Friday, 12 April 2013

Square Enix Disappointed that Tomb Raider Only Sold 3.5 Million Units First Month

Well, this week has been depressing, hasn't it?

I know that what you've just read as the title for this article must seem like the introduction to a joke, a headline that's obviously skewed to blow things out of proportion or misrepresent what's been said. After all, those kinds of sales -- three and a half million copies in a little under a month -- are nothing to sneeze at, right? It's got to be some sort of misunderstanding, right?

Yeah, not so much.

Square Enix had predicted, or at least hoped, that the reboot Tomb Raider would sell roughly double the amount that it did in the first four weeks. The early sales are crucial, since that's when a game is going to be promoted the most and also be at the highest price, because sales can occur for titles now within months of them coming onto the market. See, I can understand the need to sell quickly and abundantly, but when you find that almost 3.5 million sold isn't cutting the mustard, I can't help but think that something is terribly wrong.

I haven't played the game myself, so I cannot attest to the quality. Given the reviews that I've seen though, Tomb Raider certainly doesn't seem to be a poorly made game by any measure. Despite this though, "we [Square Enix] were very disappointed to see that the high scores did not translate to actual sales performance, which is where we see the substantial variance in operation profit/loss against the forecast."

The article also notes that other Square Enix titles like Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs have also undersold when compared to the company's expectations of final numbers. Tomb Raider was also the last big chance the company had before the end of quarter numbers came in (at least I'm pretty sure that this was the case) so hopes were high that it would do well, which it has ... just not well enough.

I could very well lash out at Square Enix for expecting outlandish numbers, but truth be told, I can't help but feel a little sorry for the company. These days the numbers that they expect seem to be the norm, and while I find that inherently frustrating, I find it a lot more intensely worrying than anything else.

We have companies like Square Enix and EA that are under-performing, we have companies like THQ and Atari going completely under, we have larger companies closing individual studios and consolidating like crazy. I don't want to believe in all the doomsaying, I really don't, but it's kind of hard not to when things like this are happening.

I may sound like a broken record when I say this, but when we have an industry where if a game sells anything less than ridiculously well, then it's underselling, then we have a huge problem. The industry cannot sustain itself like this forever. Hell, the industry can barely sustain itself like this now. If we get to a point where only massive unit movers like the constant Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises are literally the only things that people put out for fear of not getting good returns, then let's face it, it might as well be game over.

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