Activision notes industry-wide downturn in pre-orders

Looking at other ways to work out how popular games will be.

Activision has noticed an industry-wide downturn in video game pre-orders, previously thought to be the best indicator a publisher has for demand.

Publishers have long used pre-orders to help work out how popular their games will be, and to convince shops to stock their shelves with their products. They often encourage gamers to pre-order by offering exclusive content. Indeed the recent Destiny beta was initially restricted to those who had pre-ordered the game.

But it seems the influence of pre-orders may be on the slide.

Last night, during an investor relations conference call, Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg was asked about pre-orders and how they relate to the company's raft of titles due out this year, including first-person shooters Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Destiny.

He said pre-orders were on the decline not just with Activision games but across the industry, and suggested a number of reasons for the trend.

Increased digital consumption is one factor, Hirshberg said, particularly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Another is games being widely available the day they launch, so there's less need to pre-order to guarantee you get a copy. These two factors, coupled with a decline overall for demand on the last generation of consoles, means pre-orders are down across the board.

In response to this, Activision is looking at other ways to work out how popular its video games will be, such as "purchase intent" and "awareness". "It's important to note that pre-orders are just one data point that we look at when determining the momentum of a franchise," Hirshberg said, before calling for analysts to "reset expectations" on pre-orders.

Apparently Destiny's "awareness" is "at an all-time high and climbing when compared to any other new game intellectual property this distance from launch", Hirshberg said. "Purchase intent" is also at an all-time high and rising compared to any other intellectual property. The hugely successful open beta, which saw 4.6m players, probably had something to do with that.

"So all of those add to our sense of momentum for the launch," Hirshberg concluded.

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