Daily Archives: January 30, 2020

SuperData Wraps Up 2019 with December Numbers

We have the final monthly digital revenue update from SuperData Research with the release of their December chart.

SuperData Research Top 10 – December 2019

Going straight to the PC end of the chart, the usual top four stayed in their usual ranking, with League of Legends still at the top of the revenue list.  The first change doesn’t hit until fifth position, where World of Warcraft was last month.  In December Red Dead Redemption 2 moved up into fifth place thanks to launching on Steam, with Roblox, which drops on and off the list, surging up into the sixth spot.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare held onto seventh, where it was last month, while World of Warcraft ended up down in eighth.

After that was CS:GO, another title that wanders on and off the chart, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which landed on PC at the start of December.

Missing from the list are Fortnite, which had been in the top five for a few months, but which had been falling off more recently, and World of Tanks, a long time and regular entry in the bottom half of the list.  With no revenue numbers to gauge by, you cannot really tell if the new titles were surging onto the list or if revenue dropped off for the titles that fell off.

On the console list, Pokemon Sword & Shield, which topped the list after its November launch, disappeared completely.  On top for December instead was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare which was in second place the previous month.  FIFA 20 and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order swapped and then moved up a spot, while Grand Theft Auto V, the old grand dad of the list, managed a fifth place finish for the holiday season.  Finally, Fortnite is still holding on in the console space, grabbing the sixth spot.

On the mobile end of the chart Clash of Clans ran ahead and passed perennial top title Honour of Kings in December.  Candy Crush Saga landed in third place and Pokemon Go fell down to ninth position.  Also of note is Roblox, which broke into both the mobile and PC list this month, and Homescapes and Gardenscapes, both of which I have noticed advertising very heavily in other mobile apps.  I saw constant ads for both  in Words with Friends.

We can compare this with the December numbers from NPD.  As always, NPD is US only, combines PC and console sales, and do not always include digital sales.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  3. Madden NFL 20
  4. NBA 2K20
  5. Luigi’s Mansion 3*
  6. Pokemon Sword*
  7. Mario Kart 8*
  8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  9. Pokemon Shield*
  10. Minecraft**

* Digital sales not included
*** PC Digital sales not included

The top of this list tracks the first spots on the SuperData console list, as consoles still depend quite a bit on the physical distribution chain.  People go to GameStop to buy console titles still.

FIFA 20 doesn’t make the cut because we don’t care that much in the US.

And Nintendo, which has no presence on the SuperData console chart this month grabs half the spots on the NPD chart.  Nintendo depends on physical sales more than any other console.

I think it is a bit of a cheat to split out Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, but they do what they do.  But it looks like a lot of people got games for their Switch under the tree in December.

NPD also has a full 2019 sales chart.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. NBA 2K20
  3. Madden NFL 20
  4. Borderlands 3
  5. Mortal Kombat 11
  6. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  8. Kingdom Hearts III
  9. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
  10. Mario Kart 8*

* Digital sales not included

As one might expect, another console-centric list there.  I suspect that Pokemon Sword & Shield would have made the cut had they decided to break them out as individual titles.

SuperData released their own report on 2019 already, which I covered in a previous post.

And so it goes.  The SuperData report also included the following items to accompany their chart:

Consumer spending on digital games reached an all-time high of $9.8B in December 2019, up 8% year-over-year. Substantial year-over-year growth in mobile revenue (28%) more than offset falling Console and PC earnings (down 25% and 4%, respectively). Console spending was down partially due to shrinking Fortnite revenue (December 2018 was the title’s highest-earning month ever) and also due to fewer major premium games being released in late 2019 compared to the 2018 holiday season.

Clash of Clans from Supercell had its best month ever, more than seven years after its launch. The game earned $158.2M in December 2019 as content updates and holiday sales resulted in growth of monthly active users (MAU) and conversion rates.

A gamble on a new business model paid off for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Unlike past games in the franchise, Modern Warfare did not offer a season pass or paid map packs and monetized exclusively through battle pass sales and microtransactions. Despite this, Modern Warfare revenue in Q4 2019 was 4% higher than Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII during its launch quarter. In December 2019, the first month Modern Warfare players could purchase in-game content, spending reached $78.7M, nearly as much as was spent on Black Ops IIII in-game content during that game’s entire first quarter ($92.9M).

Grand Theft Auto V had its best month since December 2017. The game earned $84.7M across Console and PC as discounts drove downloads. Additionally, the release of the Diamond Casino Heist content update, a follow up to the highly successful July 2019 Diamond Casino and Resort update, resulted in increased spending on premium currency.

