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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Sales and Expectations

Word out of NPD is that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has sold roughly 400,000 units in the United States since its launch a couple of months ago. Again this is strictly US sales. Globally, if you believe the unofficial figures, it puts Amalur just under the million sold mark. That’s not bad at all. It’s not a mega hit, and with the time spent developing it, I question what sort of return EA got on the game even with that very respectable number of sales.

Still, regardless of how you look at it, it clearly wasn’t a sales flop. Now, I won’t lie — I didn’t really care for Amalur. It nestled snugly in the “meh” column. But hey what do I know? A lot of people bought and enjoyed the MMO-esque RPG. Godspeed.

But let’s look at a few comparisons:

Skyrim sold over 11 million units.
Fallout 3 sold over 7 million
New Vegas — over 3 million
Dark Souls over 1 million
The original Dragon Age came in around 5 million (DAII not as much)
The Witcher 2 passed the million mark and with the Xbox 360 release will crush that number (a figure Amalur is doubtful ever to get near by the way)
Mass Effect 2 around 5 million
Around 5 million for Fable III (damn people, really?)

The point here isn’t that Amalur wasn’t as popular as these games because EA would quickly tell you, “Hey it’s a new franchise! Lighten up, Francis.”

And EA would be right. But I go back to the used game rant from former THQ suit Richard Browne. Remember when he said this?

The real cost of used games is the death of single player gaming. How do I stop churn? I implement multiplayer and attempt to keep my disc with my consumer playing online against their friends. It works wonderfully for Call of Duty – no doubt it can work wonderfully for me. The problem is, at what cost? Countless millions of dollars would be the answer. Let’s take a great example, one of my favorite game series released on this generation – Uncharted…

The sales figures for these primarily single player role-playing games (Dark Souls is iffy here) takes Browne’s theory and turns it on its head, right? Is this just a phenomena with role-playing games? Could be. Is it that these games are all pretty damn good? Possibly. (I’d fight you on Fable III.)

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So we have a few things going on here. Our options seem to consist of:

1) Browne’s just another greedy tool without enough yachts to ski behind.
2) He’s right and although those games all sold well the development costs were so extravagant that they failed to turn ample profit.
3) The people calling the shots in the industry are losing money because they still have absolutely no idea what people want, want they will pay full retail for, and continue to sink money into projects that have no chance at succeeding at a full $60 retail cost. Oh, and that 11 million people bought Skyrim — and it wasn’t a used copy.

Fact is, using Browne’s example, if we’re really at the point when a game like Uncharted can sell over 4 million units worldwide and Sony felt the need to add useless multiplayer in order for it to reach its potential and make more money — the big publishers are royally screwed.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

38 thoughts to “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Sales and Expectations”

  1. Given what they probably paid out for marketing this game, likely EA will say they lost a ton. Never mind that it probably wasn’t a great date to release a new IP title — February 4th, little more than a month after Christmas and a month before Mass Effect 3. Never mind that they charged a premium for the game when it probably just isn’t worth $60 (and again, right after Christmas at that). Nope… it’ll be blamed on the used market.

  2. The politics of used games sales have nothing to do with them ‘hurting the industry,’ it has to do with the publishers wanting the whole pie of game sales, period. Companies like GameStop have managed to get a significant piece of the game-selling pie by buying games at low prices and selling them at high prices, and consumers have shown that they are both willing to trade-in used games for low values and buy used games for only a few dollars less than new games.

    In this case, I see the publishers’ problems; they spend all this money developing the game, and then they see sales that might have gone their way go to used game retailers instead (because let’s be honest here, if you’re buying a used game that’s $5 cheaper than the new version, you’d probably spring the extra $5 if there was no used version available). Thus they see GameStop cutting into their profits even though their behaviour is rational and seen in just about every other industry where goods are sold.

    I feel like the consumer has to go with the lesser of two evils here. I’ve always felt GameStop uses its advantageous position to leverage more profite in trade-in transactions, but admittedly, that’s significantly less evil than game companies decided that you’re just not allowed to resell your games if you want to. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s the way we’ll be going in the next console generation.

