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Posts Tagged ‘Grand Theft’

As has become the monthly norm around here, we’re diving into the latest NPD numbers and reading the tea leaves so you don’t have to!  Liquid Architecture is not afraid to be servicey.the-ides-of-march

The March report shows a 17% decline in overall sales from March of last year, which brings the total sales number for Q1 ’09 back down to earth.  But nobody’s jumping out a window just yet.  Easter fell in March of last year, so that and the release of Smash Bros. Brawl contributed to a better-than-average showing.  I’m actually not surprised to hear that there’s a direct correlation between the Christian feast of the Resurrection and an uptick in game sales.  I can actually remember quite a few Easter baskets that included a videogame… and for some reason they tended be a GameBoy game.  I guess handheld systems are more appropriate for springtime?

If anything, the March report shows why this industry is so healthy, in spite of one down month.  This month’s Top 10 shows tremendous diversity among systems, with a top 5 comprised of two 360 games, and one each for the PS3, DS, and Wii:

1. Resident Evil 5 – Xbox 360 – Capcom – 938K
2. Pokemon Platinum – DS – Nintendo – 805K
3. Halo Wars – Xbox 360 – Microsoft – 639K
4. Resident Evil 5 – PS3 – Capcom – 585K
5. Wii Fit w/ balance board – Wii – Nintendo – 541K
6. MLB ’09 The Show – PS3 – Sony – 305K
7. Killzone 2 – PS3 – Sony – 296K
8. Wii Play w/ remote – Wii – Nintendo – 281K
9. Mario Kart w/ wheel – Wii – Nintendo – 278K
10. Major League Baseball 2K9 – Xbox 360 – Take-Two – 205K

There’s something to be said for diversity of audience served as well.  The very kid-friendly Pokemon Platinum settled firmly into #2, among decidely hardcore titles like RE5, Halo Wars and Killzone 2. Both Major Leage Baseball games found their audience of sports fans, rounding out Nintendo’s Holy Trinity of top sellers.

The real eyebrow raiser for March is what’s NOT on the list. The fact that GTA: Chinatown Wars sold less then 100,000 units represents a rare sales misfire from Rockstar.  It released to solid enthusiast press reviews, but it didn’t translate to the same impressive sales numbers as the previous GTA handheld installments on the PSP.  This is a pretty clear indication of just how many of those millions of DS owners actually pay attention to hardcore gamer press.

I’ll be interested to see how this weak showing figures in to Rockstar’s future plans for Nintendo hardware.  Does this mean the “experiment” Strass Zelnick talked up in March was a failure?  Does their existing IP really appeal to Nintendo’s audience?  Personally, I’d love to see them give the Bully universe another look, possibly as a Wii or DS exclusive.  It really brought together everything that made GTA such a joy to play, but stripped out a lot of the edgier content that can be a turnoff for so many.  Certainly worth a look if you missed it the first time, especially alongside the superb Bully Game Club podcast series from Rebel FM.Bully Wii

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As I’ve written before, Sony’s big draw for me (and many others) during the original Playstation era was the level of respect they had for the audience.  Ridge Racer, Tekken, Wipeout, and the Resident Evil series all made their home debut on the system, and all elevated their respective genre to new heights.  Sony marketed to a slightly older audience (remember ‘UR Not E‘?) and introduced an exciting brand of popcorn entertainment.

Fast forward to this Valentine’s Day, and Sony offered up ThatGameCompany’s latest ambitious think-piece, Flower.  For the record, I LOVE this game.  The design is breathtaking, with no HUD and a minimalist control scheme.  The music is subtle and, at times, even a bit somber.   In my short time with the game, it made me think about how our planet functions, mankind’s impact on it, why the movie The Iron Giant is underappreciated, and how various faith’s interpretation of God are different.  Like any good pice of art in any medium, Flower makes you THINK.

It scratches itches that I didn’t even know I had, and makes me want to DEMAND a full apology from Roger Ebert on behalf of theentire industry.  But the million dollar question is, “how many people will really dig this game?”  Perhaps more importantly, “how many people need to buy (and like) Flower for it to be a success?”  Between this game, and PSN exclusives like Echocrome and FlOw, and weird avatar chat/meeting space Home, I can’t help but wonder if Sony may be getting too arty for it’s own good.  It came up in this month’s EDGE Magazine review of Prototype, and I think it’s a valid point.  After all, art that pushes the envelope to an extreme will almost always have a high point of entry that limits commercial success.

Microsoft has exclusive GTA4 content, Gears of War and the HALO franchise to satisfy precisely the type of gamer that Sony connected with over the last two console generations.  Third parties like EA and Ubisoft certainly keep that audience entertained on Sony’s big black box, but I can’t really see Little Big Planet connecting with them.  And with a big gulf in hardware prices in this economy, can Sony afford to let such a big audience go?

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