especially in the East. Combine this with its global expansion alongside a smart alliance with Nintendo, and it’s the last on this prestigious list of gaming companies.

Working Casual’s Year-in-Review is far from over! Next up will be Independent Studios of the Year. Until then, thanks for reading.

Sources: Business Insider, Business Wire, Company investor and media sites, Newzoo, Niko Partners, PC Gamer, Sensor Tower, The Verge.

-Dom

Star Wars & Pokémon Shine in the States During November Pre-Holiday Sales Rush

Here we are, almost at the end of 2019!

November is a gloriously busy season for new game releases, which naturally means heightened competition on the monthly sales charts. While the top spot is again the latest Call of Duty title, two new releases in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Pokémon Sword & Shield form two of the major storylines ahead of the holiday sales rush. The latter of which even set a new franchise record for launch month performance. Time to catch you up on the stats.

Industry tracking firm The NPD Group shared its November monthly sales report last night, revealing an obvious winner in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare yet again topping the software list for a second month in a row. The first-person military shooter from publisher Activision Blizzard is a perennial performer, here maintaining its status as the top-selling video game of 2019 to date. It’s also now the best performing game in the trailing 12 month period, measured by dollar sales as a whole through last November.

The real stories begin when looking further down the software chart.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order accomplished the second spot on the monthly chart after its release in mid-November. The latest from publisher Electronic Arts is quite notable for a number of reasons. First, it’s the second best launch ever for a Star Wars game as measured by dollar sales behind only Star Wars Battlefront in 2015. It enters the 2019 year-to-date rankings immediately, at the #9 spot.

It’s also the best debut ever for development studio Respawn Entertainment, which industry veterans Vince Zampella and Jason West started as an independent studio in 2010. EA purchased the team most known for the Titanfall franchise of mech action shooters outright in 2017. As an in-house studio, Respawn has now produced two of 2019’s best titles: Battle royale game Apex Legends and the aforementioned Star Wars iteration. Which is a fantastic third person action game where the player controls a Jedi. Congratulations to the entire team now on the commercial success.

Moving to Nintendo, you’ll notice later a little franchise called Pokémon dominates the chart in last month’s rankings as it holds the remaining three spots within the Top 5. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are Nintendo’s flagship 2019 titles, and their performance in November backs this up. If aggregated with the Double Pack version, these Pokémon games would actually eclipse Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to be the second best seller of the month.

When considered all together, Sword and Shield represent the best launch month ever in the franchise. Beating out the original record holders in handheld games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon back in 2016. Knowing how successful the franchise has been over the years really puts this in perspective. Recently, the Pokémon brand was named the highest-grossing entertainment property ever with nearly $95 billion in revenue since inception in 1996. To say Sword and Shield saw the best start ever domestically is a serious statistic.

The final new release within the Top 10 is PlayStation 4 timed exclusive Death Stranding. The divisive game from Hideo Kojima’s new Kojima Productions studio.. hm, delivered a good enough start to reach #7 in November. Mat Piscatella of The NPD Group provided additional context, noting that the game “did well in November” and falls within the ten best launches in history for a Sony-published title. I thought the high production value third-person action game had more potential on the upside based on Kojima’s pedigree alone. Its competition provided too much for it to reach a Top 5 rank.

In terms of older games last month, Nintendo’s character fighter Super Smash Bros. Ultimate hit a major milestone. It’s now the very best seller of all time domestically within the fighting game genre, surpassing one of its predecessors in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) on Wii. That’s right. The latest Smash Bros. iteration became the best-selling fighting game here across tracking history within a year on market. A truly staggering result, plus a testament to the director Masahiro Sakurai and team’s unending work ethic to support it with exciting updates.

Now that we’ve covered some impressive numbers for individual games, let’s look at the full list of best sellers of November and 2019 so far.

Top-Selling Games of November 2019 (Physical & Digital Dollar Sales):

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order^
  3. Pokémon Sword*
  4. Pokémon Sword & Shield Double Pack*
  5. Pokémon Shield*
  6. Madden NFL 20
  7. Death Stranding
  8. NBA 2K20
  9. Need for Speed: Heat
  10. Luigi’s Mansion 3*
  11. FIFA 20
  12. Borderlands 3
  13. The Outer Worlds
  14. Just Dance 2020
  15. Mario Kart 8*
  16. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  17. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  18. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
  19. Grand Theft Auto V
  20. Mortal Kombat 11

Top-Selling Games of 2019 (Year to Date):

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. NBA 2K20
  3. Madden NFL 20
  4. Borderlands 3
  5. Mortal Kombat 11
  6. Kingdom Hearts 3
  7. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
  8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  9. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order^
  10. Anthem

^Digital PC Sales Not Included, *Digital Sales Not Included, #Digital Sales on Consoles Included

That’s right. The latest Smash Bros. iteration became the best-selling fighting game here across tracking history within a year on market. A truly staggering result, plus a testament to the director Masahiro Sakurai and team’s unending work ethic to support it with exciting updates.

Strong software launches for major titles is certainly the highlight of an otherwise mixed month when talking overall industry sales, namely driven by hardware softening for everything but Nintendo Switch.

As displayed in the above chart, total consumer spending in November hit $2.3 billion. This figure is down 19% compared to this same month last year. Driven mostly by lackluster hardware results, as we’ll see in a bit. When taking the year in aggregate, total industry spend across all major categories is $11.6 billion. 12% lower than where it was in November 2018.

Monthly software dollar sales dipped 14% in November, down to $926 million. Game sales for 2019 as a whole are 8% lower than this time in 2018, coming in at $5.4 billion. Nintendo Switch software is really the only segment here that showed growth, while game sales on competing consoles slowed. I’d imagine partially due to volume plus discounted pricing.