    Thankfully, as a PC gamer, I can just buy games for 80% off on Steam when they have crazy sales. At least that’s not hurting the industry, right?

  3. These numbers (along with sales figures for Call of Duty and Fifa 12 for that matter) show that for $60 people want and will buy games that are NOT 5-6 hour single player games with a half-assed multiplayer game no one will be playing after a month in stores. They show that there is percieved, lasting _value_ in these titles and possible in this genre.. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amalur’s sales were buoyed by early reports that there was something like 200 hours of content and 500 sidequests or whatever. That definitely sounds like it’s worth $60 to Joe Public. But tell him “here’s a five hour game and a horde mode”…that sounds like it’s worth about $20 in the discount used bin.

    How many copies did Shadows of the Damned sell in its first month, something like 20,000? Almost every review mentioned that it was about eight hours and zero replay value. And they didn’t even bother try to pawn a shitty multiplayer mode off.

    I also think people realize that multiplayer is _temporary_ outside of the major, multiplayer focused titles. I bet those Ninja Gaiden 3 online servers are just hopping, right?

    I’m convinced that a large percentage of Skyrim’s sales have to do quite literally with the size of the game rather than its quality or design. Because frankly, it’s a pretty crap game. But the Elder Scrolls games have a reputation of providing TONS of gameplay (no matter how much of it is repeated over and over again) and people know that they can buy that game and not finish it over a weekend.

    The Assassin’s Creed games fit this too- people know there’s anywhere from 20-40 hours of gameplay there, if not more.

    I’d also be willing to bet that there are far fewer used copies of Skyrim or KoA in the wild than there are of smaller, shorter AAA titles- even though the higher new sales numbers would suggest otherwise.

    As for Fable III…who knows. The ads looked cool. And it could be- again- the consumer assumption that what they’re getting will be a lasting experience that will give them a return on investment and make the most of their gaming dollar.

  4. You know, the more I think about it, the more it really is that single player, long games sell. Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, Saints Row, Arkham Asylum, Mario titles, Zelda…

    You’d think that some guy with a corner office would run the numbers and see a correlation here…short games tend to flop, long games tend to sell. Tacked on multiplayer is a way to artificially inflate the perception of a game’s length as are promises of DLC and additional content. But when you get right down to it, it seems as if at $60, people want a good 20 hours minimum out of a game.

    Problem is, these are the kinds of games that have astronomical budgets, bigger risks, and longer development times. Guess it’s seen as better to flood the market with midrange garbage and make the occassional short sale. Kind of what happened in the pre-NES era…

      1. Totally agreed….

        except for Saints Row. I believe co op is a significant part of that game, although I admit I dunno how many people use it, but I suspect quite a few.

        But yeah, a high quality SP game can sell. Hell look at Uncharted.

  5. I’m about 24 hours into Amalur and I’m really enjoying it so far. But I feel it’s succeeding in spite of it’s heritage (salvatore, rolston and the spawn guy) instead if because of it. The more I ignore the things that they brought to the table (the degrading armor and level scaling of the bethesda guy, the story that takes itself way to serious by the spawn dude, and the ridiculous backstory that is largely irrelevant and derivative by salvatore) the more I enjoy it.

    Not every game has to question morality, some can be just fun, and Amalur is that. The only real problem that I’m having is that the level cap is way to low for this much content, I’ll hit it long before I’m done with the main storyline, and once level progression stops, that might be where I start to lose interest, the story isn’t interesting enough to keep my attention, but unlocking the next ability is. I’m actually skipping side quests and running away from monsters just to drag it out.

  6. The problem with Amalur is I got so far into it, and then felt I’d seen everything it had to offer. I don’t think I was even half way in when I really started to feel that. The scenery changed, sure, but little else.

  7. If publishers are losing money its their own damn fault, not mine for saving money buying used games.

    If you build it, they will come.

    make a game that people want to buy the day it comes out and I’ll give you my money.

