I think it’s safe to say that the era of next-gen gaming as a driving force is over. Why? As of the week ending June 7th (the most recent tally available), just over 9 million copies of the highly touted Grand Theft Auto IV had been […]

I think it’s safe to say that the era of next-gen gaming as a driving force is over. Why? As of the week ending June 7th (the most recent tally available), just over 9 million copies of the highly touted Grand Theft Auto IV had been sold worldwide for the Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 combined, according to VGChartz.

That may seem impressive, until you start looking closer — which Microsoft, Sony, and the many publishers who develop for their respective consoles are surely doing now. For one thing, its predecessor, 2004’s GTA: San Andreas, sold 21.5 million copies. With GTA IV sales already plummeting, the franchise’s latest installment from Take-Two Interactive will be lucky to move 12-14 million copies total. What’s more, it cost a record $100 million to develop.

But it gets worse.

Despite being part of one of the most popular video game series of all time, the arrival of GTA IV failed to boost sales of new next-generation consoles. (PS3 and 360 are defined as “next-gen” for boasting the best and latest graphics features.) Meanwhile, sales of the non-next-gen, GTA IV-less Nintendo Wii were double that of PS3/360’s numbers combined. If Grand Theft Auto can’t move more machines, nothing can. Which not only suggests that the market for next-gen consoles has been exhausted, but that the audience for big budget, AAA next-gen titles has been tapped out, too.

Which is why I think GTA IV is next-gen’s siren song, and a sign of drastic changes to come. Expect to see games made for lower budgets, targeted at wider audiences (ones that aren’t fixated on high-end 3D graphics) and delivered over broadband with a micropayment program in place. Don’t expect a follow-up to the 360 or PS3 anytime soon, either. In other words, the days when so-called “next-gen” gaming reigned supreme are coming to end — instead, the industry’s future will be shaped by games like Rock Band.

Image credit: www.rockstargames.com/IV/

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  1. I disagree…there will always be highly produced blockbuster games. However, there are going to be a hell of alot more games that cater to a wider variety of tastes and skill levels.

    You’ll also start to see more titles in the casual genre that are of higher quality as those gamers start to become more sophisticated…in fact they probably are less willing to continue buying subpar quality games.

    The Wii has and probably will continue to kick ass this gen. But I would say that the next 12 months are going to be key as some developers actually start to put quality core titles out for the Wii (along with quality casual titles).

    I didn’t realize that GTA III sold that much, but I’ve never been a fan of those games. But let’s see how MGSIV and Final Fantasy sell on the PS3. Then things like Little Big Planet and Home on the PS3 and Banjoe Kazooie on the 360 should also be observed for their impact.

    Will next gens consoles be able to cater strictly to a hardcore audience and succeed? Probably. But they shouldn’t expect to come out on top…and if they’re making profits, that might not be a horrible thing.

  2. How depressing :(

    I’m really enjoying GTA on the PS3, though it’s a hire not a purchase, and I already had bought my machine.

    Not been impressed by the games in the PS store.

  3. Interesting view — however, I don’t think it’s very fair to compare sales of GTAIV (which came out 1-2 years in this generation of consoles) with GTA San Andreas which came out about 4 years into the last generation when a LOT more people had consoles.

    A much more accurate comparison, IMO, would be with GTAIII which sold 11.6 million total on the PS2 when it came out in 2001 — not counting the various versions/packages that came later on.

    We’re still very much in the early adapter stage of next-gen, and in the middle of a recession on top of that. The fact that GTAIV has already sold 9 million copies is pretty astonishing I think given the amount of next-gen consoles currently in homes.

  4. @ Roman

    You’ve cheered me up! Also, very good point RE: where we are at in the cycle of next-gen.

  5. Joshua Koopferstock Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    “the days when so-called “next-gen” gaming reigned supreme are coming to end”

    Maybe, but the market segment that bought those games isn’t going anywhere. Today’s gaming market (driven by the Wii, free online gaming, amongst other things) is broadening out, and those in the industry are finding that, right now, it pays more to go wide (reach new market segments) than go deep (make the absolute best tech-specced console). Like most things, this will probably come back around when the broad limits of the market are about reached and the industry feels like it needs to push the technology to maintain its margins.


  6. I would throw a couple curveballs at your thesis as someone who got sick of GTA San Andreas and very much enjoys GTA4.

    In the first place, I cannot recall there being as much advertising of GTA4 as SA. I get the distinct sense that the audience for gangsta culture and games was a lot stronger when SA was announced. In short, there was always a broader demographic for SA than for GTA4. GTA4 is more for gamers who already know SA and the series – it’s not a platform mover so much as it is a (very good) sequel.

    I think if you compared the numbers of the people who bought SA and the platform vs people who bought SA who already had the platform and had already played an earlier GTA (Vice City) or the original, you’d see that San Andreas was more of a cultural phenomenon than a game phenomenon. There was a magical convergence for SA that doesn’t exist for GTA4.

    A lot of very good games, like a lot of very good books, are probably not going to be platform movers. I don’t think the builders of platforms should leverage their costs on the success of titles any more than builders of libraries or theatres on their content.

    I am convinced, furthermore, that if XBox Live went to a micropayment schedule it would shock the industry and basically kill it for a generation of gamers.

  7. Where do you get those info? How can you compare a game that came out not even 2 months ago with one that came out years ago…9 millions in 2 months do the math at 50$ a copy 9million is 450 million not enought for you? I think you just writting this to get some attention…

  8. Very insightful article. With the current gen high definition consoles (xbox 360 and PS3) being relatively expensive, game development costs soaring, and games having a base price of $59.99…something has to give. Especially since high definition TVs aren’t all that common yet, why invest in expensive hardware that you can’t fully utilize.

    Nintendo selling souped up GameCube hardware in the Wii meanwhile, has a platform that’s cheaper to develop for without a learning curve (since it’s old GC hardware). More casual fare, simpler control, cheaper console, cheaper games, cheaper development, broad marketing… no wonder Nintendo has such a huge lead.

  9. “PS3 and 360 are defined as “next-gen” for boasting the best and latest graphics features.”…”the non-next-gen wii”

    You keep using that word “next-gen”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    @roman – Spot on with your analysis; San Andreas was released into a market that already had more than 70 million PS2s ready to play it. (Probably more, San Andreas was released in October 2004, while the 70 million figure is from January 2004 ( http://news.cnet.com/PlayStation-2-passes-sales-milestone/2100-1043_3-5141061.html )

  10. You’re completely skewing the facts to reach a desired conclusion.

    GTA San Andreas sells 12 million copies between October 2004 and March 2005. That is 5 months.


    GTA IV sells 9 million copies between April 29 and June 7. That is less than 1.5 months.

    Hmmm, do you think in 4 more months they can sell 3 million copies to surpass their previous record? It’s pretty obvious they will.

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