Flipping to hardware, this is where the declines accelerate. Spending on consoles fell 26% in November to $891 million, while year-to-date it’s down 24% to $2.9 billion. For the latter figure, Nintendo Switch is the only platform that’s up since the same time frame in 2018.

Speaking of, let’s.. Switch to some more positive news. Nintendo’s latest console was again the top-selling hardware of the month in November, which means it’s now officially won every single month since the holiday season last year. Obviously it retains its spot as the best-selling hardware platform of 2019.

Last week, Nintendo issued a press release detailing its late November performance in the Americas. Its Switch hybrid console achieved the best week ever in the U.S. since release in March 2017, moving 830K units the week of Thanksgiving (November 24th to 30th). Its Cyber Monday was also “record-breaking,” however the team didn’t provide any more details there. I’ll note there’s one caveat of course, this now includes sales of its more compact Switch Lite variant.

Within the Americas, Nintendo Switch console sales now total 17.5 million units. Nearly 42% of its overall global sales. The aforementioned Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield surpassed 3 million copies sold in the region, while other notable hits passed their own significant unit sales milestones there: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (8.5 million), Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (8 million), Super Mario Odyssey (6.5 million) plus New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (1.5 million).

Going back to The NPD Group’s report, the final category of accessories and game cards is now also experiencing slowing momentum. Sales here equaled $433 million in November, 14% lower than last year. $3.2 billion of accessories sold in 2019 to date, a 5% decline compared to the same months in 2018. The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller 2, which launched in early November, achieved the highest result in its launch month of any other accessory though the standard PlayStation DualShock 4 in black is still the top seller this year.

We’ve come to the end of another month, marking the beginning of the highly-coveted holiday sales season and the penultimate of the year (and decade!). On the upside, select software titles are seeing record or near record results. Nintendo is taking full advantage of a lull in competition. Still, it’s clear that we’re in for a slower holiday season on the whole when compared to recent ones. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun!

As always, check out The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella’s detailed thread on Twitter for more insights on this tracking period and check back here for the final monthly report of 2019 next month! Thanks for hanging out.

Sources: NPD Group, Electronic Arts, Nintendo.

-Dom

Madden NFL 20 Remains Victorious as U.S. Video Game Sales Slow in August

Football season has finally kicked off here in the States, and Madden NFL 20 scores yet another victory on the domestic monthly video games sales charts. An impressive streak for the perennial best seller, even if overall software sales hit a slump in August.

This year’s installment in the Madden franchise was the top-selling game last month between August 4th and August 31st, according to industry research firm The NPD Group. Based on this solid momentum, Madden NFL 20 has moved up the standings to become the 3rd best-selling title of 2019 to date.

It’s a recurring theme. This is the seventh year in a row that an Madden game has led August. In fact, the annualized series itself is the number one selling sports franchise of all time in the country. It’s the most consistent in this segment for good reason, reiterating that football is the most popular sport in America.

Publisher Electronic Arts recently shared that this year’s title welcomed the most players ever for a National Football League (NFL) opening weekend. While the figures are definitely padded by a free trial effort, combining this with its two consecutive months atop the monthly sales chart and vaulting to #3 on the year-to-date shows not only how much of a sales giant it is but also how it’s still part of both sports and casual gaming culture.

The best part is Madden serves as the metaphorical first whistle signalling the start of the Fall sales season, which really picks up next month then culminates during the holidays. Speaking of sales, let’s get into the numbers.

In terms of overall spending on the games industry last month, consumers racked up $666 million across hardware, software and accessories/game cards. A figure which is down 18% compared to this time last year. For 2019 to date, industry spend is $7 billion in total. Six percent lower than the comparable period leading up to August 2018.

Each of the three main segments saw declines, though the eye-catching statistic resides within software. Consumer spend on games totaled $257 million, a decline of 22% year-on-year. This is the lowest figure for an August month in 20 years when spend on software totaled $234 million back in 1998. The summer is a notoriously slower time for games, even more pronounced this year due to where we are in the general console cycle.

Here’s the thing. The data is clear, August was way slow. However, when broadening the scope to look at the full year, software spending in the U.S. is actually up since last year. Overall software sales rose slightly to $3.1 billion, boosting up 1% compared to the same time frame during 2018.

Strength in Nintendo Switch output is obviously fueling this growth amidst long-in-the-tooth competitors, though I’d argue legacy multi-platform games like Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V still appeal to folks capitalizing on console discounts and buying the half-step PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X hardware iterations.

There you have it, I’ve found the silver lining in a somewhat dreary report. Context is important. It’s not just about each month, it’s about how that month impacts the aggregate.

Moving over to hardware, this segment dipped 22% to $167 million. Switch was the only console to see growth since last August. For the year so far, hardware is sitting at $1.6 billion which is a decline of 21%.

In case the trend isn’t obvious, Nintendo Switch yet again earned the top hardware spot as measured by dollar sales and units sold. The same as it’s done since the holiday season in 2018. Because of this, it retains its position as the best-selling console of 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised if this holds through November and beyond. Can discounts on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can do anything to stymie Switch’s run?

Accessories and game pads round out the three main segments, generating $242 million in August and totaling $2.3 billion for 2019 to date. These figures are down 6% and 2%, respectfully.

Here’s the thing. The data is clear, August was way slow. However, when broadening the scope to look at the full year, software spending in the U.S. is actually up since last year. Overall software sales rose slightly to $3.1 billion, boosting up 1% compared to the same time frame during 2018.

On to the rankings!

Let’s see the software list then delve into it. First we’ve got the August monthly game chart, then the year-to-date best sellers. This is based on dollar sales when combining physical and digital for those companies that participate in The NPD Group’s data gathering effort.