    Witcher 2? DAY ONE buy. Totally satisfied with it.

    Binary Domain? Saw a used copy for $54 at GStop. STILL not low enough for me to buy.

    Now, how is that my fault, exactly? I was *never* going to buy BD for $60, Ever. I know what I will pay for a game like that, and $60 aint it.

  8. Amalur was built to appeal to the MMO crowd, which is a strange choice but made it different. Having just come off Warcraft, I probably made the right move buying skyrim over this. But both games are probably just ok.

    Now dark souls, that should sell 10 million units. C’mon PC gamers, rock it!

  9. This game was originally an MMO by Curt Shilling. Phillies, Dbacks, Red Sox WS winning Pitcher and Avid MMO player. He footed the bill for starting the company entirely. The game was way over budget and had issues to the point of dropping the mmo to recoup. I know he was over 15 million in on dev costs from his pocket. then he moved the company to Rhode island in exchange for 75 million from the state (for jobs). There were over 400 people working in the company developing this game. I dont know how much of the 75 mil was put towards the game But I think it was most of it.

    Lets just say it was 50 million more so 65 million dollars to develop this thing. Thats most likely on the low side. And is the low side of dev cost for mainstream games now.

    400000×60 is 24 mil and that isnt talking about what EA put in for marketing pressing and packaging costs.

    You guys just dont really get what it costs to make a game. This is why most of you dont get why used games is practically stealing.

    1. “You guys just dont really get what it costs to make a game. This is why most of you dont get why used games is practically stealing.”

      No, I get it, I just don’t quite understand why the used market is to blame for Curt Schilling and EA mismanaging development of Amalur. That whole argument NHS staff like to make about the industry wildly overestimating what will sell? The MMO-that-ain’t strategy is the definition of that. Dropping $60mil+ for 400+ staff to work on a game that gameplay-wise, content-wise, and even visually doesn’t justify it? That’s not the used game market’s fault.

      I understand that large modern games are expensive to produce — that I get just fine. What I don’t get is that, if EA or whoever makes terrible financial decisions, why is it the public’s fault? Moreover, I fail to see why the used game market is ‘practically stealing’ when we’ve had used books, movies, and music for a long time. Or maybe you consider those theft as well.

      1. Used movies is big time frowned upon by studios, books Im not sure of but Im would guess publishers dont like it eiither which is why all the protection over digital copies. Music we know how they feel.

        Just because people have been doing it doenst make it right. Thru the 80’s and into the 90’s since the beginning of time. People that like the same sex were called gays, fags, twinks was that right? Till recently Ni…was an acceptable term for people of color. Once upon a time it was acceptable to have seperate schools for colored seperate bathrooms and places to shop.

        You will never get me to see how a person creates something it their property and its ok for someone to use that property then sell it for for their own gain undercutting the money that is rightfully the creators. You really are not putting yourself in the property creators shoes. It doens’t matter how mismanaged it is. They are losing profit that is rightfully theirs.

        1. Well, you are either delusional, a troll, or a combination of the two.

          So we are turning a debate on used games into a social discussion on gay and minority rights and bigotry? Are you kidding me? WTF are you TALKING about?

          And if I buy a used game it’s akin to theft? Companies are NOT losing profit that is theirs. That’s not how this works.

          If I buy something, I have a right to do with it whatever the hell I want. I own it. Now if I make copies and hand them out, that’s different. That’s Napster. But if I no longer own the property in question, everyone else can fuck off and leave me alone.

          Let me ask you this: everyone who has a garage sale. The MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people who hold garage sales or go to flea markets every day in this country.

          They’re guilty too?

          They sell used shit. What’s the difference if it’s a videogame or a lamp? If I buy a beat up copy of an old boardgame at a garage sale am I being dishonest to the free market?

          OR AM I BUYING A USED BOARDGAME.

          Pawn shops? Same thing? The dudes on Pawn Stars should be locked up, right?