Red Dead Redemption 2 received a substantial boost after launching on Steam. Digital unit sales more than doubled from 406K in November to 1.0M in December. The game became available on Steam on December 5, one month after releasing elsewhere including the Epic Games Store and Rockstar Games Launcher. This brief exclusivity window was advertised in advance, so many players simply waited a short period to play the game on their preferred launcher.

 

Warcraft III Reforged

Earlier this week we got Warcraft III Reforged, the remaster of Blizzard’s 2002 RTS Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its follow-expansion Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.  The remaster was announced at BlizzCon 2018 and was in beta late last year.

The return of RTS again

I pre-ordered this back during BlizzCon 2018… we were only mad at them about Diablo Immortal that year… and have been looking forward to giving it a try.  Warcraft III was the last step before World of Warcraft for Blizzard.  WoW was very much a mash up of EverQuest ideas (the whole MMORPG thing), some Diablo II mechanics (itemization, skill trees, health pots, and so on), and the Warcraft III lore.

I went back to play Warcraft III a ways back to experience a bit of the pre-history of WoW and it was, with the hindsight perspective, a prototype of what WoW would become.  It is a key part of the Warcraft franchise, which according to SuperData Research, has earned $19.2 billion in digital revenues over the last 25 years.

Includes Hearthstone as part of the franchise. Does not include physical retail sales

Given all that I am keen to carve out some time to see what Blizzard has done with the remaster.  That will probably happen next month at the earliest, given that we’re at the end of the current month.  That will also give Blizz a chance to fix some of the bugs that have been reported already.

Of course, being the immediate predecessor of WoW is not the only the only thing Warcraft III is famous for.  It is responsible for kicking of another genre whose revenue no doubt eclipses that of the Warcraft franchise.

With the the Defense of the Ancients mod, the whole MOBA genre that would lead to League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm was created.

Who made $1.5 billion in 2019 alone?

Blurb also from SuperData Research.

Given that Heroes of the Storm is the distant third place runner in that race… and that Valve managed to grab control of the DOTA trademark which meant changing the games name from Blizzard DOTA to Blizzard All-Stars and later to Heroes of the Storm… Blizzard is no doubt still smarting at some level about all of that.  I mean, having to have this up on the Blizzard main site has to irk them.

DOTA USAGE
DOTA is a trademark of Valve Corporation and used under license. By making use of the term “DOTA” in any content posted on any Blizzard website or battle.net, you agree that use of this trademark is subject to Valve’s trademark guidelines found at https://store.steampowered.com/legal.

Not that I think having the DOTA name would have made Blizzard the MOBA winner.  They were almost six years late to the party, only launching Heroes of the Storm in 2015, by which time LoL was already king.  DOTA 2 rolled in two years ahead of HotS and was able to grab the “lesser alternative to LoL” spot in the genre.

But all the same Blizzard isn’t going to let that happen again.  So in there as part of their “Custom Game Acceptable Use Policy,” basically their mod rules, they make it clear up front in the first bullet that they own every aspect of any mod you make for the game:

Ownership: Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games. If for any reason you are prevented or restricted from assigning any rights in the Custom Games to Blizzard, you grant to Blizzard an exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, unconditional, royalty free, irrevocable license enabling Blizzard to fully exploit the Custom Games (or any component thereof) for any purpose and in any manner whatsoever. You further agree that should Blizzard decide that it is necessary, you will execute any future assignments and/or related documents promptly upon receiving such a request from Blizzard in order to effectuate the intent of this paragraph. To the extent you are prohibited from transferring or assigning your moral rights to Blizzard by applicable laws, to the utmost extent legally permitted, you waive any moral rights or similar rights you may have in all such Custom Games, without any remuneration. Without limiting Blizzard’s rights or ownership in the Custom Games, Blizzard reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to remove Custom Games from its systems and/or require that a Custom Game developer cease any and/or all development and distribution of a Custom Game. Please note that your Blizzard account can be subject to disciplinary action in event that you do not comply with Blizzard’s request or this Policy.

Nobody is going to create a whole new genre with their product and then walk off to another company like Valve to get it developed again.  Of course, this policy isn’t a huge incentive to spend time developing something new in the Warcraft III editor, but there it is.  The company has protected itself. (The statement applies to all mods for all Blizzard games, but was updated just before this week’s launch, so people are taking it specifically as a Warcraft III thing since the old version wasn’t so draconian.)

And so it goes.  I’ll still play it.  The MOBA thing doesn’t interest me in any case.  But I’ve already seen people grumbling about this pre-emptive land grab on Discord and Reddit.

Now we just need that Diablo II remaster, the third of the three promised remasters, though some of the original teams says that Blizz cannot make a remaster due to said team’s near disastrous mistake back in the day.  But this could also just be sour grapes as the Blizzard North team seems to be bitter about how things turned out for them nearly 20 years down the road.

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