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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Video Games: Profitable, Not Popular

So, the gamers I know are all amped up about the sequels to Halo and Half-Life, due out this week and next, and apparently yesterday was a $100 Million First Day for Halo 2. And that's cool and all. That really is super-impressive.

But here's my problem.

"In the first 24 hours we'll have an opening that's (more) popular than any motion picture has ever had in history," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said at a shareholder's meeting on Tuesday.

I know that that's stockholder spin, Bill, not a sworn deposition (cheap shot!), but let's do some math.

The regular edition of Halo 2 cost $49.99. $100 million in sales yesterday. So, roughly 2 million units were sold (1.5 million of which were pre-sales, by the way).

But let's say that a movie was released into theaters, and 2 million people went to see it on opening night. With an average estimated ticket cost of $10, how much would that movie gross in its first day? $20 million.

$20 million isn't bad. But that doesn't even crack the top twenty film opening days -- it doesn't even beat Rush Hour 2.

Of course, this ignores the pre-sales issue -- if we were only to count the units actuallly physically sold on Tuesday (approximately 500,000) then we'd be looking at a comparable first day gross of $5 million, which means that even Alien vs. Predator outperformed it.

I don't mean to undercut the achievement, though -- I like video games fine, and I'm happy that I have friends who work in a booming industry. What am I trying to say here? That games make more money because they cost more money. That pre-sales screw up the equations. That the population of gamers is smaller than the population of movie-goers, and a more economically difficult subculture to participate in, due to the aforementioned pricing.

And that video games in general have a long way to go before they can really lay claim to being the most popular in the universe ever. Profitable, yes. But not popular.

In short? Shut up, Bill.

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