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Can consumer conversation be the key to predicting a billion-dollar video game launch in 2018?

October was a massive month for video game sales with three of the biggest titles of 2018 dropped over the course of a few weeks. With Bethesda’s Fallout 76 launching in mid-November can we expect another weekend blockbuster and maybe even another record setting sales figure? Let’s see what the data says.

 

For context we should look back at 2018 to this point. Early in the year Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 (released in March) was touted as having the biggest opening weekend of the year at around $310 million dollars in retail sales until another of Ubisoft’s hit series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, reported record breaking weekend sales in early October. Ubisoft hasn’t published sales figures for this title, so we will have to assume the dollar amount exceeds $310 million.

 

We don’t have to assume when we are talking about the next blockbuster game of October, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Activision reports that they pulled in over $500 million during its three-day launch weekend.

 

While that sounds like a ridiculous figure to beat, Rockstar Games did that just two weeks later with Red Dead Redemption 2. The smash hit of 2018 (so far) pulled in over $725 million during its launch weekend. That is a massive number and falls just behind Rockstar’s own Grand Theft Auto V ($800M) and Bethesda’s Fallout 4 ($750M) which earned their record numbers in their first 24 hours following launch.

 

In order for publishers to make that kind of money, video games must be crossing the line between cult fandom towards mainstream popularity, similarly to what we’ve seen with feature films. At Networked Insights, we have been using social conversation to predict box office success for years, but now we are turning to consumers to see what we can expect in the video game world.

 

If we look at the conversation volume of the three games above that launched in October, we see a total of over a million consumer conversations in the thirty days prior to their respective launches. The share of volume of those three looks like this:

 

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: 19%

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4: 35%

Red Dead Redemption 2: 46%

 

When we took a look at their record weekend sales figures and calculate a similar share of volume, we see the following:

 

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: 21%

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4: 32%

Red Dead Redemption 2: 47%

 

The similarity in their ratios can be very telling and is comparable to what we’ve learned from the world of film. Consumer conversation prior to launch can be a useful indicator of potential sales success and an excellent way to benchmark the progress of a campaign.

 

Now let’s look at what we can expect with Fallout 76 launching on November 14th. In the 30 days leading up to its launch this particular title has 63% more conversation volume than Red Dead Redemption 2.



63% more than $725 million would certainly be a record-breaking figure. Now, we can’t be sure that these figures will translate to a billion-plus dollar weekend but it’s a strong indicator of consumer interest and consumer interest often equals consumer dollars.

 

Fallout does have to contend with a Wednesday release date compared to the above titles which launched on a Friday, but it is interesting to note that the $750 million dollar 24-hour launch of Fallout 4 happened on a Tuesday.

 

As video games start to surpass all other entertainment titles as the most valuable of all time, it will be interesting to see if consumer interest has more room to grow.

 

 

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