All the pre-publicity in the world can’t beat a good first-person shooter



Source: GamesBeat. Chart: PED

It’s hard to imagine what more could have been done to drum up interest in Walter Isaacson’s
Steve Jobs
. The only biography of Apple’s AAPL CEO written with Jobs’ cooperation hit the bookstores 19 days after his death in a tsunami of publicity, from 60 Minutes to Charlie Rose to Jon Stewart and everything in between.

And the book did well. It sold 379,000 copies and earned $13.2 million in one week, according to Nielsen BookScan, leaping to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list and putting itself in position to become the bestselling book of  2011.

But an item in Friday’s GamesBeat — the videogaming arm of the VentureBeat blog — puts those sales in perspective. In the same week that Simon & Schuster published Steve Jobs, Electronic Arts ERTS issued Battlefield 3, a first-person shooter set on the Iraq-Iran border that I venture to guess neither Charlie Rose nor Jon Stewart has ever heard of.

Yet the videogame sold 5,000,000 copies its first week and generated $300 million in sales. And it’s hardly the biggest game of 2011. Modern Warfare 3, due out next week, is expected to outsell it 2 to 1.

This is not to say that people don’t read anymore. Books are a $40 billion business in the U.S., twice the size of the videogame business, according to DFC Intelligence. But among the players who lined up at midnight to buy the new game, the latest title in the Battlefield franchise is a very big deal indeed.

And as game analyst Billy Pidgeon told GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi:  “When it comes down to it, it’s more fun to play games than it is to read a biography.”