          I have no idea why I chose to engage you because you clearly have no freaking clue what you are talking about, but hey..a good troll can do that.

          So, well done. I tip my cap.

        2. Mike, I’mma break your heart.

          Most of the “creators” that make video games…do not have any degree of ownership over the sale, distribution, or even profit of their games. This is why there are developers and there are publishers. If you think creators somehow by default own their work…you need to look up Jack Kirby and see how Stan Lee and Marvel treated him. Or how music licensing works.

          If you think that when you buy a new game that your money goes from the cashier’s till to the bank and then into the pockets of developers, they’ve got you brainwashed. It does not work like that. Most of the time, developers are already paid. When reorders come back to the distributor and sales figures are totalled, they get a percentage. But guess who takes the lion’s share? That’s right, the corporate overlords that want you to think that buying a use game is stealing.

          If there’s anyone who’s “stealing” in this equation, it’s the publishers that are mismarketing, misrepresenting,and mismanaging games and their relationships with contracted or proprietary development houses.

          There is absolutely NOTHING about buying ANYTHING used that is theft.They want you to think that because that’s part of this anti-consumer PR campaign they’re waging to train people to think a certain way about buying games. Don’t be a sucker.

          As for comparing the morality of buying used to hate speech and segregation…EA or Activision really needs to hire you on to head up their assault on used games because that is just about as extreme- and wrong-headed- a statement about the subject I’ve ever heard.

          Bob Fett is right on the money- if you EVER buy ANYTHING used- and I’m 100% sure you have- then you are a crook (and, uh, worse than a homophobe?) by your estimation. If you buy a used copy of It at a yard sale, you are literally robbing Stephen King. If you go to the thrift store and luck up on a used Hugo Boss blazer, you are literally reaching into Hugo Boss’ wallet and pilfering it. If you buy a used iPad, you are stealing from Steve Jobs’ corpse, you awful man.

          There’s no defense of your logic that works. I fear for a consumer marketplace where there are others that think like you.

      2. “This is why most of you dont get why used games is practically stealing.”

        Seriously? That’s a pretty offensive statement. It is morally objectionable for me to manage what dollars I have in my wallet to be able to provide for the needs in my life, while still engaging in my hobby? I should be penalized at the criminal level? I’m going to call your bluff, and convince myself that you don’t actually believe that.

        The more I read about this whole used-games-are-killing-the-industry-and-you-are-a-terrible-person debacle the more disgusted I get with the industry and the level with which I engage it. If a company makes shitty decisions in regards to the product hey produce and their business practices, and their product fails, I am absolutely, 100% in no way responsible for that. How can the idea that I am even be a logical argument?

      1. Mike, a more measured response on my part:

        What the publishing companies are doing is waging a huge PR battle against the consumer, as they know that they have no legal grounds to stand on. They have the right of first sale. If there is a piece of intellectual property that exists on a physical media they have the right to sell that once – the first sale. After that, the owner of that physical object has the right to sell it and transfer their right to use that intellectual property to the purchaser. I would argue that this is almost a cornerstone of copyright law, and is incredibly important in that it allows the end-user lawful control over their property, while still up-holding the rights of the IPs creator to make money off of their creation.

        Now, I understand that law is created and upheld through precedential (is that a word?) decisions in the courts, and this is still being sussed out on this particular area of law (to some extent). It seems to be swinging in favor of the consumer. But I think it’s important for us to really, really consider what level of power these companies are trying to gather up, and what we as consumers would have to give up for that to happen. Specifically, why is it a PR war against us, instead of an honest to goodness challenge in our court of law?

        Less measured:
        Please don’t compare purchasers of used games to racists and bigots.

        Love,
        /Robotlazer

        1. The point which has been missed was just because something is the norm doesn’t make it right.

          Also of note the court precedings stated here really are not the directly applicable.

          First sale doctrine recognized in 1908 and codified in 1976 was a case between Bobbs-Merrill and Co. vs Straus.