Top-Selling Games of August 2019 (Physical & Digital Dollar Sales):

  1. Madden NFL 20^
  2. Minecraft#
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses*
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Super Mario Maker 2*
  7. Mario Kart 8*
  8. Mortal Kombat 11
  9. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
  10. Astral Chain*
  11. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  12. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  13. Red Dead Redemption 2
  14. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4^
  15. Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  16. Super Mario Party*
  17. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order*
  18. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe*
  19. The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan
  20. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Top-Selling Games of 2019 (Year to Date):

  1. Mortal Kombat 11
  2. Kingdom Hearts 3
  3. Madden NFL 20^
  4. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2^
  5. Anthem^
  6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  7. Resident Evil 2 Remake
  8. Grand Theft Auto V
  9. Red Dead Redemption 2
  10. Days Gone

^Digital PC Sales Not Included, *Digital Sales Not Included, #Digital Sales on Consoles Included

Beyond Madden in the lead, Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V round up the top two spots. Nope, this isn’t 2014. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Both are still selling, especially during a slower month for new releases other than a major sports franchise. My ongoing theory is every new console buy means a copy of at least one of these games, if not both. Especially Grand Theft Auto V. Following these mainstay legacy titles were Fire Emblem: Three Houses at the 4th spot then Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fighting to #5.

In fact, the list is a whole bunch of Nintendo. Half of the top ten is comprised of games published by the Japanese gaming giant exclusively for Switch. This includes the only brand new release squeezing into the Top 10: Astral Chain. The third-person action game developed by PlatinumGames debuted at #10 during August. Considering Nintendo doesn’t share the digital portion of software sales, this is an even more impressive start. Especially knowing the game isn’t part of an established franchise, albeit made by a popular developer.

Quick note on Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this is its second month within the Top 5 overall list as last month it occupied the #2 spot. Its second month sales were the best ever for a game within the Fire Emblem series, and it’s approaching lifetime sales of the franchise top-seller 2012’s Fire Emblem: Awakening. A testament to both Nintendo’s software direction plus the global appeal of the brand now.

Another new title which is much deserving of a shout out is Age of Wonders: Planetfall from developer Triumph Studios and publisher Paradox Interactive. This fifth iteration within the Age of Wonders strategy series released early in the month and landed at #15. Most impressively, it generated the best initial month ever for an Age of Wonders game in dollar sales terms. For a release within a more niche genre usually targeting the PC crowd, grabbing a Top 15 spot is excellent.

On the other hand, a couple other major August releases didn’t fare as well. The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan, the first installment in a new horror franchise from Supermassive Games, cracked the Top 20 with its start at #19. Considering the multi-platform title’s late August release window plus its lower price point, this actually isn’t too bad of a result.

Remedy Entertainment’s Control on the other hand didn’t make it into the Top 20. While critically acclaimed, including in a review from your boy, the combination of releasing within days of the month end plus no digital sales here means it’s not part of the top-sellers. That caveat of publisher 505 Games not contributing digital sales is important, so really this ranking isn’t telling the entire story. A full story which, unfortunately, we likely won’t hear without the publisher sharing anything official.

That about wraps it up for this monthly report. Regular visitors will already know, but in case it’s your first time: friend of the site Mat Piscatella is an essential follow on Twitter as an analyst representing the NPD Group. Check out his video for further details on last month’s data, including individual platform rankings and all that fun stuff.

Till next time. Stay safe.

Source: The NPD Group, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Paradox Entertainment, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

-Dom

Madden Scores & Fire Emblem Soars in July’s Monthly U.S. Game Sales Report

Madden is a perennial sales Giant

The summer is cooling off here in the States, which means the video games sales charts are starting to heat up. Each year, Electronic Arts’ football franchise Madden effectively kicks off a packed release schedule for the early Fall leading into the holiday season. As it stands, yes, we’re now in the trenches (my fellow football fans know).

The latest installment Madden NFL 20 released a bit earlier than usual, which means it just quarterback snuck into The NPD Group’s tracking period for July (which ran from July 7th to August 3rd). Its widespread brand recognition led to scoring the top spot in last month’s combined sales rankings, as measured by total dollar sales generated. Amazingly, this is the 20th *consecutive* annual Madden game that’s earned the overall lead in its release month, a staggering accomplishment for the team at the major U.S. publisher.

Keep in mind, its statistics count only a couple days on sale.

Madden NFL 20 laid out its competition to instantly become 8th best-selling game for the entirety of 2019 to date. This speaks to the strength of the franchise amidst a broad national audience, plus the sheer popularity of football as a sport domestically. Electronic Arts recently announced strong final week pre-orders plus that “well over half” of launch sales were digital, marking the first time digital has outpaced retail in the series’ long history. However, what the company didn’t share is even more intriguing. Does this mean that total sales are lower compared to last year? It’s possible this is the case, even if its launch sales are solid compared to non-Madden titles.

Anyone that tracks these things knows the franchise is a perennial winner in the U.S. marker. Early indications prove it will once again likely achieve Top 5 status when 2019 wraps up its final quarter.

All that said, I’d argue the most impressive story of July’s charts and really 2019 as a whole continues to be Nintendo. Six of the Top 10 games last month are available on its Switch hybrid hardware. The standouts being a scorching debut for Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which secured the 2nd overall spot, and a somewhat surprise seller in Team Ninja’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order as it assembled enough cash to reach its #4 ranking.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses achieved the best single launch month in Fire Emblem history, as the latest strategy JRPG mash-up outsold the previous leader: 2017’s Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia.

Its fantastic release strength now makes Three Houses the 2nd top-selling title in the series ever domestically, behind only Fire Emblem: Awakening from 2012. Yes. Ever. With only a month of tracking. This is incredible, and a testament to its now global appeal. Which I’ll partly attribute to characters being included in the successful Super Smash Bros. mash-up fighting games, as its latest release from December is still charting.

