In Analysis, Forecast/Sales, Video Game Genres

Assessment of the Top Selling Video Games of the First Half of 2018

The first half of 2018 is in the record books and it is time to assess where we are at.  We can say right off the bat it was a fairly strong first half.  Of course, most industry sales are done in the second half of the year, so it is hard to say whether that will translate into a solid second half.  This article is our examination of the top video games of the first half of 2018.  Our next article will provide our predictions for the second half of the year.

Of course, when talking about the first half of 2018, you have to talk about Fortnite.  Fortnite has been the smash success of the year.  Unlike many free-to-play titles it has had a huge impact on the console market.  This includes launching for the Switch in June.  Headset manufacturer Turtle Beach started the year with its stock trading around $2 a share.  Thanks largely to Fortnite, Turtle Beach stock was trading at over $20 by the end of June.

We have written extensively about the impact of Fortnite, and to a lesser extent PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.  The battle royale genre is the big new thing, but the strength of the game industry is currently in its diversity.  Sales are reaching record levels because games appeal to such a wide range of interests.

DFC Intelligence’s latest report on the games of the first half of 2018 analyzes 90 of the biggest titles that released in that 6-month period.  68 of those titles launched for the PC, 49 launched for the PlayStation, 46 launched for the Xbox One and 32 launched for the Switch.

In terms of console exclusives the Switch led the way.  However, there were few major Switch releases.  There were some ports of Wii U games that never got a chance like Bayonetta 1 and 2, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze.  These games did very well, showing that Nintendo has a huge opportunity with its catalog titles.

The other Nintendo products were more of their minor IP including Kirby Star Allies and Mario Tennis Aces.  The big new product, Nintendo Labo, was somewhat of a mixed bag as we have discussed.  We will see if Nintendo can give this product a second life this holiday season.

The Switch has become quite the platform for indie games.  Leading the way in our opinion is Hollow Knight.  This $15 platformer was a 2017 hit on PC.  It launched for the Switch in June to rave reviews.  Of course, as we have noted, there is concern that the Switch will be flooded with titles similar to what happened with the Wii.

Overall the platform with the strongest performance in the first half of 2018 was the PlayStation 4.  Leading the way were God of War IV and Detroit: Become Human.   The Japan Yakuza series also received a strong Western release with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.  This could led the way for remastered versions of the older products in this long running series that is not widely known outside Japan.

The Xbox One only had two major exclusives, Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2.  Reviews for both titles were mixed, but sales were strong.  Microsoft has an aggressive pricing strategy for its first-party titles.  State of Decay 2 was only $30 (the first was an indie title) while Sea of Thieves was one of the first titles given away with Microsoft’s Game Pass streaming service.

Of course, the PC remains the de facto platform for many titles.  Also, most AAA titles also have a PC version.  The big exception is Sony and Nintendo first-party titles.   Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire was one of the most pleasant surprises.  Kingdom Come: Deliverance also did better than expected.  After a year in early access, Northgard finally launched and was the hit we knew it would be.  The PC version of Final Fantasy XV was also a solid hit.

The success of Final Fantasy XV shows that PC ports of successful titles can provide some nice additional revenue.  This will be important for one of the biggest hits of the first half of 2018, Capcom’s Monster Hunter World.  The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions combined to sell almost 8 million units just in Q1.  A PC version launches later this year. This was another Japan title that became an international hit.

Among multi-platform titles, Far Cry 5 was a major hit.  Jurassic World Evolution was a simulation that did a good job capitalizing on the movie.  It is especially suited for PC.  Dragon Ball Fighter Z was another established franchise that provided to be a multi-platform hit, including on PC.

The other big trend is success for remastered and repackaged versions of older titles.  After 2017 success on the PlayStation 4, Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy (a compilation of some 1990s games) did well with PC, Xbox One and Switch versions.  Dark Souls: Remastered reintroduced a title from 2011.

Overall it was a very strong first half of the year.  The PlayStation 4 was the strongest performer, but the Xbox One actually beat our expectations for the first time.  DFC Intelligence’s recently released forecast have slightly raised our outlook for both 2018 and 2019.

Of course, most of the industry success will come in the second half.  Our next article will look at why we think the second half of 2018 will be so strong.

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