          Bobbs Merrill and Co sold a copyrighted book the castaway and stated that the book was to be sold a 1 dollar. Macys bought a big lot of the book and sold it for 89 cents.

          The court ruled that the publisher did not have the right to tell macys how much to sell the book for.

          This more states that gamestop can sell you that new game for 49.99 instead of 59.99 if they so choose.

          Basically this stuff is still going back and forth thru the courts and at this point is up to each person morally because no law decision has truely been laid in these cases yet.

          While you have NOT made any unlawful copyright violation by reselling a used copy causing the original content provider to lose sales you HAVe broken contract and may be liable for breech of contract.

          Did you know that lets say you buy a dvd and get one of those little projectors and play it on one of them inflatable screens in the backyard for all the neighbors during a little gathering you have broken the law?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine

          1. Oh my god…I was probably BREAKING THE LAW when I showed DVDs on the TV in my store…should I turn myself in?

          2. “The point which has been missed was just because something is the norm doesn’t make it right”

            That point wasn’t missed. But that point is not an argument against used sales. It’s misdirection and not applicable to the discussion at hand.

            Bringing up that case is good, but you have to complete the story. There have been many more revisions to copyright law since that case (and specifically in regards to software). In fact, video game software has been specifically exempted in some situations that would have let it fall outside the rule of first sale. Companies try to get around this with EULAs, which are often unenforceable. Sometimes they lose, and sometimes they win. And then states change laws so that they can’t win again in the future. Why would that happen? Why would a government entity look at a legally binding case and take action to change the law so that outcome can’t happen again? Who are they protecting?

            What is making you draw this line in the sand? WHY do you want to demonize the purchase of used products? What is the net positive of that terrible idea becoming a fact?

            A carte blanche criminalization of the sale and purchase of used goods based on the idea that you are robbing the IP holder of their right to make money on their creative endeavors is flawed on numerous counts – starting with the basic fact that they have already made that money on the original sale of the product. This why the right of first sale exists in the first place – to protect the IP holder.

            Also, I haven’t actually broken contract by selling that game. Any EULA preventing me from doing that is overwritten by state and federal laws.

          3. “The point which has been missed was just because something is the norm doesn’t make it right.”

            It wasn’t missed, it was ignored because it doesn’t appear to be applicable in this case.

            What you’re arguing is the same thing the MPAA/RIAA/ESA have been arguing for more than a decade; which is that the consumer doesn’t ‘own’ physical property they have purchased but rather have purchased a physical item that contains non-transferable data/culture.

            Those who fall on the other side of this argument, similar to what Boba Fett stated, believe that they did not buy a piece of plastic that so happens to have data on it meant for them and only them, but rather they bought a product not unlike a book, lamp, or shirt. I have purchased a physical item which I now own; copyrights exist to protect the content from being duplicated, but the single physical copy exists for me to do what I wish. Not unlike the iPhone rooting case, which Apple eventually lost, which stated that once I own this phone I can do anything I want to it so long as it’s not illegal. That would include reselling it.

            You’re saying that selling a used copy is taking food out of starving developers’ mouths. I’m saying that I own something and if I sell it that’s my business — the company already got money when I bought it originally, and I should be allowed to recoup some of my costs if I see fit, not unlike selling a car. You’re saying a car analogy is terrible because the used car is never as good as the new, versus the used copy being identical. I say used copies are not always identical given the packaging conditions, and you take a buyer beware risk with playability of used discs, and regardless you can definitely get a slightly used car that is just as good as new for thousands of dollars less.

            Calling me a thief because I sell games from my collection or rent games is bull (I actually almost never buy used) and feels borderline like astroturfing to be honest. Are companies complaining about used sales because their bottom line is hurting? Of course, because they see money on the table and they want it! But they aren’t unique — *every* industry has this problem, this desire, and if they act on it they’re just as wrong. Old lamps are just as useful as new lamps, but I don’t hear lamp manufacturers banding together in PR campaigns to shit on people who buy lamps.

          4. OK, ok let me take it a step further. I can totally buy the I bought it I own it arguement for the home user arguemnet. This is fine and doenst do much damage.