I know I shouldn’t be shocked a game featuring the Avengers and related superheroes would sell so well. Still, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a Nintendo Switch exclusive which means only a segment of the market can purchase it. And purchase it, that segment did. Which makes its Top 4 position that much more notable. Previously, its predecessor grabbed the #7 spot at launch in September 2009. Knowing the demand for Avengers right now is sky high, I’m curious to know how well the multi-platform Marvel’s Avengers from Square Enix will fare when it’s out in May 2020. (I’d imagine Marvel will still be popular then. This is the expert analysis you’ve come to expect, I know.)

It’s worth noting that Switch results are actually even crazier than it seems initially. Nintendo doesn’t share digital in the context of NPD charts. Which means physical alone boosted these games up the list. Combined sales are even higher! I was quite bullish on Fire Emblem: Three Houses from jump, though admittedly underestimated the strength of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. ure Nintendo’s competitors aren’t producing many exclusives right now due to respective console cycles coming to a close, though it’s still eye-catching just how well the Japanese game maker is doing in the States as both a hardware maker and publishing partner.

One notable absence for July is Wolfenstein: Youngblood, though Bethesda Softworks does not share digital split. And it’s a less expensive title than competitors, which means it naturally generated less dollar sales. I anticipated this would happen, though there still was a slight chance it could slip into the Top 20. Bethesda still has DOOM Eternal upcoming in November as its flagship autumn title.

It only makes, hm.. cents to chat about the overall market now after hitting on individual names.

Spending in the U.S. during July actually increased slightly since this time last year, to $762 million. Though under 1%, so essentially flat. Which I’d argue is a mild surprise, due to the major slowdown in hardware sales off 22% and accessories/controllers dipping 12%. Consumer spending on software made up the difference, accelerating 34%. Though the caveat I’d offer is Madden did move up to the July time frame compared to debuting during the August sales period in 2018.

Nintendo Switch was once again the leading console by dollar sales generated, a spot which it’s held consecutively on a monthly basis since the holiday season. It’s the only piece of hardware to see gains since this time last year, as its competitors declined due to long-in-the-tooth cycles. Same as June, it’s also the #1 seller for 2019 to date.

This portion is the most predictable of all, as Switch continues to churn out major releases on a then legacy titles show solid momentum due to them appealing to a variety of audience slices especially the younger demographic. With a new model boasting improved battery life now hitting shelves and its Switch Lite iteration shipping in September, I can’t see a case where it isn’t the leading seller every month for the foreseeable future.

Quick update on software this year so far. Mortal Kombat 11 continues its dominance atop the chart, making it yet again the best-selling game of 2019. In fact, it’s now behind only Mortal Kombat X (2015) within the franchise overall for lifetime domestic sales. Another impressive stat is that MK11 now occupies the 5th spot on the fighting game genre all-time chart. NetherRealm Studio’s hit likely won’t retain the top spot once next month rolls around, though its legs since April release means it has been on quite a.. hm, run. I anticipate it will remain in the Top 6 through year-end.

Taking the year-to-date chart as a whole, it’s very similar to June. The exceptions being Red Dead Redemption 2 moving up to #7 and Madden NFL 20 slotting in at the 8th spot. These moves pushed Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice out of the Top 10, though From Software’s latest game is still doing extremely well with its 3.8 million units sold globally since February.

Now then. Let’s look at the full multi-platform list itself then the year’s best sellers, before our final whistle.

Top-Selling Games of July 2019 (Physical & Digital Dollar Sales):

  1. Madden NFL 20^
  2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses*
  3. Super Mario Maker 2*
  4. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order*
  5. Minecraft#
  6. Grand Theft Auto V
  7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  8. Mortal Kombat 11
  9. Mario Kart 8*
  10. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  11. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  12. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Siege
  13. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII^
  14. Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled
  15. Red Dead Redemption 2
  16. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2^
  17. MLB 19 The Show
  18. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe*
  19. NBA 2K 19
  20. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Top-Selling Games of 2019 (Year to Date):

  1. Mortal Kombat 11
  2. Kingdom Hearts 3
  3. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2^
  4. Anthem^
  5. Resident Evil 2 Remake
  6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  7. Red Dead Redemption 2
  8. Madden NFL 20^
  9. Days Gone
  10. MLB The Show 19

^Digital PC Sales Not Included, *Digital Sales Not Included, #Digital Sales on Consoles Included

If you are interested in individual platform results, I highly recommend perusing NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella’s Twitter thread and corresponding video coverage. It’s one of the main sources here, plus the never-ending knowledge of yours truly. Humble, I know.

Though in all seriousness thanks for stopping by to look at the charts and hear some context surrounding the month’s results. I’ll be back soon with more reviews and sales talk, it will pick up the pace from here!

Sources: The NPD Group, GamesPress, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

-Dom

It’s That Time: Boring & Bold E3 2019 Predictions!

It really is a holiday in June, for gamers and tech heads!

The Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019 officially kicks off next Tuesday in Los Angeles, though pre-E3 festivities start well before then as game companies large and small try to dazzle enthusiasts (and, in some cases, investors) with live presentations or pre-recorded digital shows.

Now, it’s super easy to do a recap of what we already know. Especially since this week has seen numerous leaks or early teases, from the likes of Ubisoft with Watch Dogs Legion to the rumored From Software and George R.R. Martin collaboration now called Elden Ring.

It’s also a snoozefest typing up a list of safe predictions. What’s the fun in that? It’s freakin’ E3! No matter how much comes out before the event itself, you and I both know there will always be reveals that no one is expecting.

Which brings me to this post. Across the next week, we’ll be bombarded with information on what’s new in gaming and related technology including consoles, streaming and even virtual reality. I’m going to write one boring and one bold prediction for each of the major company events, then a little something something for E3 proper.

If you need to follow along with the general calendar, the E3 Media Site and IGN’s Wiki Page are good resources. Let’s get this.. show on the road!

Electronic Arts: EA Play, Saturday, June 8th, 9:30 AM PT / 12:30 PM ET.

