While it's much too early to make any final assessments, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is having one heck of a year so far. The video game arm of the Hollywood studio is attached to three of the year's best selling video games—including the current industry leader.
This year's list of best selling games, based on six months worth of sales figures compiled by The NPD Group, is full of surprises. Lego (another Warner Bros. property), which had two games in the mid-year standings last year, is nowhere to be seen. But two titles that were already solid performers last year at this time—Grand Theft Auto V and Minecraft—are showing no signs of weakening, an incredible run in an industry where interest in a game typically falls off after a month or two.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is the game topping the mid-year list. Mortal Kombat has been around for some 25 years —and while there is still a strong fan base for the game, it wasn't expected to be the best-selling title in the first half of the year. But by upping the gore in the game's fatalities, Mortal Kombat X had the best launch in the history of the franchise—and that created buzz that kept sales strong.
Also somewhat surprising is the high rank of Batman: Arkham City, which was only released last month, but still managed to claim the number six spot. The sales come despite the suspension of sales of the PC version of the game, which was riddled with bugs.
Rankings for this mid-year list were taken from sales figures from January through the end of June, the most recent reporting period for The NPD Group. (Due to agreements with publishers, NPD does not publicly release hard sales numbers. The data also does not include hard figures for digital sales directly from game platforms like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.)
The best selling games of the first half of 2015 are as follows:
- Mortal Kombat X (Publisher: Warner Bros.)
- Grand Theft Auto V (Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software)
- Battlefield Hardline (Publisher: Electronic Arts)
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Publisher: Activision)
- Minecraft (Publisher: Microsoft)
- Batman: Arkham Knight (Publisher: Warner Bros.)
- Dying Light (Publisher: Warner Bros.)
- NBA 2K15 (Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software)
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Publisher: CD Projekt Red)
- Super Smash Bros. (Publisher: Nintendo)
So what's missing? Not a lot, actually. There haven't been a lot of surprise failures so far this year. Sony's The Order: 1886 underperformed and was a critical dud, but since it was a single platform game, it was unlikely to make this list either way. Nintendo's Splatoon sold more than 1 million copies in less than a month, but (again) was a single platform game—and a new IP—meaning the odds it could crack the top 10 were slim.
That run of good luck by publishers is likely to change during the holiday season, though. With so many big games scheduled to come out this year, some are bound to get caught in the blast zone.
Among the releases due this holiday are Halo 5: Guardians, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4, Star Wars: Battlefront, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4. That's a lot of AAA titles (games which have the largest development and promotional budgets), and given the evolving buying habits of gamers, it's virtually impossible that they'll all meet sales expectations.
Five years ago, it might have been different. Gamers bought more titles per year, devouring them and moving on to something else. But as publishers have added more and more downloadable content (DLC) offerings, they've been able to keep players hooked for longer periods and increase their profit growth.
Ultimately, though, that has impacted the total number of games sold per year.