You're Wrong

You're Wrong
We Are Not Mainstream

Ronald Meeus | 10 Aug 2010 12:33
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Comparing the unit sales of the PlayStation 3 and its present-generation counterparts to those of another competitor on the home entertainment market, the DVD player, really puts things into perspective. Worldwide DVD player sales, according to marketing consultancy firm Growth for Knowledge, amount to more than 100 million units annually. In comparison, the three current-gen consoles have sold 153.8 million units in their lifetime to date (the Wii leading with 74 million units, followed by the Xbox 360's 41.7 million and trailed by the PS3, with 38.1 million consoles sold). That means that 1.5 average years of DVD player unit sales outnumber the total number of units sold of all current gen game consoles.

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In all fairness, DVD sales are sharply declining, and videogame sales have been on the rise for years. But even total revenues are not really a relevant measure for mainstream success. The only honest way to assess whether or not a game, a movie or any other piece of popular fiction has reached a mainstream audience, is by considering its reach: how many consumers have enjoyed it? A clear picture of this reach is provided by unit sales. By that standard, popular videogames are not nearly as "mainstream" as successful movies are.

Compare the launch of Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008 to the opening weekend of Jon Favreau's Iron Man at the box office. GTA IV launched a few days prior to Iron Man's theatrical release, and industry types were concerned that the game would hurt the movie's sales; many potential movie visitors would be at home, having reached the McReary Brothers missions, instead of at the movies. The fear wasn't exactly unfounded. The game made $310 million during its first day, compared to the $38.7 million the movie hauled in globally during its first day in theaters. But divide those numbers by the unit price, and you get a very different picture. Considering an average theater ticket price of $7.18 in 2008, about 5.4 million people saw Iron Man the first day in theaters. Over the course of its theatrical run, that number ran up to 81 million viewers. Grand Theft Auto IV, by comparison, reached 3.5 million people on its first day of sales (assuming $60 pricepoint), and 15 million people in its lifecycle. This estimate doesn't include used game sales or playing a friend's copy of the game, but we're also not including DVD or pay-per-view revenue with Iron Man. For a rough estimate, 81 million viewers is way more than 15 million.

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