Boring: EA is scrapping its traditional (and honestly pretty tame) E3-adjacent press conference for a series of live streams starting later today as part of its EA Play fan event in Hollywood. This features previously released titles like Apex Legends, Battlefield V and The Sims 4 in addition to new iterations in its sports franchises. The major headliner is Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, starting right at the beginning of the live show with a gameplay reveal.

Which brings me to my first boring prediction. EA is going to reveal details about Season 2 of its battle royale game Apex Legends, complete with a new character. We’ll see gameplay from that character today, and a start date right after its recent The Legendary Hunt event concludes on July 2nd.

Bold: Noticeably absent from the schedule is BioWare’s Anthem, the online action game that released in February to mixed reviews. Personally I enjoyed its mechanics, though acknowledged it was certainly rough around the edges. It’s baffling that older games like Battlefield V and The Sims 4 would be here while Anthem isn’t. I know its player count is dwindling plus BioWare hosted a separate stream recently for the game. However this is supposed to be EA’s flagship stream and one of its most recent high profile games is nowhere to be found?

I’m not sure how to read this absence, so let’s naturally go in a completely irrational direction. During today’s set of live streams or at its fan event, we’ll hear at least a bit more of what BioWare is working on next. Which is the next Dragon Age. While there was a quick tease at last year’s Game Awards, there’s been nothing since. If the developer has symbolically moved past Anthem, it has to.. slay any concerns fans have and reassure about its future.

Microsoft: Xbox E3 Briefing, Sunday, June 9th, 1:00 PM PT / 4:00 PM ET.

Boring: This is a huge E3 year for Microsoft. It’s even said as much. Its major competitor isn’t there. It’s building a new generation of consoles. It’s been gobbling up studios in hopes it can bolster its game lineup. It’s expanding on services, from Xbox Game Pass to Project xCloud. I’d argue this is the most important moment for Xbox as a brand, perhaps ever.

A bit dramatic? Absolutely. But also true. In fitting with this theme, even my boring prediction is massive: Microsoft will formally reveal its next generation of Xbox hardware, nicknamed Xbox Scarlett. This being the two rumored models: One more powerful then the other more entry-level. Nothing on price, timing or the boxes themselves. Just a teaser. If these are out in the fall 2020 timing that I’m estimating, we won’t see a blow-out until next year.

Bold: No, I don’t think Microsoft is going to acquire Capcom. Or Konami. Or any major publisher because that’s not going to happen. If anything, perhaps a smaller development team that isn’t publicly-traded.

That’s not going to be my bold prediction, of course. This is: We’re going to learn about not just one, not just two but THREE brand new, next generation titles from Xbox Game Studios. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer already said we’ll see 14 games from its teams. Not satisfied? Let’s say one of them is from one of the newly-acquired developers. Had enough? Lastly, the biggest of those games will be.. finally, a new Fable. Created by, you guessed it, Playground Games.

Bethesda Softworks: Bethesda E3 Showcase, Sunday, June 9th, 5:30 PM PT / 8:30 PM ET.

Boring: Late night on Sunday, when everyone else is dreading work the following day, gamers will be stoked to see what independent publisher and always wildcard Bethesda will bring to the table during its showcase. Safe bets are DOOM Eternal, Wolfenstein Youngblood and more DLC for Rage 2, which I reviewed recently. I predict we’ll see all three of these, plus more from at least one of its mobile offerings.

Bold: With director Todd Howard crushing dreams in saying recently that big-budget projects like Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI will not be making E3 appearances (which sense as there’s no way either of these is coming out this generation), what kind of crazy surprise might we see that’s unrelated to these much-anticipated games?

Well. I could use this space to predict that Bethesda will tease a new Evil Within title from legendary horror designer Shinji Mikami, who we know will be at E3. I could use this to say that Fallout 76 will receive a major update and go F2P at the same time. While both of those can certainly happen, I’m going elsewhere: Bethesda will finally reveal that Arkane Studios has been cooking up something real juicy. Twist! It’s not going to be within the Dishonored or Prey universes. It’s new. And it’s probably going to be awesome.

Ubisoft Entertainment: UbiE3 Press Conference, Monday, June 10th, 1:00 PM PT / 4:00 PM ET.

Boring: If we’re talking about guesses for French publisher Ubisoft, shoot almost all of them might be considered boring since we likely know its lineup before it even happens Monday afternoon. I mentioned Watch Dogs Legion before. October release Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint will assuredly be prominently featured. We’ve even heard rumblings from my buds Nibel and analyst Daniel Ahmad plus Kotaku’s Jason Schreier of multiple new projects, including co-op shooter Rainbow 6 Quarantine, an RPG codenamed “Orpheus” plus even a roller derby title dubbed Roller Champions. Everyone seems to be getting in on the action!

The snoozer part of my prediction is that we’ll see all of these. Then another Just Dance, which will undoubtedly be revealed alongside a dancing animal of some sort.

Bold: Always animated Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is a staple of these live shows, thankfully so, which means it’s easy to say he’ll be there again. That’s not my guess.

My super bold prediction is that new Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser (yes, Bowser) will make a special appearance together with Guillemot. Because the two gaming powerhouses are going to announce a spanking new collaboration! The easy guess is a Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle 2. This isn’t a place for easy. I’m thinking something new, a different blending of two brands, along the lines of Rayman and Yoshi. Trials and F-Zero. Something innovative. That no one is expecting, except me!

Square Enix: Square Enix Live E3 2019, Monday, June 10th, 6:00 PM PT / 9:00 PM ET.

Boring: Out of all this year’s live shows, I think Square is going to be the most surprising. In the best way possible. The Japanese publisher needs to redeem itself after last year’s average showing. I believe it will.

Easy predictions include headliners Marvel’s Avengers from Crystal Dynamics and the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake from Tetsuya Nomura’s internal team. It’s unlikely we see anything more than a cinematic trailer for the former, though a gameplay demo for the latter is certainly feasible if not likely. I also think there’s a high likelihood we see gameplay from action-adventure Babylon’s Fall from PlatinumGames, plus the official reveal of People Can Fly’s shooter Outriders as it was teased on Twitter a couple days ago.

