We don’t often get the behind-the-scenes look at games like we did this week with two of the industry’s biggest. Let’s kick things off with Minecraft.
Clive Thompson wrote a fantastic story for The New York Times Magazine diving into the phenomenon that is Minecraft. It’s a subject that’s been tackled many times before, but if you want to know what drives players of all ages to venture into the block building world, Thompson’s piece is a great place to start.
One insane fact dropped in the piece is that Minecraft still sells 10,000 copies a day. Thompson writes, “today it costs $27 and sells 10,000 copies a day.” And the game’s popularity spans every demographic. Men and women. Young and old. The age of the average player? Between 28 and 29. And women make up nearly 40% of all players. Crazy stats all around.
That 10,000 copies figure blows my mind. You’re talking 300,000 on average every month. That’s a solid opening month for most games, and Minecraft still does it years after its initial launch. The strong sales can be seen in last month’s NPD date. Minecraft still manages the 10th spot in software just behind Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The Xbox 360 version of the game remained the bestselling in March followed by PS4, Xbox One and PS3.
I haven’t played Minecraft all that much. My gaming habits lean towards multiplayer shooters, but I can see why the game is so popular across gamers. Check out the rest of Thompson’s article to learn more about the people that play Minecraft.
GTA V is shaping the industry
Grand Theft Auto has always been at the forefront of the gaming industry. But what they’re doing with GTA Online is cementing microtransactions in AAA games. GTA Online’s microtransactions have pulled in “at least” $500 million in revenue.
The news comes from former Rockstar North president Leslie Benzie’s $150 million lawsuit against Take-Two. What’s great about lawsuits is they make information public we might not otherwise ever hear about. We saw similar news on Destiny from the Marty O’Donnell lawsuit against Bungie.
A part of the Benzie lawsuit reads, “GTA Online has the potential to achieve the greatest profit margin of any game created in the GTA franchise.” The lawsuit added that the microtransactions have “nearly 100 percent profit margin.”
$500 million from just microtransactions? You thought the Minecraft numbers were crazy? These numbers are insane. It might also explain why we haven’t seen single player content for GTA V yet. Why spend all the money to develop a new story and everything that entails (voice work, new missions, potential new environments, etc.) when you can just build on the GTA Online framework and keep rolling in the money.
The $500 million figure only cements what other developers are doing. We are seeing a shift away from season passes and premium DLC for microtransactions and cosmetic DLC.
Microsoft is adopting the strategy across their games including Halo 5 and Gears of War 4. Rainbow Six: Siege opted for a similar strategy. And the response from the gaming community is positive.
Premium DLC always fragments the community – the haves and the have-nots. Only a handful of games can continue with the old policy. I don’t see Call of Duty ditching season passes anytime soon. They remain the top played shooter on consoles. In fact, we’ve even seen Activision adopt microtransactions along with premium DLC. Battlefield will be an interesting franchise to watch. It’s one of the few games I buy the season pass for. Mainly, because I’ve seen the effort DICE studios put into it.
Can the Battlefield franchise continue with the old model again this year? I think they will, and can. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided not to.
Then you have games like DOOM which are sticking to the premium DLC model. Paid maps for a shooter that already has an uphill battle? Yeah, not a good idea. I was excited about DOOM’s release, but premium maps are going to fragment an already small player base. Bethesda needs to look at what Ubisoft did with Rainbow Six: Siege and emulate it. Siege is one of my biggest surprises of 2015. And it helps when new maps come out, everyone gets to play them.
Microtransactions are the future of AAA gaming. Hell, they’re already here. Pretty much every AAA game has some kind of microtransaction system. And if they don’t yet, GTA Online’s revenue figures will make it inevitable.