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/