Lastly, in an interesting twist, Polish studio Techland revealed a week ago that Square will be publishing its upcoming open world zombie game Dying Light 2. Which is curious considering that the original was distributed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. I’m thinking we see a lot from this game here, plus a release window of Q1 2020.

Bold: As impressive as the above is, I’m betting Square will still surprise us and elevate its show to being a standout amid its competitors. Gematsu recently posted about an announcement event for mobile title Dragon Quest Walk, during which produce Yuu Miyake made mention of Dragon Quest XII in vague terms, hinting at some sort of announcement on the storied JRPG franchise despite the game being early in development. Being bold, I say we’ll see a tease along with its subtitle and a logo, similar to how Bethesda revealed the upcoming entry in its Elder Scrolls series!

Nintendo: Nintendo Direct E3 2019, Tuesday, June 11th, 9:00 AM PT / 12:00 PM ET.

Boring: Nintendo is once again slotted in on Tuesday mid-day, technically right before the start of E3 itself, with its Direct and then Treehouse Live stream. We’ve already got a good sense of what it will feature for its Switch hybrid platform, plus some.. inkling of what it could reveal. Pokémon Sword and Shield will be the headliner, after the reveal of its November 15th release date among new pocket monster variations in addition to more about its systems. Super Mario Maker 2 is out this month and Fire Emblem: Three Houses hits July, which means both should have lengthy demo sections.

I’m also betting we see gameplay from The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remaster, plus a potential release window. Luigi’s Mansion 3 should be shown in some capacity, along with exclusive-to-Switch Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. Easy ones, done-zo.

Bold: If the aforementioned prediction on a crossover project with Ubisoft isn’t enough, you’ve come to the right place. Minuscule chance of Bayonetta 3 or Metroid Prime 4, though I’m not betting on it. However, what’s up with Animal Crossing for Switch? Nintendo still lists it as a 2019 game in recent reporting, though we know virtually nothing about it. Part of my bold prediction is that we’ll get the full blow-out. Cinematic trailer. Gameplay walk-thru during Treehouse. Plus! A December release date.

But that’s not all. It’s about time.. for Mario Kart 9. That’s right. A new Kart game, exclusive to Switch. Its predecessor is selling so well that this might be my most ridiculous pick of the day, but who cares! I went there. Let’s see if Nintendo does, too.

E3 Show Hours and E3 Coliseum: Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 11, 10:00 AM PT / 1:00 PM ET to Thursday, June 13, 6:00 PM PT / 9:00 PM ET.

Boring: All this said and we haven’t even started the show! On Tuesday, the expo itself opens its doors to exhibitors, press, influencers (ugh) and fans alike. There’s so much that I haven’t even mentioned here that’s a shoe-in to be there. Destiny 2! Cyberpunk 2077! Baldur’s Gate 3! Call of Duty: Modern Warfare! That’s not to mention all the independent developers showing off their sweet upcoming projects, of which there will be at least a handful of standouts. Untitled Goose Game, plz!

I’m thrilled to learn more about these plus see the myriad of panels featured at E3 Coliseum, which is a fantastic mini-event during the broader show. This year’s has so many talented people sitting down to discuss their games, including folks from Bungie, Respawn Entertainment, id Software, Xbox and more. It’s less a prediction and more a guarantee that this will be exceptional.

Bold: Alright. What the heck. I know Take-Two Interactive and 2K Games is focused on marketing Borderlands 3 this year ahead of September drop date, however I’m still forever hoping for a new BioShock game. My final bold prediction is that, somehow someway, we hear a rumor or tidbit about the secret BioShock project. Give me anything at all!

Whew. Being bold is tiring work. Whatever your opinion on E3, however many things leak in advance, I’m always going to be pumped this time of the year.

I’ve sent out a question on Twitter related to this post, asking for one boring and one bold prediction from all of you. I expect big things. Don’t disappoint, and enjoy this year’s gaming spectacle! I know I will.

Sources: Entertainment Software Association, All companies and tweets above, Kotaku, The Verge, PC Gamer.

-Dom

Earnings Calendar Jan & Feb 2019: Gaming, Tech & Media Companies

Updated: 1/29/2019

It’s a new year, which means another earnings season is underway!

Do you like numbers? And charts ? And corporate buzzwords like “tailwinds” or “compound growth?” Then you’ll dig the next few weeks as we’ll hear reports from major companies around the globe with updates on how each of them are doing.

(And if you don’t, you probably wouldn’t be here amirite?)

With a new earnings season comes my usual post, featuring essentially a calendar of events that no one visiting here wants to miss. Above is a snapshot, while below gives you access to a Google Doc for easy navigation to each investor site.


Working Casual Earnings Calendar Jan & Feb 2019: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Notable companies on my radar this quarter are:

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about Nintendo $NTDOY and whether it can hit its lofty hardware target of 20 million Switch units sold during its fiscal year ending in March. I’m on the record as being optimistic it will hit this goal, especially after December’s NPD sales report showing it was the best-selling console in the States during 2018. However I’m actually more interested in its software figures after hearing how well Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is tracking in particular after its December release.

In my recent piece about Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 Remake, I explained why I’m upbeat on the Japanese publisher’s latest title. Today the company revealed it’s shipped 3 million copies of this remake in its first week on sale, eclipsing the launch of Resident Evil 7 in 2017 which moved around 2.5 million. Between this resurgence and the ongoing support of Monster Hunter: World, I anticipate strong results when the firm reports on Monday, February 4th.

