I find your lack of sales figures disturbing.

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Dec 21, I was sitting around waiting all day for Bioware to brag about their "First 24 Hour" sales figures. It's been 4 days now, and still nothing.

Typically for a major AAA release like this that has been so heavily promoted, hyped, and anticipated, other publishers or developers release sales details within a couple days.

I'm not really surprised in this case though. If we do get a sales figure announcement, it will probably be a "First Week" or "First Month" sales. As you already know, when sales are less than expected, companies will often make their first sales announcement the one with the beefiest numbers. Really good sales though will get the "first 24 hours" announcement.

Sometimes companies can cover figures up (or massage them) with special wording to give the impression of more sales than they really are. Here are some examples:

  • The most common is "Shipped" rather than "Sold". Companies will announce "Shipped over 4 million copies", but that only means that they shipped unsold copies to retailers for sale. That doesn't mean any of those copies will sell however.
  • Using "Registered Users" or "Registered Players" instead of actual sales numbers. "We have over 3 million registered accounts!" which anyone can, in fact, include free registrations, forum user registrations, demo users, and beta players. Plus, any number of other definitions for "Subscribers", "Users", or "Registered Players".
  • New forms of Digital Downloads, where players can purchase, download, and install the game months before release. That technically puts the "First 24 Hours" on the first day it was made available, but they include the first couple months as their "First 24 Hours".
  • In addition to #3, they'll use the wording "Sold Through As Of". That's more deceptive wording to pay attention to. Why is it "Sold Through" instead of just "Sold"? :)
  • They'll disguise the period of sales and geographies sold in. If, for example, the game is launched in NA and then 4 days later in EU, they'll say "First 24 Hours", but they'll include NA, the full 4 days of sales in NA, and then 24 hours in EU. Sometimes they'll even launch a smaller country (with very little sales) last, so that they can include several days of sales from major countries.
  • And, of course, when companies are embarrassed to release first day sales, they'll do first week or first month. Even then, they can use options from above to beef up the number even further. :)
Usually it's not a good sign when companies do this. They need to be deceptive to hide real numbers, possibly because it fell short of minimum expectations.

A while ago, I had made some SWTOR Sales Speculations of my own, and I estimated that first day sales would be around 900k (+/- 100k). Professional analysts predicted 1.5 million pre-orders and 3 million total sales within a little over a week after launch. So, many readers here thought I was crazy to estimate so low and many probably questioned my sanity.

After all, there's already been so much hype from Bioware about their figures, that 2-3 million sales was anticipated for the first day of release. Everything pointed to AT LEAST 1.5 million on the first day. And even pre-order numbers were apparently 950,000 two weeks before the launch. Anything less than 1.5 million was inconceivable.

Now, BioWare has recently announced "player figures" though. They're reporting "one million registered players" 3 days after the launch. If this was a normal game, and they had 1 million sales after 3 days, that would mean that first day sales were probably around 600-800k. (There's also a blog entry about it here.)

Bioware is also calling it the "fastest growing subscription MMO in the history of our industry." Meaning the Star Wars MMO industry history, not MMO history. :)

Something really bothers me about their wording and statistics though. Here's what Bioware wrote in their Press Release:
To date, players have:

  • Logged 28 million in-game hours – roughly equivalent to watching all six Star Wars movies, two million times
  • Averaged well over five hours a day playing the game
  • Created more than 3.8 million characters; 510,000 Jedi Knights and 550,000 Sith Warriors
  • Killed more than 2 billion non-player characters in the eight days since Early Game Access began
If the average player spends 5 hours per day playing the game, and they have 1 million players, shouldn't that be 15 million in-game hours since "launch" or 50 million in-game hours since the retail game has been live (Early Game Access + 3 days before announcement.) It looks like they're picking and choosing numbers, and jumping back-and-forth between statistics for Early Game Access, first 8 days, first 10 days, and even using Beta player statistics.

It might also have something to do with the recent lock out. There are 1 million registered users, but only a certain number are allowed to play. You can still buy the game and register, but you just can't play the same.. Bioware could still using those "registered" numbers though as vanity figures.

I'm getting the feeling that they won't be releasing sales figures at all.. for good reason too. Apparently, it was a wise idea after all to estimate low. :)

The 2-3 month period should be an interesting one: will there be actual growth or more deceptive press releases?