            The problem I think that would bother me is that A retail money making shop is cicumventing the system IE a book store or gamestop selling in mass used copies for profit. this creates a big loss as opposed to the private user selling his property.

  10. Hasn’t Valve said many times that games at a lower price point increase sales by up to a factor of 40? The $60 price point is ridiculous. It’s just gonna take a really long time before this price fixing scheme is gonna fall. The only time I get a game at that price is when my brother is giving me a present for my birthday. So I’ll have one recent new game in my collection. But just look at what happens if the price drop to like $30-$40 not too long after release. It suddenly becomes way more attractive, and harder to resist that purchase.
    I don’t buy used, though I don’t think it’s inherently wrong, but lets not paint Gamestop as some kind of innocent company doing its thing. Gamespot takes a huge piece out of that pie with their ridiculously low trade-in value and misdirection about online passes. There’s only just now a law in California against that.
    All in all, companies have to provide good value. Repetitive sidequests do not a good game make. And its a competitive market in a creative industry. There’s high risk, and possible high reward, but also possible big failure. High risk doesn’t mean that consumers owe anything to a company.

    1. You are of course absolutely right. With the way this PR campaign is going GStop is doing the right thing by just getting out of the way and letting the publishers hang themselves.

      Different sides of the same coin.

    2. While the price point is true there are other things going on here that contribute to console games costing 60 and pc games costing 50 or even 40. This relates to sony and microsoft charging money to put games on thier systems and also (im not sure on this) taking a piece of each copy sold too.

      1. So when every game nowadays released on console for $60 and is also released on PC for $60 that’s because…?

        1. McKay, this is becuase I can’t reply up top but-

          Are we the same person? We keep starting with the same openers.

          Also, I’m going to start shitting on people that buy lamps. It’ll be a sensation.

          1. I can’t wait to sit in my local Target and wait to jump out at every person holding a lamp with, “If you yard sale that shit later you’re a dirty thief you lamp-lover! Think of all the designers you’re starving out you greedy fucker!”

  11. Locked out of Replies.

    This is a reply to our thread up top Mike.

    Why does it bother you that a company is doing it versus a person? The argument that you were putting forth, and that I see espoused everywhere in regards to this topic, is that if you buy used you might be morally bankrupt as a person and it’s tantamount to thievery. Assuming as you stated that you do see the logic of the arguments put forth above, why suddenly switch to “yeah, but it’s not okay for a big corporation to take advantage of that!”

    You are either trying to hold the line (I get that, sometimes an argument is its own reward oddly enough), or you feel like you need to take some kind of moral stance in support of Big Publishers (who have enacted this campaign for the same reason that Gamestop pushes used games – greed).

    The subject on the table is that it is OKAY (and arguably good) to sell used games, and its NOT okay for companies to wage a PR campaign to demonize their customers, it’s not a question of WHO gets to sell used games.

    1. I can see the point of I bought something that someone created, Im done with it I sell it off. Creating a whole business on it is something different.

      I guess as usual I see both sides of the argument. While corps are greedy we all know that. Going the other way doesnt allow for protection of the little guy. The programmer in his basement, the writer, the musician on his mac to make a buck and be protected.

      This is a case where both sides are just and a line has to be drawn somewhere for fairness sake.

      1. Protecting the little guy by placing artifical limitations on technology is an unacceptable trade-off.

        By your logic we should have restricted the sale of computers to protect the typewriter industry. It’s short- sighted, and ultimately destructive to an economy. It is not the consumer or the government’s responsibility to provide anyone with a profit, period.

        1. Protecting a manufacturer of new goods vs a distributer of mass used version is not in the same ballpark as protecting on tech over another.

          Your talking about limiting free market. Im protecting it. If companies are going to sell my product used in mass Im not going to bother putting out my product because it becomes hard to beat the bottom line.

          Again having the individual owner the right to sell something he cant use or is done with is different than allowing a mass distributer of used.

          imo of course

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