Major U.S. publisher Electronic Arts $EA has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Word of another Star Wars game being cancelled broke recently, its upcoming blockbuster game from BioWare called Anthem had a rocky demo this past weekend plus now the company has caved to pressures in Belgium to stop offering “loot box” transactions there for its FIFA franchise after local regulators deemed them gambling. The key here won’t be its actual results on February 5th, but instead its future guidance and overall tone when answering analyst questions. Especially with Anthem releasing next month.

What companies are you interested in hearing from this time around? Did I miss any that you want me to cover? Feel free to leave a message here or on Twitter, I’d be happy to chat. Thanks for stopping by.

-Dom

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites/Press Releases, NPD Group, VentureBeat, Erica Griffin on YouTube, Kotaku, GamesIndustry.Biz, BioWare.

Companies of E3 2017: Electronic Arts EA Play

 

It’s time!

 

Electronic Arts $EA has kicked off its EA Play fan event, marking the unofficial start of the biggest gaming convention of the year, E3! I don’t think I mentioned in my last post, but I will be recapping as much as possible from companies involved this year, in written form of course, so stay tuned for more.

 

Now that EA has wrapped up its show, let’s run down what it announced and how it compared to what I wrote about earlier.

 

What It Showed:

 

Madden NFL 18: Story mode featured, called “Long Shot.” Similar to what EA debuted in last year’s FIFA title.

 

 

Battlefield 1: EA reveal that the game has had 20 million players since release last year. New content was revealed: “Night” maps, In The Name of the Tsar (trailer above), soliders and battles from the Eastern front during WWI, 6 new maps. New characters from the Russian army. and the “Women’s Battalion of Death.”

 

 

FIFA 18: It’s EA’s biggest game, FIFA! Above is the gameplay reveal, this year’s game will also have an expansion on last year’s story mode featuring fictional player named Alex Hunter. Also, look at that sweet “sweat tech.”

 

 

Need for Speed Payback: “Most diverse open world in a N4S game ever.” Abandoned classic cars you can save and customize. Lots of racing.

 

 

A Way Out by Hazelight: This was the only EA Originals game shown, which is a split-screen co-op prison break game that you can play locally or online. Gameplay is below.

 

 

EA also touched on what it calls its Search for Extraordinary Experiences Division (SEED) team, a small group within EA working on innovative and unique projects.

 

 

BioWare’s ANTHEM: Previously known as code name Dylan, this was the second new IP the company revealed. Teaser shown above, it said that more will be shown tomorrow alongside Project Scorpio during Microsoft’s press briefing.

 

 

NBA Live 18: EA is trying to compete with Take-Two’s NBA2K franchise yet again. Introduced another type of single-player mode, seems to be a theme. Called “The One.”

 

 

Star Wars Battlefront II: This was the show’s big finale. It has three times the content of the original game, will have free content including characters such as Finn and Phasma. Multi-player, co-op and single-player modes. I mean, and it also has Yoda being a bad-ass, how cool is that?

 

 

Above is a look at the multi-player trailer for Star Wars Battlefront II.

 

 

 

FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch: The Switch version of FIFA 18 didn’t show up during EA’s press conference, but it has popped up on EA Sports’ website. Looks like it will have the same features as the version on other consoles, including Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Switch Kick Off and Local Seasons. Releases on September 29th.

 

What It Didn’t Show (Yet):

 

The Sims 4. No mobile games, but expect Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes at the fan event. Visceral Games/EA Motive and Respawn Entertainment Star Wars projects. Fe by Zoink. Sea of Solitude by Jo-Mei Games. Dragon Age (this was my long shot, looks like this will be under wraps until well after we know more about BioWare’s new game ANTHEM).

 

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow!

 

-Dom

Mass Effect: Andromeda Game & Sales Preview

 

Next Tuesday, developer BioWare is set to release Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest installment in its long-running Mass Effect video game series which saw its first entry a decade ago. Published by Electronic Arts ($EA), Mass Effect: Andromeda is being billed as a new standalone type of space, role-playing adventure that has loose ties to the original trilogy of games but is the start of a brand new story.

 

Now that the marketing speak is out of the way, I’d like to touch on my early impressions of playing the game while also give a brief explanation of my sales expectations for this year and beyond. Especially now that it’s been five years since Mass Effect 3, a game that was well-received but also lamented for certain aspects especially its ending.

 

I’ve played Mass Effect: Andromeda in a trial run under EA Access, the publisher’s subscription service that allows earlier games and previews of newer ones. My impressions have been mixed overall, to say the least, with a skew towards optimism once I was finished up.

 

 

First, the highlights of the early game for me:

 

  • Setting. The original trilogy was set in our own Milky Way galaxy, while the new game is (quite obviously) set in the Andromeda galaxy. This opens up much more potential for exploration and finding new species of planet, wildlife and aliens to encounter.

 

  • The game looks great. When it comes to visuals, art direction and color palette, the game has been stunning especially on its first “major” planet. I’m playing on Xbox One, though based on the consensus of previews online, this holds true for all platforms.

 

  • You have a Jet-Pack! I said it on Twitter recently but I will reiterate it here: BioWare has added a jet-pack to the game, and it’s the the single, most important update to the series in its history in my opinion. One of the biggest knocks on earlier games is that the combat and mobility isn’t on par with other games in the genre. Having a jet-pack completely changes combat, especially when used with the game’s diverse suite of abilities.

 

  • Story. I think there’s more to the story than the generic sci-fi setup that takes place early on. The premise is you are a key part of the Andromeda Initiative, a plan for humans to colonize a new galaxy. You wake from cryo-sleep to face hardship and a mysterious threat early on. I enjoy the way the game frames you has a futuristic explorer, dubbed a “Pathfinder,” rather than as a member of the military as in earlier titles. You have the choice at the beginning to play as one of two characters that are brother and sister, Scott or Sarah Ryder, then the other becomes a non-playable character existing in the world alongside you. The early story offers intrigue as to your background and how the relationship with your parents ties into your current situation, plus there are definite overtones of artificial intelligence and the relationship between mankind and machines.

