April 25, 2024


Feel everything

Esports games take a back seat to blockbusters in February sales

Madden NFL dropped a bit in the February 2022 sales charts from The NPD Group. EA Sports

“NPD Day” is one of the most anticipated dates in the monthly calendar for those who pay attention to video game sales. Normally the second Friday of each month, the NPD Group releases its list of the best-selling games of the previous month. Today, it sent out the sales data it collects from publishers for February, which is one of the busiest months of 2022’s calendar.

It’s no surprise that two of the big blockbuster games (the industry calls them “triple-A”) that were released February dominate the top of the chart: Elden Ring is No. 1 despite coming out Feb. 25. What is surprising is that it only trials Call of Duty: Vanguard when it comes to sales over the past 12 months. Elden Ring is brutal action-role-playing game from FromSoftware of Japan, and it lacks the traditional multiplayer modes that tend to spark sales for the biggest releases — and attract esports teams. However, Elden Ring’s open world full of mysteries (and often hilarious deaths) lends itself to livestreaming and other forms of content creation, which could help boost of efforts of esports organizations that rely on streamers for additional streams of fans and sponsorships.

I kinda feel bad for the folks over at Guerrilla Games. Another of 2022’s big early releases, Horizon: Forbidden West (the sequel to 2017’s blockbuster hit, Horizon: Zero Dawn) did well, coming in No. 2 for the monthly sales charts. But the excitement over Elden Ring has wiped Sony’s blockbuster from the social media consciousness. It’ll be interesting to see how well Forbidden West sells next month — a key part of Sony’s strategy for the PlayStation 5 is focusing on triple-A games with fantastic visuals, gameplay, and stories that have long sales tails (and do well on PC later when it hits that platform).

In terms of esports games, the known brands made their monthly appearances. Call of Duty: Vanguard dropped from No. 2 to No. 6, and Madden NFL 22 went from No. 4 to No. 7 (and remains the second-best-selling game of the past 12 months behind Vanguard). FIFA dropped two spots to No. 9 to stay in the Top 10. NBA 2K22 came in at No. 17 to round out the top 20.

Next month, MLB: The Show 22 could get a boost from appearing on the Nintendo Switch, the best-selling console for February (and at over 103 million sold, it’s the best-selling Nintendo console of all time). Last year, Sony put its flagship baseball game on the Xbox for the first time, and with the Switch, it’ll be able to reach the entire home gaming audience. And, of course, this meshes with Sony’s plan to get its biggest games on different platforms (though that usually means PC in most cases).

It’s hard to make any takeaways when it comes to hardware sales (pun intended), as the chip shortage continues to put an artificial constraint on the market. This month, the Switch beat out the Xbox Series S/X consoles in terms of number of consoles sold, and PlayStation continues to lead in dollars sold (the PS5 is pricier than the Xbox Series S and the Switch). But this just means that Nintendo and Microsoft were able to put out more product than Sony; consumers keep buying consoles at astounding paces.

So, unless some unorthodox thinkers figure out a way to turn killing Elden Ring’s massive, brutal bosses into an esport, there’s not much there for the business audience at SBJ to take away from its success — other than the potential such games have for content creators within esports organizations. However, I might be prepared to see MLB: The Show build on last year’s record performance as the best-selling baseball game in U.S. history now that it’s coming to Nintendo’s platform. Will esports find a way to capitalize on it?