Forums - Sales Discussion - Has the "million seller" status lost its significance?

Traditionally, if a game sold a million copies or more, it was almost always a definite success. Barring higher budget titles such as Shenmue, million sellers were profitable for their companies and notable as chart toppers. However, as development budget costs have increased exponentially in recent years, million seller status is no longer a guarantee for success. Several million-selling titles or franchises this generation have cost their publishers sums in the billions. With this in mind, does a million seller still carry significance in today's gaming industry?



 

 

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It depends on the game I think! It's not the same to do a handheld game than to do a console game! But yeah costs have risen a lot this gen .

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It's true that in generations past if a game sold a million copies it was a huge milestone. During the 20th century, only a small handful of games sold over 5 million copies. In fact, SMB3's 18 million copies was utterly mind-boggling for a game that wasn't originally bundled. If you compare it to the size of the market back in 1990, it was proportionally speaking perhaps the most popular game ever. And most games had six-figure budgets well into the 90s, with the biggest expense by far being the cost to manufacture the cartridges (though unlike dev costs, manufacturing costs are included in the price). With budgets that low, it's hard to see how any halfway popular game was wildly profitable, and games like SMB3, SMB2, and Zelda I & II are perhaps among the most profitable console games ever relative to budget size.

While budgets have gotten very big over the years, for the average game, a million copies should be more than sufficient for it to be profitable. Assuming every copy is sold at full price, you're talking about $60 million in revenue, while the average game budget is estimated to be around $20-30 million. Assuming video games follow the standard Hollywood rule where a film needs to make at least twice its budget to be considered "profitable," then a million should suffice for most titles. I have no idea if that same rule actually applies to games or not, though, so don't quote me on that. Of course, the bigger the game's budget, the more it needs to sell. A game that costs $100 million to make would need to sell 3.33 to 5 times as many copies as a more average-budgeted game in order to be profitable.

Even in the current era where games cost eight-figure sums to make, so long as they are budgeted properly, there's no reason why they can't get away with selling one or two million copies, which is a milestone even many niche titles can reach nowadays. If you get situations like when Tomb Raider or Resident Evil 6 sold several million copies in their first couple of months and still were regarded as disappointments sales-wise, then someone did something wrong at some point. BioShock Infinite had comparable sales to Tomb Raider, yet 2K thought that was pretty good. If the average game can sell several million copies and not be considered profitable, the the publisher has no one to blame but themselves. One should never spend more than you can possibly hope to make back. You take a big risk and it doesn't pay off, too bad. Should have thought about that before you blew all that money on a game that had no chance of selling 8 million copies in any time frame.

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Depends on how the developer handles their budget. Some just blow their load and dont know how to stick to a reasonable budget.
Uncharted 2 is reported to have cost around 20 million. The game at the time had the best values, long enough gameplay and online.

I think whats bringing the budget up for a lot of these games is making and porting it to 1000 platforms. People seem to think porting a game is cheap. Sometimes a game really is not worth the port.

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Well they are successes in popularity in my eyes which still counts for something. As for budget we wont know unless the publisher/developer says something.

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Serious_frusting said:
Depends on how the developer handles their budget. Some just blow their load and dont know how to stick to a reasonable budget.
Uncharted 2 is reported to have cost around 20 million. The game at the time had the best values, long enough gameplay and online.

I think whats bringing the budget up for a lot of these games is making and porting it to 1000 platforms. People seem to think porting a game is cheap. Sometimes a game really is not worth the port.


I think that in previous gens (especially the 6th gen), it was profitable for publishers to release a game on any platforms as possible. Even if your game didn't sell well enough on the Gamecube or Xbox to be profitable, it might have sold well enough on the PS2 to be profitable overall. Development costs were so low that publishers could take that risk. Now that is definitely not the case. It should have been obvious to THQ (and everyone else) that uDraw was not going to be a success on the PS3 and 360, and there are dozens of other examples of disadvantageous multiplatform games this gen.



 

 

A million seller is seen as a failure in today's industry, so yes, it has lost its positive significance. The current mentality is to hit it big, so even 2m doesn't cut it in many cases. And it's getting worse, because before too long 5m will be the normal expectation for a big budget game from the likes of Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Take Two.

Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

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today it seems like 2 million has become the new base market per system


I think a million seller is still a significant milestone, as I enjoy many games that cannot even reach that. Yet the developers keep making these games that do not reach 1 million over the years. If these games that I enjoy did make it to 1 million it would be seen as a huge success.

On the other hand their is BS like L.A. Noire that sells tons and somehow the developers cannot continue.

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RolStoppable said:
A million seller is seen as a failure in today's industry, so yes, it has lost its positive significance. The current mentality is to hit it big, so even 2m doesn't cut it in many cases. And it's getting worse, because before too long 5m will be the normal expectation for a big budget game from the likes of Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Take Two.


The sad thing is that I seem to remember a couple 5 million selling PS3/360 games being money sinks. Last gen publishers could cut their losses with Wii/DS games, but they don't have that luxury now.