 

  • Customization options. Suffice it to say there are a lot of ways you can spec your character, from appearance and skills to gear and weapons. But the most important improvement is that now you aren’t “locked in” to a certain type of character role as older games required. You can move swiftly between styles: soldier, tech specialist, ability-enhanced bad-ass and the like!

 

 

But that last point actually leads me to the first item on my list of concerns with the game..

 

  • All the customization, upgrade, skill, research and development options are overwhelming. After the game’s drawn-out prologue, it basically throws all its systems at you early on and it feels overwhelming even to someone that has played a lot of similar games. There are so many choices to make, the game boasts! Which is not always a good thing, especially early. I know this will ease over time, and you can re-spec your character as I mentioned above, I just don’t know where to focus my efforts in the early-game or have a good idea which combat abilities best suit my play-style. I almost wish there was a firing range or test area right away that I could leverage, rather than relying on the quick mini-tutorial videos that display each ability.

 

  • Odd first impression. The game starts…. slowly, and makes an odd first impression. Most games now have a glorified tutorial area masquerading as a mission, and Mass Effect: Andromeda is no different. I know I said just above that I wish more of the game was “tutorialized,” but I mean that from a customization and choice standpoint, not from a story or gameplay one. It seemed like most of the time at the start of the game was walking, stopping, walking, stopping, sometimes shooting but mostly walking. At least I had a jet-pack to make it to faster!

 

  • Animations. Especially those face animations. I can’t say much more than the internet has already said. There are plenty of videos and GIFs displaying the funny facial and other animations that are just a Google search away, and during my early play-through, I noticed the faces are particularly creepy.

 

  • Generic characters. Perhaps it’s because I’m familiar with the older games, but right now all of the characters feel generic and “safe.” Same races and similar roles that populated the original trilogy, albeit with less of a military focus. This will assuredly change as I progress, I mean we are exploring a brand new galaxy, right!

 

  • Controls. My last complaint, though it’s actually my biggest one too, is a through-line across all Mass Effect games. The controls are not good. They are still “loose” and never as responsive as I’d like. It doesn’t feel as good as other third-person action games. (Then again, it never did.) I don’t think there’s an easy way to swap weapons, or the game doesn’t go a good job of communicating if there is. Plus navigating the game’s variety of menu screens is tedious and cumbersome, not as snappy as it could be. Not to mention the fact that I have to press multiple buttons to even view the map in a game that’s based around exploration is beyond me.

 

 

All in all, I am mostly enjoying my time with the game despite its glaring flaws especially its frustrating controls. I’m planning on playing it more and seeing it through to completion, no doubt, as it appears BioWare has crafted a robust space RPG with just a few super rough edges.

 

 

As for sales, let’s jump right into fun prediction time: I expect the game to sell around 4 million copies during 2017. Then, it will have upside of 6.5 – 7 million worldwide during its lifetime, implying I think around 60% of its overall sales should take place this year. If it hits this amount, it would be the best-selling game in the storied franchise.

 

Why, you ask? This is my best guess based on the publisher’s own launch expectations, historical sales plus the current install base and environment of the latest generation of gaming consoles.

 

According to its most recent earnings call, EA itself anticipates the title will sell 3 million units to consumers within its launch week and up through the end of March. We can compare this figure to the launch numbers that EA presented for its earlier titles, though it’s not a perfect analogy of course since these will be shipped figures: Mass Effect 2 shipped 2 million launch week, while Mass Effect 3 shipped 3.5 million in the same type of time frame. Caveat being that not all of them sold, but it gives a good indication of the supply factor.

 

Going further, EA also said the launch figure of 3 million sold will be around “30% to 50%” of its lifetime sales, which implies a range of 6 to 10 million copies sold when all is said and done. As you’ll see, I’m leaning towards the lower range of this guidance.

 

To me, even these days when games have longer life-cycles due to offering downloadable content, ongoing multiplayer events or discounts, I still expect at least half of a game’s sales to happen near launch if not more. Especially for a game with a massive focus on single-player campaign launching early in the year, when there are less “blockbuster” titles. (You could argue this year has more early competition than usual, between Horizon: Zero Dawn, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, For Honor etc but it’s still less busy than a fall release slate.)

 

After the launch window, I’d expect the natural bump near the year-end holidays for most triple-A franchises, including one as well-known as Mass Effect. Between launch week sales and those throughout the year with a skew toward the holidays, 4 million sounds reasonable for 2017.

 

As for my lifetime sales estimate of up to 7 million, I mentioned this would make it the best-selling game in the franchise to date even though it’s technically below EA‘s guidance. We know Mass Effect 3 moved around 6 million copies, its publisher just said so on the same earnings call, then historical figures show Mass Effect likely sold 3.2 million implying Mass Effect 2 at roughly 4.8 million considering the franchise figure of more than 14 million was announced a couple years back.

 

 

The reason I’m coming in at the “lower” end of EA‘s guidance is I think some folks have been turned off over the years due to the game’s flaws or how Mass Effect 3 ended, and the series is already divisive enough to this day as illustrated by Mass Effect: Andromeda’s mixed previews. Not to mention 2017 is shaping up to be one of the best years for gaming in recent memory, with stiff competition if games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed “Egypt” and more release in the 2nd half. I’d rather be conservative on sales, despite being mostly optimistic about my own enjoyment of the game.

 

Have you played the Mass Effect series, including this latest game in a preview or trial? Did you find it to be enjoyable, or were put off by certain aspects? Are you bullish on its sales potential, or conservative in today’s climate? Feel free to comment or get in touch on Twitter.

 

Sources: Electronic Arts, BioWare, Polygon, Motley Fool

 

Note that screenshots above were taken by me on an Xbox One, except for the photo of the woman character named Foster Addison, which is sourced from Polygon.

 

-Dom